It was 9:10 when I made my way to my seat at my table next to the Bimah. I was 10 minutes late and still one of the first to show up. The weather was very cold and I suppose the lure of another few minutes in bed proved too tempting to many. I handed a siddur to my son Yosef who exclaimed in a voice a few decibels too loud for the short distance between us “Ta..where is everyone?”. I shushed him “shh not so loud, they’ll be here soon.” I sat down as he skipped out the door into the hall, door slamming behind him. The sound of the door opening and closing followed in rapid succession as the shul quickly filled up. I was dreading having brought Yosef with me and offered a silent prayer that he shold behave. He was a challenging child, to say the least. Now that he was turning nine I decided it’s about time he started coming to shul more. A decision I was now regretting as I caught a glance of him through the thin glass of the door playing around with coffee urn and making old Mr Steiner nervous. I put on my Tallis, wrapped it around my head and body, hidden away for a few short seconds behind the pure white fabric. After securing it over my shoulders I opened my siddur and started to daven. Yosef came bounding in with fresh coffee stains on his shirt and sat down next to me. He opened his Siddur and started spacing out.
By now the shul was full and the Chazzen was approaching Shacharis. Yosef snuck out of his seat and started walking up and down the aisles. I felt my heart quicken a bit and tried my hardest to concentrate on the Shema.
During Shemona Esrei when absolute silence filled the cavernous hall it suddenly started to happen.
There was Yosef standing next to the Aron Kodesh and he was growing slowly but steadily. I stood there imobile and horrified as he started turning into this huge....beast. I was desperately trying to get his attention without stepping out of Shemona Esrei. He was now making ghastly sounds and he was climbing onto the Aron Kodesh. I was absolutely mortified. I hastily ended davening and rushed forward but he was out the side door before I could reach him. I looked all over for him outside without luck. I quietly slinked back into shul noticing a smorgasbord of glances, ranging from angry to empathetic. I sat through Krias HaTorah wondering when the beast will be back. Just when the Rabbi started his bracha at the Torah the door slammed open and there he stood, at the doorway 8 feet tall and absolutely beastly. He lifted a younger boy up and flung him with all his might before heading for the candy man, The candy man conceded the bag of lollypops to him and shot me a furious glance. Half of Mussaf was spent chasing the beast around as discreetly as I could until finally the last amen was heard and mercifully kiddush was served, at which point the beast started to shrink and once again became my Yosef. I was drained from all the stress and just wanted to go home and rest.
I got our coats and was joined at the door by my neighbors Moshe G with his 9 year old Yanky in tow and the newlywed from down the block, forgive me for not remembering his name.
We walked in awkward silence for a minute before I stammered...
Moshe glanced at me over his upturned collar and muttered..
“you mean...the...the beast..?”
“yes..” I whispered..”I’m so sorry..”
“oh don’t be silly..it’s my fault...I forgot to give him his ritalin this morning” Moshe replied
“what..?” I asked...”what are you talking about..?”
“well he gets like that when he’s not on meds..” Moshe said matter of factly..
“wait a second..I’m talking about my Yosef” I said a little louder..
“Your Yosef??....He’s adorable..” He stopped and sighed....“my Yanky..” as his voice trailed off...
At which point the newlywed exhaled and said, “you’re both insane”