El Dorko’s Chicago trip to Temples…Jesus, Moses and the Almighty (B.B.) King

While visiting Chicago, I have had the experience of 38 degree weather in April. A couple days ago it snowed. To quote rock group Poison “I wanna go. I wanna go home now.”

To take my mind off of everything that makes this city appreciate my trips everywhere else, I decided to go to Temple, or as us Hebrews call it, Synagogue (also known as Shul). While Passover normally makes me cranky because matzoh tastes like cardboard, I figured being in a new Temple could only have positives.

Something seemed wrong right off the bat. For one thing, the service started on time. Perhaps Jews in Chicago want to start early so they can get home before it gets even colder. The singers were high above the congregation. Then the Rabbi came out, and he was wearing all black with a white collar. While this did not seem right, it was a reform service, so I figured it was interfaith night. The Rabbi then thanked the crowd for attending services on Friday night, which seems odd given that Jews have Friday night services every week. So on this Passover, why was this night different from all other nights? Well for one thing, it was Good Friday. The Rabbi then mentioned services on Sunday. Jews pray on Saturday, but with daylight savings time, anything is possible. Yet not only Sunday, but Easter Sunday? Why was that relevant? Then the rabbi crossed the line and asked the crowd to love Jesus.

Now I am not a fan of Jews for Jesus, but this Rabbi had better have a good explanation for deviating from the Old Testament. At that moment out of the corner of my eye I noticed that this Synagogue had a deep resemblance to a Presbyterian Church. My biggest clue was the sign that said “Welcome to (Insert name here) Presbyterian Church.”

I was about to yell “What the Hell?” but I realized that this would have been as productive as going to a NOW meeting and demanding that the attendees cook me dinner. I turned around, and the woman behind me asked me “Wrong place?” I nodded, grabbed my coat, and left. As I walked towards the exit, and out the first door, I approached one of the elders and told him that I did not mean to go to Church. My swashbuckling, black clad alter ego superhero “El Dorko” brought me here.

The High Priest (He could have just been a random Christian doorman, but he was quite tall, which is as close to a High Priest as I know) was not judgmental. There were no threats of eternal d@mnation. He simply asked me where I was trying to go. Apparently the Jewish Temple was across the street. I explained to him that I was Jewish, and that while I had a deep respect for Christianity, it was not my faith. I do not normally walk out of a service 5 minutes in (unless I am bored and their are no hot women at Temple. Like young single guys go to pray).

He explained to me that he thought I was simply an honored guest. I asked him what he meant, thinking that finally I had proof of how much Christians love the Jews. Apparently wearing a Yamulkah (skullcap) means I am a visiting Roman Catholic dignitary from the Vatican. My Yamulkah was the same red color as the one the Pope wears. I was wearing a bright blue Israel necktie with a Star of David on it, which meant only one thing to the churchgoers…I was a Christian supporter of Israel sent from the Vatican to show solidarity with the people of the book.

I then explained to the elder that while I also respected Catholicism, I was simply a Jewish fella with a lousy sense of direction and apparently an even lower sense of common. My people had wandered lost in the Desert for thousands of years, and now the Diaspora was keeping me so close to a Synagogue but so far away. For those of you who think crossing the street is easy, this was Chicago in April. I did not have Pharoahs chasing me, but it was incredibly cold outside, and I hate cold weather.

As someone who does not to Church often for obvious reasons, the parishioners were warm and friendly. They were not angry zealot bible thumpers. If helping your neighbor means anything, it meant something to the several people who helped me go exactly where I needed to go. Across the street sounds simple, but the Synagogue was inside a mall, between Macys and some CPA firm. No wonder people convert to Christianity. It is easy to find a Temple when the letters are written in big bold letters to the point where everyone except me can find it.

There are several ways confusion can be avoided. Reform Temples could stop acting like Churches. Get rid of the band, the orchestra, and the opera singers. It is a violation of Jewish law. Synagogues should look like Synagogues. Christians should stop wearing Yahmulkas. It is a violation of something undefined somewhere.

Some would suggest that I should just be more alert. Oh sure, blame the Jew for everything. I got to the Synagogue, saw the lack of a crowd, and did not even walk in. I did what any other individual facing a crisis of faith would do…no, not Islam…the one place where people in Chicago of all stripes can hear the music of the lord…the House of Blues. B.B. King was there, and he said “Baby I was wrong, to ever let you down, but I did what I did before love came to town.”

It was a beautiful service, and many in the crowd were too drunk to notice the beauty of the singing. Actually come to think of it, given the amount of alcohol consumed, maybe this was not a restaurant bar at all. Hallelujah! I had made it to the Synagogue. I think it was a Chabad (Ultra-Orthodox Jewish) House, which would explain the mass quantities of alcohol.

Another beautiful Friday Night Shabbos at the House of Jews. Chicago truly is a beautiful magical city. Actually, no it isn’t. It’s April and it’s 38 degrees. I wanna go…I wanna go home now.


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