Among the many teachings I absorbed from Rabbi David Hartman, z’l was that a purpose of the synagogue was to live out the rhythms of Jewish life. The Jewish year, the Jewish week, even the Jewish day flows according to a rhythm that if done right by the synagogue, can give meaning structure and purpose to life.
That’s why I have been such an iconoclast as a Reform rabbi, working to ensure that the synagogues I serve tap out the rhythm of daily moments that many other congregations do not-things like the Pre-Passover fast of the first born, minyans, full festival worship, selichot, and of course, second day Rosh Hashanah. Lots of colleagues think I am a bit nuts (particularly with the fast of the first born-well ok maybe with that I am) -but here is the key-even if a lot of folks do not show up, I believe that if the synagogue is “tapping out” the rhythms of daily Jewish life. It is like the drummer in the jazz band marking the beat-you may not feel it directly, it may not be the harmony that you personally dance to- but you know it is there.
On Friday night we had about 50 people at services- a big drop from the 3000 that attended over Rosh Hashanah. But-and here is the thing-the whole point is not how many showed up, but that as a synagogue community we believe in continuing to “tap out the beat” of Jewish life. Rosh Hashanah ends and Shabbat begins- and I believe in my heart that even those who could not come derive some satisfaction from knowing that even in the whirlwind of the Holydays the steady beat of Shabbat worship continues-that we are there.
I have never been one of those rabbis who lament who does not come to shul. Rather, I tend to think it is my job to tap out the rhythms of Jewish life, and allow people to dance to the rhythms they choose. And, baby, I have found that Jews got rhythm.