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Lockdown enhances the value of going to shul

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The lockdown has had an enormous effect on everyone psychologically and physically. I have been thinking a lot about what Friday nights in shul mean to me as a secular Jew and someone who is largely unobservant.
by Michael Bagraim, Cape Town | Jul 23, 2020

My entire life has been similarly structured, whereby I would try my utmost to ensure that I was in shul on Friday evenings wherever I was in the world. I know this is strange, but it appears to be quite a common South African Jewish trait. I don’t observe Shabbos, and my lifestyle is completely reflective of a secular South African Jew.

With the advent of the lockdown and the closure of shuls (which I completely understand), I have done a lot of thinking and certainly have been trying to understand why I always found the need to get to shul timeously every Friday night for the past 50 years. Even while camping in the mountains, I have always ensured that I could sit for some quiet time, and contemplated a shul service and discussed with my fellow campers the parsha of the week.

The shuls have gone out of their way to keep us informed, involved, and structured. Well done to the rabbonim and our spiritual leadership! But, somehow, it’s not the same, and I do miss terribly the communal gatherings as we bring in Shabbos.

I received a wonderful gift of a book written by Rabbi Matthew Liebenberg. The very first chapter describes the possibility of closure of shuls to bring people back to Judaism. Upon reading that and internalising it, I experienced an “aha moment”. The absence of the shul service with fellow community members is probably a blessing in disguise as most of us can feel how valuable shul going actually is, and will treasure it much more in the future. 

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