On most Friday nights, an honored congregant of Congregation Ner Tamid will rise and light two Sabbath candles.
On this Friday night, a family lights 57. The 58th candle will be lit later. Tonight, it’s OK for some things to go unfinished.
The service took place during the festive holiday of Sukkot. The seven-day holiday follows the intense 10 days of prayer that comprise the High Holy Days, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
The congregation in Henderson was not seated inside the synagogue, but rather outside in a hut called a sukkah.
The sukkah is delicate. Its canvas walls are thin and there are only two of them. If you look up, you can see the stars through the roof. It’s unfinished, too.
“That’s OK,” Rabbi Sanford Akselrad said.
The sukkah represents the tenuous nature of survival — a strong wind could blow it down.
“It’s a good metaphor for this week,” he said Friday night. “We’re at a concert, protected … until evil comes and disrupts that world. Very quickly, security can be destroyed.”
Some congregants gathered Friday night to celebrate Sukkot. Some sought comfort after the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival that left 58 people dead and 489 injured Sunday night. But many came because it’s Sabbath.
The Wertheimers attend most Friday nights.
Cassidy Wertheirmer came to the services with her husband, Josh, and two children, Meyer and Magnolia.
“It’s been a long, hard week, and I’ve been looking forward to Shabbat. Judaism is about caring for each other,” she said. “And at times like this when there is so much pain and questions, we can come together and overcome.”
Throughout the service, the rabbi never asks God for anything. “That’s not how prayer works,” he said.
“Some people treat it like magic — that your words make God do something whether he wants to or not.”
Most prayers take the form of songs, accompanied by piano, hand drum and the voice of Cantor Jessica Hutchings.
Toward the end of services, the congregation rises for a familiar prayer, the Mourner’s Kaddish. Congregants whispered the names of passed loved ones who they are remembering. As he spoke the names of the 58 victims of the Las Vegas shooting, the rabbi lit the 58th candle.
“Leaving one unlit represents the lives left unfinished. When we remember them, we include them all.”
Contact Janna Karel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @jannainprogress on Twitter.