by Rabbi Bill Kuhn
The vision of Congregation Rodeph Shalom is to offer the kind of Friday evening Shabbat worship service which will help create profound connections among all of our congregants. On Friday evenings we hope all of our congregation will come together to welcome Shabbat and to pray together, to support each other in times of need and in times of joy, to socialize together and to build a strong sense of community. In order to do this, we are trying to create the kind of uplifting and transformative worship service that will attract the diverse population within Rodeph Shalom, a service which will be participatory, warm, inclusive, welcoming, spiritual and meaningful, which will help everyone connect with each other, with the soul of Jewish prayer, and with God.
We do this by providing uplifting music that is both accessible and inspiring. Our teacher, Rabbi Larry Hoffman (Professor of Liturgy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion) says, “The single greatest need for worship is to connect individuals in community, that they may know the mystery of genuine meeting, and thereby the presence of God among us.” “Music of meeting” is music that “invites the stance of reaching out to one another…connecting with God, not on high or even within, but through the miracle of community.” (The Art of Public Prayer, by Lawrence Hoffman. Sky Light Paths Publishing. Woodstock, VT., 1999).
Our plan for this year is to create the kind of prayer service which will help us connect through the miracle of community. All of our Shabbat evening services this year will begin at 6:00 p.m. Beginning in September, there will be a pre-Oneg Shabbat at 5:45 p.m. The service will end at approximately 7:15 p.m., and will be followed by an Oneg Shabbat.
Occasionally, we will offer special guest speakers, programs or concerts after the Shabbat service is over. And, approximately once per month, we will join together downstairs for a Community Dinner following the service.
What is so special about Shabbat? Abraham Joshua Heschel, the great Jewish scholar, called Shabbat a “Palace in time.” During our daily lives, we busy ourselves with a routine that may take our minds and hearts away from that which is most important. Heschel says, “In our daily lives, we attend primarily to that which the senses are spelling out for us: to what the eyes perceive, to what the fingers touch…The result is our blindness to all reality that fails to identify itself as a thing, as a matter of fact.” [The Sabbath, by A.J. Heschel. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1951].
But Shabbat is a day when we can free ourselves from the busy and stressful work of daily life. “The higher goal of spiritual living is not to amass a wealth of information, but to face sacred moments.” [Heschel, ibid]. On Shabbat, we try to experience sacred moments. “The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space…It is a time to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation.” [Heschel, ibid].
We hope to bring this special feeling of Shabbat into our Friday night prayer services. We hope that all of you will find meaning and beauty and joy in joining together in prayer, to support each other and to socialize with each other. We intend for our services to be uplifting and transformative, as we create profound connections that celebrate the miracle of our community.
I believe more and more members of the Rodeph Shalom family feel that it would be unthinkable to begin their weekend without participating in Shabbat Services, every Friday night at 6:00 p.m., your “Palace in time.”