There are many reasons to attend services; here is one you may never have thought of. Research conducted partly at the University of Colorado at Boulder has found that regular worshippers live longer than people who seldom or never attend services. In recent years there have been a number of studies trying to quantify the difference. One such study found that those who attend worship services once or more each week can look forward to about seven more years than those who never attend. Various explanations have been attempted. One shows that regular attendees smoke, drink, and engage in unhealthy behavior to a lesser degree than others. Some researchers have postulated that through regular social contact, the feeling of belonging and being part of a community that regular worshippers have contributed to their wellbeing. I would like to share with you some comments made by some of our own regular shul attendees: “When I go to Shul I forget about all the things that worry me.” “I feel at peace just being there.” “I like remembering the people who are no longer here who said the same prayers I say now.” “When I am there, I pray for healing for myself and others, and others also pray for me; maybe our prayers are heard”. I think that going to shul adds a lot of intangibles to our lives. We connect with our fellow congregants, to the Jewish people, past, present and future, and to the mysteries of life itself. Shul gives a sense of stability, focus and connectedness that is satisfying even to those who do not ostensibly believe. There are a number of factors that may make us reluctant to try. Some people feel that they don’t know the Hebrew and everyone else does. You’d be surprised. You are far from the only one, and those who know the Hebrew are so happy to see you that they do not look askance. Besides, come regularly and you’ll pick it up in no time at all. You may feel that you are too busy. Our services take place Friday night, Shabbat morning, and weekday mornings; at least one of them is probably doable. If you are not sure that you believe, Judaism, however, is a religion that asks us to wrestle with issues of belief and come up with our own answers. I want to conclude with an invitation. Do yourself a favor in many ways. See you in Shul!
Rabbi Gerald Sussman