On My Mind: Arnie Eisen

Archive for July, 2011

Meaningful Tefillah in the Synagogue

/ 24 Tammuz 5771

Chancellor Arnold Eisen

Tefillah does not come easily to most contemporary Jews. Standing before God, sensing God’s presence, speaking to God, and “hearing” God speak in return: these may be the most difficult acts that our tradition asks Jewish adults of this generation to perform. I know the difficulty involved—and can attest to the reward. The blessing conferred by the effort is beyond measure.
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Responding to Mitzvah Posts

/ 17 Tammuz, 5771

Chancellor Arnold Eisen

The vigorous and rich exchange of posts about mitzvah attests to the continuing vitality of Conservative debate on the matter. That debate is as old as the Movement, and in some sense still defines Conservative Judaism. The contributors agree, I think, that Jews are commanded in some way by the mitzvot. They accept that we do not all need to agree on the nature of that obligation or the meaning of the commandments. They all wish that more Conservative Jews performed more mitzvot with greater regularity. They recognize that Conservative Jews disagree profoundly on the source of obligation for our commandedness. It’s clear that this disagreement will not end anytime soon. I personally do not want it to end, though I wish our communities were more observant than we are. In addition to enriching our lives, added engagement with the range of mitzvot would allow Conservative Jews to worry less about differences in why we do what we do. Let me add a few more words in response to the respondents that I hope will push the conversation further.
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Mitzvah, Continued

/ 10 Tamuz, 5771

Chancellor Arnold Eisen

In last week’s post I laid out a Conservative approach to mitzvah that accords with a Hasidic midrash on the word that Abraham Heschel liked to cite: a mitzvah is an act done be’tsavta (together), with God and fellow Jews. It joins the best of what we know to our best understanding of what God wants. Mitzvah partakes of autonomy and obligation, freedom and responsibility, the interpretations of previous generations and the innovations contributed by our own generation. This partnership, Conservative Judaism holds, is essential to extending the way of Torah into the future.
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