4/5 June 2021, 24/25 Sivan 5781

I wonder if we are more or less religious than our Liberal ancestors. It used to be that very few tallitot or indeed kippot were worn in synagogue. Now maybe it is quite a few more. We certainly have more Hebrew now. But does that say anything about prayer itself and our attitudes to it. Have our beliefs and doubts changed through the generations?

This week’s portion Shelach Lecha mentions the tallit, prayer shawl or tallis depending on your preference.

The Eternal One said to Moses as follows: Speak to the Israelite people and instruct them to make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout the ages; let them attach a cord of blue to the fringe at each corner. That shall be your fringe: look at it and recall all the commandments of the Eternal and observe them…Numbers 15:37-39

The text goes on to say these tzitizit, the cords that are knotted on all four corners, are literally aides-memoire to stay true to God and the commandments that tie us to Godself. Some of us may say we don’t need or choose such outward dressing of our internal commitments. After all, as the feminist theologian Judith Plaskow notes, “why should the creator of the universe care whether we put a ‘tassel on the corner of our clothes in every generation’ and what possible difference can it make…?” (Mentioned by Rabbi Lisa Grushcow and quoted in Lawrence Hoffman, ed., My People’s Prayer Book, vol. 1 [Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 1997], p.115).

What possible difference does faith make to our decisions and choices as Jews?

I look forward to a conversation during this Shabbat morning about our attitudes to prayer, to doubt and to belief. I’ll be joined by our Life President Sheila King Lassman, who very much chose Liberal Judaism.

Where we find ourselves now is the theme of this week’s Shabbat service.

Shabbat Shalom to all,