Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What Makes A Synagogue?

This is something my teacher who prepared me to become a Bar Mitzvah wrote to put in the pamphlet explaining my Bar Mitzvah service:

"A synagogue can be made of wood or brick, stone or thatch, glass, marble, or steel. It can look like a bank, an Arabian Night Palace, a New England Town Hall, a modernistic sculpture or a room at Wellesley College [where my service took place]. It need not be a building at all. A tent can be a synagogue. So can a forest clearing or an ocean beach. A synagogue is more than a structure. Rich carvings and beautiful ornaments do not make a synagogue (although they can enhance one). It is the people who come together for study and prayer -- they are the ones who make a synagogue a true house of worship. May the door of this synagogue be wide enough to receive all who hunger for love, all who are lonely for fellowship. May it welcome all who have cares to unburden, thanks to express, hopes to nurture. May the door of this synagogue be narrow enough to shut out pettiness and pride, envy and enmity. May its threshold be no stumbling block to you straying feet. May it be too high to admit complacency, selfishness and harshness. May this synagogue be, for all who enter, the doorway to a richer and more meaningful life." -Debbie Fruchtman
 My question now is: can there be a synagogue on the web? I think there can be. There may not be traditional services, but if people can come together for the sake of study and prayer, that is a synagogue. The internet nowadays, with comments and social networking, makes it possible to converse about different aspects of religion and spirituality. I think that online synagogues may already exist, but they are not called such. There need not be services and people wearing yarmulkes and tallitot, but a community and a place set aside for introspection and worship. I think of a synagogue as being like the literal definition of the Turkish word harem (pronounced hah-RAYM, not HEH-rum), privacy or an exclusive place. This was explained to me when I was taking a tour of the Turkish palace Topkapı. Everyone has a harem. A family is a harem. So is a school group, a group of friends, the tour group I was in, and a synagogue. I think that any Jewish community that gets together with love and openness for the sake of study and worship of G-d is a synagogue. With this in mind, we all belong to a synagogue. We are all connected through G-d.

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