Shemini Atzeret: Knishes & Jewish Unity



This sermon is about knishes and synagogues.
To start with, nobody wants to go to synagogue. Not the adults, not the children, not even the rabbi. But everyone wants to eat a knish. Have you ever seen anybody turn one down?
So if only a synagogue could have the appeal of a knish.
But it does! Let me explain:
How is a knish made? There is a square sheet of dough lying flat on the counter. In the center is placed the filling, whatever it may be. Then, all four corners are pulled and squeezed together over the core filling, creating a complete encasement around the core. The knish is then baked and ready to eat.
What can the knish teach us about Judaism in general and synagogues specifically?
The connection between synagogues and knishes is Shemini Atzeret – specifically the word atzeret, which is translated in Aramaic by the Targum as kneish, which means to “assemble.”
A knish is an assembly of various ingredients; it is the gathering of all the four corners of the dough as one; it is the enveloping of the filling in one scrumptious cocoon.
This is what happens on Shemini Atzeret. This is what happens in a Bei Knishta, Beit Knesset, House of Assembly – what we call today a synagogue.
All of the above insights are garnished in this sermon with a classic Baal Shem Tov story – about how a synagogue should never, ever be full of prayers, for prayers should never stay down below filling a space, instead they should rise above the synagogue and climb to the heights of heaven.


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