Saturday, December 23, 2006
Religion Tour #5, Beth Isreal Sinai Congregation
I almost missed this service. Both the front and side doors were locked, so I hopped in my van to leave when I noticed someone entering an unmarked door on the other side of the building. I entered to find about a half dozen people and asked if it was OK to observe their service. They all introduced themselves and were exceedingly helpful in guiding me through the service. This included informing me that the Torah and the other book (name escapes me) were read from right to left instead of left to right. The service was quite long and much of it was in Hebrew. I was surprised that nearly all the congregants, by this time numbering about twenty, were able to speak Hebrew. I was told later that most probably did not know what they were reading. I got by because the readings were accompanied by an English translation. One of the readings that I found interesting was the story of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers, later rose to prominence because of his ability to interpret dreams, predicted seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. His brothers later showed up seeking food and Joseph sort of toyed with them without revealing his identity. After the service a meal was offered and I ate lox for the first time. Not bad. The rabbi, who had recently lost his father, talked at some length about the rules governing mourning, which include beard growing (not sure why) and covering mirrors as it is not a time to look at your image but rather to reflect on the departed. I can't say I learned a whole heck of a lot about Judiasm but seeing as it is the first monotheistic religion with an enormous influence on both past and present, I am interested in learning more. I was told that a good book to read is called "Basic Judiasm" by Milton Steinberg. I think I will read it.