There are many actions we take in life, almost on an automatic basis, that we just don’t think about. And yet, if pushed for a reason, we might or might not come up with a reasoned answer. Whether or not our answer makes sense to others, we still feel compelled to act.
For some reason or another, those Jews who attend synagogue on the Jewish Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have
a compelling reason to be there. We could have stayed home, watched television, helped our kids with the homework, gone out with friends, shopped, tended to the needs of our homes or a myriad of other activities. Yet something compels us to join in communal worship.
For a number of different reasons, we find ourselves living in a place where being a Jew puts us in the minority. Some of us came from the great Jewish metropolises of the United States, and we find ourselves as strangers in a new land. Some of us — myself included — hail from places just like Northwest Arkansas, where we had to seek out the other few Jews who felt the compulsion to gather on these nights. For some of us, the call to join with the Jewish community came later
in life, yet that call urges us on, no differently than our neighbors of other faith traditions. Still, the compulsion is there. There is an inner clock that, on the first night of the Hebrew month of Tishri, we are compelled to set aside our daily routines and come together with our community to pray, to sing, to reflect, to mourn and ultimately to envision the coming year.
The question that I wish to pose is “Why?” What, in this age of individualization, compels those of us who participate in public worship? Indeed, each of us will find his own answers. There is no one answer that fits
us all, but I would ask each of you to take up the question: What is the VALUE that any one person holds that compels our presence and participation in ancient words and rituals? What is our desired take away?
Our ancient Jewish sages set these actions in motion. They formed desired objectives as leaders of our people. But ultimately, they lived in different places, different times and under very different conditions than we do here in the year 5779 of the Jewish Calendar.
These ancient rabbis understood the potential for God’s divine existence sat there between them. The rabbis in the Mishnah tell us, “Those who sit together and words of Holy Learning pass between them, surely God’s divine presence dwells between them.”
During this holy period for the Jewish people, I pray for all faith communities and for those still seeking the meaning of faith. May we all look upon each other, find the radiance in each other’s souls and there find God’s eternal comfort and protection.
Keyn y’hi ratson — May this be God’s will.