Editor's note: The Rev. David Pattee is blogging from Israel on a study trip.
26 January 2013 (Tel Aviv) Shabbat Shalom!
We welcomed the sabbath last night with the Bet Tefillah Yisreli community, two and a half floors up in a residential neighborhood of the central city. Christians (this Christian, at least) tend to think of an "upper room" accommodating twelve or so, but before we were done this upper room was crammed with almost 80 (yes, I counted) and a little steamy from all the singing and dancing. Joyful barely begins to describe it.
They are an "emergent" community of Judaism, respectful of the tradition but enjoying a fluid liturgy with a very organic spirituality. Everyone was clearly connected to one stream of prayer and song led by cantor and rabbi, but there were lots of other things going on at the same time — greeting, visiting, playing with the babies — all of it feeling very much like prayer to me. We reveled in the gift of creation, gave thanks for the blessing of life, remembered those who had gone before, and closed our celebration with the sharing of bread and sweet dried fruits.
One of the evening's delightful surprises was a familiar song with a new twist. In his last comeback during the 1970s, the great Louis Armstrong popularized the song What A Wonderful World. " I see trees of green, red roses too. I see 'em bloom for me and for you. And I think to myself ... What a wonderful world." What a revelation it was to hear that lyric appropriated in this time and place, in Hebrew, sung as a prayer of thanksgiving. Eize achla olam... What a wonderful world! In every language, through good times and struggle, whether you have many words or only a few, these are worth remembering: Eize achla olam... What a wonderful world! Shabbat Shalom!