Reconstructionism

Tony Reese

On Friday 9th August 2002, we had the pleasure of a visit by Rabbi Shoshana Hantman.

Pillar

Shoshana described herself as a classical Reconstructionist and led an exciting and vibrant service, with a number of additional insights some of which I have added below. She described Recronstructionism as an American response to the Jews who arrived there at the beginning of the 20th century, and who wished to affirm their Jewish identity and religion, but found the idea of a personal God who intervenes in history and nature impossible. The religious identity which grew into Reconstructionism was developed by Mordecai Kaplan and has inspired many people and communities across America and in Canada. There are one or two communities in England. Much more information is available at the Reconstructionism website www.jrf.org

Shoshana gave us two insights as introductions to Shalom Aleychem and to the Amidah and very kindly left us copies - these are reproduced here, with acknowledgements to the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation.


Angels are another name for feelings.
When we love and act with kindness
we create angels of love and kindness;
when we hate and act with violence
we create angels of hatred and violence
It is our job to fill our world with messengers of kindness
that link people together as one family.
R.M.S.

COMMENTARY. Shalom Aleyhem is the best-known and most beloved of all the Sabbath hymns - Its simple words are a greeting to the angels of peace who come to dwell with us on Shabbat. The Hebrew word malah actually means "messenger" and is used in the Bible for both heavenly and earthly emissaries. All of us on Shabbat can become malahey shalom or messengers of peace to one another as we share our inner quiet and joy in this day. We sing this welcome to introduce the Shabbat meal, a time of festive rejoicing in the fullness of rest and in our sharing with one another. A.G.

The psalmist speaks of the forty years In the wilderness, saying that the generation who came out of Egypt were not able "to enter God's place of rest, the Holy Land promised at the end of Israel's wanderings". But here in Kabbalat Shabbat "rest" has taken on a new meaning; it is in time rather than in place that rest is to be found. Shabbat has herself become a Holy Land, a time of rest in which we are called upon to cease our wandering. A.G.

KAVANAH. Public worship aids us by liberating personality from the confining walls of the individual ego. Imprisoned in self, we easily fall prey to morbid broodings. Interference with career, personal disappointment and disillusionment, hurts to vanity, the fear of death - all these tend so to dominate our attention that our minds move in a fixed and narrow system of ideas, which we detest but from which we see no escape. With a whole wide world of boundless opportunities about us, we permit our minds, as it were, to pace up and down within the narrow cell of their ego-prisons. But participation in public worship breaks through the prison of the ego and lets in the light and air of the world. Instead of living but one small and petty life, we now share the multitudinous life of our people. Against the wider horizons that now open to our ken, personal cares do not loom so large. Life becomes infinitely more meaningful and worthwhile when we become aware, through our participation in public worship, of a common life that transcends our individual selves. M.M.K.(ADAPTED)


Dear God,
Open the blocked passageways to you,
The congealed places.

Roll away the heavy stone from the well as your servant
    Jacob did when he beheld his beloved Rachel

Help us open the doors of trust that have been jammed with hurt and rejection.

As you open the blossoms in spring,
Even as you open the heavens in storm,
open us - to feel your great, awesome, wonderful presence.

Sheila Peltz Weinberg