July 22, 2012

Enjoying Shabbat

The last 24 hours have been amazing as our cohort has enjoyed the pleasure of Shabbat. I even took the opportunity to become untethered to the internet for that period of time.
On Friday evening we attended an Orthodox synagogue, Shira Chadash, that is seeking to incorporate women's voices in the worship. In the past, women would sit at the back, but at this more progressive congregation of about 350, there is a sheer curtain down the middle of the worship space and the readings and cantoring are shared between men and women. I heard many remark about what a change it made in the liturgy to hear women's voices. There was a spirit of joy and community, and we were make welcome.
One of the practices of this synagogue is to be generous with hospitality. Thus, all of us were invited to different homes for Shabbat Table with members of the congregation. Three of us went to the home of a prominent American historian who immigrated with his family to Jerusalem five years ago. Committed Zionists, they felt this was the moral vision they wanted their children to learn.
These children were impressive! Not only did they assist in the preparation of the meal (mother was away in Italy on an Art education project), but they led in the prayers and blessings at the table. As the silence deepened in the Orthodox neighborhood (little traffic, little media, little clamor) we felt the blessing of Shabbat engulf us. God often dwells in deep silence, as 1 Kings 18 reminds us.
Saturday evening gave the opportunity to bid Shabbat farewell as we gathered at the home of Rabbi David Rosen who leads the work of the American Jewish Committee's inter-religious and inter-goup work in Jerusalem. His balcony overlooks a stunning vista of the Old City; at night one can see the lights of Amman, Jordan, only 35 kilometers away. Such is the scale of this land. Nothing is far away except sufficient compromises for peace.
It was striking amidst the prayers concluding Shabbat to hear fireworks celebrating Ramadan, the muzzein's call to prayer, a distant church bell, and doves cooing in nearby trees. Rather than a cacophony, perhaps it was an orchestra warming up for a harmonious work. Let us pray so.

Molly T. Marshall

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