Epic failure. No, I am not referring to a missed Pittsburgh Steelers field goal and loss of a possible Super Bowl opportunity this year. The epic failure is hoisted upon my very own brethren (and sistren) the Jewish people. I would not want to be accused of ill speech about my fellow tribesmen so do pardon my frank expressions of disappointment in all of us, but sometimes the collective responsibility extends ever-so-far.
Allow me to explain: I don’t believe in synagogues. You heard it right. This is not to denigrate or attack my fellow rabbinical colleagues, but not only do I not believe in synagogue, I believe that G-d Almighty also never intended for such an edifice to have been built. Before I get sacked (like Seahawks QB Russell Wilson’s recent performance) please read on…
Jewish history…let’s turn back the proverbial clock for a few moments and go back to an earlier era in our history. Post Sinai, the Jews were waiting for their leader, Moshe (Moses) to bring back the details of the Torah. No one likes waiting. Not now, and apparently not back then either. Due to some impatience and a welling up of a desire to live a hedonistic life unfettered and unbridled, the Jewish people convinced themselves that their leader, Moshe, had died and would not be returning. At that point, some of the Jewish people created a substitute deity to act as an intermediary, or god of sorts, between themselves and the Higher Power. The Golden Calf. Collective guilt and an epic failure on our nation’s part.
When the debacle concluded, it left the Jewish people reeling from the destruction. How did G-d respond to this epic fail?
Answer: G-d gave us the chance to clean up our own mess. And it is through our portion that we learn how.
Originally, G-d set up the system that the synagogues of the Jewish people would take up very little physical space. Indeed, says the Torah, “And I (G-d) shall dwell in you,” that is, there would remain a deep-etched consciousness within the hearts and minds of each Jew, ever tying us back to the Source of all Sources. Like a whirring machine that would automatically turn off once unplugged, the Jew would realize that his/her reality is inextricably linked to the Ultimate Power Source; G-d.
In comes the Golden Calf. It was at that moment that the Jews showed they were not ready for such an intangible, sublime relationship. The Golden Calf was a statement that we needed a concrete, better yet-golden, conduit to relate to G-d.
And G-d responds with an Amen! G-d says, “if having a relationship with Me that leaves out the hard-and-fast edifice is the only way you can thrive, I command you to make a dwelling for Me. Plan A is now off the table.”
In essence then, our synagogues and our original Synagogue of Synagogues (no, I am not referring to Jerusalem’s “Great Synagogue” but rather the Tabernacle (Mishkan) and eventually the Holy Temple), is a contingency plan devised as a necessary catering to the foibles of the Jewish people. Does that mean synagogues are “bad?” No! It means that spiritually we weren’t at a level to live without a Temple (or the eventual mini-temples that exist in the form we call synagogue).
So friends, now that we have them, the synagogue is one of our best ways to connect to the Source. (And yes a great way to meet up with friends, and often a quick and easy resource for a good piece of cake at Kiddush too.) Utilize it, go to it, talk to G-d in it…but always remember the ultimate goal of the synagogue: To help us gain focus and clarity in our relationship to G-d and to help inspire each of us to become the edifice for G-d to manifest the Divine presence within.