Saturday, June 17, 2006

Tom and Chrissie’s Excellent Adventure

Friday afternoon, Chrissie heard that the father of Daniel Perl—the journalist who was beheaded by Islamic terrorists—would be speaking at the local synagogue. Any and all Presbyterians were invited to come, so we decided to join them.

I went online and found the synagogue’s address. We had some idea where it was because we’d been told it was near Ed Hurley’s church, which we had seen the day before (Ed worked at the Kirk with me as an associate pastor from 1982-84). As an added attraction, we also found out that Ed would be speaking at the synagogue, since he had just returned from a fact-finding trip to Israel.

As we turned toward the church we saw the synagogue right in front of us! A lovely woman warmly welcomed us to the fellowship. I explained that we were not Jewish, we were with the Presbyterian group. She smiled and handed us a service book. We went in and the rabbi was already in front, strumming his guitar (!) and quietly singing. 60 to 80 people were wandering in. We were the only Presbyterians.

People smiled at us as we took our seat. We sat behind a family with a cute little 3-year-old girl who shouted “Beth Torah!” (house of Scripture) when she entered. The singing was all in Hebrew, as was most of the worship book. Both Chrissie and I read Hebrew, but we couldn't read it fast enough to keep up with the singers.

We were 5 minutes into the service and still the only Presbyterians. The rabbi announced that he would be rushing through the service because everyone wanted to get through in time to go down the street to the OTHER SYNAGOGUE to hear Dr. Perl speak.

Chrissie leaned over, asking, “Should we leave?” There was no gracious way to exit, so we decided to stay. I’m glad that we did.

When the service ended everyone made a beeline out. We went in the direction of the other synagogue. We were alone—for a few moments. Who did we see behind us but the rabbi. I explained our pleasure at being at his synagogue (he called it a “church” for our benefit) and thought he could be our “guide” in the Reform Synagogue toward which we were walking.

At the end of the SECOND Jewish worship service we were in, the rabbi invited all Presbyterians to stand, which we did. Then he invited all Presbyterian clergy to come up to the Bema (pulpit) to be a blessing for them and, perhaps, one or two could speak a blessing. I didn’t know what he meant by that, so I stood far to one side. That didn’t help.

Remember, Ed Hurley was speaking there that night. The next thing I heard was “Why don’t y’all let Tom Gray come up and give a blessing. I don’t really remember what I said. I’m sure it was nice, but a bit lame. Another pastor came up behind me and spoke, saying that he had had the blessing of living in Israel for one year. He then followed with a flawless benediction IN HEBREW! I leaned over to another pastor and said, “Now why didn’t I think of that?”

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