“‘Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.’ This is one thing Jews can agree on, and it’s a belief shared by all the Abrahamic faiths.”
A man named Jan was our guide at the Temple of Aaron in St. Paul. He explained a few of the 613 mitzvot, or commandments, that shape the daily life of a Jew: love the Lord, observe the sabbath day, give to the poor, fast on Yom Kippur. “most prayers are words of praise. We Jews do a lot of praising God.”
Jan taught a bit of Hebrew so the youth could find their way during the worship service that followed: “You’ll hear prayers begin with ‘baruch ata adonai’ – blessed are you, oh Lord. They end, just as in Christianity, with ‘amen.'”
Jan led us forward to see Torah scrolls at the front of the synagogue. They were covered in white cloth for the high holidays of Rosh ha’Shanah and Yom Kippur – new year’s and the day of atonement, which is the holiest day of the Jewish year. At a display case later, he pointed out scrolls damaged by fire and violence during the Holocaust.
We were warmly welcomed during the service. Rabbi Strausberg spoke on a Torah reading from Exodus 33, in which Moses experiences a portion of God’s glory. “Moses experiences here an intimacy with God that I long for,” she said. She and Rabbi Fine answered questions afterward, and thanked us for coming.
Visits to other religious communities will follow, as Neighboring Faiths students seek to understand Muslim Christian, Hindu, and other faiths, Native American spirituality, and humanism. Through respectful listening and dialogue, we hope these Unitarian Universalist youth will develop a lifelong practice of looking not only for the unique practices and treasures of the world’s great religions, but also for wisdom and understanding that can benefit all people.
Consider: What wisdom do you see in a religion that is not your own? What practices in your daily life tie you to the community of Unitarian Universalists? What practices in your daily life do you share with other people of faith?