When a community of Jews seeks to establish a bet tefilla, a house of prayer, how should we proceed? What is required of us? Where is the model for us to emulate? Towards what goal should we strive?
Interestingly, one answer is provided us in the text of Slichot, the Penitential Prayers, recited before and during the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe, in the paragraph preceding the Shma Kolaynu and Al Chet (It is also read in the Haftorah on fast days). Slichot quotes from the Book of Isaiah:
Vahaveeotim el har kodshi, veseemachteem befayt tefillati, olotayhem ezivchayhem leratzon al mizbechi, kee vaytee bayt tefilla yikareh lechol hoameem.“
I will bring them to My sacred Mount and let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices shall be welcome on My altar, for My house shall be called A house of prayer for all peoples”.
The Prophet Isaiah’s vision is of a Temple that engenders rejoicing. Rabbi David Kimche, Radak, a younger contemporary of Rambam, 1160-1235, attempts to explain the rejoicing. He maintains that all the nations of the world will rejoice when they find themselves in the azara, the house of prayer.
The entire Roslyn Synagogue community should feel a sense of pride in our shul. It has, indeed, become a place of rejoicing; a place where all come together to daven, study, eat, and socialize. It is a place where Judaism is experienced with joy, camaraderie, pride, and gladness; where guests feel welcome when they arrive, and usually leave with a smile.
May we all continue try to realize the vision of Yeshayahu Hanavi, of the Prophet Isaiah, in the days, months, and years to come; that our shul embody the ideal of veseemachtem bevayt tefillati, “you shall rejoice in the house of my prayer”.
Rabbi Robert Block