Tonight marks the seventh Shabbat evening when we will utilize a virtual platform for our service. With more experience, it will be far easier than the panic I felt preparing for our first Shabbat service on March 20.
However, I don’t want to give the impression that leading these services has become routine. Every week there are many questions to consider such as, what platform is the best to use? Initially we streamed on Facebook, which was pretty straightforward to use. But we soon determined that people wanted to be able to see one another rather than just have names appear in the chat. So we switched to using Zoom.
Then there is the question of the content of the service. What prayers are essential?
What might be left out? Some of my colleagues are shortening their services to Candles, Schmooze, Mi Sheberach, and Kaddish. Others are leading a full service out of Mishkan T’filah.
In addition to prayers, what else might be added to the service? Most Shabbatot I have been telling a story as a way to convey a message of hope. But perhaps I should instead offer a D’var Torah. Surely every Torah portion offers moral instruction.
Lastly, there is the question of music. Singing is an essential part of any service. But leading a service on Zoom does not enable communal singing due to the cacophony of people singing at different paces. Everyone except the music leader is muted. How does that affect the worship experience, hearing only one person and your own voice? Should there be more singing – or less – for a Shabbat evening service?
These are all valid questions to wrestle with. It is a good practice to continually reflect on what our Shabbat Services should be like. In that regard, there is a positive result for no two services will be the same. Every Shabbat evening we will Shiru L’Adonai Shir Chadash – we will sing unto God a new song.