It is so interesting to see ourselves through other people's eyes. This blog went to Congregation Beth Israel (aka CBI) in Portland. It's an irreverent discussion (aren't all blogs?) but breathtaking in how they experience Shabbat. It's breathtaking and very much worth reading. Two quotes:
The Jews put a lot of emphasis on the passage of time. They count the days of the calendar and the holy days of Passover and Hanukkah and other holidays, too, I’m sure. I love it because what they’re really doing is living in their days, making them count, never letting time get away from them. It’s no surprise, given their history of oppression, that they embrace gratitude as a way of life. Staying in the moment – in the day, so to speak – is my goal for this whole spiritual journey anyway, so as I looked around the sanctuary, which is round and cozy and embraces the congregation like a rib-crushing hug from your Bubbe, I tried to stop yearning for the present and just be in it instead.
As far as I’m concerned, Judaism is what religion is supposed to sound and feel and taste like and I’ll be honest: I wish I could be a Jew. It has everything I want – a strong sense of community and culture, none of the answers, all of the questions and ridiculously good deli meat.
Here's a thought: we spend a lot of time in our congregations gnashing our teeth and wringing our hands and shrying gavult (and I admit I do a lot of this--A LOT OF THIS) over the future of movements and synagogues and how we should pray and what does this all mean etc. Perhaps we're doing better than we think, and perhaps we do best when we stop worrying and stop obsessing over new programs and special speakers and all kinds of bells and whistles. Perhaps it's enough to be authentic, to try to be our best selves, to be fully present and in the moment, to be welcoming and kind, to not expect too much from others except what we expect of ourselves, and to find reasons to be joyous. Maybe, more than awesome sound systems and gizmos and programs, that's all a community needs to be successful, to be holy. After all, this week, in Kedoshim (Lev. 19) we read that we should be holy, and they way to holiness is all about our personal interactions, including (famously) to love our neighbors as ourselves.
To be sure, Rabbi Cahana and Cantor Schiff are both AMAZING clergy, and they set a very specific tone, and are fortunate to have a healthy and thriving congregation that embraces that tone, that culture. And we rest on whatever laurels real or imagined we may have at our peril. But I think it's worth remembering that sometimes, sometimes we get it right.
We go to church so you don't have to. - Year of Sundays