Shabbat Talmud Study: We Can Have a Principled Disagreement About a Hard and Important Subject Without Coming Apart


Shabbat morning, November 25, 8:30 – 9:30 am

In the last few weeks, as we have considered the issue of clergy officiation at interfaith weddings, I have seen the temperature rise in our shul. Elias, Michelle and I, and our lay leaders, have received questions like:

  • Is Wes leaving the shul?
  • Is the shul leaving the Conservative movement?
  • Are Michelle and Elias leaving the shul?
  • Do our clergy like each other anymore?

Just to set the record straight, the answers are: no, no, no, and an emphatic yes. We love one another.

Here is what is going on. Our shul is working its way through a really hard question: should our clergy be able to officiate at an intermarriage? This is a question where reasonable minds can and do disagree. Nobody has a monopoly on the right answer. Nobody owns the truth. We are working our way through it together.

That is a good thing. Judaism equips us exquisitely with the ability to agree to disagree respectfully, reasonably, lovingly. This is not about ego. This is not about turf. This is not about aggrandizement. This is about us facing our problems honestly.  It is a good policy to face our problems. It is not a good policy to ignore them or hope they go away. We are facing them, as we should.

To date we have studied the Pastoral Letter, which says no to officiation at an interfaith marriage.

This Shabbat we will explore Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie’s proposal which says yes to officiation at an interfaith marriage.

Meanwhile, Michelle and I are working together with the Law Committee to forward a proposal-Michelle’s creative idea-that would allow rabbis to be present at interfaith weddings and to offer blessings, but not to officiate. Another person would officiate and sign the marriage license. Neither of us is entirely pleased with that resolution. Both of us could and would embrace it if the Law Committee were to approve it.

We are working our way through the real issues together, and that is a good thing. Thank you for walking with us on this important journey. See you on Shabbat.

Happy Thanksgiving and Shabbat shalom,
Wes