I used to go to shul every Shabbos before our infamous car accident a little over a year ago. Rain or shine, snow or hurricane, I managed to make my way to shul, even when I lived more than 3 miles away. And I arrived on time, as befitting a yekki. Yet, since the accident, I have fallen into attending only when required: for chagim, for special shabbosim, for simchas. While I certainly had a medical excuse up until a couple of months ago, that no longer is the case. I began wondering this week when I began having to contemplate making it to shul this Shabbos for maftir- what happened? What precipitated this complete about face?
So I thought about it. That first Shabbos after I was released from hospital, it took me more than almost 20 minutes to inch my way down the stairs and half way down the block to the block's shtiebl in order to hear my husband bench gommel. I was in agony, and found even sitting to be torture, so about an hour into davening I took a second chair and put my feet up. But I stayed all the way through davening. Chassidishe-style.
After that Shabbos, I knew I had to stay at home on Shabbos in order to recuperate. The first few months I basically was on bed-rest, and had to daven in bed. Going to shul was consequently not in the plan. I did go to shul in the summer on two occasions when my energy level was slightly improved. But overall my energy level was such that I just could not get moving on time, and I do not enjoy going to shul in the middle of davening. While I know others find any time in shul productive, I personally figure either I will daven with the minyan or I will daven at home; I loathe going to shul and spending the whole time "catching up".
However, having never stayed home from shul previously, I will admit to being surprised that I came to relish that time after my husband went to shul and before I started davening. That time became the best 20 minutes of my week as I got dressed to stand before The King, after lingering for a few moments over the remnants of my pre-davening cup of coffee. And those minutes became the straw that changed my attitude.
The shul that we attended prior to the accident is about 10 blocks away, a most doable walk. Yet between the fact that shacharis there starts at 8:30 and our injuries (my husband had endured a fractured ankle that still bother him occasionally), we have basically ceased going there for now There the Rav gives an original drasha each week, the bathroom has soap, the place is so quiet that you could hear a pin drop, and the people smile and wish you a Good Shabbos. Contrast that to the scene at the shul on the corner, which features a the lack of soap in the washroom, a group of female co-congregants who, when I attempt to wish them a warm Good Shabbos return my greeting with a blank if not downright mean stare, and a reputation for talking during davening. Needless to say, I rush to walk to shul at the corner with my husband.
B'H', my energy level is increasing, and I look forward to returning to shul on a regular basis. Hopefully at our pre-accident minyan. Until then, I will continue with my current pattern. Because, as a woman, I can daven at home on Shabbos. And, if davening at home means I have more ahavas yisroel because I do not have to deal with a minyan that is not my cup of tea so much the better.
More than anything though, I am grateful for the accident, since it afforded me, for the first time in my life, a genuine appreciation for Shabbos Menucha. Even when that menucha is afforded in a few quiet sips of coffee.