Reform Halakhic Texts

Reform Judaism is more halakhic than you think.

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3. Liturgy

The siddur, the Jewish prayer book, is a halakhic as well as a liturgical text, because it reflects decisions made by Jewish communities and scholars concerning the proper wording (nusah) and order of prayer. As a way of underscoring the connection between Reform Jewish liturgy and its traditional Jewish roots, the CCAR has produced a volume of commentary for each of its major prayer books.

Gates of Understanding, Volume I contains historical, explanatory, and halakhic notes and articles covering Gates of Prayer, the movement's daily, Sabbath, and festival siddur. Gates of Understanding, Volume II offers similar commentary for Gates of Understanding, the mahzor for the Days of Awe. The Passover haggadah published by the Conference similarly contains halakhic notes and instructions concerning the observance of the seder.

4. Theoretical Writings

Finally, there are writings that explore the theological and ideological basis of Reform or liberal halakhah, as well as ways in which Reform Judaism might draw guidance from the sources of Jewish law in various areas of ritual and ethical concern. Many of these are collected in volumes published by the Freehof Institute of Progressive Halakhah. To date, volumes have appeared dealing with such subjects as conversion, death and euthanasia, Israel-Diaspora relations, aging, gender issues, and the environment.

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Rabbi Mark Washofsky

Rabbi Mark Washofsky, Ph.D., is associate professor of rabbinics at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio, and serves as chair of the Responsa Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.