The Curmudgeon is now more than 40 years past his formal training in religion and is pretty adept at avoiding synagogues, but a few years back he found himself in one, pretty much against his will but in one of those social situations where you just can’t say no. He can still read Hebrew, which he views as little more than a party trick (as Rex Harrison sang in My Fair Lady, “Arabians learn Arabian with the speed of summer lightning, the Hebrews learn it backwards which is absolutely frightening”), and most of the blessings and songs were familiar to him: he knew the words and either could follow along by reading or, in even more cases, the words had been indelibly etched on his brain when he was young, impressionable, and had a far more supple mind.
At one point another familiar blessing began, and suddenly, out of nowhere, The Curmudgeon’s feet began to move. In this blessing, which he knew pretty much by heart, there comes a point where you are supposed to take three very small steps backwards, bow to the left, bow to the right, and then take three small steps forward. (Why? He has no idea, but he knows the steps nonetheless.) So here The Curmudgeon was, decades from last having heard this blessing, when his feet and then his torso acted independently of his body and put themselves in motion without any direction from his conscious brain.
It was a Jewish miracle!
That event, when nature and instinct completely took over, came to mind when he visited the ballpark last summer to take in a Phillies game with one of the only half-dozen or so people on Earth with whom he’d want to do such a thing. There we sat, half-watching and mostly chatting, when suddenly The Curmudgeon, without thinking, found himself rising to his feet: it was the home half of the seventh inning and, with no premeditation, he stood for the seventh inning stretch and to join, not exactly quietly, in the traditional chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Pure instinct, in both situations.