The part of town I live in has a large Jewish population, and last year I visited a synagogue just out of curiosity to see what would happen. I had been wondering what Jewish people do when they meet together.
There were two surprises for me. The first surprise was how similar the assembly was to a typical Christian church "worship service." It was essentially a series of "ritual bytes" that unfolded over the course of about an hour and a half. There was a lot of singing, and the music was refreshingly different for me. There were readings and prayers interspersed between the songs, and there was a "sermon" or lesson given by the rabbi.
When the assembly ended, I felt I had been to an event much like "church", only instead of occurring on Sunday morning, it was on Friday night. I stopped to use the rest room before driving home, and by the time I had emerged back into the hallway and was heading for the door I was in for surprise number two.
The entire congregation had gathered in what looked like a dining and activity room. The rabbi was in the center holding a loaf of challah bread. The first circle of people were around the rabbi and bread and each was touching either the rabbi or the bread (I think). The second circle of people were each touching someone in the first circle (they put one hand on the shoulder of a person on the circle immediately inside their own), and so on until the entire congregation was arranged in a series of concentric circles, with everyone directly or indirectly touching the loaf of bread.
Then the rabbi said a blessing and everyone eventually broke off and ate a piece of the loaf. This started a time of socializing where many refreshments and snacks were available. I wondered if this might have been anything like what Paul did with the Christians he met with in Acts chapter 20.
I came away thinking of how the "breaking of bread" in this synagogue was such a joyful expression of community, and of how this so starkly compared with the somber, meditative, individualistic approach to "breaking bread" Iíve experienced in most Christian churches. It made me feel sad.