Many people come to our weekly Torah service and wonder what is going on. Why do we bother with the prayers that we recite or why this Psalm instead of that Psalm. Over the next couple of weeks I am going to try and explain the order of the service, the prayers that we recite and basically why do we do what we do.
America is the most religious nation in the Western world. According to a worldwide study based at the University of Michigan, 44 percent of Americans attend church once a week not counting funerals, christenings, and baptisms, compared with 27 percent of the people in Great Britain, 21 percent in France, 4 percent in Sweden, and 3 percent in Japan. Fifty-three percent of these Americans say that religion is very important in their lives, compared with 16 percent, 14, percent, and 13 percent, respectively, of the British, French, and Germans.
However in many churches believers have too often become audiences while music leaders and pastors have become performers, masters of ceremony, talk show hosts. People are there for something, but it’s not the service, and it is certainly not prayer.
Worship — true worship — was intended to be different — to inspire, to ennoble, to induce awe. As the contemporary Jewish theologian Rabbi Eugene B. Borwitz suggests, “The Jewish service is primarily an expression and renewal of [the] participant’s covenant with God.”
How is this goal to be achieved? That is the question we are going to explore in the coming weeks.