Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Prayer in Judaism is an open line of communication to the Almighty, giving finite man limitless access to an infinite Creator. A standardized liturgical style helps to organize and focus our thoughts and feelings. In order to enhance our devotion, a specific venue is required. The familiarity of the surroundings stimulates thought processes that imbue our silent supplications with meaning. Some shuls, although devoid of the many conventional synagogue trappings, are uniquely suitable for a spiritual rendezvous.

When it comes to shuls, some Jews have an “Edifice Complex,” a condition characterized by the proliferation of monumental synagogue structures in Jewish communities the world over. Even where minyanim gather in less grandiose houses of worship, the sums of money they expend for beautification and refurbishing are staggering. Who can say what suppressed urges are sublimated thereby, or deep-seated needs fulfilled, or sins expiated.

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Then again there are shuls, of which Israel is especially blessed, which are notably free of this condition. Whatever end of the spectrum – or even in between – it is the shul that is always the focus of a Jewish community, and Jewish homes and life are always in close proximity.

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Rabbi Hanoch Teller is the award-winning producer of three films, a popular teacher in Jerusalem yeshivos and seminaries, and the author of 28 books, the latest entitled Heroic Children, chronicling the lives of nine child survivors of the Holocaust. Rabbi Teller is also a senior docent in Yad Vashem and is frequently invited to lecture to different communities throughout the world.