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Stand Up When You Read This Column

May 2006

The Psalmist addresses himself with special fondness and confidence to “the servants of God who stand in…the courtyards of the House of God” (135:1).  These are, after all, the individuals who encourage others in the service of God, in the synagogue as in the Temple of old, and in the home.

These encouragers need encouragement, as well.  As these individuals are there to help us with our spiritual quests and needs, we must be there for them.

Daily Minyan on PurimLet me call your attention to some individuals who stand in the House of God on a daily basis.  First, consider the daily minyan.  We are fortunate to have a core group of seven to twelve people who make up the minyan, the quorum for prayer, at our morning services, allowing certain prayers to be said, such as the Mourners’ Kaddish, which cannot be recited without the quorum.  They take turns, trade off, and put themselves “on call” (by request, for evening services, also) when a person who wants to observe a yahrzeit asks them to make a special effort to be present.  But they also travel for work or for organizations or to see family.  They deserve our assurance that others will help out to ensure that we have a quorum for prayer.

After all, as the Book of Proverbs reminds us (14:28), “In the multitude of the people is the king’s glory.”  The Talmudic Sages interpreted this as reminding us that the Divine King is more honored when there are more people at prayer.  Getting a minyan every day is a way of honoring God, day by day, with a respectable “multitude.”

The people at the morning minyan are enthusiastic and inclusive.  People from other congregations and other neighborhoods enjoy attending our minyan and being with the people of the minyan.  A nun visiting Chicago from Switzerland enjoys attending two or three times a week.  Several men and women have, through the years, become proficient at leading the prayers through involvement in the morning service.  Others enjoy participating in the English readings, or just being there.  On certain days a delegate from the morning minyan literally stands in the Mandelbaum Atrium to open the door for people making their way to Glick Chapel.  Talk about those who “stand in the courts of the Lord”!

The qualifications for the minyan are simple. I would put them in ad form:

Wanted:  Morning people who enjoy rising early in every season, who are willing to make a difference just be being present to a group that wants to learn the Hebrew prayers, stand before the Almighty, and enable the wider community to recite the public prayers and to say kaddish.

No previous experience necessary.  Requirement:  A willingness to help out, to be there, and to come in the morning.

Even when you are not feeling religiously inspired, your presence can make a difference.  I’m reminded of the story of the atheist Jew who was on his soap box mocking religion in the town square back in the old shtetl.  Suddenly, he was called to the minyan and he went without hesitation.  When asked why he would even attend, let alone respond so swiftly, he replied, “Yes, I’m an atheist, and proud of it.  But I’m a Jew, aren’t I?  I was asked to help out with the minyan.”

Even if you can’t be there at the beginning and can help out at the end, it would be appreciated and it would be an encouragement.  The Bible speaks of different “watches” of the morning.  Practically speaking, the minyan has different watches, and your arrival at any point would be helpful and heartening.

Please consider helping us with the important task of “standing in the courts of the Lord” in the morning.

While you are considering that, let me suggest one more way that you can help and encourage those who literally “stand in the courts of the Lord.”  I refer now to the devoted workers of Rodfei Zedek Sisterhood who serve in our Dorothy and Irving Nelson Judaica Gift Shop.  Like the minyannaires, they perform a service, avodah.  They spend many hours standing (sometimes sitting) in the gift shop and in the atrium, providing ritual objects for the home (and for our synagogue, too), answering the questions of visitors who frequent the Mandelbaum Atrium for synagogue, JCC, and other programs; encouraging participation in synagogue life; and raising money for the programs (like subsidizing Shabbat dinners to keep down the cost for young families), and furnishings (most recently in the kitchen) and ritual objects (such as repair of the Torah scrolls) of the synagogue, not to mention Sisterhood’s own successful educational and cultural programs.

If there is a wedding or bar mitzvah coming up in your family or among your friends, or a general event like a graduation or anniversary, and you are looking for advice on gifts, on ordering kippot (skullcaps), taleism or any ritual objects, take a stand for those who stand in the Nelson Judaica Gift Shop.  Inquire there first.  All you have to do is to stop in.  They will do the rest for you.  You will encourage their fine efforts and support the congregation in the process.  You don’t have to be a morning person to do this, since the Gift Shop is open mostly afternoons.  But by appointment the volunteers are most willing to open in early morning, as well.  One of them attends the daily minyan and could be available right afterwards.

In the summer months, when people are away, the minyan will need your help and the Gift Shop ladies will be on call.  Please stand with those who “stand in the courts of the Lord.”  Literally.  It’s that simple, but it makes a big difference.

Bivrachah, Rabbi Elliot B. Gertel

Thu, May 30 2024 22 Iyyar 5784