A Good 5775 to All of You!
Yes, 5775 years from Creation according to the Hebrew Bible. A short time, indeed, for the Grand Canyon, dinosaurs, the carving of the Great Lakes, etc!
Tough one to swallow in this day and age? You’re not just whistlin’ Dixie, buddy.
And get ready, ’cause for the next 10 days, you’re really gonna have that semitic noodle of yours twisted in a Gordian knot.
Why? Because we are,
once again, at
the most difficult time of the year.
That season when we Members of the Tribe are stuck in synagogues all over the world, wondering 1) when the cantor will finish and 2) just what in tarnation it means to be “One of the Chosen.”
A confession: I do not have faith. I find that not only can I not believe the information in the first paragraph of this post, there are a whole host of other things that are tougher to swallow than unrefrigerated gefilte fish.
Among those other things I do not believe:
1) That a Deity gave to Moses a law on Mt. Sinai,
2) That He also gave Moses both a Written Law and an Oral Law, and that the Oral Law was later codified in the Mishnah and the Gemara.
3) That the aforesaid Deity said “Don’t cook a kid in it’s mother’s milk” so that we had to eat off of different sets dishes for cheese and for chicken livers.
This time of year gets to be a pretty rough row to hoe, sometimes, especially since I have no intention of giving up being Jewish.
I have no problem co-existing with so-called People of Faith, at least when they are not passing discriminatory or theocratic laws, engaging in mass destruction, cutting off heads, waging jihad or or going on Crusades. All in all, I’d also rather they leave the nativity scenes off of public property, but in those cases no one is dying or even getting bruises, so I do my best just to look the other way and remember that in a few weeks all that red and green annoyance is going to be in garbage cans awaiting removal, and the United States will start getting ready for Presidents’ Day sales. Apparently, Big Religion is not going away, so I will have to console myself by the thought that a lot of the time POFs can be the world’s greatest neighbors. As I am unwilling to renounce my Judaism, either as culture, history, or as my personal choice of mysticism, I still voluntarily place myself in the midst of my coreligionists. Hell, my best friend, zichrono livrakha, became a POF in the last decade or so of his life, and he was truly a mensch. (He was a mensch, though, before his tshuva.)
However, when POFs want me to believe, I think that they fundamentally misunderstand their own faith. Say you’re dating someone, and then on the 3rd or 30th date, she says, “I love you.” You might think, OK, hmmm, what does that mean? Or you might think, Oh, I’m so happy! You may even blurt out, I love you, too! It’s possible though that you may instead think, Uh-oh, this is not going to end well. Imagine, in addition to that that the person making that confession adds on the imperative, “Love me! Love me like I love you!” Now you are really starting to get upset. Because while it is nice to be loved, being loved does not make you love. You can’t make yourself love someone. Neither can Bonnie Raitt.
Faith is the same thing. You can put hold a knife against someone’s throat, a gun to his head, his feet to the fire, but you can’t make him believe. You can make him say he believes, but it’s like that couple: you know you’re lying, she knows you’re lying, you know she knows, but for some reason–because it makes life easier at the moment–you just go ahead and say it. People who don’t believe are not going to believe no matter how many times they say it. The deed does not shape the heart. There are people who could go to church, synagogue, mosque, whatever for the rest of their lives, and no amount of prayer or observance is going to change the fact that they will not believe. They’re just not made that way.
So believe this, People of Faith, you do not want People Who Don’t Believe to say that they are believers. You do not want to consign them the 8th circle of Inferno. You do not want to require faith. Fortunately, we Jews have long tolerated the skeptics among us, and excommunicated heretics like Spinoza are paradoxically admired. I can dwell with the Believers, and we accept each other.
(Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself.I am large, I contain multitudes.)
PS: I am still hoping that G-d strikes Eric Cantor with the inability to speak.