Crown Heights, Brooklyn- On the busy Eastern Parkway thoroughfare, near the Brooklyn Children's Museum and the we've-got-a-really-huge-plastic-challah Jewish Children's Museum, is the World Lubavitch Headquarters. Known warmly as just "770" by its parishioners, the synagogue and office complex is the bustling hub and boiler room for the international Chabad movement.
"Although large in size, the synagogue is always overfilled to capacity and beyond, with crowds as sometimes as large as in the thousands," one member and spokesman of the CHJCC told us.
The synagogue has no cushioned pews or leather seats. Rather, hard wooden benches stretch from wall to wall. And these benches are used for more than just sitting: "Some people sleep on them!" one teenage boy with a scruffy beard told us enthusiastically. He explained why there needs to be something so hard and uncomfortable to sit on: "When you're in shul (editor: synagogue), you have to know that you're praying to G-d! You're not worried about your own essence. The best way for the G-dliness to permeate yourself is to not have your own existence in the way. It's all about Bitul (editor: a process of self-nullification, and state of submissiveness sought by those wishing to adhere to G-d (as explained by Chabad.org))."
Coming off the bench
When worshipers desire to leave their seat, problems arise.
Because of the size of the crowd, and the lack of exit rows, the only way most can leave their seat is by stepping up onto the top of the bench, and jumping down near the bookcases. Yes, walking on top of the bench!
Leap of faith
With benches averaging at 40.2 inches high, this hop down and landing causes tremendous stress on the ankle. Dr. Rudolph Turgosdapolis described the trauma, using the following diagram:
(Image taken from buzzle.com)
The stress from the landing causes duress in the lateral malleolus area of the ankle, near the peronial muscles and tendons.
At the recent PCP annual conference (Podiatrists for Chasidic Patients), this new pain condition was given significant focus and attention. Representatives from the patient group of survivors came forward to give testimony to the hardships they faced, living with either S.A.S.S. or S.A.S.S.! - the street names for this medical malady (Severe Ankle Stress Syndrome is how doctors in Flatbush who see patients from 770 commonly call it, while citizens of Crown Heights call it Syndrome Ankle Seven Seventy!)
Future looks exceptionally bright
We sat down with the Gabboys, or temple menservants, of the synagogue. Although these Rabbis said they had no intentions of changing the seating conditions, they delighted in telling us that this problem, however unfortunate, would be resolved quickly:
"The Messiah is coming today, and all the sick will be healed, and there will be world peace!"