People generally think of Orthodox Judaism as being more "religious" than Reform Judaism, but last week I found that is not always true.
A family from another city came to Omaha to do a stone dedication, a.k.a "unveiling" for their mother who passed away and was buried here a year ago. I met with the family at the cemetery and since it was a small crowd I explained to them that there was really no formal prayer to say, rather we gather together to visit the grave and establish it as a place where future generations can come and learn about their ancestors and recall family stories of the good deeds that they performed when they were in this world.
They asked me if there were any special prayers to say. I told them that there are different customs associated with the ceremony, but in my view they are just that - ceremonial. Since we were a small and intimate crowd I did not think that the high church approach was necessary. So without any official service I told them a short dvar Torah and they stood around the grave and told some stories about their mother.
The following week I called the family to follow up on some unrelated shul business that we discussed while they were here. One of the family members mentioned how she had gotten together with her Reform Rabbi and he said that I was incorrect. He felt that the prayers at an unveiling MUST be said and that the unveiling that I did was not kosher.
At first I couldn't believe my ears! I am Orthodox. We have prayers for everything! Three times a day we fly through pages and pages of prayers! If I snack on a single grape I have to recite a few paragraphs about making a pilgrimage to the Temple! We even have a prayer for going to the bathroom!
When an Orthodox Rabbi tells you there is no prayer for an unveiling - that means that there is no official prayer for an unveiling!
How dare this Reform dude tell ME that I am not kosher!!!
But after I thought about it, I realized that perhaps this Rabbi had a point. This family traveled a long way to be at the cemetery for the unveiling. Would it not have been more meaningful to say a few chapters of Psalms with them? I figured that they would not appreciate it, but maybe people do want some kind of official Hebrew stuff to capture the moment and bring some Judaism into the mix in an official-like capacity. Perhaps it was insensitive of me not to think that the family would appreciate that. Perhaps I sold them short by thinking that they couldn't handle it.
Maybe the Reform dude was right after all. I don't know. What I do know is that I was out-frummed by a Reform Rabbi.
I explained my position again to the family but conceded that I could have done more. Please God, next time they come in may it be for a simcha and we will recite many brachot together.