Thursday, February 17, 2011

Leap of Faith

By Susan Esther Barnes

"Oh my goodness, what was I thinking? Nobody's going to come and anyone who does come is gonna think it sucks because I don't know what I'm doing and we probably won't even be able to get in the door the first day and will have to stand out in the rain without prayer books; I'm an idiot for ever considering it & I'm so NOT a morning person - arrrrgh!"

The above panic-attack stream of consciousness is a direct quote from an email I sent to a friend shortly after I officially committed to start holding a weekly Tuesday morning prayer service at my synagogue.

I am not a rabbi. I don’t have any formal training on how to lead a weekday morning service. But I do read a lot of Jewish stuff, and I’ve been attending Friday and Saturday services regularly for long enough that I have memorized most of the prayers. A rabbi is not actually required to hold a Jewish prayer service. There’s no reason why I can’t do it. Other than fear.

This whole thing started when the synagogue experimented with holding morning services twice a month on Wednesday for a while. Those of us who attended regularly loved it. It was a little tough, though, because it started at 8:15, so the only people who could attend were those who don’t work, or those who can arrive at work later than the traditional start time of 8 or 9. And twice a month meant it was hard to remember whether or not there would be a service on any particular Wednesday, without consulting a calendar.

As a result, not many people came, and we regularly had to drag office staff in whenever we wanted to get enough people for a minyan so we could say the Mourner’s Kaddish at the end. Then summer came, and people went on vacation, and the Wednesday morning services stopped. And I missed them. And some other people missed them, too.

Eventually I went to the rabbi, and said I wanted to start up a weekday morning service again, but earlier, so we could still get to work on time. Of course, I knew this wouldn’t work for him. He often works late into the evening, and has three small kids at home, and doesn’t get enough sleep as it is.

So when he started to say he’s sorry, but that just wouldn’t work for him, I was prepared with my oh-so-diplomatic response, “It’s not about you.” I then explained, “We don’t need a rabbi to lead the service. We can lead it. We just need to be able to get into the building.” And because he’s gracious and kind and not about hoarding power, he is all for it.

Which leads me to where I am today, with the custodial staff being notified to let us in early on Tuesday mornings starting on March 1, and the Communications Director agreeing to put an announcement in the synagogue’s weekly email and monthly newsletter, and the Sisterhood planning to put a notice in their newsletter.

I’m nervous; the neurotic part of me is certain the whole thing will turn out horribly and be a complete bust. Yet I’m still willing to take the leap of faith required to give it a try because I’m in a covenantal relationship with God, and the spiritual part of me is certain this is the right thing to do, no matter who does or doesn’t show up or what does or doesn’t happen. Seriously, how could spending another 30 to 45 minutes with God once a week possibly be a bad thing? Even if I’m the only one there, I know it will start my day in a holy way.

So close your eyes, tighten your seat belt, and make a wish. We’re living in the best of all possible worlds, and anything can happen. As long as I don’t panic.


  1. Remember that Tuesday, the Third Day, is twice "ki tov," it is good.