Psalm 22:3-5 But you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
Pittsburgh continues to struggle its way forward after the overwhelming shock of the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue a week ago Saturday. Mid-week last week a friend sent me an email suggesting that a group of us gather for Shabbat worship in a show of solidarity for the Jewish people. The idea came originally from the AJC – a global Jewish advocacy group based in New York. My friend took the initiative to call a local synagogue (Beth Shalom) and make sure it was OK for a bunch of goyim to show up. We were received warmly.
The Friday night service was poignant. After the opening hymn, the rabbi announced, “We gather tonight to reclaim our space of worship.” The majority of the service consisted of hymns sung/chanted in Hebrew. Thankfully English translations were available. As beautiful Hebrew words sounded around me I found myself thinking about the ancient roots of this worship reflecting themes that went back thousands of years, some to the time of Moses, others to the time of King David, others more recent. Some words were familiar – taken directly from the Psalms or the Torah. Others were new. All were poetic.
I found myself thinking about the resiliency of this people, who survived pogroms, concentration camps, indignities and prejudice of numerous kinds and most recently a shooting in Pittsburgh and yet gathers with determination to worship. The rabbi shared that in times like these, we all have two “tracks” running: the train of resiliency and the train of vulnerability. For some of us one or the other is running fastest right now. We gather to encourage those whose vulnerability train is running fastest and to help all of us rev up our resiliency train. The message was only a few sentences long, but it impacted me. As we returned to hymns chanted in Hebrew – about the faithfulness of God, about the rescue that he will surely bring in hard times – I felt the roots of this worship running far and deep. And I felt the presence of God “enthroned on the praises of Israel.”
I had gone to provide solidarity, to show that I cared. And as so often happens unexpectedly in these moments, I received more than I gave. I am grateful for the resiliency of the Hebrew people. I continue to pray for them.