We live in an “On Demand” society. Growing up in the era of black and white TV as I did, if I wanted to watch Lorne Greene ride off into the (grey, there was no other kind) sunset in “Bonanza,” there was only one time I could do it: Sunday evenings at nine together with all of the rest of the country. (I know, later Bonanza was in “living color” but not originally).
My, how times have changed. Now I can watch Jack Ryan or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or for that matter just about any television program in the history of the world when I want and where I want – just with the push of a couple of buttons.
But as easy as that has become, in my opinion living “On Demand” has its drawbacks. One in particular is that when I get used to having things when I want them and how I want them, it’s pretty hard to get out of that habit. Put differently, being part of the new “On Demand” world can cause me to overlook how that world can affect my efforts to be in community with you. It’s tough to be part of a community when it’s so easy for me just to do my own thing.
All of this leads me to my experiences with worship at Beth David. I attend our services with sufficient frequency that, over time, I’ve developed some opinions about them. Lots of them. “I didn’t like that version of Mi Chamocha” or “I wish they would do the old version” or “those services were too long (or too short)” or “I think there’s too much Hebrew” or, well, you get the idea. Now, obviously, I’m neither the Rabbi nor the Cantor and my job definitely is not to create worship experiences. But one of my jobs as your President is to try to get us more in the habit of thinking of ourselves as being in community. And thoughts like those on my part move me away from that goal; having the ability to watch what I want when I want is the very antithesis of being in community. Community is all about coming together in spite of the differences that might otherwise divide us. And that includes my opinions about what portions of the services I might like or not like.
Now that’s not to say that changing our services from time to time might not be in order. Or that just because we’ve always done things one way, we always have to do them that way. But it is to say that the next time I’m tempted to say “I didn’t like that tune” or “that’s not the way I like to do it,” I’m going to take a look around and remind myself that “My Way” may be a terrific song but it rarely leads to true community. And if that’s what we’re trying to accomplish, and I think we’re doing a pretty good job, then my hope each time I attend services ought not to be hearing and seeing a perfect service from my point of view.
If I’m serious about helping to build this community with you, I should be hoping to hear a service only parts of which are exactly what I want to hear. I need to remember that part of community building involves identifying and respecting your preferences, not all of which are likely to be the same as mine. Rather, it’s about whether this service has at least some elements in it to which each of you can relate when reaching out to touch what is holy to you — in addition to those that work for me. I just might say I’m looking for a perfectly imperfect service.
With best wishes for a wonderful New Year!