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Alone Together
Mon, 09/06/2010 - 20:00

Where can one go to see both freedom and unity in action? Go the morning minyan.

Jews pray in a peculiar way. Walking into the service one would think that each individual is wrapped not only in a tallit but also in his or her own world. Each is mumbling, turning pages, swaying and then, miraculously, everyone stands and says the same thing in temporary unison. Each then lapses back into private prayer.

This is a model for a healthy polity. Everyone does what he or she wants, but is bound by the same larger aim, and acts as a whole when needed. So I may not know what you had for breakfast or do for a living, but we vote, pay taxes and stop at the red light in the same way, or should. I can’t keep up with your Amidah, but we stood together at Barchu.

Of course to pray this way requires a lot of Jewish education. It is remarkable, however, how quickly regular attendance can give you the feel of the minyan’s rhythm. This tight community endures though its members revolve, some steadfast, some sporadic. It reminds me of what my teacher, Rabbi Simon Greenberg, once told me about the minyan: it is where Jews pray alone together.

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow his teachings at

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