Sunday, June 19, 2011

Christian Worship in a Synagogue?

Yesterday I had the opportunity for the first time, to attend an Orthodox Jewish prayer service. I found it very interesting, in every respect. I found myself wondering about the role of women in Orthodox Judaism, and about the shape/form of "feminist" movements in that context. I was struck by the reverence, the sense of the sacred, especially toward the Torah - the way it is kept in a special place, the way it is treated, brought out, walked around the room, the obvious reverence and respect the worshipers have for their sacred book.

The elements of the service, from my observation, were prayers, the bringing out of the Torah, a very long section (the longest) where the Torah is read, and a brief message.

During the Torah reading, seven of the male participants read sections. Everything was in Hebrew, of course. We had copies of the Scripture in Hebrew, with an English translation, and with rabbinic commentary in English. I found it fascinating to read both the text - translated slightly differently, in places, than the Old Testament in our Christian Bible - and the commentary.

I have determined to get myself one of these copies of the "Old Testament," to study the Jewish understanding of the Jewish Scriptures. It has just hit me, for the first time, that what I have is a Christian understanding of Judaism, and I would like to supplement that with the Jewish understanding of their faith. I expect it will be an eye-opening and enriching study.

As in the case of my time observing the Friday prayers, I found myself deeply stirred and worshiping God, in the Jewish prayer service. One point of connection, obviously, was that we were in a shared text, one that I have read all my life. But I was also stirred, through being in the Jewish Scripture, and thinking of their understanding of God in that context (apart from the New Testament and Jewish), to reflect on God, his holiness, his relationship with his people in times past, and whether I revere and honor God as deeply as what I observed among a people who will not even speak his name, but refer to him as "the Name" (Hashem).

Thank you, God, for stirring my heart and my faith in my journey among "the other."

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