Monday, February 04, 2008

About Ash Wednesday...think before you come

From the novel "The Rabbi" by Noah Gordan:

[Lemme set it up. The young rabbi is happy because his temple is filled with his congregation on the high holidays. In the neighborhood, an elderly Catholic priest is a bit worried about the new building his congregation is constructing.]

The high holidays came and the temple overflowed with people who remembered suddenly that they were Jews and that it was time to fill up with enough repentance to last another year. The sight of the crowded scanctuary excited him and filled him with new hope and firm resolve that he would not fail to win them over in the end.

He determined to make another try while the Yom Kippur sermon was fresh in their minds. One of his former professors, Dr. Hugo Nachamann, was spending some time at the Los Angeles branch of the rabbinical institute. Dr. Nachmann was an expert on the period the the Dead Sea Scrolls. Michael invited him to San Francisco to lecture at the temple.

Eighteen people attended the lecture. Michael recognized fewer than half of them as temple members. Two of them turned out to be science reporters there to interview Dr. Naqchmann on archeological aspects of the discovery of the scrolls.

Dr. Nachmann made things easy for the Kinds. "This isn't at all unusual, as you know," he said. "People are simply not interested in lecturers on certain nights. Now, if you had offered them a dinner dance...!

The next morning, leaning on the fence overlooking the half completed church, Michael found himself telling Father Campanelli about it. "I keep failing," he said. "Nothing I do will get them inside the temple."

The priest fingered the mark on his face. "On many a morning I give thanks for the Days of Obligation," he said quietly.

Sigh. Ash Wednesday isn't a "Day of Obligation."

Yet, for as long as I can remember, it's a day that fills every church and chapel I can recall. Why? I don't know.

Here's the thing.

If you come to church this Wednesday, hurray! I'm glad!

Just don't be a stranger, okay?