Daniel Burstyn, over at Sustainable Judaism, on the jumbotrons during davvening at the recent URJ Biennial:
Jumbotrons are all well and good for large gatherings of non-Halakhic Jews, like the Biennial and Craig Taubman’s Friday night live kind of things. They might be ok for other environments, like camp. Maybe when the Temple is rebuilt, there will be Jumbotrons.
But they really go against the grain of the “do it yourself” aspect of Judaism, as it has developed since the publication of the Jewish Catalog in the early 1970s.
If Joe or Jane Jew can’t walk onto the bima and run a worship service as well as s/he can run a committee meeting or an awards dinner, then something is broken. There should be no “little man behind the curtain,” nor flashy light show on the bima in Judaism.
I remember the jumbotrons and the pit band at Kabbalat Shabbat at the Biennial two years ago, and feeling like it was Shabbat: The Musical. I felt then that what was happening at the Biennial was so top-down and so far disconnected from my experiences in real, intimate communities (that gather more than once every two years), that my relationship with the Reform movement began to deteriorate in the weeks and months following the Biennial.
I was looking for models – ways to engage people in worship, to draw out their inner sparks. Rebbe Nachman teaches:
The leader of the communal prayers must represent the whole congregation. He must find and gather all the good points in each of the worshippers. All these good points must be joined together in him so that when he stands before God in prayer he comes with the power of all this good. The prayer leader must have the power to attract all this good and gather together all the good points so that they are joined together in him.
When a Tzaddik has the power to make melodies by judging everyone favorably, even the worst, through constantly searching for their good points, this Tzaddik is fitted to be the prayer leader. For he has what is needed to be a truly fitting representative of the people. The good in them is drawn to him, for he has the power to gather all the good points in each and every Jew, even the worst.
It seems to me when a jumbotron replaces a Tzaddik or Tzaddekus, something valuable is lost. Rebbe Nachman also taught that every “Joe or Jane Jew” has within him/herself the potential to become such a Tzaddik. Technology may have the power to unite us – to aid in the creation of such melodies, but sometimes it stands as a barrier – adding unnecessary layers and curtains where they need not be.