There I was, being all holy. Taking out my siddur (prayer book), beginning to bob back and forth. Yep, I was a real Hassid, all right.

And then he came.

I could feel it from the moment he ran up to pray next to me. That excited feeling… that he was all "into it." He started praying.

It was like a tornado. His words whirled around my head, distracting me, distancing me. I looked at him for a second. He was fully concentrated. But the worst part, the worst part, oh, reader, was the way he bobbed. Double the bobbing of even the best of us. And me... well, forget about it.

What did he think he was doing? Making me look bad, that's what. There I was, being holy while he made lots of noise (wasn't this supposed to be the silent prayer?); there I was, chillin' out with my G‑d, and there he was, bobbing like a balloon. Punk.

There was only one logical explanation. This guy, he was doing it on purpose. He might as well have been bobbing his head right at me, saying, "Look at you, man! You think you're praying? That's not praying. This is praying."


So you know what I did? I bobbed back. Bobbed harder. And I started whispering loudly, creating a hurricane with my words. Soon I was a dervish, a whirlwind, out of control. That would show him.

I was sure he would notice, but he just kept right on praying like a madman. So I prayed right back. Prayed harder. Soon, I was ignoring him, focused on my own prayer, making sure that I was energetic, intense, feeling every movement. Yes, I was better than him. Yes, yes, yes. Plus I was humble.

But then a weird thing happened. I got so caught up in praying harder than him, in ignoring him and bobbing and tornado-ing, that I started to feel like the balloon I was impersonating. I was rising, rising. Flying. Touching the heavens.

Soon, I forgot about the guy. I could hardly hear him. Now I was with G‑d. I was connected. I was one.

For the rest of the prayer, I had this feeling of unity – which I hadn't felt since the good old days in yeshiva.

When we finally ended praying, I felt like I could kiss the guy who had started all this. In his own wonderfully annoying way, he had helped remind me of how easy it is to get into a groove. To get used to the way we do things, and to forget why we're doing it.

Sometimes, we need to get woken up. Sometimes, we need to be shaken out of our waking dream. Sometimes, we need to be annoyed.