Monday, September 6, 2010

Assigned Seats

It is very common in Israel for synagogue pews to be designed like in the picture below:

Everyone has a seat and in front of them (on the back of the seat of the next row) there is a small shtender (?lectern?) The top of the shtender opens up and you can keep a siddur, chumash, tefilin etc… in a box underneath. Well this past Shabbat the Singer men (Emily and Rivital haven’t asked for theirs yet) were assigned our seats/stenders in the Kibbutz synagogue. I was very moved by this seemingly small detail of our integration into our new home. I think there are three main reasons why. First of all, I have never had a seat in a synagogue as a member. For years I was a student and then I was a Rabbi. For the past four years I have sat up front in a seat that wan’t exactly my own – it was “the Rabbi’s.” Right now that same spot has been taken by Beth Tfiloh’s new Rabbi. No one would/should say that he is in Ross’ seat for in fact it isn’t Ross’ – it’s the Rabbis. Well now for the first time I have a seat in a synagogue. Everyone will identify it with me and not my position. In fact, once while I was looking for the spot on Shabbat some else pointed me towards my seat. Ironically, there are ways in which a “simple member” of a synagogue is more connected to the community than its Rabbi. While there will be aspects of the Rabinate that I’ll miss, on this level it feels great to be a member and not clergy. The second reason why I was moved by my new seat is that my boys have assigned seats next to me. I get a very warm feeling when they come into schul and sit down next to me. They couldn’t do that in our previous synagogue the way they do now since there was no seat for them on the Bima. Finally, I now have a designated place in communal space in Israel. For me this is no small thing. Despite the fact that I know a lot about Israel and that my Hebrew is pretty good, being American born and bread I have always felt a bit of an outsider in my “homeland.” But now, a Kehilah in Israel has told me, “this is your place here with us.” My name is even on the back of the chair…


  1. Wow. That's beautiful. Morey once read a quote from a pulpit Rabbi about how he (the Rabbi) could never really say a meaningful Kaddish for his parents' yarzeits, because he was either leading services or keeping an ear out for those who were saying Kaddish so he could help if needed, etc. He said the first Kaddish he said after retiring was the most meaningful he had ever experienced.

    Mazal tov; may your enjoyment of your designated seat enhance your tefillot ;)

  2. Thanks Alissa,

    Now I have an
    other "first" story. My first comment on my blog. Now I feel like a real Israeli and a real bogger! ;-)

    Hope we'll get together with you guys soon. We still need a couple of weeks to get settled before we start travelling/inviting.