[Cross-post with Shefa, and related to an earlier Tisch-post: http://rabbicreditor.blogspot.com/2010/04/money-and-shabbat.html]
What a conversation! And, if people have been following (which i can't imagine, given the ferocity of the pace - we need to slow down and write less to be heard, i think), this began as a Shefa-conversation about decling numbers in suburban Boston Conservative shuls, morphed into a conversation about driving, morphed into a conversation about the legitimacy of the CJLS and the clarity of Conservative Jewish ideology, morphed into a call to re-examine the Driving Teshuvah, and has morphed into an analysis from some Orthodox Jews on Shefa of Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionism.
Here's what I'm learning from the conversation. Some people wish Conservative Judaism would have a 'pure' halachic approach, as defined by consistency and coherent notions of commandedness. Some believe that Conservative Judaism is where it is and needs to speak its integrity, including and from within all the decisions that have been made over its 'life' to be more compelling (commanding?) in the lives of those who affiliate and those who do not. I'm with the latter group.
I don't drive to shul on Shabbat. But, as Rabbi Kay said, I'm thrilled when the parking lot is full. Going to shul is not an aveira (transgression). Nor is calling a sick friend, visiting a hospital (with a car) on Shabbat. I don't do those things for a combination of reasons, one of which is the Shabbat community I am part of, want to strengthen, and truly delight in. But I invite to my Shabbat table people who drive, and that isn't a reduction of Shabbat for me, for them, and for Judaism. Ipcha Mistabra - just the opposite!
I see the conversation as analogous to the Mitnaged walking with the Chasid. They pass by a wagon-driver fixing a wheel on his coach, and they overhear him saying the Shema. The Mitnaged looks to Heaven, and says "Ribbono Shel Olam, nebuch! Your children don't wash their hands when they say the Shema!" The Chasid looks to the Heavens and says, "Ribbono Shel Olam - how luck You are. Even when your children need to have their hands dirty, the remember You and sing with You."
I'm a Chasid. My heart says we need more Conservative Jewish Chasidim.