My family and I drive past it every day on our way to drop our son to school. It’s a beautiful old building in a quiet neighborhood. I’ve often wondered what it looks like inside.
I recently learned that the word synagogue comes from the Greek word for gathering together. It can be a house of prayer, of learning or a meeting place. It’s a place where people of shared faith feel at home.
I have a Jewish friend. I wonder if she wouldn’t mind me tagging along one Saturday. I want to experience what their worship service is like.
This was written for the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields For more details, visit Here. To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.
He had just walked out of the synagogue when he saw them. Arrested, he stood there watching Brittney with her ex-boyfriend, Andre, his heart breaking. Burning jealousy swept through him. They were standing a few yards away but she didn’t see him.
His sister, Anna joined him, saw his face and followed his gaze to where the couple stood talking. Then, she looked back at him, concerned. “Who is she?” she asked.
It took a moment for him to speak because he was so upset. “Brittney.”
“Is she a friend of yours?”
“Yes.” He turned away, unable to watch them any longer. He started walk away and Anna followed him.
“Are you in love with her?”
“Does she know how you feel?”
“Are you going to tell her?”
“What’s the point?” he snapped. “She doesn’t feel the same way.”
“How do you know that?”
“We just saw her with Andre, her ex. It’s clear that she hasn’t gotten over him and I was a fool to believe that she had.”
“Oh, Paul, I’m so sorry. What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know. I need time to think.”
“Why don’t you go to Paris for a few days? You haven’t taken a vacation in ages. You’re long overdue for one.”
He glanced down at her. “You’re right,” he said. “I need to get away and try to figure out what I’m going to do. If I stay here in London, I will be tempted to go to her and I can’t bear to see her right now. It hurts too much.” A muscle began to throb along his jawline and he quickly turned away.
Anna reached for his hand and held it tightly. It hurt to see her brother like this. He was a brilliant businessman but when it came to matters of the heart, he lacked good judgment. This wasn’t the first time a woman broke his heart but it seemed that he fell really hard for this one. Hopefully, he would get over her as soon as possible. He deserved better. The trip to Paris would do him good. She went back to his flat with him and while he changed, she got his lunch ready. She had just put a plate of food she had prepared yesterday and brought on the table for him when the phone rang.
“Do you mind answering that for me?” he called from the bedroom.
“Hello?” she listened for a moment. “No, you have the right number. This is Anna speaking. Hold one moment, please.” She placed her hand over the mouthpiece. “It’s Brittney,” she said when he came into the living-room.
He shook his head, indicating that he didn’t want to talk to her.
“I’m afraid he’s not available at the moment. Perhaps he will call you back later. Goodbye.” She replaced the receiver into the cradle and turned to look at him. “Are you sure you don’t want to talk to her?”
He shook his head. “I can’t right now. I need to clear my head first. I’ll call her when I come back from Paris.”
“All right. Do you need me for anything?”
He smiled. “No, Anna. I’ll be fine. You should go home to Peter and the kids. I will call you tomorrow when I check into the hotel.”
She hugged him tightly. “I love you,” she said drawing back to look up at him.
“I love you too. And thanks for the food.” He followed her to the door and they said goodbye. He shut the door and leaned against it for a moment. Why did Brittney call him? Was it to tell him that she was back with Andre. He closed his eyes in despair. It would kill him if she was.
Brittney stared at the phone, her mind swirling with all sorts of thoughts and questions. A woman named Anna had answered Paul’s phone. Who was she? Red, hot jealousy surged through her and she was tempted to go over to his place right now and find out. Then, she remembered that he had a sister and her name was Anna. Relief washed over her. Paul wasn’t seeing another woman. But why hadn’t he come to the phone? She looked at the clock above the mantelpiece, debating whether she should call again or wait for him to call. It was after seven. She decided that she would let him call her. In the meantime, she fixed herself a light dinner and ate it in front of the television.
When ten o’clock came and she still hadn’t heard from him, she began to worry. It wasn’t like him not to call. It was too late for her to call him. She would have to wait until the morning to do so. Disappointed, she turned off the television and went to bed.
The next morning, she got up, showered, dressed and had breakfast. After she was done, she hurried to the phone and called Paul but there was no answer. When the machine came on, she left a message. She went to church and as soon as she got home, she called but still no answer. She tried his cell but it was turned off. She tried all day calling both his home number and his cell until finally, in the evening, she decided to go over to his flat. She rang the bell and knocked but it was clear that Paul wasn’t there. Where could he be? After standing there for a while, she left. She was worried and had a restless night.
The next morning, she called him but got the same results. She got ready for work. On her way to the office, she called his cell but it was still turned off. Intermittently, throughout the day, she tried to reach him but to no avail and by the time the workday was over, she was very anxious. Why wasn’t he answering his phone and why hadn’t he called her back? When she got home, she decided that she would call his sister. She took out the phone directory and searched for her name. She remembered that Paul said that she lived in South Kensington, twenty minutes from where he lived and that she was married to Peter Goldstein, the reporter from the Times. She searched under Goldstein and found the number.
A woman answered and she recognized her voice. “Hello, Anna, this is Brittney. I spoke to you yesterday evening when I called for Paul. Do you know where he is? I have been trying since Saturday to reach him. I’m out of my mind with worry.”
“Hello Brittney. Paul is in Paris.”
“Paris?” Brittney exclaimed. “What is he doing there? Is he there on business?”
“No. He needed to get away.”
“What did he need to get away from?” she asked, bewildered. “It’s not like him to go away and not tell me. And he didn’t return my call on Saturday. Is-is he seeing someone?”
“No. He went to Paris alone. Brittney, I was with him on Saturday when he came out of the synagogue and saw you with Andre. It upset him so much that I suggested that he should take a break and go to Paris.”
“Oh no,” Brittney groaned. “He saw me with Andre and thought—”
“That you were back with him. He was devastated. I probably shouldn’t even be telling you this but Paul is in love with you.”
“And I’m in love with him. I have been for a long time.”
“He thinks that you’re still in love with Andre.”
“I’m over Andre. I have been for a long time now and it’s because of Paul. Meeting Paul and his friendship has changed my life. And seeing Andre again made me realize that the feelings I had for him are nothing compared to my feelings for Paul. Andre wanted us to pick up where we left off but I told him that I was in love with someone else. I wished him well and then, I walked away. My past with Andre is over and done with. My future is with Paul. Anna, please tell me where he’s staying. I want to go to him.” Her life felt so empty without him. She missed him so much it ached. How she longed to be with him.
There was a brief moment of silence and then, Anna told her the name of the hotel where he was staying. After Brittney thanked her profusely, she said, “I’m very relieved to know that you love my brother and I wish you two all the happiness in the world.”
Brittney thanked her again and rang off. She quickly called the office and informed her assistant that she was taking the rest of the week off. Then, she dialed the number to book the first available flight for the following day to Paris. She packed a bag, her heart thudding with excitement. She was going to see Paul in a matter of hours. I can’t wait to see him.
Paul stood on the terrace looking at the city bathed in the crimson glow of the setting sun, wishing she was there with him. “Oh, Brittney,” he whispered brokenly, dragging his fingers through his hair as he ached for her. Paris was a city for lovers. If only Brittney and he were lovers instead of just friends. If only she were with him instead of Andre…
Frustrated, he went back into the room and was going over to the bed to lie down when he heard a knock on the door. Frowning, he went to answer it. Opening it he was startled to see Brittney standing there, luggage in tow. He blinked, thinking he was imagining things. She couldn’t possibly be here in Paris. Then, she said, “Hello Paul.” She reached up and touched his face, her gaze almost a caress.
He eyes darkened and he caught her hand to draw her into the room. “What are you doing here?” he asked when he had closed the door and was facing her.
“I had to come. I called your sister and she told me where you were. I had been calling for you since Saturday but when I couldn’t reach you, I got really worried. I went by your flat but you weren’t there so when I got home. I called your sister on Monday and we spoke for a while. She told me that you were here in Paris and explained why. You saw me with Andre.”
His expression became drawn at the memory. “When I saw you with him, I felt as if someone had pushed their hand into my chest and ripped out my heart.”
She moved closer to him. “I’m so sorry that you saw us,” said, wringing her hands. “It wasn’t at all what you thought. Andre wanted to resume our relationship but I told him that I was in love with someone else.”
“And what did he say?” he asked as he moved closer, his heart pounding.
“Nothing but I wished him well and walked away.”
“So, it’s over between him and you.”
“Yes and it has been over for a long time now.”
He was standing right in front of her now, their bodies inches apart. Wordlessly, he pulled her against him and his head lowered towards hers.
She watched transfixed as his face drew closer to hers, her gaze dropped to his mouth. Her eyes closed as waves of indescribable pleasure undulated through her body when she felt his lips brush against her. Putting her arms around his neck, she responded passionately to his kisses. They stood there in the room in the dappled shade of the setting sun as it streaked through the windows, exchanging feverish kisses.
“I love you,” he muttered when at length, he raised his head to gaze down into her upturned face. “I love you so very much.”
She smiled at him. “I love you too,” she told him. “That’s what I came to Paris to tell you.”
“It’s funny but just a few minutes ago, I was wishing that you were here with me in the City of lovers and then you show up.”
“Yes. You came to Paris to get away from me and here I am.”
“Yes, here you are. I never want us to be apart again. It was foolish of me to think that coming here would help in some way. I missed you so much even when I thought you had gone back to him.”
“Let’s not think about when we were apart but enjoy being together now,” she suggested huskily. “We are in the city of love so let’s do what lovers do.”
“Yes,” he whispered and picked her up in his arms.
Shortly after Jesus told the Pharisees that God desired mercy not sacrifice, He went into the synagogue. There was a man with a withered hand. Instead of being stirred with pity for him, the religious leaders asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” so that they could accuse Him. Whenever they engaged in dialogue with Him, it was never to learn from His teachings. It was always to challenge Him and find reasons to accuse Him of being a Sinner.
It must have grieved Jesus to see the lack of compassion among men who considered themselves to be holy and righteous and children of God. When He looked at them, He saw hypocrites. And He addressed it. “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?Then how much better is a man than a sheep? Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
He told the man to stretch out his hand and He restored it whole like the other. The Pharisees were angry and they left, plotting how they would kill Him. They failed to see that the Sabbath was not just a day of rest but it was an opportunity for helping people. They had turned God’s holy day into a day of dos and don’ts. Jesus showed them that there was a different type of work to be done on the Sabbath. It was community work–reaching out to the needy and the sick. He showed them that if it was lawful for one of them to pull a sheep out of a pit on the Sabbath, then it should be lawful for a man to be healed. A human was of greater value in the eyes of God than an animal.
This man was in the synagogue and he had a need. Jesus saw it and addressed it. Are there people in our church like this man who has an obvious need but like the Pharisees we see it but will do nothing about it? Do we resent those who reach out in love and compassion to this person in need? Do we grumble and complain? Would God be happy to accept our worship or our offerings when we are not generous toward that person in our midst? Jesus brought joy to the man. He brought healing and wholeness and showed him that the God he worshipped cared about him.
Just as Jesus valued this man, we should value those around us. Sabbath-keeping does not mean that we should ignore the needs of those around us. The Sabbath is for doing what is good and showing the love of God for His creation. When we do what is lawful on the Sabbath, we are honoring God.