Why Go To Synagogue?
The Revolving Door
The vast majority of American Jews attend religious services three days a
year. In on New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and out on the Day of Atonement (Yom
Kippur). Only about 8% of Jews visit a synagogue (Greek for assembly) on
Those who seldom come to weekly services usually argue that religion is a
business, that they are atheists, that they know no Hebrew, that the procedures
are boring, that they have no time, that they have better things to do, etc.
By depriving themselves of the enjoyment of Sabbath services these Jews
are making a major mistake. The fact is that there are eight reasons to attend
on Saturday morning.
The first reason is the sermons. Come to Temple Beth Tzedek on any
Saturday morning. You will hear Rabbi Perry Netter deliver a great sermon or an
exceptional sermon each week. If you come one week you will be back the next
week just to hear the next sermon.
The second reason for attending is that we read a segment of the Torah,
which is indeed a remarkable experience each week. Some say that the Torah is
antiquated and has nothing to do with American life today. The truth is that the
Torah reflects the common experiences of mankind and is also a history as well
as a philosophical treatise. Last Friday on Kol Nidre evening, Rabbi Netter
showed how the story of Jacob and Esau is relevant today, as are almost all the
events depicted in the Torah. If you are an atheist you will be happy to enjoy
Torah reading just because you are human. That suffices.
A third reason for attending on Saturday morning is that we sing
together. Hardly any of us would want to sing solo in public. Singing together
is an opportunity to sing publicly without embarrassment. Moreover, singing
together brings us closer together and lifts the spirit from the mundane to the
sacred. Try it, you will love it.
The fourth reason for attending on Shabbat morning is the time we spend
in the synagogue takes us away from the daily routine, from work, from financial
problems, from pressures of all kinds, from telephones, television, the
internet, and other everyday conditions. For a short time we are insulated from
our daily worries as we need not answer the mail, be harassed by customers, face
ugly bosses, or put up with all kinds of anxieties of daily life. While “in
shul” we can forget about all that and feel protected within the walls with
their stained glass windows and the symbols of our faith.
A fifth reason for attending on Saturday morning is communion. Literally
“uniting together” with all the other Jews we meet there. We are so few that
we hardly meet other Jews during the workweek. On Saturday morning we meet a
room full of other Jews who pray together, feel together, and enjoy each other's
company. We belong, we are valued, we are supported, and we know that if we are
ever in need, there are those who will listen and help.
A sixth reason for attending on Saturday morning is the opportunity to
learn something. We have been called “the people of the book.” Which book?
We may have read many a book about baseball, cooking, self
improvement, or car maintenance. On Saturday morning we have a chance to
read and learn about our history, our community, our heritage, and our future.
And that is the seventh reason for attending. Show our children where they
belong, where they came from, and where they can go. Surely, even the revolving
door Jews do not want to see American Judaism to come to an end. By attending
synagogue on Saturday morning, we let our children know what is important in
life and that it is not television.
Finally, there is one more reason to visit “shul” on Saturday
morning. By going there, we tell those who murdered our families in Europe that
we are still here, that the killers have lost, that we live and will always
live, Am Yisroel Chai and Shalom.