Just as I was sitting down to write to about congregations and why they’re important, two things appeared on my computer screen. One was an article called “New sites make shul an online-only experience” and the other was an e-mail about a conference call to pray with some of my fellow Davvenin’ Leadership Training classmates, who are literally scattered across the globe.
In case you’re interested, here’s a link to the on-line shul article:
Here I was, about to extol the benefits of congregating with other like-minded people to pray, and lo and behold, a bunch of people are out there doing it in virtual-space instead of bricks-and-mortar buildings.
Not sure how I feel about this. Prayer, for me, is a tactile experience that includes the location itself. (Check out my post called “creating sacred space absolutely anywhere” that’s about a minyan service in the hallway of a conference center.) I like being with the people around me… even if I don’t happen to like a particular individual.
But I’m not one to talk – after all, I earned my master’s degree in Jewish education online, and that seems to have worked out pretty well. So I guess if I functioned in a virtual classroom for years, and made some truly wonderful friends in the process, then it’s possible to have a shared, deeply spiritual religious experience with people who are thousands of miles away.
I’m sticking to my guns when it comes to belonging to a congregation, though. Even if – like my friend Sarah – you don’t agree with everyone else in the group about God and worship, there is great value in being part of a religious community.
In fact, now that I think about it, not sharing the same beliefs but agreeing to be part of the group anyway is part of what makes a congregation strong. It give us a chance to discuss, debate and study together. Fortunately, Judaism doesn’t require that we adhere to a specific set of beliefs (thank God!). It’s perfectly OK to have different interpretations of text and even ideas about God. Which is one of the things I love most about being Jewish.
I just think that, if we humans are striving to be our higher selves (which is what I think the impulse for religion is all about ) the best way to do that is communally.
Judi from Ocala said:
The reason for a minyan is that there is strength in numbers. I recently attended a minyan at a house of mourning and I know my presence gave comfort to Eileen who had lost her sister. While I love the idea of virtual this and that (last year in my congregation we had a virtual shofar because we did not have a baal tikiyah) there is nothing like the human touch. We are getting so far away from this in our techno world. We all need human contact and sense of community. Judaism stresses this so well.
Roscoe George said:
Hip! Hip! Hoorah!
” Judaism doesn’t require that we adhere to a specific set of beliefs (thank God!). It’s perfectly OK to have different interpretations of text and even ideas about God.”
While i agree with you completely about the quoted sentence,I doubt if the Orthodox, particularly the Hasidim will accept this view!
One caveat about the communal aspect of a con- gregation. . .if most of the congregation are totally ignorant of what they are saying is there any validity to the community?