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Kol HaChadoshot

What's news and 'nu' in the Beth David community

November 2017

From The Rabbi:

There are advantages and detriments that are among the common denominators of most large congregations. Some larger synagogues offer multiple Shabbat and Yom Tov services - young couples minyan, teen minyan, "hashkamah" (early) service, main sanctuary service, chapel service, service in the social hall and the list can go on. I heard about an orthodox synagogue on Long Island that needed ten different services on the mornings of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur to accommodate all of its members and guests. The talents were secured of ten different cantors, and no one worship group was led by the same chazzan twice over the duration of the holidays. A rabbi's dream or a rabbi's nightmare?
     Congregations of substantial critical mass can afford the luxury, and maybe even need, to divide into manageable groups for worship. If the number of attendees outstrips the number of pews, there is little alternative. This model functions efficiently when the goal is meeting the needs of large numbers or disparate populations. This model fails if a goal of being a member of a congregation is being a member of a community.  The large-congregation model allows subsets to coexist under a common roof, but they rarely constitute a social or empathetic community. Each subset or worship group becomes its own entity, often clueless about what is happening in the other worship groups and tragically oblivious to what might be happening in the lives of the people with whom they do not pray.
     Smaller congregations rarely divide and subdivide for prayers. When the pews outnumber the worshippers, everyone can pray together - in one place and at one time. Size imposes a sense of community upon the supporters and attendees of these synagogues. The fluent in synagogue practice and the not-yet-fluent sit side by side. One space becomes the common sacred space for parents with babes-in-arms and empty-nesters, for those who pray slowly and those who want to see services end quickly, for those who like to sing modern tunes and for those who find greater comfort in traditional solemnity. The reality of smaller congregations is that their size nurtures a sense of community. Different factions with distinct needs realize that common cause is an energy to be embraced, and common cause is achieved when compromise is a shared agenda.
     There are virtues in affiliating with and praying with smaller congregations. These assemblages are the laboratories where the facets of affinity are defined and refined. These are the places where the value of an individual is most precious. These are among the places where children can learn about respecting elders, and where senior citizens can still share in the celebrations of births and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. This is where learning by trial and error can occur in a safe place surrounded by a caring and encouraging community. There are blessings to be enjoyed in smaller congregations, but only when the opportunities are appreciated.
     Yes, of course, it would be nice if Beth David had a few more members; but in the meantime, let us all strive to embrace the blessings that are already ours. 

Sat, November 18 2017 29 Cheshvan 5778