Rachel Shifra Tal
Going back to Shul
The Jew is an enigma. How are we still here, a witness to history? Entire dynasties and empires have risen and fallen, yet the Jew remains, what is the secret to his/her immortality?
This question has long been asked. The answers are many. As we begin again to return to our Shul and a semblance of community life, this question is on my mind.
The resilience of the Jewish people is remarkable. Our ability to keep practicing our faith with many obstacles and challenges is our strength.
The continuity of the Jew lies within the everyday, our consistancy. We are nothing if not meticulous and specific. Many of our practices are repeated many times a day. Within this consistency and repetition and the seemingly mundane lies our connection with our Creator.
Going to shul, coming together as a community and praying is an essential core practice of Jewish faith. A quorum of 10 men is required to say Kaddish and read from the Torah, the foundational text which we live by.
In Egypt, even in slavery, the Sages say that the reason the Jews did not disappear was three fold: our dress, our language and brit milah. Throughout history, our consistency has been what has kept us distinguishable, sometimes to our dismay and persecution.
When we forget who we are our enemies remind us.
What makes up a Jew? Is it hair color? Skin? Nationality? None of these are the same. We have spent thousands of years without a homeland, we are every color and from literally every corner of the globe.
What defines a Jew? Is it our language? Our rituals? Yet we speak different languages, many Jews keep traditions yet many do not. Yet they identify as Jewish.
Jewish life has circled around prayer and study of Torah. We have protected the sacred institution of marriage with mikvah's that can be found in literally every excavation of Jewish history.
We don't have pictures or many ornaments per say, most will say our most distinguishable object is the Menorah and the Torah itself.
The Menorah is used in the Holy Temple as part of the daily service and was lit every single day.
We read from the Torah three days a week. We meticulously read the entire Torah every year then promptly begin it again. This living book is our core.
Not being able to come together in shul has been painful. During lockdown the consistancy of our routines has been disrupted. Now we can carefuly and safely begin to return to pray together as a community. It's importance and meaningful step is no small deal.
It is a huge deal! In my entire lifetime even when I was a child and America was attacked (sept 11) never have we not been allowed to come together and pray! Only once in my memory has shul been closed. That experience happened here after the shootings last year in Christchurch.
I remember that day well, pacing the house and unable to access the shul. Never in our collective living memory has every single shul across the globe been closed!
The reason we closed is because Judaism puts a priority on the importance of human life over public prayer itself!
A favorite quote of mine is, Jews don't keep the Shabbat, Shabbat keeps the Jews.
Our identity is deeply tied into our practice.
May our coming together as a community bring down healing for our families, our community and the world.