As I was finishing med school and needed to start looking presentable for patients, a best seller called Dress for Success by John Molloy had gathered considerable public interest. He described how one's appearance correlated with one's future employment and promotability, something very relevant to me at the time. I got the book from the library and read it over a few day, absorbing the hints of how to make clothing fit and select colors and patterns that added 10 points to one's virtual IQ. Needless to say, the senior executives made a lot more money than senior executive wannabes and got where they are by adapting to the sartorial pageant of where they worked. Peasants of lesser means, including myself to this very day, had to give the illusion that they were purchasing good stuff without actually spending money that they did not have. He suggested a form of shopping down, wandering through Brooks Brothers where the boss shopped, noting what is on their most expensive racks, then going to the less expensive racks and seeing what features were maintained and what were deemed expendable. Then onward to the Value City where I really shopped for clothing and trying to duplicated as much as possible from the upper end.
This strategy has served me well for a long time, not only for clothing but for my cars and my house, pretty much every large purchase except universities for my kids where I bought the real thing. Shopping down seems similarly tempting though with my ultimate synagogue purchase predetermined, what I really get are a few shabbos mornings of the type I'd like to have most but not really the chance to purchase the closest facsimile available. In order to do that, there would need to be a menu of experiences with different values to choose from, something not available in my community for some time. But you take what you can get, which for me is a lovely morning at Beth Tfiloh, none of which is transferable to my usual shabbat morning.
I got there as they were starting the repetition of the Amidah. This particular shabbat was not only a bar mitzvah, something I've come to expect but the BNai Mitzvah of a male-female twin set. The boy excelled with flawless Torah and haftarah chanting and very appropriate speech about what it is like to be a twin, the tension between being bundled with another person and the need to protect one's individuality. Lest her sister remain subordinate, she had her own limelight within the local parameters, chanting the first two Aliyot from the next Parsha, as section about twins. She then spoke of being a twin, followed by the twins speaking jointly, sometimes in unison and sometimes in alternating sentences. Not to upstage Rabbi Wohlberg, the Dvar Torah drew on a current event, the passing of President Reagan's astrologer and the interface between fates that you cannot control and personal efforts that guide destiny. Many parallels to this in the Parsha. And extraordinary kiddush when it ended. No interaliyah Sound Bites. No contrivances like changing your seats so the Rabbi can look at everyone when he speaks. No, it was a service suitable to college graduates who mostly work all week and could have been doing other things on Saturday but opted for the experience of shabbat morning worship. That's what I aspire to and will have to relocate myself on shabbos morning to get a little closer to that ideal.
As Theodor Herzl noted, "If you will it, it is no dream; and if you do not will it, a dream it is and a dream it will stay." Our baalebatim don't seem to will that type of shabbat experience and our Rabbi's style cannot deliver it. So I think it might be time to will it for myself.