I attended a shabbat service at a reform synagogue tonight. It was my first time at any kind of Jewish religious service. The whole feeling of the thing was very laid back. And, unlike the priest at Christian services I’ve attended, the rabbi was very much not talking at or even to the congregation, but simply leading a community in worship. In that sense, it felt more monotheistic than a Christian service, especially at the moments when the worshippers turn away from the rabbi towards the western wall. People I went with enjoyed the time spent reflecting on the previous week. This is the kind of weekly practice which I’d like to start practicing outside any kind of religious context. At the end of the service there was a peace prayer, and they sang a hallelujah chorus, which had different words, but the same tune as the hallelujah chorus I sang back when I used to go to United Church services.
Coming home, we made our own Shabbat dinner – with wine, challah bread, and the short version of the blessings. I think it is not an exaggeration to say that every group dinner we’ve had here in Jerusalem has been special, but this one was probably the most peaceful. I made a comment – why is Judaism not a proselytizing religion? It would be so good at it – just show people this chill friday service and serve them a great meal, and they’ll be hooked.
But more seriously, I’m not about to convert to Judaism. And what I like about shabbat is not so different from what I like about the weekly vegan pot luck dinners, or socialist utopia dinners, at toad lane. The moral of the story is – weekly rituals where you come together with your friends and family are valuable, whatever the context and tradition.