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Thoughts for Shabbat: When it comes to religion, there is no easy way

Here’s a nice response to the overly-simplistic notion that more liberal denominations are the “easy way out.” Some version of the questions offered by the Orthodox believer could easily be the words of a more strict Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.:

Sometimes people misunderstand and take Reform Judaism to be the “easy way out.” Nothing about Reform Judaism is for the lazy. A few years ago I was talking with a young man, seventeen years old, who grew up in Orthodoxy. We had just concluded services, his first interaction with Reform Judaism beyond whatever rumors he had heard within his own community. He was trying to understand the Reform approach to Judaism, and it was very difficult for him to grasp.

“What do you mean you believe God didn’t write the Torah? If that’s the case, why follow it at all? How can it possibly be holy?” I tried to explain. “But if that’s the case, what happened at Mount Sinai?” I tried to explain. “If God didn’t give the Torah at Mount Sinai, and if God didn’t write the Torah in the first place, what about the Creation?” I tried to explain. “I don’t understand this ‘metaphor’ concept, how can that be? Science is the absence of religion; they can’t possibly be understood together.” I tried to explain. “This is too hard, you only make it harder for yourselves, it’s so much easier to believe that God wrote the Torah and that we have to abide by its laws and the laws God gave in the Oral Torah [the Talmuds] too.” Aha!

– Rabbi Ben Zeidman, “The Power and Pitfalls of Personal Religious Autonomy,” in A Life of Meaning: Embracing Reform Judaism’s Sacred Path, ed. Rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan, 189