Sunday, November 06, 2005

My Trip to the Synagogue

I went to a Jewish synagogue for a Shabat service last night. It was a very interesting experience. I went because Rabbi Lawrence Kushners, who my friend Nick is a big fan of, was present. Neither of us had ever been to a Shabat service, so we were both very conscious of our ignorance. While Christianity was once part of Judiasm they now are two completely different traditions now. While many elements were similiar, it was at the same time very different.


Some things that happened while I was there:
1.) a boy was having his bar-mitzpah, and he did much of the reading and was in front the entire
service
2.) there was a place that represented the ark, and part way through the service they opened
the doors to this and we looked into it.
3.) the entire service was read in hebrew, everything was explained but all the rituals were in
yiddish.
4.) the 'hymnal' was written from right to left, like hebrew reads, and the pages even moved that
way.
5.) there were like 10 people in front, singers just standing around a table, and they danced
around the congregation.
6.) at one point in the service we faced the door way while chanting about the sabbath coming.
7.) I had to wear a yamaka. The program said it was to show respect.

These are just some of the things we did that were different than the Christian church. So much of the service was focused on rememberance. I noticed that the walls of the building had names of the people who had been influencial in their past. At the end of the service, there was a rememberance of significant martyrs in the recent past. Without a doubt to me the Jewish religion is not about tomorrow but about remembering yesterday.

I couldn't help but think as I was watching the rabbis and the cantor, that this is my ancient heritage. I was thinking about when Jesus went to the synagogues that this is the situation that he would have been in. Paul when he went on his missions trips was the quest speaker, much like Rabbi Kushner. I was thinking to myself, if I had stood up and requested to say something, then explained how I believe that Jesus was the fulfillment the prophets of old were prophesying about, what would have happened. Probably the same that happened back in the 1st century.

The service was very family related. It felt so much more than just a worship service. At the start of the service we sang, then the rabbi asked if we felt the Shabot, after that it was like it ws expected that there was a sence of holiness present. Now they couCheck Spellingld do the real business of life togeather. There was a very strong sense of we're all part of a huge family (and hey they are!). After the Shabat there were family meals of some sort in different parts of the synagogue.

Nick mentioned to me he felt like the entire service was building towards the end. This ending was not an alter call, but a sense of celibration that they had survived the centuries and were still a people. This is the point of Passover: to remember leaving Egypt. This is the point of Hanukkah-to remember the rebellion of the Maccabees. Their celibrations are of remembering how they have been saved from destruction.

It was to me a very profitable experience and I am glad I went! I think it would be something every Christian should think about doing.