Martin van den Bergh
A number of years ago I had the great privilege of officiating on Yom Kippur at Bevis Marks Synagogue in London. I had made great efforts with the indispensable help of Hazan Philip Morris and the choir to make Yom Kippur the great spiritual experience as it should have been. This fell more on my shoulders when Hazan Morris became ill. At the pinnacle of the Neilla Service towards the blowing of the Shofar to mark the conclusion of the service, I invited the Parnas Presidente to join me in saying the concluding verses. The spiritual atmosphere was suddenly shattered when the Baal Tokea thought he should have been invited to recite the verses, forgetting that he already had the great honour of blowing the Shofar, He continued to show his displeasure well after Yom Kippur, and what should have been a wonderful spiritual occasions, was destroyed, all because this man only thought of himself.
This attitude is not only destructive. It goes against the principle of trying to involve others and empowering them to share in spiritual experiences. This has been a principle which I have attempted to uphold throughout my rabbinate. While it is indeed perhaps easier and indeed more personally advantageous to "hog" the spot-light, the pleasure in enabling others to participate is even greater.
In Temple Times, all parts of the community had a role to play in the sacrificial services, even though each part, the Kohanim, the Levi'im and the people had their own particular tasks, and boundardies to keep. The Kohanim of course who were the ones who actually performed the sacrificial services on the Altar. The Levi'im asisted them and formed the choir, and the Israelites bore witness to the sacrifical services taking place. Today, in the Synagogue, there is much congregational participation in the services, and indeed the key parts of the service cannot take place without a Minyan, a minimum of ten men over the age of thirteen. In Orthodox services, while women play a lesser role than that of men, nevertheless they do much to enhance the spiritual atmosphere of the Synagogue services.
Thus, what it takes to empowering and including others is to be altruistic, and to realise that there are far greater advantages for oneself to share, rather that to keep everything for oneself.