So many synagogues have this important saying at the top of the Holy Ark where the Torahs are kept in front of the shul.
It says, translated into English:
“Know before who you are standing (i.e. G-d).”
The idea is to remember when you are in the holy place of worship that you are standing and praying before G-d and should conduct yourself appropriately and with respect and reverence.
While certainly there are times when people forget themselves in the synagogue and say or do something not completely appropriate (e.g. socializing, talking, or even telling jokes to their neighbors during the service), usually it is not intended to be disrespectful, but rather to be friendly with their neighbors and community.
However, this past Shabbat I witnessed behavior in the synagogue (name withheld) that was truly a chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d).
Out of respect for the Rabbi (and Rabbabite), I will neither mention their names or go into the details about what happened except to say that it involved the politics surrounding the end of the Rabbi’s 3-year term and the inability for him and the board to come to terms on a new agreement (even though one had apparently been signed and reneged on).
This did not belong in the synagogue on the holy Shabbat, period.
Those embracing and kissing the Rabbi in his support and going against the President and the board that is elected to represent the congregation was disgraceful.
Further, while I support the Rabbi saying his farewells, demanding to speak without the permission of the President and the board, and even before the President gave his regular announcements was inexcusable.
And when the fighting between the Rabbi and President brought yelling and fighting to the congregants, this should have been a sign for that behavior to immediately cease.
The desecration of the “peace” of the Shabbat with the politics, money, and contract issues and the ensuing fighting (almost civil war between those supporting the Rabbi and those the President and the board) before the Holy Ark filled with the Torahs was reprehensible.
For the spiritual leadership to behave in such a crude and disrespectful fashion was a mark of utter disgrace in the synagogue before G-d.
I have never seen anything like this before and hope never to have to witness anything so irreverent again.
This was a most traumatic event for the community and I hope we will recover in time and have a complete healing.
Moreover, I pray that G-d forgives the behavior that happened and has mercy on this congregation because things got out of control and I think they forgot before whom they were standing. 😉
(Source Photo and not of the synagogue under discussion: Andy Blumenthal)