Monday, April 09, 2007

Counting the Omer Day 6

Today is Yesod she b'Chesed - a day of foundation in a week of loving kindness.

For most of the past seven years, I have felt comfortable in Conservative Judaism, feeling that it offered me a firm foundation for my Jewish practice. During this past year and continuing through today I have found myself more and more frequently questioning the role that Conservative Judaism plays in my spiritual practice. I have written about this before, in this post and this one.

In the former post, I defined religion as "a set of beliefs accompanied by the practice of rituals that are supported with a community." That is fine in a general way, but gets difficult when dealing in the nuts and bolts of the belief system and the practice, as well as what can be supported in a community.

Judaism is the perfect example of this. From the same set of beliefs and practices, we now have four different defined denominations--Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, with two other less defined but viable community groupings--Renewal and Independent. I think the reality is that each one of us is our own denomination and we just find the community where we are similar enough to practice together.

And that's the point that I'm coming to in my own practice. I want to support and have the support of a community. I think coming together in prayer is a powerful experience. But I am beginning to understand what people are saying when they tell me that they don't believe in organized religion. There is a feeling of judgment, of right and wrong ways to practice that are separate from accepting a specific set of beliefs. I think there is a range of interpretation in ritual that needs to be respectfully acknowledged. I think that as one delves into the texts that are the basis of the beliefs, a interpretations will change, usually deepen. But we need to create a place that is open to acceptance of those interpretations and not judge them harshly.

We need to look at the foundation of our beliefs in the light of loving kindness. If we can do that, many more people will feel welcome.

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