When I was little, we read Torah every Friday evening at my Reform congregation. I believe that they read it on Saturday mornings regardless of whether there was a Bar/Bat Mitzvah as well. The Torah was removed from the ark, the Rabbi recited its words in Hebrew and English and then delivered a sermon (usually on some issue of current events.)
I learned when I was in college that the Friday evening service was meant to be a short one: songs and prayers to introduce Shabbat followed by the same at home. I loved this version of Shabbat. Torah should be read on Shabbat morning, they said. Sounds good to me! More time for singing with friends! More time for good food and wine! Study in the morning when I am fresh and eager to learn. Count me in!
One problem. The Temple is not exactly full on non-B’nei Mitzvah Shabbat mornings! TBT holds Shabbat morning services regardless of whether there is a Bar Mitzvah and we ALWAYS have at least a minyan. Those 10-20 people are a dedicated core and they hear Torah chanted every week. But as for the heart of our community, the Friday evening worshipers, they only hear Torah’s voice two or three times a year. It doesn’t seem right. So, maybe we should chant Torah on Friday nights.
Well, that doesn’t work either. It elongates the service, making it more difficult to make family time of Friday evening worship and dinner. The religious practices committee has asked us to make a compromise and to make Friday evening Torah readings a sometimes thing. But, a “sometimes thing” is unpredictable, and habits and routines are good for worship.
I can’t help but feel that the Reform Jewish community is really missing out on the best of Shabbat. With a short, early Friday service followed by a family dinner, you get the perfect combination of family and community, of worship and song. Return on Saturday morning for Torah study and worship, which includes the majesty and beauty of Torah reading regardless of whether there is a young man or woman coming of age on that particular day. It’s an ideal, but not a paradigm in which most of our members would care to participate.
So, what about the Torah?