Except that I didn’t hear her at first because the bus was so noisy. So she needed to repeat her request twice more, and I started feeling uncomfortable because I felt I was making her uncomfortable when she was obviously already self-conscious (yet pleasant) about making her request one time, let alone several times.
Finally, an older lady sitting behind us said, “YES. I’LL say Amen to your brachot!”
“Me too,” I said quickly, feeling awkward, relieved, yet filling up with warm fuzzies all that the same time.
So the young woman started reciting Birkot Hashachar (the morning blessings), and I still couldn’t hear her so well. But the lady behind us now had her head between ours and each time she asserted, “Amen!” in my ear, that was my cue too.
So I was straining to listen to the young woman because I wanted to give a real Amen, but I also didn’t want to say Amen too early (before she finished her bracha) or too late (and say Amen to the previous bracha when she already wanted to recite the next bracha).
So the whole thing was kind of awkward and bumbling—yet heart-warming too.
Then the lady behind us got off the bus and I fumbled through the Amens on my own, but the young woman didn’t seem bothered at all.
By the time I needed to get off the bus, I’d grown extremely fond of this lovely young woman and her unassuming piety. Also, we 3 “sisters” had shared a spiritual experience together—even before breakfast!—and that’s a great way to start the day.
As I stood up to go, the lovely bas Yisrael said, “Thank you” with a friendly smile.
“Thank YOU!” I replied, grateful that she had merited me to say Amen so much.
I never have the guts to do this kind of thing myself, so I always admire those who can go up to a perfect stranger (though we actually all know each from Har Sinai) and do this kind of thing.
You go, girl!
In Eretz Yisrael, you can be uninhibitedly frum—and no one thinks you’re showing off or eccentric (unless, of course, you actually are).
Yet because there are also frum buses in New York, I don’t know if this is an “Only-in-Israel!” story, but it’s true that living in Eretz Yisrael definitely facilitates uninhibited frumkeit.
The truth is that in Eretz Yisrael, you can also ask a seemingly secular person to say Amen to your brachot on the bus. Not only would they have some cognizance of what you’re doing and what you want from them, many would also be happy to do so.
For example, being fruitful and multiplying is a very spiritual activity.
Yet mothers of small children know that you can’t always be polished no matter how hard you try. Maybe you’ve got baby spit-up on your navy skirt and you don’t even notice.
Maybe you didn’t even see the person who just said hi to you because you’re trying to cross the street while pushing a double stroller with two other kids holding onto the sides and all your frantic head-twisting to keep track of everyone—plus the wind—just nudged your hair-covering over one of your eyes.
Sometimes, before you know Hebrew or understand how a frum prayer service works, you get lost in the davening. You’re on the wrong page, you don’t stand up with everyone on time or else you stand at the wrong times, and so on.
And this is all SO NORMAL.
Sure, I could’ve described the above story as follows:
One morning, the young woman sitting next to me on the bus held up her siddur and invited me to say Amen to her brachot. Of course, I gladly complied—and so did the woman sitting behind us.
It felt so good to be in this warm nest of brachot and to bond with perfect strangers because after all, we really are one family.
Only in Israel!
And there would be nothing wrong with writing the above.
In fact, writers edit out the "static" all the time—not to deceive the reader (the warm fuzzy familial feelings are totally real)—but to make smoother reading for the reader. Otherwise, it’s like reading something transcribed from a stutterer.
But I decided to write it up exactly how it played out, with all the fumbles and bumbles, because that’s all part of authentic ruchnius.
You can be clumsy and awkward in mitzvot, yet feel really good all at the same time.
And that's because you ARE doing something really good—even if you're fumbling with it.
Those two women on the bus put me in such a good mood, despite all the awkward bits of it.
It felt really good, we all accomplished something spiritual we wouldn’t have otherwise, we bonded, and…
…it was good in Hashem's Eyes.