Friday, October 16, 2009


Tonight was a wonderful night. I had an opportunity to usher in Shabbat in an Orthodox Jewish Synagogue. Our Judaism professor took about twenty of us to one of the synagogues that he regularly attends. We got there early by car before the sun went down, and he gave us a quick debriefing outside the building before we went in.

The actual service was much more active than I thought it would be. They had a lot of a capella singing with two leaders up front banging on their desks to give a beat. Ushering in Shabbat is a happy and joyous occasion, and that was definitely the atmosphere in the room. The room itself was divided with women on the left and men on the right. I'm not sure at what age people follow this division, because toddlers seemed to have open access to both sides.

Along with singing, there was a fair amount of dancing as well. One man sitting up front brought his daughter with him. She was full on energy, and coaxed her father into dancing with her during several hymns. Well let's be honest, the cute little girl didn't have to try very hard.

Throughout the service, people stood up and sat down several times. About halfway through, we all stood up and turned around to face the doorway, in a gesture to welcome in a personification of Shabbat.(the imagery used is the idea of Shabbat being a bride) After that, we all joined hands and danced around in a circle. I was next to a guy who was young and very expressive, which helped me to get into it.

Towards the end of the night, we had an 18 year old kid from Brooklyn explaining to us some of the Hebrew and the prayers. It was interesting to note that although they can pray for all sorts of things throughout the week, prayers on Shabbat should only be prayers of gratitude. The guy told us stories of his life, and how turning to his faith a couple years ago saved him.

Afterwards, we chatted with various people in the congregation for awhile. They were all very nice, and a few asked me where I was having dinner that evening. It was cool to see just how many different countries everyone came from. It helped me see the importance of bringing back Hebrew and making it a national language.

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