Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Reform Jews are considering Shabbat because they need Shabbat" - Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the URJ

The following is an excerpt from the sermon -

Sermon by Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie at the San Diego Biennial , December 15, 2007

Why is this happening?
Because we now understand that Shabbat was always central to Reform Judaism. Isaac Mayer Wise was a firm proponent of a traditional Shabbat. And for Classical Reform Jews, Shabbat was a serious matter. True, they significantly reduced both the duties and the prohibitions of the day, but what remained was observed with scrupulous dedication.
Also, other approaches to enhancing Jewish life have failed. Communal leaders outside of the synagogue love to talk the language of corporate strategy. They engage in endless debates on the latest demographic study. They plan elaborate conferences and demand new ideas. But sometimes we don’t need new ideas; we need old ideas. We need less corporate planning and more text and tradition; less strategic thinking and more mitzvot; less demographic data and more Shabbat. Because we know, in our hearts, that in the absence of Shabbat, Judaism withers.
But most important of all, Reform Jews are considering Shabbat because they need Shabbat. In our 24/7 culture, the boundary between work time and leisure time has been swept away, and the results are devastating. Do we really want to live in a world where we make love in half the time and cook every meal in the microwave? When work expands to fill all our evenings and weekends, everything suffers, including our health. But families take the worst hit. The average parent spends twice as long dealing with email as playing with his children.
For our stressed-out, sleep-deprived families, the Torah’s mandate to rest looks relevant and sensible. Our tradition does not instruct us to stop working altogether on Shabbat; after all, it takes a certain amount of effort to study, pray and go to synagogue. But we are asked to abstain from the work that we do to earn a living, and instead to reflect, to enjoy and to take a stroll through the neighborhood. We are asked to put aside those Blackberries and stop gathering information, just as the ancient Israelites stopped gathering wood. We are asked to stop running around long enough to see what God is doing.
And this most of all: In synagogue and at home, we are asked to give our kids, our spouse and our friends the undivided attention that they did not get from us the rest of the week. On Shabbat we speak to our children of their hopes and dreams. We show them that we value them for who they are and not for the grades they get or the prizes they win. During the week we pursue our goals; on Shabbat we learn simply to be.

No comments:

Post a Comment