November 24, 2016 23:05

Wow, this is bad! How can I not be writing so much these days? It may well have something to do with the fact that I am just drowning in job applications. It’s all fun, but I am certainly missing writing on my blog. After a couple of weeks of hardly reading anything at all connected to Judaism I have in the last week or so indulged myself in words of Abraham Joshua Heschel, I finished The Sabbath (so poetic, important and beautiful) and have begun his book ‘The Prophets’ which I am loving. I am still working on the History of the Jews by Paul Johnson (very, very good but a lot of facts to take in, and I do want to remember at least a fraction of what I am reading) and I have finished a couple by Harold Kushner, ‘To Life!’ and ‘When Bad Things Happen to Good People’. Both of these were truly honest and inspirational.

As I have been reading these books, and assimilating the facts and concepts into my fresh and say, new-born self, my Jewish being, I do have a confession to make. Although I have been learning about the notion of ‘deed over creed’ in Jewish tradition, basically that Judaism emphasizes what one does (laws, community, life in the home etc.) over what one thinks, or believes (the theology), I am definitely finding myself spellbound by the learning about the Jewish concept of God, and also about humanity’s relationship to God; how and when it developed, their understanding, description and ‘fear’, or awe, of God and why this relationship is so important to how we see the world today. This includes plenty of philosophy and ethics, of course, which I love!

I am utterly fascinated by what I am learning. My interest in this has surprised, if not slightly shocked me. I have always thought that I am not a very religious person. Spiritual yes, I would say very much, but not religious. Lately though, my Rabbi and the reading that I have been doing, have opened me up to a new way of thinking about it all. I believe that my struggle has always been the dichotomy between science and religion (although now I realise this must not be a dichotomy at all!). It is easier to agree with one and more or less discard the other, so in the past the decision was 'easy' for me, I choose the path of science. Or so I thought I did. Once you are in a particular ‘camp’ you cannot hear or see anything outside that particular framework and so when it came to the story of creation, for example, I simply failed to see it for what it really is; NOTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH EXPLAINING THE WAY OF THE WORLD IN SCIENTIFIC LANGUAGE. If you want science, do not try and find it there.

The Torah goes at least a level deeper in terms of understanding the ways of the world, in particular; 'the ways' of people, of humanity. On top of that, by looking at it for what it actually is for the first time in my life, my eyes begin to water as I think of the revelation of thought that happened to that relatively small group of people, such a long time ago, which inspired the out-most ingenious ideas about humanity and its relationship to the universe. I am amazed in terms of their deep appreciation and understanding of humanity in society and culture, so different to the believe that was mainly 'ruled' by death – everywhere around them the people were spending their precious lives focusing on the inherent tragedy of human nature and ‘worshipping’ notions surrounding afterlife (e.g. Egypt and the mummies). But here appeared a people that I would like to sum up by a few words from the the book of Genesis (1:31) ‘and God saw all that He had made, and it was very good’. What a different take on the world right there! Up until now, human beings had been thought of as ‘tragic’, without hope and their purpose in life understood as humans merely being ‘slaves’ to powerful Gods controlling this chaotic world, and preparing for the world after death being a main focus rather than on the world in which they were living. What was it that ‘sparked’ and inspired this group of people to value life over all, and to believe in purpose, order and having a relationship with God rather than being ‘slaves’ or tragic. It cannot be explained in such terms that this was the better or easier option, or attitude, towards life. On the contrary, people now had huge responsibility, having laws imposed on them on how to behave properly. They were now understood as being created ‘in God’s image’.

I used to think of these biblical stories as largely fascinating and inspiring but not as truths about what it means to be human. They are truly saying something fundamentally true about the make-up of the world, of the universe and most of all, of humanity. I used to almost laugh at the accounts provided in the Torah, or in my case, the Christian Bible. I very much struggled to take them on-board as saying anything very important. Intuitively I did however realise that of course there is something else, something special, to the history of this people and their incredible book, but I think that society and the rational and perhaps even more so the fearful me, blocked this intuition from coming in to full being within myself. I am pleased to say that I have now been invited in to re-examine these views I first harbored as a teenager, and as I am walking down the new, stimulationg and refreshing avenue, I think I may just stay a while to explore. There is plenty of hope in here.


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November 24, 2016 23:05

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