We are the center for the the study of Torah here in the Poconos, in Stroudsburg, and the surrounding area.
Worship is the central glue of synagogue life, along with learning and lifecycle celebrations, whether in the hills of the Jewish Poconos or anywhere Jewish life flourishes. God is the central focus of our worship, and Hebrew is the main language of prayer. We feel awe in our appreciation of the beauty of the world and His creations. We give thanks for the gift of our souls and of the marvelous ways our bodies function. We share our pain with God. And our hurts and our sorrows and disappointments. Our study of Torah is year round.
As Jews, we not only worship God through prayer. We worship God in study. We worship God in trying to understand and unlock the secrets and mysteries of Creation and the universe. We worship God in performing daily acts of kindness and compassion to others. We worship God in defending the underdog and vulnerable and fighting for justice in the world around us.
The Holocaust has probably been the main contributor to cynicism when it comes to God and prayer. But instead of asking "where was God" when the six million were slain, perhaps the better question is "where was man?" God didn't shut the human heart and lock out the refugees from nearly every port and refuge around the globe. Human prejudice did.
But God did inspire the human hearts which led to the thousands of acts of salvation performed by righteous gentiles to save Jewish lives in those dark times. And God did inspire the world's nations to declare a Jewish state after WW2. God did inspire the hundreds of thousands of Jews to return to build and work the land in the seven decades leading up to the creation of the state. God did inspire the Jews of Israel to stand strong against the Arab nations which sought their destruction and lead them to victory in but six days. "In six "days" He created the world. And on the seventh he rested.
We come together on that seventh day, the Shabbat, to celebrate our Jewish life in worship, on Friday evenings and on Shabbat morning (a lavish kiddush follows).
And in our own lives we have a place to share our pain and unburden our hearts in meaningful worship, sung to beautiful new/old melodies. Come worship with us, as we chant the age old central prayer: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Blessed be His glorious kingdom for ever and ever."
OVERVIEW OF PRAYER
A synagogue has several names in Hebrew. One of the names is a Beit Tefillah, or House of Prayer.
Prayer can take any number of forms. Meditation is a form of prayer. Chanting is a form of prayer, where a niggun, or wordless melody may be employed. Chanting is often referred to as the highest form of prayer because it transcends the boundaries of particular language forms and taps most readily into experiencing the infinite Oneness of God.
Our services employ both meditation and chanting as precursors leading up to traditional modalities of word based prayer forms. We use both Hebrew and Aramaic in our services, with both traditional and newer melodies used to convey the rich, deeply resonant chants which tap into the depths of the human soul. In Yiddish the word for prayer is daavenen, deriving possibly from the latin root for connecting to the Divine; or possibly from the Hebrew word for free will offering - nedavah.
At various points in the service English translations are used, and page numbers are announced at every point in the service, to help those who are less familiar to follow along and keep the place.
Having said that, one should feel free to simply stay at a favorite page in the siddur (prayer book) if one feels moved and comfortable in that place. One may keep to the same place as the congregation or not. It is your spiritual journey. As on any journey, one can take detours and rest stops at any point along the way, to fit your needs in the moment.
Some prayers fall under the category of praise, called shevach. Some prayers fall under the category of thanks, called hoda'ah. And yet a third category of prayer forms is called request, or bakasha. On the Shabbat and Festivals we focus more on shevach and hoda'ah, and less on request, as requests are seen as contrary to the spirit of the Shabbat and Festivals. The only exception made is for healing, called the misheberach prayer.
As part of our adult education program, we conduct a weekly class on dissecting and understanding the Hebrew prayers so that one can directly understand them without the need for a translation or mediator.
The word for prayer in Hebrew is tefillah. Likewise, the infinitive form, "to pray," is lehitpalel. This verb form is reflexive and suggests the idea of prayer as a meditation of self-judging. Are we unified with all Creation and the Creator, or are we living lives in dissonance? Are we living in harmony with the Divine Plan (Torah), or are we missing the mark?
In ancient Israel prayer involved private meditation as well as animal offerings on the high places, followed later by the Temple Service conducted by the Kohanim (priests) and Levi'im (Levites) in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Until the sin of the spies who gave a negative report about the Land of Israel following the Exodus from Egypt, worship was generally private and meditation based. As a rectification for the sin of the spies, who were all men, tradition dictated that public worship necessitated a quorum of ten men. Today many feel that rectification has largely been achieved, and thus public worship should include men and women equally. Temple Israel of the Poconos has followed this egalitarian model for the last several decades.
In lieu of physical Temple offerings we offer spiritual melodies where we hope to achieve the kavannah (intention) of deveikut (attachment) to Hashem, detachment from all things material, and a sense of awe with the awareness of the Oneness of all Creation, the Oneness of the Universe. God is Love and God is One. One Love.