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Lox, Bagels and Cheesecake For All Part 1

pierre_100Pierre enters, tears of sorrow, tears of joy, Rabbi Garten exits.

 

 

 

 

 

Part 1/3

 

Rabbi Garten has served Temple Israel for the last 19 of the 5,774 years of Judaism and Saturday, June 28th, Jewish date 30 Sivan 5774, was his last day as the synagogue's rabbi. He will subsequently be known as Rabbi Emeritus. The day exceeded my expectations, though I could not have predicted any of it (except for the lox, bagel and cheesecake, since certain clichés are true).

I arrived at Temple Israel on Prince of Wales Drive to a mostly empty synagogue, a good half hour before the 10:15am start. Walking in, at the entrance to the sanctuary, I first met Stephen Asherman, who would be the Duty Warden at my church. After introducing myself, Steve gave me a prayer book and I asked for a yarmulke, as if I knew what I was talking about. Apparently not. I discovered yarmulke is Yiddish, whereas everyone at Temple Israel calls it a Kippah, the actual Hebrew word for skull cap.

The sanctuary is laid out in a way many of CHRI's listeners would be familiar with. Stackable wooden armchairs laid out in a broad semi-circle with an open centre aisle, a fairly deep stage on the east side with stairs on both sides. At the back of the stage is the Ark, holding the Torah behind curtains that open with a drawstring. The front and sides are festooned with lights in the form of a Menorah; even the seven windows on the north side, with their long and narrow form, recall a Menorah. The meeting hall is the same room, reconfigured by rolling out large round tables for the congregation to, well, congregate!

As the sanctuary filled, the couple sitting in front of me engaged me in conversation. Michael and Ann are from Kingston, driving up as often as they can because Temple Israel is their favourite synagogue. Michael is a retired Queen's professor and like Steve, kept an eye on me during the service.

In front of the stage, from left to right, was a baby grand piano and guitar manned by Larry, who is an excellent pony-tailed musician, worship leader and service leader, a nicely-voiced choir of about a dozen, a table for the Torah, Rabbi Garten and a podium.

Once the service started, I was promptly lost; all the prayers are sung and recited in Hebrew, with the exception of italicised sections. The Shabbat (Sabbath) Prayer Book is printed for Hebrew, meaning it is right to left and is opened from 'the back'. A slim hardcover book of 92 letter-sized pages mostly in English, all prayers are in Hebrew in bold on the left side with the English translation on the right. The service starts on page 42 and ends on page 79. Though lost, I honed in on certain words from the English translation, such as Adonai, God's name, which is pronounced the same way in either language.

In a future blog I'll go through the service. For now, I will say that the service is in an order most Christians would recognize. Basically it is opening prayers, the credo of monotheism, reading of the Torah and sermon, procession with the Torah, prayers, remembering the dead, and closure. For this blog entry I will write my first impressions of the service.

Next: Blog 2, Part 2/3

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