December 20, 2007
Reform Jews must refashion Shabbat
(Page 2 - Previous Page)I don't delude myself. Most Reform Jews are not there yet. But our research indicates that we have more closet Shabbat observers than we realize.
And remember: At our camps, Shabbat comes alive; it is a tangible, visceral experience that our kids love. In fact, our camps, youth groups and Israel trips have created a whole cadre of young people who are open to observing Shabbat as Reform Jews. Our challenge is to make sure that they don't have to go elsewhere to do it.
Our first task is to help all who are interested to think through what Shabbat observance means for a Reform Jew. For most of us, it will not mean some kind of neo-frumkeit; it will not mean the Shabbat of 18th century Europe; it will not mean an endless list of Shabbat prohibitions. We fled that kind of Shabbat, and for good reason.
It will mean, instead, approaching Shabbat with the creativity that has always distinguished Reform Judaism. It will mean emphasizing the "thou shalts" of Shabbat -- candles and Kiddush, rest and study, prayer and community -- rather than the "thou shalt nots." It will mean expanding our understanding of rest and defining in new ways what is and is not work....
As Reform Jews, we will approach it in our own way and refashion it for the modern world. But approach it we must. As Arnold Jacob Wolf has reminded us, Shabbat is not in heaven or beyond the sea. It is part of the divine agenda and a taste of eternity, but also wholly human and humane. Without Shabbat, we may be lost; in its rediscovery, we may yet be found.
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie is president of the Union of Reform Judaism.
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