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What did I learn in London on Shabbat?

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

"What is the main message that I am supposed to convey here? To tell people to return to the synagogue?" I asked the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, prior to the onset of Shabbat.

42 lecturers assembled for a special Shabbat organized by "MIzrachi UK". Each lecturer spoke in several schools, synagogues and auditoriums in the framework of the first Shabbat of its kind - to strengthen Jewish communal ties -- since the end of the pandemic. Thousands gathered in order to be together once again, to pray, to sing, to study Torah as before.

I naively thought that the Chief Rabbi would simply want me to call upon people to return to the synagogue, but he answered me otherwise in revealing a profound educational principle:

"To ask people to return to the synagogue? We did not come here to scold them and to ask them where they have been. True, many members of the community who were less committed - disappeared. For many of them, going to synagogue was a habit and they got out of this habit during the past two years.

But in order for them to return we must ask why they were coming in the first place, and then we must cultivate within them true faith with a genuine connection to holiness and prayer. We need to engender within them an appreciation for the weekly Torah portion and the importance of hearing it read in the synagogue on Shabbat. We must strive for them to feel the significance of Jewish identity within an active community. If we can do this, if we can light a spark, all of them will want to come. We do not scold, we inspire."

Thank you, Rabbi Mirvis. There was much enthusiasm and inspiration last Shabbat in London. I hope to take some of it back with me to Israel.


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