Chapter 9 Summary
Margaret’s parents buy her a new set of fancy clothes to wear to temple. This is okay with Margaret, although they insist that she wear white gloves, which make her hands feel sweaty. She gets the gloves dirty on the bus, so she takes them off and hides them in her purse.
At temple, Margaret watches the process of religion very carefully. She notes that an usher takes people to their seats, and that people smile at her when Grandma introduces her. She enjoys the organ music, and she thinks the rabbi’s clothes look quite similar to clothes she has seen on priests from time to time.
Margaret does not understand the words the rabbi speaks. Much of the service is conducted in Hebrew, which she does not understand. Even when the rabbi speaks English, she cannot figure out what he means. She does her best, even reading along from a prayer book when everyone else does. But the sermon is very long, and eventually she gives up trying to figure it out. Instead, she counts the hats on the people around her.
When the sermon is finished, everyone sings a song in Hebrew, and the service is over. Margaret is surprised:
I expected something else. I don’t know what exactly. A feeling, maybe. But I suppose you have to go more than once to know what it’s all about.
On the way out of the temple, Grandma takes Margaret to meet the rabbi. He shakes her hand and wishes her Happy New Year in Hebrew, laughing when she does not understand. She says she “loved” the service, and he invites her back whenever she likes. “Get to know us and God,” he says.
At home, Margaret’s parents give her “the third degree.” This time, she says the service was “okay, I guess.” Her father asks whether she learned anything, and she is at a loss. She tells him how many hats she counted, and this makes him laugh. He confesses that when he was a boy, he killed time during sermons by counting hat feathers.
Margaret’s conversation with God that evening is upbeat:
I’m really on my way now. By the end of the school year I’ll know all there is to know about religion.
By next year, Margaret hopes to know which religion to join. When she gets that figured out, she will know whether to join the Y or the Jewish Community Center, and she will not stand out so much.