experiments, instruments & measurement book

Welcoming Community, Welcoming Shabbat

by Rabbi Helayne Shalhevet, Temple Beth Emeth

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image credit: Nutmeg Designs

It’s the difference between sharing a Shabbat Service with a roomful of strangers and a roomful of friends.  Prior to the service, there is much prep for a rabbi to do – is my sermon ready, is my cue sheet intact, have the Cantor and I prepared adequately?  But the more important prep comes when the first congregant walks through the door.  

Since hearing Ron Wolfson speak at our Summer Institute, I have made it my practice to be there when congregants walk through the door on Friday nights, to wish each of them a Shabbat Shalom myself.  Standing with the usher who is already tasked with greeting arriving congregants, I welcome worshipers as they arrive. Greeting each individual, I get a sense for what the past week has held.  Now when I ask for names for the Mi Shebeirach, when we say our prayer for peace, or when we rejoice with Yis’m’chu, I know who is in the congregation that evening; who needs some extra rejoicing or a contemplative prayer for peace.  In addition, during the Hakafah, every single congregant receives a hug, a kiss, or a handshake from me.  Sure it takes some extra time, so we sing some extra songs, but these practices ensure that I am not the unreachable rabbi on the bimah, and the congregation a faraway entity for me, but rather that we are individuals in relationship with one another who have come together to celebrate Shabbat.  


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How is your congregation welcoming congregants on Shabbat?

How else can we build relationships from week to week?


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