Beit Kinneset - A House of Gathering

Rabbi David A. Spey

When the echo of the High Holy Day season begins to fade into the past, many of us will feel “synagogued out.” The rapid succession of Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Shavuot, and Simchat Torah service, combined together with weekly Shabbatot is enough to potential overwhelm and burn out even the most ardent service regular. As well, the intensity of the High Holy Days: the introspection, the atonement, the commitment to change, the fast, the apologies, the resolutions are all emotionally draining. The placement of the High Holy Days at the end of summer, at the beginning of the year seems almost conspiratorial; with work ramping up, school starting, and summer travel a memory, it is understandable that we try to put synagogue out of our minds and off of our calendar. So what will we do to fill the free time that we will have next month.

Personally, I plan to reengage with friends and family who I tend to neglect during the High Holy Day season. I meet colleagues and friends for lunch, call old friends, and start to reengage with my social circle after the neglect due to summer travel and High Holy Day intensity. However, we actually don’t need to avoid Temple Bat Yam to do this. After all, a synagogue is not just a house of prayer, a beit tefillah. Actually the Hebrew word for a synagogue, which is Greek for house of gathering, reflects that meaning and sentiment, beit kinneset, again house of gathering.

As the name implies, a synagogue, our Temple Bat Yam, is more than a place at which services are convened. It is the home of a community. It is the gathering point for Jews who invest themselves in the welfare and lives of other Jews. It is a home for friends, a place of study, a place for social justice, a place of comfort. Most of all, Temple Bat Yam is a place
for belonging.

Each of us has a different notion of what it means and feels like to belong. In part that is what makes a community like ours so vibrant. Our community thrives in its ability, not only to tolerate, but also to accept and embrace the diversity found within. Each individual brings values, tastes, desires, wants, and needs to our community; each of which expands our horizons and enhances our community. In order to know how we can further enhance our community, we need to help each other. What can we do to be a better place for belonging? What can we do to further our ability to be a true beit kinneset, house of gathering, to all people?

During these High Holy Days as we lay our plans for the future, let us endeavor to make our synagogue a true house of gather and do what we can to enhance our and our friends sense of belonging within our community. In that way, we help to ensure that the new year will be sweet and happy.

May you and all you care about be written and sealed for a sweet and happy new year.

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