I’ve been asked a lot of questions about Judaism since beginning the conversion process, but one question I’ve been dying to answer is, “What was my first impression of a service?” It’s odd, but talking about all things Jewish is something I love doing, it’s a passion honestly, like a fire that I want to elucidate through words. The question hasn’t been asked and I suppose it’s one that perhaps only a Jewish person themselves would ask. I haven’t been asked it, but I want to answer it anyway, so I’m doing so right here, for all of my readers.
I didn’t start my journey on the reform side of things, I first attended a Shabbat service with Beth Am Israel, a conservative synagogue (Though our family found itself more in line with Reform), as I’d met Rabbi David (a real mensch) through the Jewish federation here in Philly. The service was a stark contrast to the Christian upbringing and Occult practices I was used to, and it was an incredible experience. Firstly, I’d estimate that 80% of service is sung; song after beautiful song the Cantor belts out with a spiritual reverence that is inspiring. The music adds a dynamic to services, that almost always brings a tear to my eyes, every service for over six months now.
The songs themselves are prayers or celebratory, but always pack a powerful spiritual presence during the service. Congregants often sing along and pray along with the Rabbi(s) and Cantor and the harmony of it all can be spiritually overwhelming at first. The first time I heard Hebrew sung, I felt something in my being call, pulling me up, and filling my body with something indescribable. That first time, tears streamed down my face and I was here, but my mind and spirit were somewhere else entirely. I felt a warmth, a love, a kindness wash over me that I’d never experienced in any spiritual or religious practice.
I didn’t know the words to the songs, I didn’t know what they meant, but they touched my soul so deeply that it was then that I fully committed myself to Judaism, casting aside 32 years of/and being a household name and author in the Occult. It was then that my mind, body, and spirit were adamantly given to Hashem, and I feel like I entered into this relationship with G-D. It was like being introduced to someone and giving yourself wholly to them, knowing that they have your best intentions in mind. I knew that Judaism was for me, I knew I’d met G-D through Judaism, during my very first Shabbat service.
Since then, I have been obsessed with learning, knowing, and coming to know G-D better, deeper, and more whole in the Reform Jewish faith. It has been an incredible journey since, and one that I hope to continue until the day of my expiration. My first experience in a Jewish service enabled me to find myself more completely and I have only missed one service in the past seven months since. So my first impression of Shabbat service in Judaism, I can sum it up in one word… breathtaking!