• Dev Friedlander

How Sweet is a Seat

There is an old saying that a small act of kindness can make a big difference. It’s a nice saying, but honestly, I didn’t believe it until recently. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate kind gestures and random acts of kindness, but they often don’t change my day. That was until I experienced one recently that has affected me so much, I still think about a few weeks later.


Growing up, praying on Yom Kippur was marked by the tunes we sang in the synagogue and the hunger I felt by fasting. When I moved to Israel, there was a third thing Yom Kippur came to mean for me, tight quarters. Compared to the spaciousness of American Synagogues, in Israel I often find myself shoulder to shoulder with the next person, and that’s if I’m lucky enough to have a seat at all.


This year I was lucky, I had a chair with my name it. But my oldest daughter is about to turn twelve and I wanted her to join me this year in services. The Synagogue sent around an email warning for people to please sit in the seats allocated for them. When I got to my place, a woman was sitting next to me, her daughter by her side. There was an empty seat at the end of the row, but my daughter didn’t want to sit there away from me, she wanted to sit next directly next to me.


“I’m sorry”, the woman replied, and really want could she do? The rules were the rules and if my daughter wanted a seat, she had to sit by herself. Services started and we began to pray. I looked around for my daughter. I saw her through the window, walking around outside, staring at the kids on the playground, a prayer book in her hand.


The woman sitting next to me looked from me and then to my daughter. Without being asked, she moved over a seat so we could sit together. I waved my hand signaling to her that she didn’t have to. The woman replied, “forget the rules, go tell your daughter she can pray with her mother.” My daughter spent the rest of Yom Kippur by my side, saying all the prayers with me.


I honestly still have tears when I think of this episode. I know it seems small, moving a seat, but it wasn’t small to me. The woman could have been scolded for doing what she did; I had seen it happen in the past. But she felt that it was important for my daughter to be next to me.


I’m sharing this story because we all do small acts of kindness which we sometimes brush aside, thinking that they weren’t that big or important. Well, while they may not grandiose, they most certainly are important. Maybe letting someone cut you in traffic helped them get to a meeting on time. Maybe lending someone a dollar in line helped them take home a full cart of groceries. Or maybe moving over a seat helped a mother and daughter share a moving experience together, one which the mother (me) will never forget.


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©2019 by Dev's Writing, Devorah Friedlander