Can Our Country be a Synagogue?

I would like to share a section from the Mishkan T’filah that is often read during the Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service:

“May the door of this synagogue be wide enough to receive all who hunger for love, all who are lonely for friendship.

May it welcome all who have cares to unburden, thanks to express, hopes to nurture.

May the door of this synagogue be narrow enough to shut out pettiness and pride, envy and enmity. 

May its threshold be no stumbling block to young or straying feet.

May it be too high to admit complacency, selfishness and harshness.

May this synagogue be, for all who enter, the doorway to a richer and more meaningful life.”

As a Jew in the diaspora, I would like to believe that my country can be a synagogue. People have traditionally come to this land, often under perilous circumstances, to seek out the aforementioned richer and more meaningful life. No matter where we find ourselves on the political spectrum, I sincerely ask: 

Can our country be a synagogue? Can we be a land that cares for the vagabond, takes in those in need, and provides asylum for the traumatized? If children are taken from their loved ones at a wall, we must narrow the wall, and expand our hearts and minds. We must become vast enough in spirit to take in all who are famished for love and companionship. We must put up no barriers and obstacles that might interrupt the paths of the minuscule feet belonging to our most precious and impressionable children. A cage at a threshold shatters green hopes and nurtures hate. 

Can our country be a synagogue? When the threshold into our land is crossed, do we meet the straying traveler with the ridicule of a rifle, or with a heavenly handshake and warm smile that whispers “welcome home”? We must attend to those who cross with an outstretched arm ready to hoist up a share of the cumbersome load. 

The Jewish liturgy tells the people Israel that “Wherever we go, it is eternally Egypt.” It is especially important that we, as Jews, welcome the wanderer, and aid the asylum-seeker. When we create barriers, become insular, and turn away from the children and their caretakers, we are manifesting into reality innumerable Egypts for those who are searching for that “…better place, a promised land.” 

“May this synagogue be, for all who enter…”

Can our country be a synagogue?



Published by Joshua Gray

I am Joshua Gray. I am a husband, father, not-for-profit-worker by day, and a former professional actor/singer. I am very active in the Jewish community in my area, helping to teach at religious school on Sundays, while also serving on the board of trustees at my local temple. My relationship with Judaism is a joy of mine, and I find great pleasure in studying texts and learning more and more Hebrew. I still enjoy warbling tunes, and I even got to sing the Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur, which was a definite highlight. Please feel free to contact me with any ideas for topics, conversations, or general inquiries. Shalom!

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