Halakhah – The Way

Judaism properly understood is a path of love, not of law.

Judaism’s core resides with the vision that the eternal covenant established at Sinai ordained a unique religious purpose for the Jewish people. Yet Judaism’s message is universal, aiming at the unity and perfection of humanity through the sacred partnership between God and human beings.

Open Table Judaism, in particular, calls for a deemphasis on religious purity and legalism and focuses instead on self-improvement, the opening of heart, serving others, and working toward a society of peace and justice.

In Reform approach, we selectively engage those ceremonies and practices that elevate our lives. No spiritual practice fulfills its meaning unless it make us a better, more loving person.

Standing firmly in an authentic tradition, we respond to a world in need of hope by raising our moral sights instead of accepting ethical chaos. Open Table Judaism urges us to do what is just and right, based on our ancient teachings interpreted through our modern insights. 

A Personal Spirituality

Each individual must decide for himself or herself what constitutes a meaningful spiritual path – no one can force meaning onto another person. Part of our task in life is to wrestle with profound questions and formulate answers that satisfy us. Therefore, there is a legitimate and indispensable aspect of subjectivity and individuality to any theology and spiritual path. For Jewish spirituality to be mature, it must be fully integrated into subjectivity.

Judaism recognizes and affirms that every person must reach their own conclusions concerning the nature of deity, moral truth, and meaning. As such, there is ample room within Judaism for diversity of thought, variance in practice, and personal expression.

What unites Jews is a commitment to rationality, genuine exploration, tolerance, mutual respect, and above all, love. What we share are the insights of interconnectedness, human dignity, and a deep awe for nature as our spiritual touchstone.

This is what it means to be a Jew: to steep yourself in the stories of Jews, to treat all beings fairly, to question everything, and to write down and share the wisdom, challenges, questions, and doubts you discover while doing all of this.

Common Practices

Humans experience the capacity of being called/commanded by something beyond ourselves, something that both speaks to our nature and is yet embedded there. In moments of quiet honesty, we find ourselves with a given orientation – and that orientation offers itself up as an approach to God. We understand this command of our own nature as the foundation of mitzvoth.

Mindfulness (Zehirut) – cultivating an awareness of presence, a focus on the present moment and living it to the fullest. In practicing mindfulness, we may find we also cultivate awe. 

Prayer (TeFillah) – we find value in expressing our highest intentions in sacred language, in silence, and focusing on them in private and communal situations. Prayer is the language of the heart sanctified. There is power in focused human intention, even if that power is simply inner transformation.

Sabbath (Shabbat) – we honor and observe the Sabbath. We understand the value of rest and renewal. We grasp the importance of slowing down and spending time with loved ones. We value the sacred rhythm that Shabbat brings to our lives.

Loving Kindness (Hesed)- the ancient rabbis taught that the perfect sacrifice were acts of loving kindness. We understand that our Covenant commitment to the Source of Goodness and Life is most profoundly expressed in acts of love and kindness. We strive to perfect our lives through engaging the power of kenotic love.

Turning (Teshuvah) – self-examination and reflection on our lives is vital if we desire to grow in kindness and holiness. Much of our spirituality is an exercise in orientation – our task is to continually turn back to the Source and the path of life.

Restoration (Tikkun) – Jews are called to heal the world. Our fundamental attitude should be one of restoring the world to the divine vision of wholeness, interconnectedness, and harmony – establishing right relationships between people and between people and nature.

Peace (Shalom) -striving toward wholeness broadly understood – a thriving of of the entire person – body and soul.

Justice (Tzedakah) – maintaining proper relationships by giving to others their due and respecting fundamental human rights.

Sustainability (Mekayem) -comprehensive efforts to live lightly on the earth, protecting the environment and conserving natural resources.

Simplicity (Histapkut b’me’ut) – to focus on what is truly important and not allow lesser concerns from detracting from life’s primary values and goods. Simplicity is recognizing what is vital and what is extraneous.

Celebration & Cycles (Simcha) the central myths, values, and teachings of Judaism are reinforced through the celebration of the Jewish Wheel of the Year. Following the rhythm of the Jewish holidays through the seasons offers a way of attuning to both the mythic narrative and the cycles and rhythms of the natural world, thereby helping us recognize the interconnectedness of reality and our place in the world.