Monday, October 24, 2016

Shabat Service

This past weekend I attended the Shabat, or Sabbath, Service at the the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.  Like many of the students and faculty at Loyola I am Roman Catholic.  I had never been to a Jewish service, or any religious service that was not Christian.  I found it's similarities to the Catholic Mass striking.  If you regularly attend the Roman Catholic Mass you know that it is divided into two parts; The Liturgy of the Word, and The Liturgy of the Eucharist.  Not surprisingly the Shabat Service was similar to the Liturgy of the Word.  The service started with a Psalm and a few words from the Rabbi.  Throughout the service other Psalms were sung.  Prayers were also said at specific times, similar to Catholic Mass.  The climax of the service was the reading of the Torah.  It was equal to the reading of the reading of the Gospel.  The whole congregation stood as the doors to the ornate wooden box which houses the Torah were opened and the Rabbi read from it.  The mood and the actions of the congregation during this were very reminiscent of a Catholic church while the Gospel is being read.  There was obviously a great deal of respect given to the book, and the words written in it.    The physical space was also surprisingly similar to a small Catholic chapel.  It was a small room with pews and stained glass windows.  If you had replaced the wooden box with a golden tabernacle, and added a crucifix it would have looked exactly like a Catholic Chapel.  There were some differences.  All the readings and teachings were from the Torah, or the Old Testament, and a large portion of the service was in Hebrew.  a few of the prayers were in English, but virtually all of the readings and the Psalms were in Hebrew.  Attending this service helped to showcase the similarities between my culture and the Jewish culture.  Often times we focus on what makes us different from others, and define ourselves using those differences.  Jesuit values teach us to expand our horizons and get to know other cultures.  They also instruct us to be more accepting of others, and try to relate to them.  Attending the Shabat Service at the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation did both.  It showed me that the similarities between myself and the members of this congregation are far more numerous than the differences.  This helped me to understand the people and my Jewish neighbors in the City of Baltimore.

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