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I know you love your synagogue

05/20/2022 09:17:25 AM


Reverend Benlolo

Three Jewish mothers are sitting on a bench, arguing over which one’s son loves her the most. The first one says, “You know, my son sends me flowers every Shabbat.”

“You call that love?” says the second mother. “My son calls me every day!”

“That’s nothing,” says the third woman. “My son is in therapy five days a week. And the whole time, he talks about me!”

I know you love your Synagogue

A young, inexperienced rabbi called on a colleague with many more years of experience for advice.

"Take the heads of this congregation, for instance," said the old rabbi.

"They are pious and G-d-fearing.  I never have trouble with them. They always do what I tell them."   "What makes you so sure that they do?" the young rabbi asked.    The old rabbi laughed.   "You see, I am careful not to ask them to do what I know they won't do!"

Some people feel the urge to share with me why they are unable to be present at services.  Some find it necessary to alert me that their children are faced with too many distractions and activities which preclude them from attending Shabbat services. 

For my part, I never put anyone on the spot and ask them why they don’t go to Synagogue.  I ask myself; do I need to justify to anyone why I didn’t go to the gym, or overindulged in sweets?  And yet when people see me in the community the urge to explain their absence in Synagogue always seem to filter in the conversation. So, I heed the old rabbi’s advice and don’t ask them to do what I know they might not do!

I put myself in their shoes and can appreciate that some baby boomers have had some not-so-great experiences attending Synagogues when they were growing up. We all heard about the insensitive or unfriendly rabbi, the arrogant and at times contemptuous cantor (don’t get any ideas now!) and the condescending “shushers” that would have nothing to do with kids in Shul.

Let’s forget all that for a moment!

This is a new dawn for Synagogues around the world especially for our own Spanish and Portuguese.  It’s a new generation of leaders; it’s even a new generation of congregants intertwined with long-standing supporters and builders of this great community. Times are different now and people’s needs are different too. We understand you; we want to work with you.  We want you to consider this saying “I don't pray because it makes sense to pray. I pray because my life doesn't make sense without prayer.”

Once you start going regularly to synagogue – especially Shabbat services – you may very well find it habit-forming.  You start looking forward to Saturdays and catching up with congregants, hear some inspiring discussions about the Torah portion and be moved by beautiful prayers and songs. In our midst you will find a place to teach our children about Judaism a place to celebrate wonderful Jewish holidays and a place to sit around the table and eat and enjoy each other's company.  Many people find it’s an effective anti-depressant and soon enough your synagogue will become again the center of Jewish communal life.

My dear friends, as we embark in what promises to be and exhilarating future for our community, know this; you belong here!  Without any justification, walk in, take a prayer book, and sit down as if you always belonged there. A Jew needs no reason to be in synagogue. There is no explanation necessary. Most of the time, we don't know why we started coming to synagogue. So let’s offer no rationalization. “You only need a reason not to go to synagogue. But to go, no reason is required. I am here because I am Jewish and going to synagogue is Jewish.”

Let’s not try to find ways to explain why we don’t come to Synagogue and start putting into plain words why we should!

It reminds me of the man who told his doctor that he couldn’t do all the things around the house that he used to do.  When the examination was complete, he said, "Now, Doc, tell me in plain English what is wrong with me."   "Well, in plain English," the doctor replied, "you're just lazy."  "Okay," said the man. "Now give me the medical term so I can tell my wife."  We all know she won’t buy it. I tried!

So, let’s all make a commitment to renew our dedication to this great community of ours and begin anew our enthusiasm of old and wherever we are, let the walls of our congregation reverberate with song, laughter, and harmony.

Shabbat shalom

Sat, December 2 2023 19 Kislev 5784