In the Synagogue
Many are telling us how meaningful it has been to come for a Private Shehechiyanu in our Main Sanctuary. Some have come alone; some come with a loved one; some come with a bubble of two or three generations. Here’s what one congregant reports:
“This past Friday afternoon I attended a Private Shehecheyanu in the Sanctuary.
I must say that it was a wonderful experience; although very strange to be in the sanctuary completely alone.
It brought me both joy and sadness.
Joy for being able to be at the ark and able to say prayers so close to the Torahs; Shehecheyanu 3 times, Kaddish for my parents, in-laws and other family members, and my own private prayers.
Sadness for being alone in this large sanctuary because of these troubling times.
Thank you for the opportunity!”
I admit that being in the sanctuary to prepare for the High Holy Days has been a bundle of mixed emotions for me, too. It feels so good to be held by those walls, to behold the blue dome, but the pews are emptier than empty.
We know that’s the room where it happens. But what exactly happens there?
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote this about the purpose of the synagogue.
“What does a person expect to attain when entering the synagogue? In pursuit of learning, one goes to a library, for aesthetic enrichment, one goes to the art museums; for pure mysic, to the concert hall. What, then, the purpose of going to the synagogue?
Many are the facilities which help us to acquire the important worldly virtues, skills, and techniques. But where should one learn about the insights of the spirit? Many are the opportunities for public speech; where are the occasions for inner silence? It is easy to find people who will teach us to be eloquent; but who will teach us how to be still?….
Where should one learn the general wisdom of compassion? The fear of being cruel? The danger of being callous? Where should one learn that the greatest truth is found in contrition? Important and precious as the development of our intellectual faculties is, the cultivation of a sensitive conscience is indispensable.”
Heschel takes up the voice of a prophet when he writes: “We are all in danger of sinking into the darkness of vanity; we are all involved in worshipping our own egos….
We are constantly in need of experiencing moments in which the spiritual is as relevant and as concrete, for example, as the aesthetic…. We must learn to be sensitive to the spirit. It is in the synagogue where we must try to acquire such inwardness and sensitivity.“
We will strive to acquire this inwardness, this sensitivity in the small sanctuaries we create in the safety of our own homes this year. Please refer to these suggestions on how to prepare.
Tonight Cantor Rosen and I will lead Kabbalat Shabbat Services from the Main Sanctuary for the first time with the Production Team. It will be an honour to be welcomed into your homes as it will be an honour to represent you in our historic sanctuary.
Shabbat Shalom and L’Shanah Tovah.