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February 15, 2019 in Hazzan Asa Fradkin
If you are a regular shul goer, you may not have been surprised to hear the recent Pew Study.
Essentially, it says that shul goers are 11% more likely than their non going counterparts to be happy.
Read more here.
I could spend some solid time here breaking down the reasons that this may be the case. We know that creating community, connecting with our friends and family, and enjoying a delicious Kiddush lunch are activities that can bring us meaning and fulfillment.
The fact remains that going to shul is a deeply ritualistic experience. We practice doing the same things over and over again, which some people find comforting, but many more people find monotonous.
That is why even the shul going crowd tends to arrive later, since one can still get their fill of davening and also enjoy the communal aspects of kibbutzing, kiddushing and schmoozing in general, after the service.
So what can we do to invigorate our experience in synagogue so that, comforting as it is, we raise it to a higher level; So that we go from the comfort of our practice, to devotional prayer?
One straightforward way, is to focus in on the weekly Parsha;
In this week’s Parhsa, Tetzaveh, we learn about the many aspects of Priestly attire that Aaron and his sons will don for their visitations to the Ark of the Covenant. Hidden within this large instruction manual, is a centerpiece of Jewish Prayer.
When Aaron enters the Ark, he is to wear in his breastplate, including two stones that are inscribed, six on each, with the names of the children of Israel.
It is written
“Aaron will thus carry the names of Israel’s sons on the decision breastplate over his heart when he comes into the sanctuary. It shall be a constant remembrance before God.”
What we may take from this is that on this Shabbat, this Parsha, we remember those who came before us. We wear them on our hearts and we call them to mind. When we stand before God, we stand with all those who have come before us, and all of us together is what it takes for one of us to stand before God and ask for healing, forgiveness, sustenance, peace and understanding.
Every week, I along with the Rabbis will be putting a heavier emphasis on the Parsha’s message for us; how it informs our Jewish identity and how we can benefit from its teachings.
This week I offer a small chant from Psalm 136, the emotional recounting of all God did for our ancestors leading up to our freedom from slavery.
May we always strive to grow in our Judaism, in our connection with God and to remember that which makes us holy.