Saturday, November 04, 2006

Falling Asleep in Shul

What happens to me is probably very common, but I haven’t read about it anywhere. I know it happens to a lot of people. Maybe it happens to you, too.

I can’t explain it, but it happens when I’m in the synagogue. (Shul is Yiddish for synagogue). When the room is warm and a hush falls over the crowd, and the rabbi gets up to speak, pretty soon he has this nice, lilting drone going. Well, when that happens. . .

I fall asleep.

So today we had a scholar in residence. A very nice rabbi, Rabbi K. He wrote a great book which I was supposed to read but stubbornly neglected to read, but will get to, eventually, with no promises. So Rabbi K. was in our shul to be our scholar in residence for this Shabbas, our day of rest.

He had already spoken to a packed crowd on Friday night, and he spoke when I was there this morning when all this happened. He spoke again this afternoon, and he’ll be speaking again tonight. It’s not easy being a scholar in residence. You need several different speeches.

Anyway, when our regular rabbi speaks I might catch a few zzzz’s, I’m not going to lie. But I love him and there are no hard feelings. He can't see way up into the balcony, anyway. I’m sure he’d fall asleep listening to me, too, and it’s not like I ALWAYS fall asleep when he speaks. I try to listen. It’s probably a statistically significant bet that I do, however, for the reasons I stated above.

But today Rabbi C. (mine) introduced Rabbi K. (our scholar), who started off quietly, which put me in that space, you know, within perhaps 50 seconds. Last I heard he was saying that he was going to talk about a Get Rich quick Scheme, the best way to become rich which wasn’t going to have anything remotely to do with money. Soon he was off to the races talking about Marital Relationships and I was down for the count.

Suddenly, a tremendous racket outside awoke me, jolted me in a very big way. I jumped up and it seemed that everyone was talking, but no one was really talking, some were simply explaining what the commotion was and others were asking, What’s the commotion?

I asked my friend Amy, sitting on my left, who does catch every word (yo, Aim) What’s the commotion?

Apparently there were about a hundred people standing outside the sanctuary in the hallway, and when one of them opened the door the noise of one hundred people whooshed in, rudely waking me and probably others.

Things quickly settled down, but these are moments when one has to make a major decision:

(1) Do I go back to sleep? Or

(2) Do I try to hear the rest of what the scholar has to say?

I opted for staying awake, as I usually try to do when I wake up somewhere during anyone’s speech. It’s not like I’m avoiding what the rabbi has to say, it’s just that strange confluence of variables that have the soporific effect. Those soothing intellectual words from the pulpit.

This is why, by the way, many clergy people scream at their congregants, I’m convinced.

When I woke up Rabbi K. was speaking to the men. I could tell because he never looked up to where the women sat in the balcony (for reasons of modesty). He looked directly at the men who were in front of him on the main floor of the sanctuary and said things, like, “When you come home from work, you should compliment your wives.”

So he was talking to the men, who, face it, need to know these things.

He told the men that the secret to being rich had to do with respecting their wives, listening to them, praising them, appreciating them, complimenting them, letting them speak first, always.

I agreed with him a hundred percent, except for the last five words. LET THEM SPEAK FIRST ALWAYS. Always? Clearly he did not read my posts on listening.

In Listen One and probably in Listen Two, I divulge the secrets of shutting up.

Shutting one’s mouth is the essence of communicating well, clearly, because it is in that void that one hears what others are trying to say and learns something. That is unless one is thinking of the next thing to say, which is not what one is supposed to do in active listening.

But forget about active listening for a second. We were talking about Who Gets to Speak First at the End of the Day, one of my favorite topics. The rabbi had suggested that if a man lets his wife speak first it would be good for the marriage.

But I disagree. The ikur (meaning, main thing, Hebrish, a mix of Yiddish and Hebrew) is that one need not automatically shut up and listen. That would be stuffing feelings and emotions that really, perhaps might need to be uncorked in order to proceed in the listening process. (this talking thing beats uncorking a bottle and is cheaper).

What works emotionally for the couple is when BOTH partners are sensitive to one another, each gauging the other's need to talk.

SHE or HE should be checking HIM or HER out at the end of the day (change these pronouns as you wish), sensing whether or not the world has trashed the other like a sack of garbage. Some days are like that, okay?

If I were the rabbi, and believe me, this is with all due respect because I like his message, for the most part, but I would have told you:

You should be checking out Your partner and vice versa.

This is not necessarily a verbal examination. It is not a, “So how was your day?” thing.

At the end of the day BOTH of you should LOOK at each other to see if there are any new gray hairs, any new wrinkles. You have to look for the sadness, the worry, or the gladness (preferably) in the other’s eyes. This is not a passive process.

Then. . . the one with the better looking face, the one who has not got a furrow of brow, a turned down mouth, that tenseness of the body, the shoulders, the one who’s in a better place needs to invite the one who is not in the best place to speak, saying, “Tell me about it. Talk to me.”

I know, I know, sometimes, perhaps usually, it’s not an easy call, determining which of you is in a better place. But you have to make it.

That’s love, friends. It’s not a gender thing at all.

Thanks Rabbi, for reminding me to say that again, to reinforce one of those definitions of love. If you said it while I was asleep, forgive me.

Copyright 2006, TherapyDoc


twodogsbarking said...

I always fell asleep when undergoing hypnosis. My therapist said I was still getting the message. Maybe she's right. Maybe your Higher Power knew you needed sleep more than schul.

Therapy Doc said...

Your therapist had a good gig. Most studies on memory indicate that we remember virtually nothing prior to falling asleep, thus when we're studying it's worth it to knock off with the books well before our brains go dead.

Shabbas is all about refreshing, however, so you've got that totally right!

Anonymous said...

I just read the whole thing on your web site, I could be totally wrong but my advise would be, that he should go out in a discret manner, before the Rabbi goes to the pulpit, and listen from behind the open door, in the hall way, standing up so that he can't fall asleep. Also the hall way will be cooler then inside.

You can't force someone to listen, but the Rabbi shouldn't have to see someone sleeping, it is not Kavod Harav. (honour for the Rabbi)

This is only for people who know they are going to fall asleep. Not others who probably wont.

Therapy Doc said...

Dear Anonymous,
As a female, the rabbi of the shul can't see me. He's on the first floor and I'm in the back of the balcony.
You're totally right, and I would never fall asleep in front of a rabbi!
Thanks for pointing that out. It's disrespectful to fall asleep in front of anyone, as a rule.

But boy, there are times, no?

Familydoc said...

Sleep can be behaviorally conditioned, induced by a particular environment, a certain time of the day -- indeed, even a certain day of the week. The urge to suddenly sleep in these circumstances can be inevitable and uncontrollable. Just look around next time you're on a plane at all the frequent-flying business travelers who sleep right through take-off and landing!

Of course, deprivation of previous days' sleep can cause the embarrassing situation of dozing off at work or during an otherwise attention-grabbing event (such as a World Series game or a movie). The urge for REM sleep is one of the strongest in the human body.

I will discuss more on this subject in my own blog in the future. Meanwhile, thanks to Therapy Doc for a wonderful post and an important insight.

MT said...

I thought the main thing was not to be afraid. You mean it's not all a very narrow bridge?!

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