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With purpose

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

One of the **buzz words** in the religious community is “relevant.” And a lot of money is being spent on discovering new ways to make Judaism, in particular, relevant to Gen X and the Millennials.

But here is the problem: what happens when Judaism (or certain aspects of it) simply aren’t deemed relevant? And who decides what is and what is not relevant.

By nature, it seems, we humans take the path of least resistance. Being Jewish? Well, it’s often the other path. The one requiring discipline. Disappointment, sometimes. Confusion. And irrelevance.

That’s right. I mean seriously…what relevance is there in observing shatnes? Certainly a case can be made that taking care not to mix linen and wool in a single garment might make one more aware of the clothing on one’s back. Or that in Biblical times, only pagens wore mixed fabrics. Or….or….or. Let’s face it — we don’t know why God commanded this. All we know is that He did.

So which is better? To infuse the mitzvah with some contemporary meaning in order to make it relevant? To disregard it as an orientalism? To observe it simply because it was commanded some strange night in the desert?

Leah Jones, of Accidentally Jewish,writes of “intentional Judaism” and that sits better with me. It completely sidesteps the issue of relevancy and focuses, instead, on intent. Do what it is you are going to do with intent. Be deliberate. Be serious.

Just. Be.


And that’s my Torah for today. The Ima is only just back from the Homeland a few hours so her Tuesday Torah banner didn’t get up today but feel free to link with her here.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuesday, 25 March 2008 8:13 pm

    Wow! So pleased that you could turn my phrase into a torah lesson!

    I can’t wait to see how else you weave intentional Judaism into things. 🙂

  2. Jami permalink
    Tuesday, 25 March 2008 8:23 pm

    You really made me think with this one. Perhaps because I don’t know where I fit with my level of (non-)observance right now, and perhaps because I am contemplating how to incorporate Judaism into our lives in a way that feels right and provides the foundation I want for my kids.

    While I can see the possible detriment to “picking and choosing” what is relevant, I also think it’s critical that our institutions are taking a leading role in rethinking how to bring Jews back to a formal Jewish community. With the high rate of intermarriage, and so many who were raised Jewish and haven’t become affiliated as adults, I think finding a way for those folks to connect with an organized Jewish community in a way that they feel is relevant (call it “comfortable” or “meaningful” or some other word I can’t quite pin down) is hugely important. Also, isn’t the basic nature of Reform Judaism to be true to the spiritual, humanistic elements of the religion rather than a strict adherence to the orthodoxy?

  3. Tuesday, 25 March 2008 8:28 pm

    It’s interesting watching different groups grapple with ways to appeal to the latest generations, sometimes it just makes me feel old, but then perhaps I am getting that way.
    PS. For some reason I can’t link to Leah’s blog.

  4. Wednesday, 26 March 2008 8:28 am

    i remember hearing someone say at the biennial that Judaism and Torah is *always* relevant. What we need to work on is how our teaching of it demonstrates that relevance. Meaning, I believe, that it’s up to us, you and me…the teachers of Torah…to help make it so…I think that it’s not just about “finding the contemporary meaning” as much as it is desmontrstaing how we as modern people still need the “magic” of “because we were told to do it…” — maybe not for everyting, but for sometimes…

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