I Believe, Without Forcing It

 

Diving into the observant Orthodox Jewish world as a teen, followed by years in yeshiva and rabbinical ordination put me on a track to certain beliefs inherent in the system. When there was dissonance, I often pushed it away, ascribing it to a shortcoming on my part rather than a simple disagreement between my beliefs and that of the tradition in which I had hung my hat. Over a good number of years, I have striven to be honest to both what I have learned (through both secular and religious sources) and to be true to what I actually believe and think, rather than what I understood I was supposed to believe and think. My thanks to Dan, author of the first post of this series, for inadvertently challenging me to take a more serious look at my own principles of Jewish faith.

  • I believe that there is a creative force in the universe. My people use many different names for this force. The usual English name is God.
  • I believe that the creative force lives within us as well as outside us. My people refer to the force within us as tzelem elohim, the image of God.
  • I believe that the creative force within all humans gives each of us the potential to accomplish great things and to overcome any destructive potential that lies within us due to genetics, brain chemistry, and psychological baggage.
  • I believe that many cultures and peoples are on the track towards finding out what the universe expects of them, or are, at the least, creating meaning of the universe. That search manifests itself through religion and spirituality. It also finds expression through folklore, wisdom, literature, arts, law, sciences, mathematics, relationships and more. Not everything in these areas is meaning-making. But each one can be and often is.
  • I believe that no individuals or groups, including religions, have all the answers in the area of life’s meaning. And that there is no one set of absolute answers that exists.
  • I believe that my people, known as the Jews or the People Israel, have created an exceptional body of sacred literature that is a creative history of its collective search for meaning and for the Godly. This literature includes Tanach – Bible, Midrash – Rabbinic understandings, Talmud – Rabbinic conversations, Siddur – prayer book, and much more. And it continues to produce sacred literature.
  • I believe that the Land and State of Israel provide the Jewish people with a living laboratory for how the ethics of the people’s history and literature will play out in a real land, with real people and with a real political entity.
  • I believe that mitzvot – Torah commandments, halacha – “the way”, and minhagim – traditional observances, are behavioral manifestations of the uniquely Jewish search for the universe’s meaning. They are ways in which the Jewish people actualize that meaning. They are the Jewish people’s interpretive dance, so to speak.
  • I believe that there have been some people who have been particularly tuned in to wisdom, spirituality, meaning and the universe. My people refer to the Jewish people among those gifted ones, as nevi’im, prophets.
  • I believe that prophecy continues to be exhibited and is not exclusive to the Jewish people.
  • I believe that all wisdom and knowledge is related, including religious and spiritual wisdom and knowledge.
  • I believe that humanity has the potential to create a messianic era.

 

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3 responses

  1. Beautifully expressed. New York misses you

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  2. I don’t believe we *will* create the messianic era – I believe that we, right now, *are* creating it, and I further identify the beginning of the process with roughly either the Enlightenment or the Industrial Revolution.

    If you read through all the nissim discussed in the 13th perek of Sanhedrin, one can see that every single one is either achieved, or we can at the very least see the paths we might take to achieve them.

    Only t’chiyat ha’meytim itself is beyond our grasp*, as we do not possess copies of the minds of the dead. Thus, either t’chiyat ha’meytim is only given to us in metaphor, or at some point, presumably after we develop the technology to both craft new bodies (or at least sufficient simulacrums or simulation-environments), God will contact us and provide His own backups…

    *Unless time travel is possible, which would probably be bad, as time travel is generally either useless or a horrific mess

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  3. This is awesome. I especially like the way you put this:

    “I believe that mitzvot – Torah commandments, halacha – “the way”, and minhagim – traditional observances, are behavioral manifestations of the uniquely Jewish search for the universe’s meaning. They are ways in which the Jewish people actualize that meaning. They are the Jewish people’s interpretive dance, so to speak.”

    I’ve been forced to conclude that the messianic dream is an idea that grew out of a political desire for a re-institution of Jewish independence and restoration to their land. It took on religious overtones over the centuries, but that was a latter addition. But as a religious idea, I cherish it as an aspirational dream.

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