Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Response to the latest "Eilu V'Eilu"

Which can be found at The URJ's Eilu v'Eilu Volume 20 page.

RavMoffic is happy to wring his hands over the decline in synagogue affiliation, but he fails to address the most crucial of issues: Why be Jewish? During the span in which he notes the decline, the Reform movement did all the things he seems to prescribe - welcoming intermarrieds, davenning in English, being accessible - so that's clearly not working.

What IS bringing people in are lively services, and a return to practice that allows us to reify what it is that makes being Jewish so special - the sense that God chose us for a special purpose. Lose that element of our theology and the rituals that reify it and one is hard pressed to see why one would choose it over, say, Presbyterianism.

Judaism has always been a very sensory religion - the clean light of Shabbos candles, the smoke of the havdallah candle, the fragrance of the etrog and the myrtle, the rustle of the willow and the pine, the flavors and textures of the Passover Seder, that cozy, sheltered feeling that comes with wrapping the tallit over your head as you say the Shema.

Early Reform, with its nearly Spock-like valorization of Reason uber-alles, erred in rejecting these rituals and the very human needs they meet. The zeitgeist was one of pragmatism, of privileging the intellect over emotion or physicality, and the move my have seemed appropriate for the time, but I think it has proved demonstrably unsustainable.

Ritual fills the need to have a physical relationship to God, to acknowledge that as physical, emotional beings we need modes of physically reifying our relationship to God. It prevents us from either worshipping idols or rejecting God altogether by creating a way to encounter God from the place we are.

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