You don’t need OCD to need a fixed place in shul

Posted on January 2, 2008

I hadn’t spoken with my friend D in a while, until yesterday, when D called with new year’s wishes and to check in. D reads this blog regularly and occasionally calls to talk with me about something I’ve written. (D was the one who got me to start this blog in the first place, since I was horrible about keeping a written diary.)

My last post about being embarrassed to admit that I was afraid of losing my seat in shul caught D’s attention.

Why are you embarrassed to say you want to sit in the same seat at shul?

Because in comparison to everything else, it seems so mundane. So insignificant.

And yet you write–without embarrassment I presume–that having a seat at a table with others for a meal at shul is quite significant. How are they different?

(I hate it when D points out my inconsistencies.)

They are. Let me see if I can explain. Knowing that you have a place to sit, to daven, to be in shul without worrying about taking someone else’s seat or breaking some protocol is something I consider important. So important, that I’m always thinking of people who come in after me, and what if they don’t have a seat? I find myself wanting to make myself smaller or sometimes even to disappear so they can have my seat and won’t have to go through the discomfort I’ve felt. But at meals, which are far less frequent than once a week to begin with, usually everyone else is already seated, so I’m not as worried about people coming in after me.

Rivka, I’ve lost count of the number of assumptions you’ve made in that explanation. It sounds to me like you value having a regular, fixed place to daven, a makom kavua, and you value having a place to sit at a meal where you’re valued as a person and not just a mother. Yet you seem to be saying that you don’t deserve the first and you do deserve the second. I’m curious why you don’t feel you deserve a place in shul?

I don’t know. It just seems like others are more deserving.

Based on what? Do you think G-d wants you to disappear so someone else can have your seat? Do you think the congregation wants that? The rabbi?


I don’t think so either. In fact, I think they all want you to take your seat and inspire others to sit with you.

I don’t know how to do that.

I know my feelings of “deservedness” are related to my history and my depression, not to mention my self-esteem. But even when my head understands that it’s okay to need a fixed place, my heart doesn’t accept that I’m worthy enough.


  1. Scraps

    I can very much relate to this post. I’ve felt that sinking feeling of undeserving, wanting to sink into the floor or melt into the wall because you just know that everyone else knows how undeserving you are…but at the same time, craving inclusion, wanting to be good enough to be one of them. Oh, I know it oh so well. And it is a painful place to be. I hope you can find your place–in terms of having a makom kavua, and in terms of how you fit into the fabric of the shul community, and in how you relate to the world emotionally.

  2. Keli Ata

    Thank you for the kind words 🙂 I did get a lovely few hours of sleep.

    I totally understand what you mean about the regular seating. It’s not so much that you’re attached to a particular spot but that without one you worry that people won’t save one for you and the rejection that is associated with it.

    BTW, this post is among your most highly rated post at 72 points, and two of your posts Wed. were the most popular 🙂

    I love the name of your blog. Are you familiar with Naomi Shemer’s song Vehu Yoshi’ani? It is based on Tehillim 55.

    You might want to check You Tube to listen to it there.

  3. Rivka

    Keli: Thank you, your comments are really touching. And I learned some things. I had no idea what you meant by the J Blog list or what the star ranking meant or anything, so I went to track it down and when I found it I was pleasantly surprised. I know I submitted my blog to a bunch of aggregators when I started but I didn’t know about the voting thing.

    I like your term “wounded healers.” That actually very much describes my friend D. I hadn’t thought about applying it to me, but I kind of like it. 🙂

    To answer your question, what I fear most about not having a regular seat is that I will wind up without any seat at all and that no one will make room for me because everyone else “knows” that I don’t deserve to be there either.

    It’s like not having a seat means that I don’t count.

    Thank you so much for visiting and sharing. And I hope you get some good sleep tonight!

  4. Keli Ata

    Hi 🙂 I found your blog on the J Blog list during a bout of insomnia last night. A couple of things–your blog ranks four out of five stars even though you have slightly over 200 posts.

    That’s an impressive rating and obviously what you are writing is connecting with a lot of people, whether they take the time to comment or not.

    Secondly–HAPPY BLOGOVERSARY on the one year anniversary of your blog.

    Thirdly–from the posts I’ve thus far, my impression is that you are a sensitive and gentle soul. The kind of person whose troubles make them “wounded healers,” uniquely sensitive to the needs of others.

    I see that in your wanting to make yourselve smaller so that others in the shul will not feel like outsiders.

    But you have as much right to be there as a regular so to speak as anyone else 🙂

    I often feel like an outsider myself and if I attended the same shul as you, well, I would appreciate knowing that I could find a kind-hearted person each week in a specific regular location without having to search for a seat.

    Wanting a regular seat isn’t at all selfish. Not in the least. Are you afraid that if you don’t have a regular seat you’ll have no place during the service or maybe face the embarassment of looking for a seat when everyone else has already taken their seats?

    Anyways…great blog and I just wanted to throw my two cents in. BTW, it sounds like your rabbi has a heart of gold.

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Dear Body

Dear Body,
I’m trying to listen carefully to you, but I’m still not understanding what you need from me. Please be really, really clear with me about what you need so I can take appropriate action.
Sincerely, Me

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