According to many Jewish thinkers and leaders today, the synagogue is in a state of profound crisis. Since the synagogue is one of the most ancient, visible and important institutions in Jewish communal life, this could have dire consequences for American Jewry: the vitality of the synagogue has often been used as a barometer of the health of the Jewish community as a whole.
The Torah is very clear: it is a Jewish mandate to “serve” (la’avod) God. But what exactly does “service” mean? Throughout the centuries, it has meant a wide variety of things, from offering pigeons and goats for sacrifice, to praying alone or with others in community, to building up the land of Israel. With no firm historical consensus as to what the concept of Jewish service actually means, its implementation and practice have changed and evolved with the Jewish people over time.
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