I stumbled onto an interesting story while researching my Ethics of Pluralism paper

The LA Times examined a case study of a Jewish Center and Synagogue* that wanted to construct a eruv by surrounding a city with monofilament fishing line and designating it as one space. This would allow those participating in the orthodox congregation to satisfy the codified expectations of Sabbat while moving within the eruv, as this would no longer be moving between one place and another. The congregation would then have eased the burden of Sabbat restrictions limiting movement. Members could come and go around town since it would all be considered “at home” instead of being categorized as moving from one place to another.  If this innovation were successful, many other eruvim were planned for neighboring cities.  This example demonstrates several key points: first, it illustrates the potential concept of shared public space as religious groups conceptualize of ‘place’. Secondly, it is notable that designating the city (Venice Beach in this example) an eruv in no way impeded upon members of other groups or the citizenry as whole.

I got thinking about how interesting this is in the Spirit of Law vs. the Letter of Law argument.

It is SO obvious when you see it in somebody else’s religion. It stands out like a flashing red light.  What it does in me, is make me stop in my tracks, take a breath, and look around to see if there is this sort of a dichotomy in my belief practice.

Our capacity to fixate on the letter of the law and miss the spirit behind it is astounding.  I have  so many examples streaming through my head: communion, offering, preaching, church buildings, ordination, political involvement, creation science, etc.

It is good for me at Christmas time to look at  the consumerism, the partisan politics dominating the news, and the rituals of religion that mark the season… and search my own heart in this matter of Spirit vs Letter.


* In “Active versus Passive Pluralism: a Changing Style of Civil Religion?”, Richard D. Hetch
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