A Place to Live Out Our Faith

Yael Eckstein  |  May 9, 2023

The interior of a synagogue with two men in the pews.

“Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD.” — Exodus 23:17

Undoubtedly, one of the most fascinating topics to Christians and Jews is the Holy Temple—its significance to Jewish worship in biblical times and what Judaism teaches about the building of a Third Temple in the future. This is one of six devotions looking at different aspects of the Temple and its inherent lessons for us all.

One of the challenges that we face in today’s society is the need for community. So many people live in virtual reality, interacting with the world mainly through their phones and computers. Because of this, many people find connection and a sense of belonging in the online world.

The benefit of online communities is that connecting with other people of shared interest and concern is no longer limited to finding people near you who share your interests or needs. On the other hand, the sense of human connection that we feel when we are gathered together with others who share our identity, interests, or concern is all too absent from this online world.

A Place to Live Out Our Faith

In Temple times, the entire nation of Israel would gather in Jerusalem three times a year for the pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Shavuot (Pentecost), and Sukkot (Feast of the Tabernacles). As the Bible commands, “Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD.”

Imagine what that must have been like. People from all across the Holy Land streaming to Jerusalem in the days leading up to the festival. I imagine people meeting along the way and journeying together. Then, in Jerusalem, everyone would set up camp in the hills and valleys around the Holy Temple.

Now that the Temple is destroyed, we gather in synagogues. The Hebrew word for “synagogue” is beit knesset, literally “a house of congregating.” Notice that the word for “synagogue” doesn’t mention any religious or worship purpose. It’s a place to gather together as a community.

And like any community, we gather to share what matters most to us, the reason for gathering. In the case of the synagogue, like the Temple before it, we gather to worship God.

Being together for a shared purpose is the very definition of community. And community feels different in person. So many people became accustomed to worshipping at home or attending online church during the pandemic. Many have never returned.

But we must gather. Our synagogues and churches are more than just buildings—they are the places where we live out our faith and values together, in community. We need one another to offer support and encouragement and to sustain one another through life’s difficulties.

Your Turn:

Share with me in the comment section below how you experience community within your faith. I’d love to hear from you!