While my freshman peers donned dresses and blazers to hear President Salovey speak, I wrapped myself in a prayer shawl and listened to the words of the Torah chanted aloud. As a traditionally observant Jew, I observe Shabbat, the sabbath, from dusk on Friday to nightfall on Saturday each week. My Freshman Assembly conflicted with Shabbat morning prayers.
Shabbat for many Jews is a time of rest and reflection, but for Jews like me who consider themselves bound to halakha, the formal system of Jewish law, Shabbat also means a specific set of restrictions. Today, it is largely uncomplicated to observe Shabbat at Yale. My suitemates are accommodating of my practice of not flipping light switches and my unresponsiveness to texts on Friday nights and Saturdays. And because swiping an electronic key card falls into the category of forbidden labor, Yale provides me, like they do for any interested student, a manual key that opens one of the gates in their residential college, or, for freshmen, a manual key to Old Campus.
To receive the key, all I had to do was fill out a form. Marc Fanelli, who works at the Yale University Lock Shop, estimates that there are 23 students this year who were given Shabbat keys. The ease with which I acquired this key, however, is not something I take for granted.
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- Gates of Shabbat: A Guide for Observing Shabbat a Guide for Observing Shabbat by Mark Dov Shapiro.
D uring the —95 school year, Yale announced a plan to put electric locks on all campus buildings. The plan was formed in response to a wave of crime in the area, in an attempt to reassure parents that it was safe to send their children to school in New Haven. It caused a bit of a panic — Yale was among the first universities to introduce electronic lock systems, and there was no model for how to accommodate observant Jewish students. We tried to make the case … that we needed to have physical keys, and the administration was pretty adamant that it would compromise security and so they were not really open to the idea.
My dad and another student were then invited to present their argument to the Council of Masters. After the masters took an interest in the issue, they worked with the administration to quickly resolve it. When key cards were introduced, Shabbat-observant students were provided with manual keys. T oday, not only does Yale accommodate students who observe Shabbat, but many traditionally observant students also choose to come to Yale specifically because of the quality of the Shabbat-observant community here.
The laws reflect their times, but contain many timeless truths. The Reform movement stresses retention of the key principles of Judaism. As for practice, it strongly recommends individual study of the traditional practices; however, the adherent is free to follow only those practices that increase the sanctity of their relationship to God.
Reform Judaism also stresses equality between the sexes. Reform Judaism shares the universal Jewish emphasis on learning, duty and obligation, rather than creed as the primary expression of a religious life. Reform stresses that ethical responsibilities, personal and social, are enjoined by God. Reform also believes that our ethical obligations are but a beginning; they extend to many other aspects of Jewish living, including creating a Jewish home centered on family devotion; lifelong study; private prayer and public worship; daily religious observance; keeping the Sabbath and the holy days; celebrating the major events of life; involvement with the synagogue and community and other activities that promote the survival of the Jewish people and enhance its existence.
Within each aspect of observance, Reform Judaism demands that Jews confront the claims of Jewish tradition, however differently perceived, and exercise their individual autonomy — based, as the Shema says, upon reason, heart and strength — choosing and creating their holiness as people and as community. The requirement for commitment and knowledge is repeatedly emphasized. A Reform Jew who determines their practice based on convenience alone is not acting in accordance with the recommended position of Reform Judaism.
Reform also rejects the faith tenets of other religions as a matter of first principles. Reform Judaism was born at the time of the French Revolution, a time when European Jews were for the first time , recognized as citizens of the countries in which they lived. Ghettos were being abolished, special badges were no more, people could settle where they pleased, dress as they liked and follow the occupations that they wanted.
Many Jews settled outside of Jewish districts and began to live like their neighbors and speak the language of the land. They went to public schools and universities, and began to neglect Jewish studies and to disregard the Shulchan Aruch. In , after Napoleon's defeat, Jews lost the rights of citizenship in many countries. Many Jews became Christians to retain those rights. Many thoughtful Jews were concerned about this.
They realized that many of these changes took place not because of a dislike of Judaism , but to obtain better treatment. Many rabbis believed that the way to address this was to force Jews to keep away from Christians and give up public schools and universities. This didn't work. Leopold Zunz proposed something else. He suggested that Jews study their history and learn of the great achievements of the past. While Zunz was implementing his ideas, a movement began to make religious services better understood, by incorporating music and the local language.
However, these changes led to battles with the local rabbis , who urged the government to close the test synagogue. Shortly after the closing, Rabbi Abraham Geiger suggested that observance might also be changed to appeal to modern people. Geiger, a skilled scholar in both Tanach and German studies, investigated Jewish history and discovered that Jewish life had continually changed.
Every now and then, old practices were changed and new ones introduced, resulting in a Jewish life that was quite different from that lived 4, or even 2, years before. He noticed that these changes often made it easier for Jews to live in accordance with Judaism. Geiger concluded that this process of change needed to continue to make Judaism attractive to all Jews. He met with other Rabbis in Germany, and changes were made. American Reform Judaism began as these German "reformers" immigrated to America in the mids. Reform rapidly became the dominant belief system of American Jews of the time.
It was a national phenomenon. Reform Judaism in America benefitted from the lack of a central religious authority. It also was molded by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise. Rabbi Wise came to the U. He then proceeded to:. Many rituals and customs were dropped, some congregations held "Shabbat" on Sunday. This early radicalism was mentioned in the Pittsburgh Platform.
This was the time of the major Eastern European immigration, which was heavily Orthodox and non-German, as contrasted with the strongly German Reform movement. Many Reform congregations of this time were difficult to distinguish from neighboring Protestant churches, with preachers in robes, pews with mixed seating, choirs, organs and hymnals.
Although early Reform dropped quite a bit of traditional prayers and rituals, there was still a "bottom line. And, although decried as "archaic" and "barbarian," the practice of circumcision remained a central rite. By , Reform had started to return to a more traditional approach to Judaism — distinctly Jewish and distinctly American, but also distinctively non-Christian. Early Reform Judaism was also Anti-Zionist , believing the Diaspora was necessary for Jews to be a "light unto the nations.
Following the Balfour Declaration , the Reform movement began to support Jewish settlements in Palestine, as well as institutions such as Hadassah Hospital and the Hebrew University. In , the Columbus Platform affirmed "the obligation of all Jewry to aid in building a Jewish homeland Although Reform does not have a mandated laundry list of "fundamental principles," concepts and principles that characterize much of the Reform movement include:.
The Columbus Platform of Reform Jewry expressed the position that the Torah results from the relationship between God and the Jewish people. The records of our earliest confrontations are uniquely important to us. Lawgivers and prophets, historians and poets gave us a heritage whose study is a religious imperative and whose practice is our chief means to holiness.
Rabbis and teachers, philosophers and mystics, gifted Jews in every age amplified the Torah tradition. For millennia, the creation of the Torah has not ceased and Jewish creativity in our time is adding to the chain of tradition. The platform went on to say that God is revealed not only in the majesty, beauty and orderliness of nature, but also in the vision and moral striving of the human spirit. Revelation is a continuous process, confined to no one group and to no one age. Yet, the people of Israel, through its prophets and sages, achieved unique insight in the realm of religious truth.
The Torah, both written and oral, enshrines Israel's ever-growing consciousness of God and of the moral law.
Millennials brave Shabbat minus tech - Washington Jewish Week
It preserves the historical precedents, sanctions and norms of Jewish life, and seeks to mold it in the patterns of goodness and of holiness. Being products of historical processes, certain of its laws have lost their binding force with the passing of the conditions that called them forth. But as a repository of permanent spiritual ideals, the Torah remains the dynamic source of life of Israel. Each age has the obligation to adapt the teachings of the Torah to its basic needs in consonance with the genius of Judaism.
Millennials brave Shabbat minus tech
Reform Judaism views the rabbinic past as a historical development. The " Oral Law " is not seen as divinely given at Sinai, but rather as a reflection of Judaism's historic development and encounter with God in each succeeding generation. Reform believes that each generation has produced capable and religiously inspired teachers this means that Reform rejects the often expressed view that assigns greater holiness to those who lived in the past.
Some individuals of our generation may equal or exceed those of the past. Historical and sociological studies of the rabbinic literature during the last two centuries have illuminated it. Reform Judaism views this vast literature as the product of the human reaction to varying needs motivated by religious thought and the divine impulse. Reform Judaism feels no necessity to justify each segment of the literature in terms of every other portion as done through hidushim and pilpul.
Reform sees the differences among Talmudic and later authorities as reflections of particular points of view, different understandings of the divine mandate, as well as the needs of specific groups within their Jewish communities. When Reform Judaism analyzes each period of history, it discovers different strands in the halachah. These appear both in the decisions and underlying philosophy. Traditional Judaism has chosen a single path and rejected the others, but we recall the existence of the other paths and the fact that they were suggested and followed by loyal Jews in the past.
Reform Judaism feels that diversity has always been the hallmark of our literature and our people. Thus, when Reform finds itself facing new situations, it turns both to the mainstream of rabbinic thought as well as its divergent paths for halakhic guidance. In Reform's view, the halachah is a vast repository whose old debates are often relevant to new situations. Sometimes the solutions of Reform Judaism may parallel those of past generations. On other occasions, Reform diverges from them.