In just a few days, many of us will sit in synagogue, trying to achieve…something. Inspiration, a change of heart, motivation to conquer the year’s challenges and trials. Instead of waiting for something to happen, let’s start preparing…right now.
Enjoy this spiritual homework from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel:
What does a person expect to attain when entering a synagogue? In the pursuit of learning, one goes to the library; for esthetic enrichment, one goes to the art museum; for pure music, to the concert hall. What then, is the purpose of going to the synagogue?
Many are the facilities that help us to acquire the important worldly virtues, skills and techniques. But where should one learn about the insights of the spirit? Many are the opportunities for public speech; where are the occasions for inner silence? It is easy to find people who will teach us to be eloquent; but who will teach us how to be still? It is surely important to have a sense of reverence.
Where should one learn the general wisdom of compassion? The fear of being cruel? The danger of being callous? Where should one learn that the greatest truth is found in contrition? Important and precious as the development of our intellectual faculties is, the cultivation of a sensitive conscience is indispensable. We are all in danger of sinking into the darkness of vanity; we are all involved in worshipping our own egos. Where should we become sensitive to the pitfalls of cleverness, or to the realization that expediency is not the acme of wisdom?
We are constantly in need of experiencing moments in which the spiritual is as relevant and as concrete, for example as the esthetic. Everyone has a sense of beauty; everyone is capable of distinguishing between the beautiful and the ugly. But we must learn to be sensitive to the spirit. It is in the synagogue where we must try to acquire such inwardness, such sensitivity.
I look forward to seeing you…in the synagogue.