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Showing Up 16-Nov-11

Showing Up

Woody Allan is no one’s idea of a traditional Jewish sage, but he once wrote something that is definitely a Jewish value: “Eighty percent of being successful in life is showing up.”

There is a mitzvah in the Torah called Mitzvat Re’iyah—the commandment to appear; literally, to be seen: “Three times a year — on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, on the Feast of Weeks, and on the Feast of Booths — all your males* shall appear before the LORD your God in the place that He will choose. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed, but each with his own gift, according to the blessing that the LORD your God has bestowed upon you (Deut. 16:16-17).”

The Talmud explains, “Just as he [the pilgrim] comes to see, beholding (so to speak) the Divine Presence manifested in the sanctuary, so he comes to be seen, presenting himself as it were to the Divine Presence” (Hagiga 2a).

You couldn’t send your gift to the sanctuary with a proxy—you had to show up. You had to see and be seen. And so it is with many aspects of life, not least the kehillah kedoshah—holy community—that Beth David aspires to be. Judaism affirms that relationships, including communal ones, are panim el panim—face to face.

Look at it from another angle: the phrases “non-participatory community,” and yes, “online community” are oxymorons. They are inherently self-contradictory. Community requires presence. The many cruel abuses one finds on-line are a direct result of the lack of direct human contact. People allow themselves to post words they would never say to a person face to face. The communal necessity of human presence is symbolically, and practically, expressed in Judaism by the requirement of a minyan—ten Jews—for worship. Ten Jews have to show up.

From all this I derive that 80% of synagogue life is showing up. So I offer a simple request: please show up! Friday night services and weekday minyans in particular will benefit from your showing up. And if you are uncomfortable in services, or find them unfamiliar and difficult to follow, guess what? The remedy is showing up! Come often enough and the strange will become familiar.

This is likewise the case for Jewish study (which has always upheld the ideal of a hevruta, a study partner), the social aspects of synagogue life, and volunteer work. What transforms a member into a full participant in Jewish community? Showing up. I invite you to take your calendar right now, and schedule some times when you will appear at Beth David: services, adult courses, speakers, whatever. You will find community; you will enrich your life; and perhaps even sense the Divine Presence. I hope to see you soon.

Of course, the relevant link is:



* Of course, for our contemporary purposes we expand this to include females.