In a little over a week, TBA will embark on what I believe is a bold and important experiment in Temple worship. We will be offering Friday night services at both 5:45 and 8:00PM. As one of the driving forces behind this change, I want to take a moment to let you know why I think this is so exciting and why everyone should make an effort to participate. For me, this is about much more than filling seats or counting heads. It’s about making sure that Reform Judaism is something that can sustain and inspire us through all the stages of our lives.
Many people come to our wonderful family services on the first of every month. They are joyous and fun and we all take pride as our children sing and read from the Bima. But Judaism should offer more than just the chance to kvell. It should offer adults something for themselves; a chance to feel spiritual, contemplative, inspired and renewed. That is what we offer on the other Friday nights of the month. The first time I came to a non-family service, I was surprised to find that Rabbi gives a sermon…a grown up sermon. It was wonderful. I was delighted to learn that on the third Friday of every month, we do Torah study together as a congregation. We use different melodies; there is more time for reflection. Where family services are energetic and festive, other services are often peaceful and moving.
It is important for us to seek out the opportunities to be nurtured as adults. Ultimately, if Judaism can’t sustain us through all the stages of our lives, what good is it? If we gather together only to engage and educate our children, what happens to us when the children leave? What happens to those of us who don’t have children? What are we let with when family services are no longer serving our needs? If Judaism doesn’t answer those questions, than it needs to be fixed. I think at least some of the answers can be found on the other Friday nights. And if you come, and find that what we are offering isn’t serving that purpose, then let us know and help us to craft worship experiences that do.
Finally, coming to regular services is just as important for your children as it is for you. Let them see that Judaism is not something you grow out of. If the children get a little fidgety and need to take some time to socialize in room 13, that’s OK too. That’s how kids in Temple become friends. That’s how connections between families are made. If you ask many of our older, long term congregants, they will tell you that some of their strongest friendships were formed with families they saw at Temple every week. So even if services are not your favorite thing, come anyway. Come for the community. Tell us what you like and what you don’t. Help us build services that work for you. And while you are here, let your kids play with the other kids. Then when services are over, go out to dinner together. The parents bond, the children bond, and it’s a win for everyone.