As you enter the lobby of our precious home on University Avenue, can you remember the very first time you walked through the doors? Some of us participated in the transformation of this building into a sacred space over 11 years ago, but, for most of us, this is the only physical home we have ever known as Netivot Shalom. That first moment of entering the shul, be it as newcomer or founder, is intense. Homecoming and transition can be new and awesome, inspiring and potentially intimidating.
The way our shul was constructed, and the way we position ourselves with each other, give a sweet opportunity to experience the entry into prayer stage by stage.
An "angel of welcome," a greeter, welcomes you as you enter the shul. On Shabbat, that is a member who smiles and says "Shabbat Shalom," hands us a siddur (prayerbook) and Shabbat Sheet, and offers to help us find a seat. During the week, it's most likely the staff member sitting in the office who offers a smile and a warm welcome.
On Shabbat, we then make our ways to the room that fits our purpose (or, perhaps you explore a new aspect of our dynamic shul life). The kitchen is a holy experience, just as is our childcare/Shabbat B'Yachad room, just as is the Adult Torah in the Library, the Meditation Minyan, and the sanctuary service. Each facet has its own unique flavor, and its own special mix of members and visitors who define it anew each week.
The new Siddur Lev Shalem we are celebrating are yet another opportunity for depth, and also a change in our communal practice. They are beautiful, masterfully constructed, and more accessible for Hebrew beginner than the Sim Shalom's we were used to. The page numbers have changed, there is more transliteration, and the Matriarchs are no longer relegated to the "side B" of the page. All of this is wonderful and exciting and new.
Our Amitim and Madrichim Bnei Mitzvah students were the first to hold these new siddurim, as they began practicing with them the week before Sukkot. Just yesterday, our students personalized their own copies of Siddur Lev Shalom, which are now housed in the first cabinet in the Prozdor, the hallway that leads to the sanctuary. In their honor, I recorded a short video about what it means to find your own personal place in prayer. You can access it here.
So, friends, as we enter the Shabbat of Lech Lecha, of Abram's and Sarai's journeys (and our own),
let's celebrate the doors of our shul, the lobby, the greeters, the siddurim - and each other.