This past week I read an article by one of my colleagues that Reform Judaism has no guiding principles nor ideology and that individual Jews also have no ideology. Additionally, he views most Reform Jews as non-observant and lacking Hebrew comprehension, as well as lacking an understanding of Jewish history and many of its rituals. Allow my few lines here to be addressed to those who come to services on Friday evening.
This week we read of the enigmatic rules concerning the red heifer. Rabbi Joshua of Siknin has stated that the ritual of the red heifer is one of four laws in the Torah that have no rational explanation – we observe these laws because God told us to. The founders of Reform Judaism maintain that we ought to observe only those rules that “elevate and sanctify our lives” (Pittsburgh Platform, 1885). The upshot is, if you do not understand it, if it does nothing to make you a better person or improve your lives, then don’t do it!
Now, for those who attend services. Do you attend every week? Do you understand all the Hebrew? Do you comprehend why the prayers are written and ordered the way they are? Let me try to answer for you:
- Services give me a sense of calm after a difficult week.
- It is what I do on a Friday night.
- I might learn something from the rabbi.
- I am Jewish. I go to services.
- I am saying Kaddish for a family member.
There you go. You are “observant” and you have a Jewish “ideology.”