America has been named the "melting pot" of the world. It houses many different cultures, nationalities, ideas and religions. There are Christians, Jews, Catholics, Buddhists, Mormons, Hindus, Spiritualists, Jehovah?s Witnesses, Islamics, plus many more. America is unique in that all these religions are represented in a nation that is only 200 years old.
The influence of religion on mankind can be traced back to the first records of history. Religion has served as a pillar of strength to some and binding chains to others. There are vast amounts of information and anthropological studies revealing the interaction of religion and mankind. However, for the purposes of this paper I will center my focus on my religious experiences at the Congregation of Moses in Kalamazoo.
First arriving at the Congregation of Moses on Saturday, September 25th, I noticed the limited amount of cars in the parking lot. Thinking out loud I stated, ?I wonder if we are early?. As we entered the building several observations were made. The first being how well maintained it was. No one greeted us at the door, nor did anyone really acknowledge our presence. We found someone and let them know why we were there and were directed to the Rabbi. We stated our intent and he welcomed us to sit in the service, however we were asked to not take notes at all, because it was the Sabbath and that would offend the members. He did say the service would be in Hebrew and therefore very difficult to follow.
Entering the synagogue, I noticed several things. The worship area was medium size. There were books in the back of each chair, which the Rabbi told us they would be reading out of them. There were a handful of people already seated and we quietly entered.
On the walls of the synagogue there was the Star of David and some memorial wall plaques with dimly lit candles by a few of the names. On the altar area there was a curtain which seemed to conceal something, which later in the service, I found out that it was the housing unit for the scrolls, which were ornate.
The service began and here is where the experience gets fuzzy. Because of the request to not write, there seems to be so little to actually say I experienced without doing a bit of research. Let me rephrase myself, the experience was real, the recollection is hazy. I will say that from the very beginning I was lost. The Rabbi read in Hebrew and while there was in some parts an English version to what he read, you would have to recognize a word he said so that you could at least be able to follow along and gain some understanding to what was being spoken to the people. In so many ways, I felt it to be very ritualistic. Looking at the people which maybe there was a dozen, you would see from time to time someone talking to their neighbor or just normal distractions. There did not appear to be much interaction with God, the Rabbi or each other. Occasionally, congregants would repeat a portion of a prayer perhaps, or a scripture. But the overall participation was minimal. Now I will say that each congregant was given a specific portion of reading during one of the services. I believe we sat through 3 out the 4 services. The last service, was where they took the scrolls out of the housing unit which I believe is to signify the ark of the covenant and began to read from them. I found this very interesting.
First observation regarding the reading of the scrolls was that each congregant expressed respect and/or reverence to the reading. They carried the scrolls around the worship area and each member kissed and/or touched them. While I really had no idea what they were doing and why they were doing it, you could tell that they knew that their answers to life perhaps were written within its pages. This is where some research came in. The greatest usage of scrolls today is in Jewish religious observance at least once a week. There are two scrolls and both of them are kept in an upright position. In Jewish practice the Torah scrolls are bound by a special length of usually silk ties or belts with clasps, and are