I begin with the premise that rather than people being here to serve the needs of religion, religion is here to serve the needs of people. Reform Judaism meets my needs. It gives me the opportunity to shape my own Judaism, basing it on my own response to the Jewish past, my own interpretation in the present, and the excitement of being able to pass it on to the future of my children and grandchildren.
I am not limited by halachah. I see it as a wonderful creative process by which the rabbis of the Talmudic period were able to create an intellectual bloodless revolution, destroying the authority of the priesthood, and enabling Judaism to become a religion that was portable, and not merely one that was restricted to a limited geographic area. It is a part of the warp and woof of the tapestry of Jewish history, and enabled subsequent intellectual revolutions within Judaism to occur.
Each Friday evening, my wife and I light Shabbat candles together. We sing Shalom Aleichem, and I recite a portion of Eishet Chayil, a woman of valor. Of course, I don't use the verses that do not pertain to our time, and I usually add a phrase or two of my own that speak of special things that Dee has one during the preceding week. We chant the full Kiddush, and enjoy a special meal. After that, we enjoy a quiet evening at home, and will sometimes go to services. We also may go to theater or a concert. There were many Friday nights when we would have Shabbat dinner and all of its ritual with two close friends of ours in the picnic area of the Hollywood Bowl, and then enjoy the evening there. One of our favorite Shabbat experiences was in a French restaurant in Edinburgh, Scotland, when the waiter, a Roman Catholic Scot, saw us lighting the candles, and in his thick burr asked if we minded his joining us in the Kiddush. He and other members of his family had lived in Israel, and he was fluent in Hebrew.
Our most meaningful High Holy Days were a few years ago, when we in a 26-foot RV in the wilds of Wyoming. We had our own private services, just the two of us. We blew Shofar, read Torah from a text, and instead of a sermon, the two of us shared our own thoughts on Judaism and our personal and familial values. If anyone is interested, I have written the story of that trip in detail. Moses went up on Sinai; we were in the Tetons.
I love being a Reform Jew because as a movement we are in favor of equal rights for women, we support a woman's individual reproductive choice, we support equality both social and legal, for our gay brothers and sisters (including officiating at commitment ceremonies for them), and we helped to create child labor laws and trade unionism, and we have opposed the
Viet Nam war, capital punishment, and the proliferation of guns in our society. We have marched arm in arm with Martin Luther King, and have supported Israel even when we have disagreed with its government's policies.
I am a Reform Jew because its intellectual voice calls me to be creative and imaginative in my practice, and its prophetic voice calls me to do battle for social justice.
Lighting candles Friday night (at the proper time) followed by kiddush on wine and hamotzi on bread are a good start. Going on-line and printing something about the Torah parsha read in the synagogue that week would enhance the time, as well. (Check out www.rabbifinman.com for parsha insights).
As any rabbi will verify, soccer is the leading cause of Shabbat conflict in Jewish life. The fact that most suburban cities have soccer leagues on Saturday morning makes it difficult to get the entire family to synagogue. Other leagues hold their games on Sunday mornings making it a challenge to get the kids to Sunday school at the synagogue.
So, what's a family to do?
My recommendation is that if your family is going to prioritize soccer during part of the year (choose one soccer season), then you should prioritize Shabbat and synagogue (that is: "Jewish Life") during the rest of the year. So, if your kids play soccer every Saturday in the Fall, make a commitment to get to synagogue every Saturday morning during the Winter and Spring. You can also commit to attending Shabbat services on Friday nights along with a nice Shabbat dinner at home or at a friend's home. Many synagogues (Orthodox and Conservative) also have Shabbat afternoon services that may include a Seudat Shlishit (the third festive meal of Shabbat). That experience may lead you to discover a new community of friends.
Also, remember that Shabbat doesn't only take place in the synagogue or temple. You can create a Shabbat experience anywhere. Before shlepping the kids to soccer have them chose a "rose" and a "thorn" -- something great and something not so great that occurred during the week. Ask them what their prayer is for Shabbat.
And don't forget to bless your children every Friday night (no matter where you may find yourself). Soccer doesn't have to be a curse to Judaism. It should be a blessing too. It teaches our young people the importance of exercise, team play, and competition. But soccer shouldn't take over your family's life to the extent that Judaism takes a backseat.
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THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN ANSWERS PROVIDED HEREIN ARE THOSE OF THE INDIVIDUAL JVO PANEL MEMBERS, AND DO NOT
NECESSARILY REFLECT OR REPRESENT THE VIEWS OF THE ORTHODOX, CONSERVATIVE OR REFORM MOVEMENTS, RESPECTIVELY.