(Disclaimer for reform folks and others: I’m not trying to be mean: I just have genuine questions.)
So as some of you may know, I’m sort of an “Orthodox by proximity” person. I grew up with a sort of Baal tsuvah father, and attended Chabad shuls every Shabbos and Chag. I’m still not frum because… reasons.. but that’s beside the point. My exposure to non-orthodox services, despite being non-orthodox myself, was always somewhat limited. I only really went to a reform or conservative place for a friend’s bar mitzvah or some other thing. When I go to shul nowadays, it’s always orthodox.
Today I went to a Reform shul for the bar mitzvah of a family friend. I haven’t been to a non orthodox place in almost a decade, so it was like I entered another universe. Some things I expected, some not at all.
I expected the mixed seating, female rabbi and guitar playing.
What I did not expect: Weird, minute things. Like the bimah being in front facing the congregation instead of in the center facing the ark. Is that standard in every reform place or just the one I went to?
The siddur was pretty odd to be honest. Maybe it’s because I used to go to conservative shuls more then reform, but even in reform places I genuinely don’t remember half the Shabbat service being cut out. It also seems like they selectively edited prayers to omit anything that sounds not 100% positive.
Like in Shachris, with the Verses of Praise, half of Mizmor Shir is cut out. In an Orthodox siddur, the first half talks about praising G-d and the greatness of his works. The second part talks about the destruction of the wicked and the survival of the righteous. In the reform siddur, the destruction of the wicked is removed. The passages about the Egyptians dead on the seashore and G-d’s might and retribution are completely removed. Why is this? If G-d is supposed to be ultimate good, wouldn’t the downfall of the wicked be good as well?
In the chumash, pages go left to right.
The amida is chanted out loud with no repetition.
Mourner’s Kaddish is said by the rabbi, with no individuals saying it. Is it reform practice to only have the rabbi/cantor say Kaddish, or was it just the shul I went to?
Musaf was COMPLETELY REMOVED. Why? Musaf was supposed to be a “replacement” for offerings made in the Beis Hamikdash. Isn’t the Jewish religion centered around the Beis Hamikdash? Granted I’m not frum, so this shouldn’t even mean anything to me, but I’m pretty sure the temple has been the central concern of the Jewish religion since the Iron Age. The reason for going to shul (not my reason, but the official reason) is that you do it in lieu of having a temple and making sacrifices. What is the reform’s reasoning behind having a synagogue if there is no temple to look forward to?
Certain orthodox posters here have accused reform of being a secular Jewish social club with no real religious involvement. Obviously I have no stake in this dispute, being only ethnically/culturally Jewish myself. But while I acknowledge there are religious reform people, why does reform liturgy cut out so much? Are religious reform people really okay with the exclusion of so many things? If so, why?
Would appreciate a dialogue on this. I really don’t intend to stir the pot. Obviously, anyone can comment, but I’m specifically asking for the reform perspective here.