Feeling Happy and Holy

For quite a few years now, after the last Bar or Bat Mitzvah in June, we move our Friday night service to 5:45pm, and we keep it at that time until Labor Day.  We would usually get a Minyan – the ten people we needed in order to recite all the prayers.  However, we didn’t get much more than that most weeks.

This past June, the Cantor suggested that we “borrow” an idea from her parents’ congregation.  She described the “Happy Hour” reception that her parents’ synagogue has on Friday nights before services.  It sounded good.  So, we decided to give it a try.

We have now put on our own version of “Happy Holy Hour” for the past four weeks.  We have not gotten fewer than 30 people on any of the Friday nights, and over forty people attended one week.  While a few people have come each time, there has also been variety of different people attending.  It’s been great.  This is higher attendance than we might get in the winter when people are not on vacation down at the shore (which is why we have scheduled some Happy Holy Hours throughout the rest of next year!).

It’s caused me to think about why it has drawn so many people.  Is it because the kosher wine that we serve is so fabulous?  Are our gourmet cheeses not available anyplace else?  Is the ambience of our foyer beyond compare (the aroma of fresh paint is a bonus this week!)?

We are all familiar with the programmatic axiom: “Feed them and they will come.”  Nonetheless, the answer to all of the above questions is, of course, “No.”  The wine is fine, the cheeses are delicious and our foyer is as nice as a foyer can be.  However, to my mind, that’s not why people have been coming.

It seems to me that people are coming because we are supplying three things or scratching three itches.  Yes, we are providing some sustenance.  I cannot deny the significance of food and beverage.  After all, one only needs a single glance at me to know that I value food and beverage!

In addition, though, we also provide the opportunity to interact with other members of the congregation.  We call that community.  Lastly, we do, in fact, put on a service in order to nurture people’s spirituality.  The physical, the social and the spiritual combine to make us whole.

In this week’s Torah portion, as Moshe was preparing the Israelites to go on without him, he reminded them of a message that he had delivered to them earlier: “Take exceeding care of yourselves and guard your souls (Deut. 4:9).”  That’s the physical and the spiritual.  He, of course, expected that they would do these things together as a community.

So, if you’re in Summit on a Friday in the month of August at around 5:30pm, come be a part of our Happy Holy Hour.  It’s good for your body and your soul AND it plugs you into our community.



About Rabbi Avi Friedman

I am the rabbi of Congregation Ohr Shalom - SJCC, a progressive Conservative and traditional congregation. I am also husband to Jodi as well as father to Gabi, Jonah, Jessica and Ilana. I have been a part of the Summit community since 2005.
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