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Random thoughts of a random chappy

Magen Avot Random Thought for Yom Tov – In Case Anyone Else Is Interested

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Dear Magen Avot Friends,

I just watched a beautiful flash mob rendition of Beethoven’s Ode to Spring which is highly appropriate to our Chag HaAviv – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fj6r3-sQr58. It put a thought in my mind that I wanted to share with my friends at Magen Avot half way through this yom tov.

A shul is a bit like a flash mob – or at least ours is: in particular, it is normally rather less spontaneous than it appears, because someone had to organise it and arrange it. Which makes this a good moment to offer thanks on behalf of us all to Daniel Ehreich who has performed the sole gabbai in residence role with such aplomb, to Simon Leigh for ensuring continuity of morning minyonim and to everyone else who keeps us going.

But the organisation isn’t the point of a flash mob – it’s the mob that it enables to flash in. It’s always slightly different, and it always gives a slightly different feel and flavour to old melodies and old words. And that sums up what Magen Avot means to me. One of the reasons why we wanted to set up an open shul and not a closed community back nearly three years ago is that this way every tefillah takes on a slightly different flavour depending on exactly who comes to join us. There are some common and continuous components, but they are given a constant freshness and reinvigoration by being surrounded by a variable cast who place the tefillos in an entirely new setting every time.

The Seder Table teaches us many things: one of them is that the table is not complete without the four sons. As the baal Haggadah says, even if we were all chachomim, nevonim and yodei Torah, we would sit and tell the story of the four sons, yearning to be joined by everyone in the widest possible Jewish family, whether they contribute wisdom like the chacham, challenge us like the rashah, offer us an opportunity to help them like the tam, or just stand in silent wonder and inspire us to draw them in and help them to formulate a useful question. Every child’s contribution is unique and invaluable and the table is empty without any one of them; in our community everyone who joins us adds something special and irreplaceable to the davening.

This Pesach has been wonderful at Magen Avot. We have missed many of our regulars who are away but the fact that so many are in Israel makes us feel closer to the time when we will all be olim l’regel iy’h. The absence of so many has made it even more important for all our remaining members, regular visitors, occasional visitors, and once-off guests to step up to make the flash mob work – and it has, for me and I hope for everyone.

On the last day of yom tov that flash mob becomes even more special, when we let into our midst the memories of so many people we loved when they were alive and still love now they are gone. Pesach probably carries more poignant memories than any other yom tov, as the familiar kitchen and dining room items come out of storage again and each one brings a memory of a smile, a laugh or a tear. Yizkor is important for each person who remembers someone, but it is also so important for the community as a whole, to enhance our final flash mob of the yom tov with special memories. Once again, I hope this year those who leave the shul for Yizkor will do so very quietly, as if we were tiptoeing out of the room to leave space and time for our friends to reflect on those they have loved.

Sorry for the random thoughts – but that’s Youtube for you: chag sameyach l’kulanu, la’rochok v’lakorov.

Daniel Greenberg

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Written by Daniel Greenberg

April 5, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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