God and the Jewish People share a reciprocal bond of love, which expresses itself in our biblical brit (covenant): "you shall be My people, and I shall be Your God." While often misunderstood, the Jewish claim of being chosen does not mean that God loves us more, only that God confers a distinct mission on the Jewish People: "you shall be a nation of priests, a holy people." Our mission is to make the world more just, sacred, and compassionate, more closely reflecting the image of God. For us, then, Judaism is how we work to repair the world, as well our path to cultivate sensitivity, enlightenment, and compassion in Jewish individuals. Being chosen, far from belittling the rest of humanity, connects us to the human family, summoning us to a distinct responsibility toward God and God's creation.
Judaism lives God's love as mitzvot (commandments and prohibitions). Love that remains only an emotion is little more than lip service. Parents demonstrate true love through countless rules intended to protect and nurture their child's growth. A leader shows love through laws which allow citizens to enjoy more fulfilling, safe, and healthy lives. So it is with God. Believing that thought without deed is incomplete, we Jews experience God's will through a developing body of laws and traditions beginning with the Torah — which transforms every moment into a divine encounter. This inherited body of laws and traditions is continually refined and developed by contemporary sages and rabbis.
We recognize our encounter with God as initiating a shutafut (partnership) on behalf of all humanity and creation. God expects us to serve the divine with all our hearts, minds, and souls. As mature beings, we embrace our privilege to make the world a more just, compassionate, and healthy haven for all living beings. Judaism summons us, among other tasks, to feed the hungry, to heal the sick, to pursue peace, to care for the planet, and to show compassion to all of God's creatures. In these ways, we act as God's partners, embodying God's passion and involvement on behalf of all life.
This embodiment of Divine/Jewish brit is known as halakhah (Jewish law). The community gives substance to God's love through halakhah. Just as with American law, we Jews have a "constitution," (the Torah) and also later common and statutory laws (the Talmud, Codes, and Teshuvot, the legal rulings of later rabbis). Expressing the eternal standards of divine will and wisdom through the developing insight of human discovery and perception, halakhah offers direction, focus, and goal. The Torah provides a filter, but not a barrier: while specific rulings may change to incorporate regional differences, innovative technology, new information, and advancing wisdom, the methods of making the rules remain constant throughout the ages. In all areas, halakhah shapes the Jewish pursuit of holiness even as it furthers God's dual mandate: to make creation "very good" and to honor the divine image in every man and woman.
Our understanding that Judaism has a past is reflected in our willingness to draw upon the full range of Jewish history, literature, art. Judaism is the developing expression of the Torah in the lives of Jewish communities throughout time. Those communities, their philosophies, literature, and religious practices all add to the unfolding of God's covenant. Lifelong study of the rich expressions of Jewish piety, peoplehood, and culture in every age, therefore, constitutes a key to a vital and joyous Jewish life.
In our own century, the return of many Jews to our homeland, Israel , and our national language, Hebrew, is a process that the Conservative Movement has embraced from the very inception of Zionism. From the start, Conservative Judaism recognized the Jewish People to be a fundamental powerhouse for Jewish survival. In our age, the partnership between the Jewish People and God has once again produced a miracle, the restoration of the Jewish People to our ancestral home, to Israel . No less miraculous is the restoration of our historical and sacred language, Hebrew, as the living language of today's Jews. Once again, the language of the Torah and of Isaiah, of the Mishnah and of medieval poetry lives on the tongues of Israeli Jews. Supporting a vibrant, democratic and pluralistic Jewish center in the State of Israel - including the supreme commitment of aliyah (immigration to Israel ) - is an essential component of contemporary Jewish expression.
Our understanding of Judaism embraces the full range of Jewish peoplehood and culture, inspiring a desire to work together with all Jews, regardless of their ideology or affiliation. We celebrate the diversity of klal Yisrael, the entire Jewish people, with all its pluralism, dynamism, and excitement. Unity does not require uniformity. We hold out an open hand to any Jewish movement committed to the values of our inheritance and to the well being of our people. At the same time, we aggressively reach out to all Jews — and to those non-Jews interested in a Jewish path of holiness and meaning. We are happy to provide access to the profound treasures of Jewish spirit, history, thought, and living for all those who seek.
A quick glance at any page of the Talmud reveals a rabbinic passion for open discussion, a range of viewpoints, an abiding faith, and a love of learning and reason. The leading sages of the Talmudic era celebrated the mind as a gift of God. These rabbis combined a commitment to the Jewish traditions they had inherited with a remarkable courage to keep those traditions both relevant and compassionate. To do so, they did not shrink from instituting new rulings, often in contrast with established practice.
It is precisely that same traditional approach and conviction – unchanging fidelity to inherited tradition and a traditional courage to integrate necessary change - which motives Conservative Judaism today, whether asserting the equality of women, the indispensability of Shabbat (the Sabbath), Kashrut (the dietary laws), and prayer, or applying timeless wisdom to contemporary issues, such as medical ethics, the environment, and feeding the hungry.
Loyal to the sacred legacy of our ancestors, passionate about our people's historical experiences throughout time, striving to be servants of the Holy Blessing One, we walk along the ancient and sacred path that is Judaism.