Liturgical Interpretation by Secular Humanistic Judaism
March 15, 2012
According to Rabbi Adam Chalom, Dean — North America of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, "traditional" prayers that include God-language and spiritual trope may be reinterpreted by Secular Humanistic Jews, but some in this community are not comfortable doing so.
Some people are very comfortable adapting traditional pieces like Shema and Kaddish to more humanistic versions, while others aren't comfortable doing so — they feel like it's disrespectful or inauthentic to make such changes. I sometimes joke that it is the difference between a creative jazz riff on the original and a Weird Al Yankovic parody — and different people could feel one way or the other about the same piece. So some communities use Humanistic adaptations, while others have substitutes for such texts rather than new adaptations. Our adaptation of "Oseh Shalom" (He makes peace) [a popular blessing to sing during services] to "Na'ase Shalom" [We will make peace] is generally not controversial, but Shema and Kaddish tend to be the hot-button topics.
As with many other Jewish denominations (or movements), texts and liturgy are reexamined and tested out to see if they fit the current society's needs. Rabbi Chalom has kindly shared a few examples with us:
- Comparison of the full, traditional version of the Shema with a Humanistic interpretation
- Comparison of the traditional Kaddish with a Humanistic interpretation, as well as alternatives
In addition, you might find the following examples of full services helpful:
- Shabbat Home Celebration: interpretations of the blessings, with age-appropriate readings for the whole family to join in the Friday night blessings that are customarily said before dinner
- Qabbalat Shabbat for Humanistic Jews: the Friday night service with liturgy and interpretations by Rabbi Binyamin Biber
- Memorial Service for the Home: a guide to a home service during a period of mourning