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December 11, 1992 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-12-11

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Community Views

Editor's Notebook

What Does God
Alant From Us?

Beat The Clock

ARK FINKELSTEIN SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

If indeed the budding spir-
itual renaissance within Ju-
daism takes hold, then
perhaps it will be just what
the doctor ordered.
But where did this spiritu-
al revival come from? The ten-

dency, of course, is to focus on
when a phenomenon com-
mands public attention, but
as we all-know, there are al-
ways undercurrents present
which germinate under cer-
tain conditions (is this sort of
analysis too dialectical?). Per-
haps what is being perceived
now as such may actually
have started several genera-
tions ago, when the tendency

ment, reduced Judaism to a
religion devoid of both ethnic
characteristics and, some
would say, a personal God —
focusing, instead, upon uni-
versal ethics.
When the American Jew,
back in those days prior to the
Second World War, went
about pursuing ethical ends
— as worthy as those ends
may be in themselves — they
(and their families) were of-
ten led out of Judaism by the
back door. Liberal causes, in
general, seemed to many to be
an extension of Judaism, or
more properly, in hindsight,
a substitute for a God-cen-
tered Judaism.
During the intervening
years came many significant
changes to the face of Amer-
ican Judaism. Among them,
we may cite the trend, with-
in Reform Judaism, to rein-
stitute more traditional
practices, the Chavurah
movement (product of the
Conservative movement)
which seeks to personalize re-
ligious community, the
growth of Reconstructionist
Judaism, and the ba'alei
teshuvah movement within
Orthodoxy which reclaims
non-observant Jews.
All these manifestations
have benefited from, or at

to view Judaism as a univer-
salistic religion peaked. This
issue, universalism versus
particularism is discussed co-
gently by the American Re-
form movement's chief
theologian, Rabbi Eugene
Borowitz. In essence, the
Classical Reform movement,
influenced by the late 17th-
century European Enlighten-

least played off against, the
infusion of high-minded the-
ology into American Judaism.
(For an overview of how Jew-
ish theology emerged on the
scene, read the excellent book
on the topic by Robert Goldy,
a Hillel colleague.)
Since the post-era, the rab-
binical seminaries have been
WHAT page 8

If the spiritual
renaissance
takes hold,
perhaps it will
be just what
the doctor
ordered

)

I was late for
the time man-
agement sem-
inar I at-
tended last
week — not a
good sign.
It wasn't
that I was re-
sistant to taking part in the
all-day program, even
though I suppose that's an
admission of sorts. The fact
is that I was eager to learn
any number of helpful hints
and insightful suggestions
about how to stay ahead of
the clock, because in my
struggle to complete a set of
self-appointed tasks, writ-
ing, editing, interviews,
meetings, etc., the only con-
stant is my daily failure.
No matter how early I
come in to the office or how
late I leave, I never finish.
I have never known the
imagined bliss of crossing
off every item on the "To Do
Today" list that I compose
each morning. And self-
awareness isn't enough of
an antidote. So what if I
laugh at myself for bringing
home a pile of newspapers
and magazines each night
to read at home, only to find
that I am shlepping them
back in to work with me,
unread, the next day, plus
that morning's papers as
well?
Realizing the hopeless-
ness of my task doesn't
make the load any lighter.
And there is little comfort
in knowing that most of my
friends and colleagues go
through similar motions,
complaining about the lack
of time in their daily lives
to get their work done, not
to mention time for family
and relaxation.
Pathetic, isn't it? A gen-
eration of well-educated,
relatively successful people
who are always tired. Rac-
ing through the week,
slaves to our jobs and ca-
reers, we yearn for The
Weekend, that seeming oa-
sis in time. But for many of
us, The Weekend is just a
mirage — a finite chunk of
hours set aside to accom-
plish every unpleasant
chore for which there is no
time to complete during
The Week.
And depressing as this
may sound, I think I've got
it better than most because
for me, Shabbat is the time
to step aside from the daily
grind, recharge my spiritu-
al batteries, enjoy my fam-
ily and reflect on my
priorities.
But then Shabbat is over

and the unending task lies
ahead.
So when I was signed up
for a seven-hour conference
on How To Manage Pro-
jects, Priorities and Dead-
lines, I sharpened my
pencil, brought a new note-
book and listened atten-
tively (along with about 200
other time mismanagers) to
Jonathan Clark, whose big
smile and non-stop patter
reminded me of a wanna-be
TV game show host. And
what did I learn?
Most importantly, that
there are no shortcuts. In-
deed, one law of time man-
agement is that since habits

IM111111=11 ■ 111111 ■ 1

Our proble
is a case of
trying to do
everything.

are slow to change, small
changes, over time, can
make a big difference.
That's about the best one
can hope for.
Planning and self-control
are critical, alas. Just as I
feared. We were given such
unimpeachable advice as:
finish what you start; do
one thing at a time; and al-
ways ask yourself, "Is this
the best use of my time
right now?"
After being told enough
times to work smarter, not
longer, I felt certain I could
come up with some snappy
slogans for these courses,
like "It's not how many
hours you put in but how
much productivity you take
out," but it's easier to write
these rules than live by
them.
Mr. Clark had little tol-
erance for experimentation
or creativity. We were told
to read fewer newspapers,
magazines and trade jour-
nals, and not to be afraid to
throw them out quickly.
New publications? Forget it
— there's no time for the
ones you already see.
But who, then, will read
Mr. Clark's new book on the
art of getting it done, I
wondered. And is his per-
sonal life a model for us all?
(When he told us that he
and his wife spent two
years writing their book, I
couldn't help wondering if
it was six months over
deadline ... Right on time,

BEAT THE CLOCK page 10

DEC EMBER

here is a strange but
wonderful movement
emerging within the
Jewish community, a
ovement less embarrassed
engage in God-talk. Amus-
*ngly, because that is proba-
bly the only way in which the
bject may be broached with-
in our sophisticated society,
the most recent Jewish Spec-
tator, a popular magazine,
orted a cover proclaiming:
"God's Big Comeback." Less
biguous as to why God was
-squired to make a comeback
in the first place, the title of
a new book by Rabbi Jeffrey
Salkin addresses the topic
quarely. The book is titled
utting God on the Guest List:
ow to Reclaim the Spiritual
eaning of Your Child's Bar
or Bat Mitzvah. In other
,words, the implication is that
we exiled God; God had not
abandoned us.
Does the resurgence of Jew-
ish spirituality signal the
growth of fundamentalism?
Not necessarily, simply be-
cause the trend may be dis-
cerned within each of the
denominational branches
within American Judaism.
Does this trend auger a peri-
lOd of post-denominational Ju-
`-daism? It is too early to tell,
although the lines between
(Tile Jewish denominations
have become increasingly in-
distinct. For some time now,
L the complaint has been with-
in the Conservative move-
Ment that its congregants
'were essentially Reform in
praxis. Now we learn of a new
'rabbinical council formed to
bring together some of the
Modern Orthodox and the
:eight wing of the Conserva-
tive movement.
Whatever its ultimate ef-
fct in terms of denomina-
tional identification, the trend
to infuse greater spirituality
into Judaism comes none too
Noon, insofar as once more in
American Jewish history, a
threat to Jewish continuity
17,3.s emerged.
In the past, as Rabbi
Arthur Hertzberg has in-
sightfully noted, a decline in
Jewish identification — typi-
cally manifest by an increas-
ing rate of intermarriage —
lx,as stemmed by an influx of
believers. According to Rabbi
Herzberg, this cycle is at an
end; there will be no addi-
tional immigration of Jewish
believers to America, and
therefore, there is nothing —
°thing but a return to spiri-
tUality — that can be done to
curtail the spiraling inter-
marriage rate. And so, on this
basis, Herzberg predicts the
eventual demise of the Amer-
ican Jewish community.

GARY ROSENBLATT EDITOR

7

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