Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bar Mitzvah

Today was the last day of my Hebrew II class. Instead of normal class, we went to a Jewish Shabbat service at a local synagogue to get a chance to hear Hebrew being read and spoken. The fact that I was given a kippah to wear when I entered the sanctuary made me really excited. This congregation had a real diversity in kippah style - a lot of people were wearing green ones we were told were left over from St. Patrick's Day, and one guy even had a Carolina Panthers logo on his. Mine was just plain black, but I'm not going to complain.

What my kippah looked like:

I can't say that I understood a whole lot of what was being said in Hebrew today. And really, the Jews don't speak much Hebrew in the service - they sing it. Even as they read text in Leviticus about leprosy and bodily discharges, they sang it with a beautiful melody - this was strange to me. From what I understand, the singing is a way to help them remember and recite the words of the Torah. I was happy that I could at least follow along in my pew Torah and prayer book as they sang through these passages and prayers. I even knew a couple of the songs (the Shema - שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל - and one other called Ein Keloheinu, which means "There is none like our God") from having sung them in Hebrew class.

It was also the Bar Mitzvah (which means "son of the commandment") for a young Jewish boy (now a man) in the congregation. It was his first opportunity to read (sing) from the Torah and to take upon himself the responsibility to know and follow it. He actually had to carry one of the big Torah scrolls around the room for people to touch - I wasn't sure that he was going to make it because the thing probably weighed more than he did. One thing I for sure noticed about Jewish worship and religion is that they show a lot of reverence for God's word.

Shabbat Shalom! (A Sabbath of peace!)

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