What makes a worshiping community? Is it the Rabbi and Cantor “presenting” services each time? Or is it a group of committed people who come sincerely together to pray, to study and to support each other? Is it a combination of these things? Is it people both lay and professional Jews who work together to create sacred space and room for questions?
I know the 21st century definition of a synagogue is in flux. Is it learning center? Is it social services? One of the traditional roles of the synagogue is ritual center. A place for prayer. A place for rituals to take place like lifecycle moments of Bar Mitzvah and Weddings.
I still believe that the synagogue must be a place of pray. Sincere pray. One can always pray on her own or outside. But there is something special and holy about also praying in a community of people on a regular basis. Of seeing them week in and week out, day in and day out. They might not be your best friends. But a community of regular worshipers provides a touchstone, a check in, people to be in process with as you allow the prayers to envelop you.
Fixed prayer is a way to allow yourself the moments of self-reflection that are too fleeting in our world. Prayer is a way to focus your intentions. Prayer is a way to give voice to your worries and concerns and fears. And then begin to provide an opportunity to overcome those worries, concerns and fears. Prayer refreshes the mind and the soul!
So tonight on Shabbat I am especially please that two of our temple members will be helping me create our prayer space. One temple member will be singing the service for the first time and leading us in prayer-song. Another will be offering words of a d’var torah-by taking a Jewish idea and turning it over and over for us to think about.
This is in part what makes up a worshiping community: when we can together take the service and make it our own and share our thoughts and skills and weave them into the ancient tradition. It is not just for rabbis and cantors. But together we strengthen each other through participation, leadership and study!