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5000 Jews Praying Together: Cathartic and Inspiring


It’s not often that a rabbi gets to sit back off the bimah and lean into inspiring prayer. The constant responsibility for creating T’filah for others, partnering with a cantor and other shlichei tzibur (prayer leaders), draws our attention everywhere but our own spiritual selves.

And then there are moments like this morning’s shacharit service at the Biennial Convention of the Union for Reform Judaism: 5000 Jews, Jewish families and gerei toshav (others dwelling amongst us) lifting up our voices and hearts and bodies and to praise the Holy One who brought us together. I felt like I was at Camp Newman, and back in NFTY and right here, an adult feeling intensely youthful and openly spiritually engaged.

Movement and song, chorale and instrument, word and stories and silence invited each of us to find moments of meaning that spoke to our souls. The leaders were amazing; the experience transcendent.

When the Torah was chanted simultaneously from multiple bimot (stages), the multivocality of Jewish text and tradition suffused the sacred space, bringing ancient words to life.

For this rabbi, this Biennial service was cathartic and refreshing. It served as a reminder that in the midst of the rush to create and the pressure to push forward, there is also an imperative to step back and slow down.

After we turn from more Shabbat study and more spiritual search, back into thoughtful exploration of how to enhance and deepen the Jewish world, I for one will return to this sacred work energized, engaged and inspired.

Thank you Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Rabbi/Cantor Angela Warnick Buchdahl, Liz Lermen, Amichai Lau-Levinger, Merri Lovinger Arian, Josh Nelson, Cantor Rosalie Boxt, the instrumentalists, chorale and everyone behind the scenes – and my fellow daveners – for creating a sukkat shalom – a sanctuary of peace – in which I could finds wholeness and holiness. Shabbat shalom.

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