Thursday, June 16, 2011

[Shefa] Re: A LinkedIn Conversation Sparked by Chancellor Eisen's CJ Blog


Hi all,

I've recently joined this Shefa group, and I've found the conversation fascinating, and I've finally decided to post on this question of conservative halacha.

As I've gotten more involved in my Judaism in college, and rebelled against the haredi halacha and Judaism put forth by the campus kiruv rabbis, I've been slowly attempting to gain an exact understanding of what Conservative Judaism is and what it really stands for.  As I've explored, I've slowly learned that the beauty of Conservative Judaism really presents itself in that there is no set way to be a Conservative Jew.  I've seen so many fellow students be kiruv-ed, proudly proclaiming their status as a "ba'al teshuva" and immediately begin to judge and criticize their fellow Jews for not following the halacha "correctly."  From what I've begun to understand about Conservative Judaism though, there are community standards that people follow because they're established by the community, but within their own lives and their own homes they do what feels right.  From what I've seen, for Conservative Judaism, if you're informed, knowledgeable, and cognizant of what you are doing, then that is the correct halachic path for you, even if it does go against the community standards.  Sure it poses a problem at points, but it's also beautiful in many more respects.

For example, recently, one Saturday morning my shul in suburban Maryland needed a minyan.  So, two of the congregants walked outside, rather far away from the shul, to call a fellow congregant to come and make the minyan.  Would they have normally cared about making a phone call on Shabbat, or for that matter, using a computer, turning on lights, shopping?  Not at all.  But from what it seems in the Conservative movement, community standards reign supreme while in the community setting, while you are free to follow your own personal standards outside of that setting.

And here's a somewhat unrelated halachic question, especially in regards to Conservative halacha.  I'd be interested to see some different responses.  On Shabbat morning, the synagogue main sanctuary has a broken air conditioner and it's hot as anything.  Probably around 85 or 90 degrees inside.  The service could easily be moved to the hebrew school wing, where the air conditioner is working, but it's not yet turned on.   It would be way more comfortable, with much more kevanah, and an entirely better service overall in the air conditioned Hebrew School. None of the participants in the service are at all shomer shabbat, yet in the shul itself, it's encouraged for everyone to be shomer shabbat, with no lights turned on or off and no microphones adjusted. The question:  Turn on the air conditioner or not?

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