Divre Harav/Words from the Rabbi – September, 2012

Many Jewish homes have a copy of Isaac Klein’s “A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice” on their bookshelves.  My own copy was given to me by the synagogue in which I grew up. As the bookplate indicates, it was presented to Marisa and me in honor of our marriage on the occasion of our aufruf. Published in 1979, it is a detailed and comprehensive guide to Jewish practice at home and in the synagogue.

Although Klein’s Guide is still very much relevant and useful, The Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative movement has just published a book which is destined to be the next general’s version of the Guide. The book, entitled “The Observant Life:  The Wisdom of Conservative Judaism for Contemporary Jews,” edited by Martin S. Cohen, weighs in at 900+ pages, 50% larger than Isaac Klein’s Guide! Within the first 13 pages, the need for an updated guide for a Jewish life is apparent.  There is a discussion of inserting the names of matriarchs into our prayers, something which was barely a blip on the radar screen in the 60’s and 70’s when Isaac Klein was writing his guide. There is also a discussion of joining a minyan via internet, something which was science fiction technology Isaac Klein’s world (see the Dear Rebbe column for an answer to this question).

At a recent board meeting, the president, Bill Lewis, posed an intriguing question: What is the role of a religious institution in a secular world? Those of you reading this column who have chosen to be a part of Congregation Ahavas Israel (or another synagogue community) presumably have some sort of answer, at least for yourself. “The Observant Life” suggests that the synagogue is an extension of the religious life of the individual Jew – a place of prayer, learning, and spiritual assembly. I suggest that the synagogue exists to support you in your quest to be an educated, observant, caring Jew, seeking to connect yourself with a like-minded community and/or with God.

As we approach Rosh Hashanah, my family and I wish you a sweet new year, one in which the synagogue will play a role in your social, emotional, spiritual, religious, educational and/or cultural life.

2 thoughts on “Divre Harav/Words from the Rabbi – September, 2012

  1. Agree with your words David, but what happens when a synagogue or Rabbi in a community fail in their mission. I would argue that there are a fair number of Jews(including myself) who find themselves outside of (and not really desiring)a synagogue community. Your answer might be to find another community, but this doesn’t work for everyone either. It is time for Jews to build new communities that don’t include the synagogue and rabbis at the center. Communities that are home-based perhaps as Judaism really begins and ends in the home, not the synagogue.


    • I suggest that the synagogue has to be larger than the rabbi, and both are responsible to the mission of the organization. There will be decisions of the community that individuals might strenuously disagree with, but I would hope that the community is open to hearing both sides of the disputed point and welcoming both to remain under the larger tent of the synagogue mission.


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