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Anti-Reform Reformers?

I'm really struggling with this one.

During a recent public (and mixed, meaning there were people there who are not Jewish professionals, or better yet, professional Jews) discussion on the relationship between Judaism and nature, a professional Jew who is affiliated with the Reform movement commented on witnessing Reform Rabbinic students at the top of Mt. Sinai during a sunrise tefillah. Many of the students wore tefillin, all wore tallitot/kippot, and all were facing east. Except that *Jerusalem* was to the *north,* yet they were facing *east.*

I heard much derision in the commentator's voice: the voice/words implied they were worshipping the sun and not praying to God, they were obviously ignorant of the fact that Jerusalem was to the north, they were obviously ignoramuses ... leading the audience to infer that the Reform movement is being led by a bunch of ignorant, uneducated morons.

Here are the questions I'm struggling with.

1. Why were these Reform rabbinic students facing *east* and not north? Were they - as was implied by this person - facing the rising sun b/c it was a glorious sunrise and they wanted to watch? Were they ignorant of the reality that Jerusalem (the direction we Jews are supposed to face during tefillah) was towards the *north,* not the east? Did they know and not care - and if so, why not?

2. Why would a Reform professional publicly deride Reform rabbinic students?

3. If derision was not intended, then why tell the story, emphasizing the *Reform* nature of the students?

4. Does it matter, should it matter, should we *care* when our Reform colleagues appear to be making basic Judaism 101 errors (i.e., facing east and not towards Jerusalem during tefillah)? Do these things make Reform Jews look foolish? Or just the Reform professionals who are doing them?

5. Why do some Reform clergy/professionals remain within the Reform movement if they believe - or give the appearance that they believe - that the Reform movement is made up of a bunch of ignoramuses who are simply looking for "Jew lite" or "feel-good Judaism"? Why not move "el al," onward and upward to something more on their own level of observance and (supposed) knowledge?

I think #'s 2, 3 and 4 are the bigger issues. And I struggle with these things.


BZ said…
In any case, Jerusalem is northeast of Sinai. More north than east, yes, but unlike Muslims, Jews have never been all that particular about getting the direction of prayer exactly precise (one of the few things that Jews are *less* obsessive about than other religions).

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