This week has been difficult and emotionally exhausting for our country. No matter where we stand on the political spectrum, no matter whom we voted for, it is clear there is a deep seeded fear of the “other”.
The objection to reach out, lean in, inquire, probe, and wonder why someone feels or acts differently than we do is antithetical to the Jewish faith. For thousands of years, Jews question, converse, debate, argue and reason with those that do not necessarily view the world with a similar lens.
What is our Jewish obligation?
To extend a hand, ear and heart to those that espouse different point of views, gain understanding of their perspective, and build relationship in order to repair the evident brokenness of this world.
And where does this relationship building take place?
Three names associated with the synagogue are Beit Midrash (House of Study), Beit Tefilah (House of Prayer) and Beit Knesset (House of Gathering).
My father-in-law is a rabbi on the east coast. As I grew accustomed to visiting my husband’s childhood home and watching the interactions of his family, it was surprising to me that his father always referred to the synagogue as “Beit Knesset.” He would call out to my mother in law, “I’m just running to Beit Knesset for a little bit” or “Minyan is starting at Beit Knesset” or “There is a lecture at Beit Knesset.” I remember smiling, wondering why he didn’t use the more common lingo of shul or synagogue.
But now I get it. A Beit Knesset is where you gather with people constantly trying to rebuild their faith. It’s a place where people cry and celebrate together. A Beit Knesset is where two people of different political views can sit next to each other and connect through prayers of peace and prayers of forgiveness. A Beit Knesset is where you turn when you feel isolated, scared, alone and are looking to find solace and safety in the presence of other human beings, seekers of companionship, seekers of love.
We live in a divided country, a ravaged world.
But the definition of our synagogue is a challenge to us all:
Gather with those you know, with those you don’t. Pray, learn, connect, build, lift and be lifted.
Our Beit Knesset, our House of Gathering is open.
I’ll save you a seat.