Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Informed Choices

Some people think that Reform Judaism disregards halacha and that its members pick and choose their mitzvot.

I think it's more about making informed choices about your practice.  For me, the relative non-emphasis on keeping all 613 commandments has given me the freedom to incorporate them thoughtfully into my life.  Every change that I've made in my life so far has been purposefully done.  Because I have embraced each as a choice, I do them joyfully and as an act of free will.

If they had all been thrust upon me, and if I were going to be judged by how well I performed them, it all would have been rote and mechanical.  I would not have had the luxury of time to understand why G-d wants what He wants, why it's done a certain way, or what lesson I should learn by doing it.

Since G-d went to the trouble of granting us free will, He wants us to make our own decisions.  Granted, He has also prescribed us a way of living which pleases Him the most.  It is our job to reconcile the two, both by learning and by doing.

It's not necessarily that you're making informed decisions about what mitzvot to ignore, rather, it's about ensuring that there is knowledge and intention behind the action.

In services on Saturday, the Haftarah was from the book of Joshua.  It wasn't a very happy passage.  My Rabbi talked about how, at the time Joshua was writing, Jerusalem was under siege.  Theology based on divine retribution was difficult to comprehend in a world where innocents - women and children - were starving and dying in the streets.  He also said that in the Talmud, the Rabbis wrote, in an imaginary dialogue, that G-d said if the Israelites had just done the covenant, even if they forsook Him, He would have saved the city.

He said there is a lot of controversy on this point.  According to him, Orthodox rabbis don't much like it when he brings it up.  I honestly don't understand this yet.  It would seem that the Orthodoxes, with their emphasis on halacha and mitzvot would support the idea of a 
G-d who says that doing is more important than faith, and that by doing your faith should grow.  Conversely, I would expect a Reform rabbi to say that believing should be put first, and trust that it would lead to doing.  I'll have to ask about it at our next meeting.

I'm still in the learning phase right now.  I know I'm not ideally observant, but I also know that my learning is going well and that so far I've been consistent in applying lessons into lifestyle.  I started with faith.  I'm trying not to intentionally or knowingly break halacha.  It may happen recklessly or unknowingly at this point, though, and for that I'm sorry.  All I can do is my best.

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