On Rosh Hashanah morning, the Rabbi noticed little Adam staring up at the large plaque in the synagogue’s foyer. It was covered with names, and small American flags were mounted on either side.
The seven-year-old had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the Rabbi stood beside him and said quietly, “Good morning, Adam.”
“Good morning, Rabbi,” replied the young man, looking intently at the plaque. “Rabbi Resnick, what is this?” Adam asked.
“Well, it is a memorial to all the young men and women who died in the service.”
Soberly, they stood together, staring at the large plaque. Little Adam’s voice was barely audible when he asked, “Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur service?”
Children say the greatest things. Often, if not always, they mimic what they have heard from others.
Even for many adults, let alone children, services at the synagogue are tiresome, like going to the dentist… and that may not be bad!
Why do we call going to synagogue “services”? For many, it is because they expect to be served entertainment, with lectures, amusement, and jokes.
Our instruction manual as Jewish people, our constitution presented by God to Moses after we were liberated miraculously from Egypt, is the Bible. It is written, “And you shall labor — serve God with all your heart.”
The Talmud, which explains the Bible, asks, “What is the service and labor of the heart?” And it answers, “Tefillah,” liberally translated as “prayer.” God is commanding us to “serve” Him. We fulfill this commandment through the formula of our Siddur, prayer books designed by the Rabbis of the Great Assembly during and after the times of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Prayer, or services, is meant to be the time set aside at the beginning of every day — and on a larger scale, at the beginning of a New Year — for us to labor, serve, worship, and connect wholly with God.
The mystical book of the Zohar says, “When is the time for war, internal struggle, this is the time of prayer.”
Prayer is an extraordinary moment in which we are granted the opportunity, because of God’s commandment, to serve Him and connect with spirituality, to become more than just body and view the world and life from a higher, purer perspective.
The world, in all its coarseness, drags us down. The denser the matter, the more gravity pulls on it. The more materialistic we are, the more we get sucked into its black hole. Ultimately, running after worldly pleasures leaves us empty and unaccomplished, more painful and persistent than a bad toothache.
Prayer is a time to focus entirely on the tension between the body’s drives and the soul’s yearnings. While the body seeks the superficial, immediate, and fleeting, the soul craves deep and enduring Godliness. After all, that is where the feelings of the soul are coming from. It is a war within ourselves and our surroundings, an internal struggle to discover where we may be veering off course and needing to reroute our lives to put us on track for more valuable purposes.
Regarding these days, the prophet says, “Seek God when He can be found; call Him when He is close.” This reaches its zenith on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
The next time you pick up the Siddur, an authentic prayer book, put yourself into the words entirely. See yourself from the perspective of the words as they sing and cry out to God. Let your soul soar in the direction of the Psalmist, King David, the sweet singer of Israel.
Going to a Synagogue will never be the same. Not only will you start looking forward to going to synagogue for the tremendous spiritual high it brings, but you will not want to leave anymore! It is with this kind of inspiration that our days and our years, our entire lives, become a true blessing.
Chapter 243 www.aspiritualsoulbook.com