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    The synagogue has a cold – T’rumah

    There is a famous sentence: “They shall make Me a sanctuary, and I shall dwell in their midst” (Ex. 25:8).

    It has an equally famous interpretation: God dwells in the builders, not in the building.

    Some congregations, not realising this, put all their energies and money into a magnificent building, which is often cold, empty and without feeling.

    Abraham Joshua Heschel said that such synagogues had a severe cold. They need to be warmed up by more passion and enthusiasm on the part of the congregation.

    Sometimes this means that the services need to become more user-friendly. Sometimes what is needed is a congregation that makes a conscious effort to loosen up.

    (Someone told me recently that in the shule where she was brought up, everyone cried on Kol Nidrei night – but then she moved to another shule where no-one ever cried because they had a British stiff upper lip.)

    There are people who want something warmer and abandon one of the so called cathedral shules for a smaller, more intimate shtiebel. If that makes them comfortable, so be it. But even cathedral shules can be warm, and shtiebels can be stifling and indecorous.

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