The Jewish religion of today reminds me of a New York subway station with trains departing the station in opposite directions. Orthodoxy is focused on adherence to rigorous interpretations of Jewish law challenged by modernity. On the other track are progressive Jews who value the search for meaning over the hold of Jewish law and tradition. To some, the traditional ways are authentic. For others, the progressive ways are the better approach to modern challenges. Many are left on the platform not knowing which train to board.
The choice of how we proceed as our Jewish selves seems especially important as we approach the High Holidays. Is this new year more dire than others? I am disoriented by covid, unnerved by political discord, and fearful of environmental devastation. My hope for the New Year is to feel supported by our Jewish religion and community.
Which best maintains your equilibrium –a religion focused on dutiful practice or on providing moral inspiration? Each can be a track to provide comfort and support. Or are you feeling alienated from these choices?
The High Holiday experience should support being wholehearted with God. If prayer is boring, you might pray half-heartedly. If the ritual is inaccessible, you might lose heart entirely. If the offerings are too secular, then the prayer experience is banal.
To start 5782, let’s explore how “doing Jewish” brings you comfort, strength and satisfaction. Which train to wholeheartedness will you board? Can we alternate, embarking on the traditional train at times and then stepping off onto the platform to transfer to a more progressive journey? All the while, how do the conductors avoid jerky stops and starts to offer you a smooth prayer ride? And how do we avoid distractions which derail us from our purpose in gathering?
Service leaders for the coming High Holidays are grappling with these questions. Whether in person or on Zoom, we want to create an experience full of heart. At the Jewish Studio, we will offer the anchoring of tradition with the inspiration of expanding awareness. And with our voices, words, and instruments, we hope to conduct you on an inspiring ride through to Yom Kippur.
Rabbi Evan J. Krame