Nov 8, 2010

A Reflection on Masorti/Conservative Halacha
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

A specific kind of conversation happens once in a while within (and beyond) the Masorti/Conservative Movement, usually between those who once championed "tradition and change" without facing the impact of an ongoing process of "traditioning" and those who found their ways "in" to the tradition-conversation because of recent changes. Some, but certainly not all, veterans of the Movement bemoan the "loss" of a dream, their dream, of a community that has the consistency of practice they believe exists within Orthodoxy.

Basically, this is my point: Halacha isn't one thing. Change is hard. Conservative shuls need to learn from Modern Orthodoxy's successes in embracing the power of "commandedness" as a positive and appealing part of a vibrant and thinking Jewish life.

I believe it is the historic movemental institutional rejection of commandedness that has disappointed those seeking the power of an integrated, practicing Jewish community. It is also the inspiration that has led to so many of our "best and brightest" creating those dream-worthy communities integrating commandedness and creativity. And the Masorti/Conservative movement hasn't ignored this historic mistake.

But the wistful "wish it were or had been different" in the name of Halacha misses the point entirely. Halacha is an opportunity that we take very seriously. The big difference, as I see it, is that for the Orthodox (and others) God is the Source of Halacha, whereas I believe our sublime path is one that sees God as halacha's Intent.

All this is to say that we are called in a critical moment to transform the language that has led us nowhere, and to celebrate all that we've always been but have been unable to communicate due to confusing language.

The Conservative/Masorti Movement is a proud non-fundamentalist path to God, which means that there will never be uniformity in our communities. That's a treasure we must polish, if it is to be nurtured and shared.
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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