I just finished listening to the podcast of a wonderful sermon given by my friend and teacher Rabbi Sharon Brous. Starting with the theme of loneliness, Rabbi Brous invoked texts both ancient and modern that demonstrated the key role that community plays in our lives. It is through community that we offer and receive support when it is needed. Using the Mourner’s Kaddish as an example, Rabbi Brous explored the power of the simple “amen” as a sign of community support. Indeed, the first “amen” is recited by the community even before the mourner has a chance to complete the first sentence!
I was moved and inspired by this important lesson. Yet at the same time as I thought about community, I wondered if the central community in our lives is still our kehillah; our synagogue. I realize that this may be true for most readers of this column because you are active in your Men’s Club or synagogue. Yet take a look around you and ask yourself-“where do your friends go to seek community?” I daresay that the synagogue and our extraordinary traditions and liturgy may not be the top of their list.
Why is that?
How can we, as men and leaders challenge the disappearance of this sense of community? How can we make the sanctuary a place where those who are in pain turn for support?
Rabbi Brous cited a Mishnah that described the path that pilgrims took as they visited the Temple in Jerusalem. Everyone entered and departed through the same doorway. Virtually all turned to the right as they made their way through the courtyard. Yet those who were hurting turned to the left. This way they needed to come face to face with fellow Jews who then would offer support and comfort.
As we look to enhance the sense of community, I look to you, the readers of Mentschen for ideas that will return our “Temples” back to a central place in our lives. A place of joy, a place of comfort and peace. A place where we are ALL there to say “amen”.
What would it take to enhance our community of prayer?