Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Magnet to the Torah?

A reader of the blog pointed out an interesting shul phenomenon, one that I think I was narrowly not paying much attention to before.

Whenever the Torah is taken out of the ark- have you noticed that some people move forward to the front of the shul to kiss the Torah?  In some shuls the children swarm the front.  In other shuls people wait for the Torah to pass by their aisle and might extend a fringe or a hand.  All of these are gestures to show how much we cherish the written Torah and that it is a central in our lives.

But have noticed that sometimes, people are just busy talking or to tired to move down the aisle or out of their way to acknowledge the Torah?  Isn't this part of the element of neilla on Yom Kippur, that the ark is opened and that we try to stand at attention at this most holy and propitious time?  Perhaps I am feeling frustrated by the gentleman who I shared a minyan with last week and sat through neilla reading Primo Levi's Survival in Aushwitz but I have since noticed many other shuls were there is a malaise about the removal or returning of the scrolls and I think this is sad.  Further I think there is a certain correlation between shuls with less active physical movement at the opening of the ark sequence to the shul's overall tefilla satisfaction level.  As a parent and educator I very much feel that the small actions and  messages we send are expressions of core values - and one of the core values of Judaism (debate however you may on how to interpret it) is the Torah.  "It is a a Tree of Life for those hold fast to it and all who cling to it find happiness"  - so, what can we do to motivate our fellow congregants to start holding fast and magnetizing their tefilla?

I can tell you this, the shuls that I do visit where davners are moving to the Torah have been places that I would rank as some of my best tefilla experiences.

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