Posted on August 6, 2021
A question that we have been asking all year — where can we worship God? — is addressed in tomorrow’s Torah portion: כִּ֠י אִֽם־אֶל־הַמָּק֞וֹם אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַ֨ר יְהֹוָ֤ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶם֙ מִכׇּל־שִׁבְטֵיכֶ֔ם לָשׂ֥וּם אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ שָׁ֑ם לְשִׁכְנ֥וֹ תִדְרְשׁ֖וּ וּבָ֥אתָ שָּֽׁמָּה׃ Look only to the site that the LORD your God will choose amidst all your tribes as habitation, to establish The name there. There you are to go. Deut. 12:5. The Torah is speaking of the centralization of the sacrificial cult, ultimately in the Temple in Jerusalem. Nonetheless, the verse brings up questions about the role of the Land of Israel in our ritual practice. It brings up questions about the types of worship. And it brings up the question we have been grappling with — where can we worship God?
Of course, that question is addressed in many other places as well. Rosh Hodesh Elul falls this Sunday and Monday — it is one month until Rosh HaShanah. Are you ready? Probably not yet. I know I am not! Fortunately, our tradition offers us a number of ways to get ready. To help us prepare, beginning Monday we will be sounding the shofar every morning after minyan and reciting psalm 27, the Psalm for the Season of Repentance. This year we are going to focus on one verse of Psalm 27, the very verse that addresses the issue of where to worship God:
אַחַ֤ת ׀ שָׁאַ֣לְתִּי מֵֽאֵת־ה֮’ אוֹתָ֢הּ אֲבַ֫קֵּ֥שׁ
שִׁבְתִּ֣י בְּבֵית־ה’ כׇּל־יְמֵ֣י חַיַּ֑י
לַחֲז֥וֹת בְּנֹעַם־ה’ וּלְבַקֵּ֥ר בְּהֵֽיכָלֽוֹ׃
One thing I ask of the LORD, only that do I seek:
to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD, to frequent Your temple.
“וּלְבַקֵּ֥ר בְּהֵֽיכָלֽוֹ to frequent Your temple” We are excited to be offering in-person services in our temple, on Shabbat morning, now on Monday and Thursday mornings, and on the upcoming High Holy Days. It is great to be able to be together in person seeking God.
And, as we have learned this year and we have not forgotten, physically coming to shul is not the only way to enter God’s house. We can do so in our own houses as well. We fully intend for Monday and Thursday services to be available by Zoom as well as by Livestream and in person. Livestream is still there on Shabbat and holidays. Our community includes those who cannot physically be in the temple and who are still joining with us in God’s house.
Where can we worship God? Anywhere and everywhere, including in our Temple, including in our homes.