Why Do We Come to the Synagogue?
"What does a person expect to attain when entering a synagogue? In the pursuit of learning one goes to a library; for aesthetic enrichment one goes to the art museum; for pure music to the concert hall. What then is the purpose of going to the synagogue?
Many are the facilities which help us to acquire the important worldly virtues, skills and techniques. But where should one learn about the insights of the spirit? Many are the opportunities for public speech; where are the occasions for inner silence? It is easy to find people who will teach us how to be eloquent; but who will teach us to be still?
It is surely important to develop a sense of humor; but is it not also important to have a sense of reverence? Where should one learn the eternal wisdom of compassion? The fear of being cruel? The danger of being callous? Where should one learn that the greatest truth is found in contrition?
Important and precious as is the development of our intellectual faculties, the cultivation of a sensitive conscience is indispensable. We are all in danger of sinking into the darkness of vanity; we are all involved in worshiping our own egos. Where should we become sensitive to the pitfalls of cleverness, or to the realization that expediency is not the acme of wisdom?
We are constantly in need of self-purification. We are in need of experiencing moments in which the spiritual is as relevant and as concrete, for example, as the aesthetic. Everyone has a sense for beauty; everyone is capable of distinguishing between beautiful and ugly. But we must also learn to be sensitive to the spirit. It is in the synagogue that we must try to acquire such inwardness, such sensitivity.
To attain a degree of spiritual security, one cannot rely on one's own resources, One needs an atmosphere where the concern for the spirit is shared by a community. We are in need of students and scholars, masters and specialists. But we also need the company of witness, of human beings who are engaged in worship, who for a moment sense the truth that life is meaningless without attachment to G-d.
I grew up in a home of worship where the spiritual was real. There was no elegance but there was contrition; there was no great wealth but there was great longing. It was a place where seeing a Jew, I sensed Judaism. Something happened to the people there when they entered the house of worship. To this day, every time I go to a synagogue my hope is to experience a taste of such an atmosphere. This is why we come to synagogue." Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
Wherever you are in your Jewish journey, we have an education programme for you:
- Do you have a child just setting out on a life of Jewish learning?
- Is your child beginning their journey to Jewish adulthood, preparing for Bar/Bat Mitzvah?
- Are you an adult who wishes to engage in Jewish study?
- Are you interested in converting to Judaism?
- Are you part of a mixed-faith relationship and looking to explore the differing traditions, experiences and ideas of the future that you and your partner hold?
- Do you need a quiet space to read or study? Try one of our two superbly equipped libraries.