Site Visit: Temple Beth El

Last week I visited Temple Beth El in Boca Raton, FL. I choose to visit a synagogue over other places of worship because I live in central Boca, which has a large Jewish population, so there are many temples close to where I live. Many of my friends here in Boca are Jewish so I thought it would be interesting if I experienced something they do on a weekly basis. I went to the synagogue with my best friend Michael Agranoff and his family. I had no trouble entering since I went with them. Temple Beth El is a Reform Jewish synagogue. The service I attended was a Shabbat service. I only visited on Friday night, but usually the service continues on until noon the following day. Shabbat is primarily a time in the week set aside to rest. The purpose of Shabbat is to give people a day to rest like it was done in ancient times and allow them to devote themselves to higher pursuits. A full Shabbat service is 25 hours long. When I attended Shabbat, I wore a navy blue Polo, white shorts, and Sperrys. The ceremony was held in a theater-styled room. The only thing that really stood out to me was the Hebrew letters marked on the wall. There was a platform and a podium for the service leaders and scripture readers to speak. Throughout the evening, prayers were read from the siddur (prayer book). The siddur contains traditional Jewish prayers in their original Hebrew form. The book also contained English translations of the prayers along with interpretations and explanations for each. The service included a variety of music and singing. There were also a couple readings given from the Torah. We stood as the Torah was removed from a special place known as the Ark. The Torah was unwrapped from garbs of the high priest. The service was conducted with a mixture of Hebrew and English. I felt out of place when Hebrew was spoken. At one point the rabbi delivered a sermon on leaving a legacy in life. After the sermon, we were given time to discuss the teachings. Here my friend explained to me different things that happened throughout the night and what they meant. I felt comfortable throughout the service because I was with my friend and simply followed his lead. Towards the conclusion of the night, there was a designated time to eat. I talked to my friend and his parents as they ate bread and drank wine. At this time they explained to me more in depth the events of the service. For the most part I experienced the same thing normal Jewish worshippers do in Shabbat. I was able to try the bread but not drink wine since I am underage. I decided not to talk to anybody outside of my friend and his parents. I plan to visit Temple Beth El again in the next two weeks so I can learn more about Judaism and hopefully talk to worshippers about their faith.

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