Columns - 1998

    For Richer and Purim

    by Doug Brook
    Southern Shofar Columnist

    I don't mean to discourage anyone from their religious practices, or to denigrate them in any way, but I really hate going to Friday night services.

    I always used to go growing up. Even though "Benson" was on right when we had to leave to get there on time, it was still The Friday Night Thing To Do (tm). I just haven't gone much since.

    I did a little during college (Friday night services, not drugs). Most campus Hillels focus on Friday nights because, as it is written, "It's easier to wage peace in the Middle East than wake a college student before noon on a weekend."

    Though one rabbi wrote while still in seminary, "It's easier to get a parent to negotiate peace in the Middle East than to get them to remember to not call before noon on a weekend."

    With that in mind, through the first couple years of college, I attended Friday nights at Hillel about twice per month. Most guys would do this for the very devout purpose of meeting Jewish women with whom we would eventually do other things on Friday nights than attend Hillel.

    But I haven't attended Friday night services since. And I have spent many Friday nights lately with a Jewish woman I knew there. Maybe this sounds familiar. If not, at least it sounds like music to my mother's ears. (Then again, so did my third grade piano recital. But I've come a long way since then.)

    Sure, I've tried it once or twice. But I never inhale. I go Saturday mornings all the time, and it was nice to reveal the fact that I'm Jewish to the Friday night regulars (Talmudically defined as "those who never started waking up on weekends even after college") who would otherwise never know. But I don't like it for several reasons, none of which can be attributed to Friday night television. Unfortunately.

    Let's think about this for a minute. You have a family. You sit down, have a nice Shabbat dinner, which in modern times consists of at least 60 percent of the immediate family present, most of them wearing shirts. Then you rush to get the kids dressed nice, put makeup on to cover the bruises and wrinkles this causes, go to services, have a very enriching experience there which should not be underestimated, and come home just in time to do Nothing.

    Granted, there are sometimes earlier services. This means you either rush through dinner to get to services, or you hold dinner until afterward. Of course, you have to leave everything simmering, and the kids will sit through services suffering from what seems to them to be a fast that Ghandi would fear.

    Your husband agrees, but is trying to stand by you in front of the kids.

    For those not blessed with kids at the moment -- that you're aware of -- a romantic evening entails dinner and doing Something Else. Here, we throw services in the middle. It would be interesting to see a world in which this sounded less unrealistic to you.

    Then there's the working person's perspective. Friday night is a time to come home, take off the shoes and any other encumbering work attire, and look forward to all the things you could be doing that night if only you had the energy to imagine them clearly, let alone do them. We'll wake you in an hour.

    Now let's look at the single perspective. There's something about putting on a suit for an hour on a Friday night, using up the Friday night, when there's nothing romantic going on� That doesn't work. Hey, it takes five minutes just to find a not-too-dirty shirt in the laundry pile and remember how to tie a tie.

    I know there is supposed to be this romance with the Shabbat Bride and all. (Did you know? It is. Look it up.) Still... It's like in "L'cha Dodi", the welcoming of Shabbat in the service. You're all dressed up, came to temple, everyone rises and faces the door for the last verse when the Bride is supposed to walk in. Does anyone walk in? No.

    (Though one time this smart alec -- his name was really Alec and, let me tell you, he was no dummy in Calculus -- was standing there in a white dress. Same guy each year waits outside during the Seder until you open the door for Elijah then, with a bottle of wine in his hand, yells "Surprise! Let's get farshnicked!")

    The single man asks "Who needs to dress up every week for another woman who stands you up?"

    Single man's mother replies "Oy vey. My poor grandchildren."

    Single man asks "What grandchildren?"

    Single man's mother replies "Exactly."

    So, I've explained to you my reasons for never going to Friday night services since college. Do I have any legitimate reasons? No.

    Do you?

    Doug Brook is a technical writer in Silicon Valley who has one religious habit on Friday nights -- taping "Homicide Life on the Street", which deserves to be noted as the exception to his slam on Friday night television. And, in exchange for the unsolicited plug, he asks NBC to bring back "Night Court". Or at least Courtney Cox's longer hair.

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.