Sunday, August 9th 2020   |

Off the Pulpit: Empty Seats


I have a book called “Synagogues Without Jews.” It contains photographs of synagogues, many of them beautiful, where the Jewish community no longer exists. All that remains is the empty sanctuary. It bears mute, eloquent testimony to the destruction of Jewish communities across the globe.

In this week when we celebrate Israel’s Independence Day, Yom Ha’atzmaut, there are once again synagogues without Jews. The pandemic has emptied houses of worship and the sacred scrolls stand in the ark awaiting our return.

Unlike the desolate sanctuaries in the book however, we will return to the synagogue. Once again celebrations and song and prayer will rise from the now empty seats and words of Torah will be heard from the bimah.

Our task is to ensure that Jewish institutions remain strong throughout this crisis. The challenge of the Jewish people in this time is to make sure that our sanctuaries do not become like those in the book – testimony to a community that is gone. Continue to support your synagogue so that the Psalmists’ vision becomes our reality: “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5).

(Rabbi David Wolpe is the senior rabbi of Sinai Temple of Los Angeles.)

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