Romford synagogue’s Rabbi Lee Sunderland is a man of peace. He is a man that unites communities and brings people of all Faiths together. Today he writes in the Havering Daily about the effects these challenging times have had on our places of worship.
Our places of worship have been closed for 2 months. Pesach and Easter have gone with no public worship. Ramadan is suffering the loss of public lftar an important element of the ritual. Shavuot will go the same way. We are in danger of facing the High Holidays with no or limited public worship. If the Bishop of London has it correct, we may see no public worship until Christmas and Chanucah.
Yet l venture to suggest that title of this tome. We have mentioned this on occasion in the past but no more than now does it play out. In Exodus Ch25 donations are sought for the building of the tabernacle (the fore runner of the synagogue). Commentators note that 15 different items were on the wish list. But not money. On the contrary, it would seem money was not wanted! What was wanted were materials people had that they could donate for direct use in the building. If they did not have any, they could donate their time, skills, expertise for everything would be handmade, a skilled workforce was as vital to the project as the materials they would work with.
With this the exegetes comment that there are many ways by which one can serve. When it comes to religious practise there is ‘more than one way to skin a cat’. Organised, institutional religion is not for everyone. But we all have something to contribute. Rabbi S R Hirsch describes what we call charity (a bad translation of the Hebrew word tsedaka) as doing God’s work to better society. In these difficult times we are effectively banned from places of worship. Yet with all the creative ways people are finding to assist each other we are building a far more engaged society than we had just a few months ago. We are becoming more practising of religion.
This article is dedicated to John Manuel who sadly died of COVID 19 on the 25th of March.