[Solved] visit to a synagogue

For my field trip to another religion’s worship service, I chose to visit the Beth El Congregation Synagogue in Baltimore, Maryland. I have family members that are a part of the Jewish community, but I had never attended service with them until this experience. The Bel El Congregation is a progressive synagogue that is affiliated with United Synagogue. I arrived early to see if I could find someone to show me around so I felt more acquainted with the happenings around me. Lucky for me, there was a kind woman who acted as the synagogue’s receptionist for this particular Friday.

She was nice enough to to give me a short tour as well as a little information on synagogues before the service started. She began by explaining there are three major things every synagogue needs in order to be considered one. The first is the Holy Arc, which is the cabinet that enshrines the Torah scrolls. In the Beth El Congregation Synagogue there are four scrolls in the Holy Arc, but she explained that some have more or less. The second item all synagogues must have is the Eternal Flame, which is the sanctuary lamp and altar lamp.

These are lights that shall burn continuously day and night. The woman explained the third and final thing all synagogues need is the seven branched candelabrum, also known as a Menorah. This is used during ceremonies to symbolize the seven days of creation. One thing that the woman explained to me that I did not know was the fact that any place could be known as a synagogue from a tent to a castle as long as it contained the three items listed above. There were also items in the Beth El synagogue that not all need.

Synagogues usually have a separate place for the candles included with the Menorah. These are lit at the beginning of the service on Fridays in honor of the Sabbath. Another feature of this synagogue is the listing of the Ten Commandments. In this, each line contains only the first two words of each commandment. The Shofar or ram ’s horn is used to “awaken”. She explained that the senior rabbi of Beth El, Steven Schwartz, blows the horn on the holiday known as Rosh Hashanah, also known as the Jewish New Year.

Another feature of this synagogue is the symbol for the tree of life. All of the above mentioned are centered in the front of the auditorium sized worship area, as if to resemble a large scroll, when the cabinet containing the scrolls is closed. After the tour of the grounds, I was introduced to Debbie Caplan, who is the Assistant Executive Director of the congregation’s staff. With permission from the Rabbi, she showed me one of the scrolls “undressed” and unscrolled. The scroll is broken up in to 52 different sections.

A different section is read every week to the congregation and once it has all been read, the cycle starts all over. The scrolls must not be touched with hands, so a pointer called a yad is used for reading from the scrolls. The service I attended after my tour was to my surprise on the holiday of Sukkot. My favorite service of the night was that of Rabbi Dana Saroken, who began her service by saying “Shavuot Shalom”. According to Rabbi Saroken, this is a week long holiday, and relaxation and celebration is in order during this time.

She began her speaking by summarizing a recent, well known movie called “Runaway Bride” where actress Julia Roberts pushes away many suitors who had asked for her hand in marriage, after making plans and dreaming of her life together with each of them. This even happened when it seemed as though she had found the one she was meant to be with; she still ran away. The rabbi examined the fact that perhaps Julia Roberts did not have enough time to get to know Richard Gear, the one everyone thought she would finally end up with, and that the short engagement had just exhausted her.

In this she related the fact that the holiday’s of Rash Hashanah and Yam Kippur were just before the exuberate full week holiday of Sukkot. This sometimes exhausts the Jewish people, especially the final day of Sukkot, Hoshana Rabbah, when Jews gather a bundle of five willow branches and beat them on the ground all while circling them at the same time. Rabbi Saroken explained that God had only intended for there to be one sole holiday each Jewish month, but when the Isrealites built the golden calf, God got so angry that God took the holidays away.

Eventually when he forgave the Jewish people and gave them back, he clustered them all within the month of Tishrei. To find the answer of why God bundled all the holidays together, she turned to Kabbalah, which explained that the Sukkah, which is built during Sukkot actually represents the Hoopah, or the wedding canopy. Just as it hovers over the bride and groom during their wedding day, so does the Sukkot hovers over all of the Jews so that when the Jewish people enter into the Sukkah they are in actuality entering into a union with God.

The promises made to God during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are made into a reality. Sukkot is simply a holiday packed full of rituals and actions showing God they are paying attention to his messages and the Jewish people are doing something to keep the promises made during other holidays. In conclusion, she stated that unlike Julia Roberts, also known as the “Runaway Bride”, the Jewish congregation on Sukkot will not run away from their promises to God even in the most exhausting times. Even if times have been hard, on Sukkot one is able to begin anew.

She finished with saying, “Let’s make this wedding day and all those that follow the wedding and the relationships that we always dreamed of”. I really enjoyed the tour I got before the service and the Sukkot holiday service . I was afraid I would not understand what the Rabbi’s were talking about but as I demonstrated above, they did a great job of relating to the common person. My day at the synagogue made me what to explore the Jewish faith more critically and it opened my eyes to another religion other than my own Christian faith.

"Looking for a Similar Assignment? Order now and Get a Discount!

"Looking for a Similar Assignment? Order now and Get a Discount!