A short PS to the Wondering about Wolpe blog post: In the course of the Shabbat discussion (and my Derasha earlier that morning) I proposed that the observant Jewish community begin listening more to what our fellow Jews - either unaffiliated or associated with liberal Jewish communities -are saying.  Perhaps if we did so, we could meaningfully impact on a future Pew Forum survey. One EB member asked if I had made a point of entering into a dialogue with my Reform and Conservative colleagues in the rabbinate.  I answered that although I have had some contact with some of the individuals in question, my strong leaning is to follow the approach of joining these colleagues only when it comes to matters of common communal interests, be they charitable, Israel-directed, and the like. I choose not to engage in "interdenominational dialogue" because I do not view myself as a representative of a denomination of Judaism.  In fact, I noted that one of the great strengths of Sephardic Jewry throughout the world is that it never succumbed to the concept of three (or more!) denominations of Jews. We were all at Mt. Sinai, receiving the Torah as one people. The fact that in practice, we hold at different points along the continuum of observance and belief, is no reason to institutionalize those differences. A Jewish community that does so encourages fragmentation and dissolution. In contrast, a classical, Torah-based Sephardic congregation such as EB is uniquely positioned to cultivate the authentic sense of what it means to be part of a nation.

In the course of pondering the results of the Pew Forum survey, I came across these words of Reform scholar Eugene Borowitz, cited by Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen:

When the Bible was G-d’s book and the Oral Torah had been given by G-d to Moses on Mount Sinai, there was no question why one should give them reverent attention. They were God’s own communications and, in a time when there no longer was prophecy, the best way one could be in touch with the Divine. When Reform Judaism insisted that the various books of the Torah tradition were largely human creations, that had the advantage of allowing unprecedented innovation. It also devalued the old texts and made them less sacred. A simple experience brought the point home to me tellingly. I was teaching a group together with… an Orthodox scholar. After reading a rabbinic passage to the group he put his book down on a desk, but so near the edge that it became unbalanced and fell off. He quickly retrieved it, kissed it, and put it more carefully on the desk, not stopping in the development of the theme he was presenting. Kissing books, particularly when they have fallen, is a nice old Jewish custom which reflects very much more than respect for authors and publishers. It is related to our belief that our books derive ultimately from G-d – that in loving G-d one loves G-d’s words, the Oral and Written Torah. I wonder if liberal Jews with their sense of the humanity of our sacred literature could ever come to such regard for Torah that – leaving aside their sense of propriety – they could ever think of kissing one of its volumes.