Leap of faith: please drive to shul – Jewish News

Posted By on July 6, 2024

I wonder how many Jews in this country get the feeling that the way they live their authentically Jewish lives is not acceptable to others? Driving to the synagogue on a Shabbat morning, but parking around the corner so the rabbi doesnt see your car, is one example I often hear.

To examine the concept of authentic Judaism, we must go back to one of the great sages. Hillel admonishes us: Do not separate yourself from the community. You can read this in two ways. The first, in some other parts of our Jewish world, says: Jewish community is upheld by strong standards; we must not move outside these boundaries.

Aliyot (call-ups) to the Torah are withheld from those whose public actions place them outside of the communal norms. That may include marrying someone who is not Jewish, being LGBT+ or, in at least one community I know of, being seen driving on Shabbat.

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But there is another way to read this text the Progressive way. We agree with the traditional interpretation of teachers such as Rabbis Obadiah De Bertinoro and Abraham Isaac Kook. Judaism isnt about exclusion but almost universally focused on how being part of a community is a true mechayah (life-giver).

Not separating yourself from the community, in our modern age, might mean driving to synagogue to join our Shabbat services. For those who are house-bound, sick, anxious or away from home, it might mean using technology to live-stream them. It can take a lot of courage to step into a new community, especially for those who have been turned away or been under an unfriendly rabbinic glare in the past who may have been told that their life and love choices were wrong.

In trainings about Jewish engagement done for the university world, through Hillel International, I learned that we can think about Jewish engagement like a game of snakes and ladders. Good events, like a lovely Shabbat experience, can create further and deeper engagement, while a judging glance by a peer can act as a chute, quickly snaking a participant down so they are fearful to engage again.

This is why I tell prospective members and conversion students that they are interviewing me and our synagogue community, and not the other way around. I would say the same to all of the readers of this piece who are not as engaged in Jewish life as they wish to be. Your job is to travel to various synagogue communities, and find the right shidduch (match). It might be in a movement you havent yet tried.I am confident that the right communal match is waiting, a corner or two ahead. The experience of being together, especially now, is well worth the drive.

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Leap of faith: please drive to shul - Jewish News

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