The Three Main Tensions in Our Synagogue

These are the three main tensions that we detect in our synagogue nowadays. They have been there throughout our history.

First is the tension of purpose.

Is the purpose of the synagogue to express and address in prayer the needs of the individual Jew - or - the collective agenda of the Jewish people?

Second is the tension of presence.

Is it more urgent for each Jew in the synagogue to focus in prayer his or her presence on the immediate here and now of their experience - or - to transcend their locus and imagine the realms of the heavens above, the times that have past and the future that is yet to come?

Third is the tension of performance.

Is it more apparent that Jews in the synagogue gather together to artfully carry out with aplomb the services of prayers, psalms and bible readings for each other in the four walls of their buildings - or - that they join as one to proclaim with certainty and celebrity the destiny of the God of the people of Israel to be worshiped with no borders throughout the world?

All three tensions are apparent, articulated and addressed right on the surface in the traditional services of the synagogue.

If you have never noticed, then you have not paid attention to the contents of the Jewish prayers.

Perhaps that's because you've been told that the main tensions in your synagogue are...

...whether or not you may converse with your neighbor, whether or not you voted to raise the dues, whether or not you approve of the rabbi's new contract.

Yep, that could be why you didn't notice.


Theophrastus said...

Well, you know this better than I do, but I thought petitionary prayer for the self was forbidden on Shabbos -- at least there are no self-petitionary prayers in the Shabbos Amidah

Tzvee Zahavy said...

okay first i don't mention shabbos but you may assume what you will. second i don't mention petitionary prayer, the agenda of the individual comes through in many ways, you do want to be paying attention to the different prayers and what they actually say, who speaks, what template they use, or not. i know no better than you what is on the page. it is the same in my siddur and yours.

on another subject, i am quite sure that tortuousness, pangs, torments and upheavals have nothing to do with the discussion of religion, judaism, orthodoxy or the real portrayal of halakhic man, contrary to what a respected book says or what other orthodox naval gazing blogs are purporting to discuss now elsewhere. i have no truck to enter a dialectic that consists of constantly asking who are we now? with instructions to repeat the same question every ten minutes, with or without a glass of water. there is actual work to do at the end of the day, real content from the siddur or the talmud to recite and to cite with timeless wisdom accessible to any wise reader who cares. but they do need to care about the texts of our tradition and so few do.