Politics, Religion

Jumbotrons in the Beis HaMikdash

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.

Full story.
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.

11 thoughts on “Jumbotrons in the Beis HaMikdash

  1. Shabbat: The Musical indeed — I think that’s exactly the phrase I used to describe the davenen at the Houston Biennial, too. 🙂
    The Reform shul where I daven could hardly be more different from what I experienced at the Biennial. We’re a small community in a small town, a heimische kind of shul; we sit in a circle, with the Torah table in the middle; we all sing along. No pit orchestra here, or Jumbotron. No fancy technology. Just each other. That’s the kind of community where I feel at home.
    I’m intrigued by the notion that we can learn a lot from megachurches. I do believe we can. But what we need to learn is, as pastor Rick Warren said in his address at this year’s Biennial (yay podcasts!), it’s important to welcome newcomers. Greet people as they come in. Remember that our prayer needs to be directed toward God, not necessarily toward any one person’s liturgical needs. That‘s what we need to get better at — not the flashy technology of giant television screens.

  2. Pingback: Sarx » Jewschool
  3. I would totally wear a kippah-cam, like NHL goalie helmet-cams in the all-star games, when chanting Torah on Rosh HaShanah.

  4. I suppose the question then goes to what is the point of a major gathering of prayer. Should it be a time to seeing what it could be or what everyone is doing or even what no one has thought of doing?
    But the Torah-cam is pretty neat. We did it at camp for a few years and the kids are really into it. They are interested in seeing the actual Torah as we read and it makes the “top down experience” real to them.

  5. I suppose the question then goes to what is the point of a major gathering of prayer. Should it be a time to seeing what it could be or what everyone is doing or even what no one has thought of doing?
    If I were organizing a prayer gathering for 5000 people, I’d have 50 different options, for 100 people each.

  6. Why hating on mega prayer experiences? Spectacles, mass spectacles, have an honored place in our tradition and our people’s experience. How about the Sinai event with 600k in attendence? You think everyone had a part? Or that they broke into 6000 circles of 100?
    There is this fetish around diy and circlejerk prayer services. And by fetish, I mean the original meaning: some quirk without which you cannot reach satisfaction, even if you wanted to.
    Kudos to the Reform movement for leading the way in experimentation with what we can learn from mega churches. Those megachurches have amazing advantages. As in a large high school lunch room, there are enough tables that everyone can sit with ‘their kind.’ There is a good mix of class backgrounds and wealth. While one black Jewish family might feel a bit isolated in a small shul, in a really big one there might be a nice group of Jews of color (black, asian, etc.). Mega churches do a better job of actually providing needed services within the community. (My synagogue gives money so that ‘someone else can provide services to someone else’. I actually prefer ‘by us for us’.
    So let’s hear it for large, friendly, professionally run institutions where staff have a career path within the community (instead of having to leave every 2 years because there isn’t a job anymore for someone who actually knows what’s going on.)
    not only that, it would be great to see more examples of shuls where different denominations can congregate together but still maintain separate traditions, like in the Germantown Jewish Center, where you have Recon, Conservative and Egal Ortho groups working side by side – something that might not happen in smaller shul.

  7. Progressive Jewbilation writes:
    Why hating on mega prayer experiences?
    So let’s hear it for large, friendly, professionally run institutions
    Let’s not confuse the size of the institution with the size of the prayer service. Germantown Jewish Center is a great example of smaller prayer services within a larger institution.

  8. Thanks for the link, BZ. I guess this makes me famous. Or something.
    Prayer is only one leg of Judaism. Study and Acts of kindness are two more.
    I’m sorry the tone of some of these comments doesn’t rate very high on the kindness scale.

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