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September 16, 2014 | 21st Elul 5774
Obligation
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OBLIGATION


  1. Feb 2006 Digest 035

    …I don't think we honor Reform Judaism by suggesting the end of a Jew's necessary engagement with tradition, with history, with God can be a monthly check. By saying that, I am not trying to disparage the Jews who give only a check and engage no further. That's where they are. That's the life that's theirs. You can be wonderful and moral and ethical and a blessing to humanity and never set foot in a church, synagogue, mosque or temple. But if you're going to use the example of Chabad as a welcoming environment, let's remember that Chabad is welcoming and encourages its members to stretch themselves one mitzvah at a time. It doesn't matter where you start on Jacob's Ladder, but start moving upward. Religion is discipline, religion is stretching. Religion is not just being comfortable.

    A Jew who engages in social action but never prays with their Jewish community should feel they are missing out on an important aspect of Jewish life. A Jew who prays regularly, but doesn't make an effort to directly help anyone beyond their immediate family should feel they are missing out on an important aspect of Jewish life.

    It's OK to criticize ourselves for not doing more; it's not OK for us to criticize other individuals without fully understanding their situations, their selves, their lives--and I apologize if I've done that. I'm suggesting that social action has value and that prayer has value and that the two, in a Jewish context, can reinforce each other and strengthen the entire operation of Jewish life and individual soul-searching that we all do in our own ways.

    Every individual makes his or her choices together with the inspiration they've received and currently received, the support and emphases of their families and communities, and the traditions, ethics and ideas that they inherit from the world and seek out from the world. We are not tabula rasas whose interests in Judaism are self-directed whims. We have learned and continue to learn.

    As a wiser respondent than I said a few posts ago, Judaism is not a menu of items to be selected and rejected on a whim. If we want our children and our adults to have respect for Judaism, to have respect for ideas that were handed down as well as innovations from wise contemporaries, let's not treat the choices like selections from a spiritual jukebox. Judaism can be approached from many different directions, but an important goal of Judaism is increased engagement in life and doing good. Every strand of that Judaism is a part of the web, and we impoverish ourselves if we dismiss strands out of hand.

    Brendan
    550 or so families


 
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