Revisiting My Childhood Synagogue
by Moshe Morrison, Teaching Elder, Tents of Mercy
In August of 1979, I and my wife Katya, together with our two children, moved back to Baltimore from Long Island, New York. I was to take over the leadership of a small Baltimore Messianic congregation paying me fifty dollars a month for my services. Since this was obviously not enough to live on, within a couple of weeks I found a job repairing old houses throughout the city.
The neighborhoods in which I worked were formerly 98% Jewish. Now they were 98% Afro-American. Consequently, the numerous synagogues had become churches. Among them was a synagogue my family had attended when I was growing up and in which I had become a bar mitzvah nearly twenty years before. Now it was home to a Pentecostal church. One Sunday morning, I thought it might be an interesting adventure to attend services there. I walked into the entryway minutes before the service began, slipping into a seat in the back of the sanctuary. They were the very same oak pews I had sat on as a child with the fold down shelf to hold the traditional Jewish prayer book (siddur) and the little cubbyhole underneath to store one's prayer shawl (tallit).
The ark that held the Torah scrolls was gone, as was the "ner tamid" (everlasting light) that hung above it. Yet its holy presence still lingered on the bare wall in the faded but still visible Hebrew words, "Know before Whom you stand." Gone also was the large desk, in the center of the sanctuary, where the scrolls were read. Everything else seemed unchanged, except the Hammond organ and drums (sounding a bit like Booker T. and the MGs) and a thirty voice, white-robed choir singing gospel songs.
I sat reflecting about the past from a future that I never could possibly have imagined.
Two Messianic Movements
When I became a bar mitzvah in this Chabad synagogue, Rabbi Schneerson was already leading his Chasidic movement from its headquarters in Brooklyn. Then some began to think Schneerson was the Messiah (!). I reflected on how this was picking up momentum among his followers. I had also been gripped by a Messianic movement, but one that long predated the founding of Chabad. According to Micah 5:2, my Messiah's "goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." And the Messiah who had come into my life had only been in the grave for three days before he arose, unlike Schneerson whose followers have been waiting since 1994 for his resurrection.
We are now in the season of the fall festivals. Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur and Tabernacles. Rosh HaShana is called the head of the year, because it is the anniversary of the creation of the world. Like most birthdays it tends to bring a heightened awareness of the passage of time. Another year has passed, a new one begins bringing fresh reflection. The sound of the shofar grips our consciousness and calls us to prepare ourselves for what lies ahead. The Day of Atonement is a day of fasting and reflection.
I still follow the yearly cycle in Yeshua. Much is the same and much different. How amazing is the journey on which God leads us! And by the hand of God's Spirit, these precious foundations are woven into who I am. I still worship in a congregation with an ark and a Torah scroll.
During the fall festival season, someone would always come to my childhood synagogue and make a strong appeal for purchasing Israel Development Bonds. Now I contribute to the development of Israel, not by buying bonds, but by investing my life and the life of my family in this land. Here in Israel as well, we look back and remember all that the Lord has done. And we press on with confident expectation for the future because we know that Israel will yet hear the sound of the heavenly shofar. They will embrace the atonement of Yeshua. Then He, the rightful king of Israel, will come to take up His throne in Jerusalem, and the Tabernacle of God will be in the midst of His people.
This article is edited from the original version in Israel's Restoration September 2009 Vol 18 No 9, which can be read here.
© Copyright Tikkun International Ministries. All rights reserved.