On this Shabbat morning a bit more about synagogue etiquette. This time actual sanctuary etiquette.
There is a lot to remember about a synagogue service whether holy day, Shabbat or weekday service. Each has its own pace and rhythm even though they share many prayers in common.
Perhaps one of the most basic rules is to stand when the ark is open or the Torah is in someone’s arms. It is a sign of honor and respect not to sit when the history, law and teachings of our people–God’s revelation is among the people. When the Torah is in a Torah stand or flat on the Torah table or being held by someone and they are sitting then you can sit.
I am often asked about what happens if you are in a wheelchair or have a physical situation that prevents you from standing? Then What?
Of course no one expects you to stand in that case but you can certainly sit taller in your chair as a sign of honor and respect.
Another issue is that of needing to leave the prayer space and re-enter. There are times we are all called out of a service. Maybe to deal with the kids or nature but does that mean you should just causally walk back in and sit down? This is where it helps to know the service. If there is no usher that can guide you remember this: If the congregation is standing in prayer this is not a time to stroll up and down the aisles. Standing indicates an important part of the service. It is not a time to be cutting in front of people saying excuse me and climbing over them.
Last Saturday morning a young woman decided she had to climb in front me during the shema. I was trying to be deep in prayer, focusing on God’s oneness and mine with God. But instead I was forced to step out in the aisle while the congregation was singing the Shema together. BAD!
So on this Shabbat try to remember that even if you aren’t praying there are those around you that may very well be trying. Be aware of talking to your neighbor or your need to get up and go to the bathroom and come back and for goodness sake—-PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE. God doesn’t tweet (at least not yet!)