Thought for Shabbat – February 19, 2021
There are no synagogues in the Torah. It was anticipated in the Torah that there would be one central place of worship for all Jews. In that central place where worship would take place, sacrifices would be made by Levites and priests. That place would be the center of all Jewish life. Even before the people of Israel entered the Promised Land, they were commanded to create a temporary Temple, a Mishkan, also known as the Tabernacle. Of course, once the Israelites entered the Promised Land they would eventually build a Holy Temple.
The dimensions, precious metals, fabrics and wood to be used in construction were strictly set forth in the Torah. Those instructions also included the various vessels that would be part of that holy space such as the ark, menorah, and other vessels. Every type of service, sacrifice, or religious observance would be uniform. There would be no Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist or Reform version. They would all be in the same language using the same words. And somehow, it would serve the needs of all the people.
Yet in today’s synagogues there is no such uniformity. Far from it. Even within the various movements and independent congregations of Judaism, uniformity and total agreement do not exist. Today, that is the way we serve the needs of all the people who are engaged in the practice of Judaism.
The rabbis of the Midrash would tell the story that in the ancient Temple, no matter how many people attended, there was always room. No one was ever turned away for a lack of room. The physical dimensions of the building would somehow adjust.
While some might complain about the lack of uniformity, perhaps the diversity within Judaism is actually an opportunity to do the same thing the Temple did in ancient days, i.e., make room for all Jews wishing to engage. In our midst we have believers and non-believers. We have Jews of all backgrounds and races. And they all matter. Our modern Holy Temple includes all the places where Jews gather to pray, study and question. Our modern Holy Temple creates room for the many paths that lead to God. For each of us who wants to follow one of those paths and even assist others along the way, there is the opportunity for holiness, no less or greater than the holiness of those who follow other paths.
Rabbi Yaier Lehrer
“He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk modestly with your God.” Micah 6:8