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    Echoing Mah Tovu – Balak

    Synagogue procedure expands Bilam’s Mah Tovu with extra verses in praise of the Jewish place of worship.

    The verses include one that says, “I love the habitation of Your House, the place where Your glory dwells” (Psalm 26:8).

    What inspires this sentiment – the architecture, the singing, the words, the congregants?

    All are part of the answer, but the chief feature is not so much the ambience as the content of the worship service.

    In my early days in the pulpit I was close to a synagogue warden from the Continent who had settled in London and developed an admiration for the plaques affixed to countless buildings to record which famous person used to live there.

    He told me that he thought our synagogue ought to have a plaque that read, “This is the dwelling place of God”.

    I realised how moved he was by the probably indefinable air of that synagogue, but I also realised that more or less every synagogue could be described that way, and that more important than calling a synagogue a House of God was to make every part of the world a Divine dwelling place.

    Hence whenever I echo the Mah Tovu verses I apply the praise of the place of worship to every nook and cranny of Creation.

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