August 7th, 2016 (a letter to my rabbi)
Yesterday, at the end of the Shacharit service, a friend of mine, who I hadn’t seen for a long time, asked me if I was planning to convert. My answer to that was “no”. Immediately thereafter, I asked myself internally, “So, why am I here?”
I ask that question from time to time, because in some ways it doesn’t seem to make sense for me to be at Lake Park Synagogue. I suspect that sometimes others also wonder why I am there. It’s a legitimate question.
The answer is that I belong at LPS. Mostly this is due to the fact the members of the shul have been remarkably welcoming to me. They have accepted me as I am. Even after all these years, I am amazed by that. Most groups, religious or otherwise, are not nearly that open or tolerant. The people at LPS have a gift for embracing outsiders. What a joy it would be if more people knew that.
There is another reason that I feel like I belong at LPS. This one is harder to explain. When I sit in the synagogue, and I listen to the cadence and rhythm of the prayers, I get lost in the ritual. I mean that in a good way. I only understand enough Hebrew to follow along with the English translation of the service. Honestly, I don’t think I will get any better than that. However, even with only a slight understanding of the process, I can still flow with it. Somehow, some way, it feels right. It feels like I belong there.
Religion is a heart thing. It defies logic. It demands intuition. My presence at the shul is a matter of the heart.
I find it interesting that my experiences in the synagogue affect my life in my Catholic community. I serve as a lector at my church. I’m not sure if there is a Jewish equivalent to my ministry in the Catholic Church, but my job is to read from the Scriptures in front of the entire congregation during our liturgy. In particular, I read aloud (in English) from the Hebrew Scriptures. Before I stand up at the lectern, I pray that G-d will speak through me, and that I will simply be His voice. When I read from the Bible, my goal is that nobody sees or hears Frank. They should only hear Jeremiah, or Isaiah, or Amos. The people in the pews should hear the words of the Hebrew Scriptures as if they were there when these words were first spoken. It should touch their hearts.
Sometimes this happens. When it does, it totally freaks me out. I walk back to my seat afterward shaking, and maybe in tears. What I experience at LPS during the Shabbat service helps me to channel the original speaker when I read during our Catholic service. Even listening to the Torah in a foreign tongue helps me to connect with G-d when I need to do so. I know this all sounds delusional, but people in my Catholic congregation often tell me how much my spoken words affected them. That’s not my doing. That is the action of G-d.
I don’t know if this made any sense. If it did, go ahead and share it with the other members of the shul. I am grateful to them.