Convention of Reform Rabbis Debates Establishment of Code

Arguments for and against the establishment of a guide to Reform Jewish practice were advanced here tonight at the 70th annual national convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinical body of Reform Jewry. The 500 rabbis attending the convention also heard a presentation of a concept of divine relation, drawn from rabbinic sources.

Dr. Jakob J. Petuchowski of the Cincinnati faculty of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, seminary of Reform Judaism, told the rabbis “to seek to rediscover the occasions and ideas of group revelation, ” as at Sinai, as a precondition to meaningful discussion of “guides.” In a century and half of religious life in America, reform Judaism has always operated without a binding code of religious practice as contrasted to Orthodoxy.

Maintaining that revelation has two meanings, 1. The individual religious experience of divine presence and 2. The profound religious experience of an entire group, expressed in laws, Dr. Petuchowski stressed the primacy of the group experiences. “What is it that makes the so-called Law of Moses any more divine than say, the Code of Hammurabi?” he asked. “It is here that we come to the community aspect of revelation as law from Heaven, in contrast to revelation as mere divine experience. “

He admonished the convention to rediscover the source for a guide to modern Reform Jewish concepts of revelation. “The recovery of the revelatory occasion and idea, is that basis on which alone our deliberations on guides, and practice, can be meaningful,” he said.

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