What Conservative Jews Believe
Conservative Judaism: A Reflection
What makes Conservative Judaism unique? Temple Beth Am's Rabbi Emeritus Joel Rembaum offers an interpretation of the basic principles of our movement.
There is one God who touches our lives in a unique and personal way and is the ultimate creative force and fundamental moral principle of the universe.
All humans are created in God's image and therefore share in God's holiness and, like God, merit our love and respect. The world that God has created is established on a natural and moral order which we seek to understand and to which we attempt to conform
God and the Jewish People share in a bond of reciprocal love and commitment called a Brit (covenant).
We have been chosen by God for a distinct and sacred mission: to make the world more compassionate, more just and more aware of God's holiness and presence that express themselves in every facet of creation. Chosenness implies responsibility, not superiority, as we fulfill our role as a light unto the nations.
The Brit is expressed through Torah, an evolving body of law and tradition.
Torah includes the Bible, the great corpus of Talmudic works and law codes, the classical books of Jewish philosophy and mysticism and the interpretations of law and faith of the sages of our own time. It defines and gives meaning to our individual and collective relationship with God. Though rooted in the unfathomable intelligence of the Almighty, Torah has been placed in the hands of human beings who are responsible for its ongoing development and evolution.
Mitzvot, the commandments set forth in Torah, direct our lives along the path of holiness and goodness.
Existing within the framework of the Covenant, we are obligated to conduct our lives according to the laws and precepts of Judaism. Halakhah, the Hebrew term for Jewish law, means "walking," and refers to the road of meaningful living along which the Jew travels. The commandments, including Shabbat, Kashrut and the ethics of interpersonal relationships, fill all aspects of human experience with spiritual and mom1 significance.
Halakhah (Jewish law) is characterized by an ongoing process of evolution.
Never static, the Jewish legal tradition has developed within a variety of historical settings, each of which has left its imprint. In our own day Halakhah continues to evolve as rabbis interpret Jewish law in the light of ever-changing realities. In this way Judaism remains a bridge connecting the accumulated wisdom of the ages with the real life experiences of the present.
As Jews, we build our personal relationships with God through Torah, worship and acts of loving kindness.
By studying Torah and by allowing its teachings to shape our beliefs and our actions we become more aware of God's will and learn how to emulate God in the ways in which we conduct our lives. Through prayer and the rituals of Judaism we come to an awareness of God's presence in the world and draw nearer to it. Acts of loving kindness enable us to become God's partners in the process of Tikkun, fixing the world, and help us to recognize the image of God in other people.
Women and men are equal in the eyes of God.
Consequently, they both share equally in the responsibilities and privileges of Jewish living. Women and men participate equally in Jewish ritual and in the leadership of the synagogue, the Jewish community and the Jewish home. This principle of equality also governs the relations between women and men and directs the way in which children are raised and educated.
The Jewish home is a partner with the synagogue and the school in the transmission of Jewish learning and values.
The Jewish home provides the setting in which Judaism can be lived to the fullest. It is in the home that human relationships, holidays and life cycle events, moments of joy and of sorrow and people's achievements can be experienced within the context of our rich Jewish heritage. It is in the home that a Jewish identity is formed and nurtured in both children and adults.
The State of Israel and the Hebrew language are essential elements of Jewish peoplehood.
The rebirth of our national homeland as a modern, democratic and pluralistic state has generated hope and inspiration for Jews everywhere. Our sisters and brothers in Israel are our partners in ensuring that Judaism continues to be a catalyst for good in the world and in guaranteeing the continuity of the Jewish people. Hebrew, the language of Judaism, now reborn in Israel, serves as the key to unlocking the meaning of our ancient Jewish heritage and is a force for the unification of Jews around the world.