Yesterday we went to our synagogue Rodeph Shalom for the first time, it was finally opened since the Covid-19 pandemic began. It was also the first time our new cantor sang for us all, so it was doubly a special occasion. We (my wife and I) gathered up our four kids, hopped on two buses, and arrived with just enough time to talk to others a bit during the pre-Oneg. It was almost surreal seeing so many people we’d only met through Zoom in person, there was so much love and so many hugs (Don’t worry our synagogue is mostly vaxxed and still we all wore masks) even by our two rabbis.
My sons are on the autism spectrum and my youngest son Gabriel kept saying, “there are too many people, I don’t want to be here dad,” so I kept reassuring him it was going to be okay and to push through it. We found seats in the sanctuary and almost immediately this absolutely holy sound filled the sanctuary, surrounded us all, and embraced us… it was the voice of the new cantor!
While we have been praying at home and attending every online Shabbat service, we got a little lost during the service due to being hard of hearing, but caught up and always felt blanketed in this palpable feeling of joy and holiness. We were lifted by the spirit of prayer and song unlike anything we’d felt before, and it was utterly amazing. I can safely say, we have found a spiritual home in Rodeph Shalom. My eldest son Adrian felt a little overwhelmed by all of the sounds and took a five-minute break, but soon came back (next time we’ll have headphones for him to wear to quiet it a bit.
The end of the service, they’d said if everyone wanted they can meet and talk back in the courtyard and Gabriel my younger son, who initially wanted to leave said, “Can we meet in the courtyard and stay a little longer,” and that was a true miracle!!!
We got home and went through our Shabbat ceremony with each kid helping to perform a station of it (as we always do), but it went nearly perfect this time. This was a Shabbat unlike any other we’ve experienced, it was powerful beyond measure for our family and we look forward to many more.