Monday, July 16, 2012

Conservative or Orthodox?

Hi all...

On behalf of my colleagues, I apologize for what appears to be a major gap in the way we rabbanim have attempted to educate.

When I got to Cuba, I met a nice couple connected to the Jewish community. They asked about some details of my observance. It came out that, wonder of wonders, I do not drive on Shabbat. Their immediate reaction was that I must be Orthodox.

I am not. Just ask my wife, the senior rabbi in the household.

Anyway, whether or not I am Orthodox or Conservative is entirely a separate question from whether or not I drive on Shabbat. Three stories come to mind.

1. There is a congregation in Baltimore that sells its parking lot every week.
2. I remember driving past on of the local Orthodox synagogues in Toronto right after Yom Kippur. Their services were letting out. Lo and behold, people were walking to their cars.
3. In my neighbourhood, I saw a woman with the requisite number of children leaving one of the Orthodox synagogues in the area. She walked across Bathurst St, into the parking lot by Hartman's, piled the kids into the minivan, and drove off.

So some Orthodox people drive. Some Conservative people do not.

And now it is time for your lesson in Halakhah. Jewish Law is obligatory. Lesson concluded.

What this means is that from the outset, you should keep kosher. You should avoid driving on Shabbat. If you live too far from the nearest shul, there is a teshuvah, not my favourite, that says you can drive only for the purposes of going to shul, and only to the nearest shul. It is not a blanket permission slip to drive from Hamilton to Toronto for a bar mitzvah. It is most certainly not a permission slip to stop at your favourite coffee shop to get a cup on the way in.

I realize that many will read this, and process it in the mental circular file. That is okay, I suppose. Still, you should all know where I stand. Everyone should know the details of processing material in the circular file.

While I differ with many of my rabbinic colleagues in all movements, the Orthodox do not hold the monopoly on Jewish observance.

By the way, I challenge anyone to walk on Shabbat for a month. I promise you will never drive again.

Have a good evening all.


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