Saturday, 17 September 2011

Synagogue Visit

I had an interesting morning with a church group at the Progressive Synagogue down the road, after having gone to the wrong synagogue by mistake. Quite a few of us managed that.

The service was mostly in Hebrew, and very hard to follow, though I did catch the odd word. That being said, it was no harder than the time I visited the Coptic Orthodox Church, where they use a somewhat Hellenised version of the language of the Pharaohs. It was very liturgical, following the book throughout, and the combination of prayers, hymns and readings was familiar. The one element which was new to me was short readings interspersed with commentary from the book, which seemed to replace the sermon. There's nothing surprising here; our church liturgies are descended from the synagogue service, and still follow the same overall pattern. Even some of our traditional prayers are recognisably Jewish, with phrases like 'walk in [God's] way, borrowed from the Hebrew, and doubtless a complete mystery to any non-churchgoing Gentile.

Someone had his bar Mitzvah, which I haven't seen before. The phrase means 'son of the commandment', and it marks the point where the boy is starting to develop into an adult, and is considered able to follow the commandments on his own initiative. Our nearest equivalent would be confirmation, but this is a lot more demanding, as the lad had to read a passage of Torah in Hebrew, which would be more than enough to boggle most Christian minds. The service ended with the congregation pelting him with sweets; I should have asked someone what the significance was, but didn't think of it. We stayed for kiddush, a blessing said over bread and wine on the Sabbath. I don't know whether there's any conection with Christian communion or not, but it's something to look into.


  1. Sorry I couldn't join you. I spent longer at church with the builders than anticipated.
    Glad it went well.

  2. I'd like to see visits like this becoming a regular event, with groups from other faiths being invited back. We'll see.