The other day, the Ant went in to a Synagogue for the first time, to attend the Bar Mitzvah (coming of age ceremony) of the son of a friend, who is an Orthodox Jew. After putting on a borrowed cap and scarf, (obligatory before entry) the Ant sat down in the special female section and observed proceedings.
The Ant is nominally a Christian, and has occasionally attended church services, and, as Christianity and Judaism share similar theological roots, she had the vague expectation that the services would be similar, but she soon realized that this was not the case.
Firstly, there seemed to be no real discernible structure, as there would be in a Christian church. The service went on for hours, and people seemed to come and go as they pleased. There seemed to be a fair amount of socializing and wheeler dealing in the entrance area, and the objective of many of the attendees seemed to be to catch up on the latest gossip rather than to participate in a religious service.
Secondly, the service seemed to consist mainly of the Rabbi chanting in Hebrew, endlessly, and nobody seemed to take much notice, apart from three old men, dressed in black, who sat at the back. They looked as if they had always they had always been there, never moving, metaphorically covered in cobwebs. Two or three times an hour, while the Rabbi was chanting what sounded like, ‘Abraham, Israel, yeshiva shlomo moses Talmud, etc’ the three men in black suddenly stood up, rocked back and forth and started to chant, almost muttering to themselves, like drunks at a bus stop. “Hoy my boy, oy veh, you vont a suit, I do you a suit, Abraham, Israel, gaza, hoy my boy.” After a minute or so, and just as suddenly, they sat down again, almost as if someone had pulled a switch somewhere.
As the afternoon wore on, the Ant made two observations:
1. Judaism is clearly an ancient religion, and its culture and traditions have been jealously guarded, throughout the centuries even though its adherents were scattered throughout the world by the Diaspora. This preservation of cultural values is applauded the world over, which leads the Ant to ask why, if indigenous Europeans try and preserve their culture and way of life in the same way, they are branded as racists?
2. Why did the Men in Black find it necessary to sit in the back of a Synagogue all day, chanting periodically? If God is omnipotent and omniscient, why would he care if old men chant at Him, or praise Him. Wouldn’t He prefer that they use their talents to help others in need in their community, or do good works? We all have limited time on Earth, so why would He want people to waste it like that?
The more experience the Ant has of religion, the less she understands it