Thursday, September 06, 2012

There's no vacation from observance . . .

. . . which is why I've concluded that I'll probably never be an observant Jew, even by non-Orthodox standards.

No, I wasn't willing to leave Vieux Montreal, Old Montreal, the oldest section of the city, which I was thoroughly enjoying walking around, and travel halfway across the city to eat in a kosher restaurant, though the Conservative rabbinate does not condone the frequently-observed custom of eating dairy and (finned-and-scaled) fish in non-kosher restaurants.

No, I wasn't willing to get up at the same time during our recent vacation that I wake up every workday in order to davven Shacharit (pray the Morning Service) before leaving the hotel.

No, I wasn't willing to avoid entering a church and give up the opportunity to enjoy the gorgeous architecture.  (Whatever else, pro and con, can be said about our Christian neighborhoods, they sure know how to build beautiful houses of worship.  On the other hand, I've prayed in gorgeous synagogues and have found the stunning architecture a distraction--for me personally, cathedral-style architecture is incompatable with kavvanah/focus.)

And given the choice between a hotel in a noisy commercial neighborhood that was within walking distance of a synagogue and a hotel in a more pleasant neighborhood that was about a mile and a half from the nearest synagogue, we chose the more pleasant Toronto location and drove to shul on Shabbos.  (I concluded some time ago that I would never be observant enough to be willing to forego praying with a minyan in order to avoid violating the halachic [Jewish religious law] prohibition against traveling on Shabbat/ Sabbath] and major holidays.  Even though it's been years since I was a member of a Reconstructionist synagogue, one of Recontructionist Judaism founder Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan's teachings, namely, that the Jewish People is at the heart of the Jewish Religious Civilization, continues to influence my haskafah/religious perspective and my manner of observance to such a point that I think I would find it impossible to sustain my Jewish practice for the long term if isolated from a Jewish community.  Theory aside, there's also the practical fact that I was raised in what I think is probably a fairly typical synagogue-oriented Conservative home--my parents, aside from lighting candles, making kiddush, and saying motzi every Erev Shabbat and Yom Tov [Sabbath and Major Holiday Eve] and frequently leading Sedarim in our home, never prayed except in shul.  The consequence of my childhood experience and adult background is that I'd rather take a taxi to synagogue than davven bi-y'chidut [pray by myself] on Shabbos and Yom Tov.)

Sigh.  For all my protestations about wishing that I could be part of a more observant community, I'm not doing so well with my own observance.  Part of my t'shuvah (repentance) for the upcoming Yamim Noraim (High Holidays) will be to work seriously on becoming less judgmental.


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