My Husband and I were recently invited to attend Shabbat services and a Passover dinner with the Jewish community at his school. We started out at the nondenominational chapel on campus that was set up with a partition down the middle. Men sat in the chairs on the right women on the left. On each seat was a paper book with the words to the service in Hebrew on the right, English on the left. The rabbi’s young son stood at the front in his suit and kippah, his beautiful falsetto voice echoing throughout the hall as he led everyone confidently in the worship services. This was not unlike many scenes I witnessed during my semester abroad in Jerusalem. In fact it brought back sweet memories of the culture and people I grew to love and become fascinated with during my time there. I sat next to a girl my age that practiced law downtown. She was cute, accomplished and we immediately hit it off. Our conversation covered the usual get to know you questions but somehow shifted into how our religions are similar.
I mentioned my time in Jerusalem and how learning about the ancient world was not only eye opening but very validating as a “devout” Christian. It was amazing to me how almost everything anciently in some way revolved around religion whether that was mono or polytheistic. And that for thousands of years the rituals involved was part of the way of life and played a role in major historical landmarks. Her eyes widened as she nodded in agreement and said “yes! I totally feel the same” We then began to discuss the prevalent modern day mindset of keeping things agnostic or even atheist. How it is relatively new and our unfamiliarity with ritual worship causes us to see it as something scary. We totally understood each other for a moment and felt the thrill of meeting a stranger who shares your unique perspective.
We spent the rest of the evening with her helping me follow along in the Hebrew text of the Shabbat services and giggling over silly things like when I made a fool out of myself by standing at the wrong time. But here we were two women who didn’t even believe in the same God, nonetheless we both had conviction about our faith and found comradery in each other’s religious dedication. It inspired me to reach out more to those around me and buoy them up in their beliefs. Heaven knows we need each other as the world grows more and more unfamiliar in and uninterested with religion as a whole.
This experience that evening was topped off by our interaction with the Rabbi. He oversees all of the Jewish services and facilitates the Jewish community in and around Harvard. He patted us both on the back and excitedly declared “We need to have you over for dinner! We need friends like you guys!” Now I’m not sure what “like you guys” referred to but his tone was unmistakable. He displayed not only openness but a yearning for more exchange between devout people. Like I said, we NEED each other!