Thursday, January 2, 2014

I'm Jewish, What's Your Excuse?

Question of the Week:


Rabbi, do you know why I don't go to shul? I used to go when I was young, but then once my father gave a donation of $100, and the shul secretary said that it was not enough. My dad was so embarrassed, he never went back. So I stopped going too. If you need to be wealthy to be respected I want no part of it. Am I right or wrong?


You are the third person this week to explain to me why they don't go to shul. This happens to me all the time. At almost every function I attend, a wedding, kid's birthday party or communal gathering, someone comes up to me and says, "Rabbi, do you know why I don't go to shul?...."

I have never asked anyone why they don't go to shul. I don't even know these people. And yet they feel the need to share with me their particular Jewish gripe, either about the unfriendly rabbi or the arrogant cantor, the grandfather who forced them to pray or the G-d who didn't answer their prayers.

It's funny, I don't feel the need to justify to my dentist why I never go to him, or the local gym why they never see me. And yet when people see a rabbi they are overcome with an urge to explain their absence from shul.

Mind you, the people who do attend shul don't seem to have a good reason why they come. Even someone who has not been to shul in years can rock up to a service, and without any justification for their sudden appearance, they walk in, take a prayer book and sit down, as if they always belonged there.

Because they do belong there. A Jew needs no reason to be in shul. There is no explanation necessary.  Most of the time, they themselves don't know why they started coming to shul. And so they offer no rationalization. You only need a reason not to go to shul. But to go, no reason is required. I am here because I am Jewish, and going to shul is Jewish.

This is why I love hearing those alibis people present for not being in shul. A Jew needs a reason not to connect to Judaism. Some may have pretty good reasons. But they are reasons nonetheless. A Jew needs no reason to connect to Judaism. It is who we are.

What happened to your father is disgraceful. But to let that incident disconnect you from Judaism is even worse. You need to get past it. Until you do, all the justifications in world won't change the fact that you're a Jew, and a Jew wants to be Jewish.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Moss


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