Some take delight in the majesty of the language of prayer during the High Holy Day services. Some find the spiritual in the worship connection; creating that everlasting link between Adonai and themselves. Me? Not so much.
What I enjoy — perhaps surprisingly — at the services are the sermons and the personal stories (especially this year when we are talking about TAS’s 50th anniversary as TAS (it really is the 64th anniversary if you go by the oldest constituent congregation, but they split back out, so we don’t talk about that… but I think about it because I know some of the founders of that original congregation).
So, while getting ready for the HHD services — and again during the services last night and this morning — I thought about what creates the connection between me and Judaism. It isn’t the spiritual. It isn’t the language. It is the service, not the services.
I get the most pleasure — and the most “good feelings” — from being of service to the congregation. Whether it was — in my Beth Torah days — doing Religious Practices, Tot Shabbat, Newsletter, IT support, Publicity, and all that rot; or whether it is like it is now — at Temple Ahavat Shalom — being president of the Men of TAS. Through service I get to know the members of the congregation. Through service I make connections with the congregation. Through service, I can help others and help the community.
In the era I grew up in, Jews came together in communities. The 1950s and 1960s saw an explosive growth of congregations. There was just a reunion of the congregation of my youth (Temple Israel of Westchester/Temple Jeremiah) — and what people remember are the people that did things for others. Today, listening to the stories of long-time congregants, the same thing came out: people remember the people that did things for others. Even when I did the 50th Anniversary of Beth Torah, that’s what people remembered.
You want authentic Judaism? Be of service to the Jewish community in some way. Be active in your congregational groups. I personally don’t care if you have that spiritual connection. That may or may not come; it comes and goes. But take the values — the value of doing service, the value for doing for others — and go out there and do.
Our congregation is running a campaign this year called “Count Me In”. We haven’t had the details yet, but my guess is it is a fund raising program. That’s all well and good for those that can afford it (and if you can, do give — congregations need your help). But you can always give your time. Help a program. Volunteer to share your knowledge. Build a community. Get to know someone in the congregation and make a friend.
I think you’ll find that doing the service may bring more meaning to your life than those two hours standing and sitting. It certainly will move you to a better place.
L’Shanah Tovah. Sometimes these musings just have to come out.