Dearest friends - this request is unorthodox... But as I am posting it, I doubt you'd have expected any less. That said:
Yom Kippur is the Holiest Day of the year. It is The Day of Atonement, the culmination of a series of days wherein Jews reflect upon their lives, actions and souls and make recompense for any wrongs.
Prior to Yom Kippur, we are required to approach those whom we have wronged and make recompense.
I write today because I am aware of my tendency to remain unaware...which is to say, I know I have the capacity to be hurtful without realizing that I have been hurtful.
I admit this shortcoming. And I hope to rectify it.
In that spirit, I ask that, if I have harmed you in some way - whether intentionally or no - you please make me aware of my fault so that I may apologize.
I do not mean to put any burden on you, I just do not want to go forward in a new year having neglected my obligation to myself, to God, and to you, but failing to realize a hurtful act or deed.
So if I have in any way harmed you, I ask that you please reach out so I can make a full apology.
Thank you for listening, and, if you are uncomfortable reaching out, please accept this meager post as an acknowledgement that I am flawed and imperfect, but that I hope to be better, and I apologize.
May the Lord bless you and keep you in the new year. May your name be inscribed in the Book of Life.
You didn't expect to get this far and not be indoctrinated, did you?
I'm converting to Judaism, and in these selected segments, maybe you'll be able to deduce the many reasons why.
I love my faith. I love my family. I love my tradition that celebrates education, struggle amid adversity, personal accountability and love.
So here's some mo' fo' posts on the spiritual side.
9 - 11 - 15
Chief among the reasons I love my Temple is the organization's dedication to art.
Every few months, Temple Sinai displays a new art exhibit in the entry hall. When I last attended, the exhibit was a collection of terrifying watercolors (Clowns. All clowns.) by a local artist. This month, it's photographs from Israel.
As my husband is a photography enthusiast and has visited Israel on three occasions, this exhibit was of particular interest to him. While I busied myself at the kids' table at the pre-Shabbat buffet, Scott milled about the makeshift gallery.
I joined him - my hand and mouth full of Teddy Grahams - at one pillar, where a particular photograph caught my eye. It was of a busy market street, bustling with people and wares. Billowing from an awning above the fray were three Israeli flags.
Below the flags - the focal point of the picture - stood three Islamic women.
I stared at this photograph for quite some time.
I was moved by it.
And lest you guess, I'll tell you some of the reasons why:
1. My synagogue is brave enough to showcase - during the month of Jewish High Holy Days - an image of Israel that is not only for Jews. An inclusive Israel that is home to people outside the Jewish faith. This, friends, is a fucking GUTSY move, and I am proud of Temple Sinai for doing it.
2. The High Holy Days are approaching for Jews...but similar holy days are also approaching for Muslims. Just today, 107 people were killed when a crane fell on a Mecca mosque where Muslims were gathering for Hajj. So often, we view others as...well...other. And "other" often coincides with less important, less "correct", less "us." This image reminded me today that Muslims and Jews (and Christians and maybe just about everyone else too) has Israel in common. Allowing that our similarities might outweigh our differences allows us to truly grieve with those who've felt loss - even if that loss wears a hijab instead of a tichel.
3. I believe gestures, whether for good or no, make a difference. I believe that one Jewish Temple in one city in one western Country displaying some signal of inclusivity matters. Like the hem-hawed "butterfly wings that create a tsunami," SOME Jews saying "My Israel includes images like these, and I want you to look at my Israel" debunks the myths that ALL Jews are fill in the blank. On this, the anniversary of 9/11, which was perpetrated by Islamic extremists on American soil, Temple Sinai - a Jewish organization - is prominently displaying a positive image of Islamic women. Friends, whether you agree with it or not, THAT is an EXTRAORDINARY gesture.
And one that definitely gave me a much-needed pause.
In these, our Days of Awe, as 5775 gives way to 5776, as we begin anew, as we repent and seek the forgiveness of those we've wronged, as we seek God's grace and blessings, as we ask to be engraved in The Book of Life...reflection is not a mere mandate, it's a fucking gift.
We are not commanded to think and reflect as penance. We are, rather, reminded, that reflection opens the door to new thoughts, different ways of being, change.
I'm not a fool. I know the way the world is.
I know no photo is going to mend the wounds between Muslims and Jews.
I know life is not that fucking beautiful or that fucking simple.
But I also believe in man's ability to change. I've seen it. In my lifetime, I've borne witness to both the death of Matthew Shepard and the federal mandate for marriage equality in all 50 states. I saw Muslims topple the World Trade Center Towers in 2001, and I saw a Muslim man risking his life to shield Jews in a Parisian grocery store this year. I live within a few miles of a plaque recently placed to commemorate Leo Frank - it took a century, but the man lynched in racial hatred by the leadership of this very state is finally being acknowledged and exonerated by this state.
I believe you can be the change you want to see in the world.
And I believe, that in 5776, it shall be my expressed goal to strive to be George Bernard Shaw's unreasonable man.
May I - may you - may we - all the inscribed in The Book of Life.
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
2 - 24- 15
Lot left his home to follow God.
Daniel faced the lion.
So must we all the troubles face
to feast our eyes on Zion.
8 - 21- 14
Someone once told me that people see God as the personification of their own values.
That, rather than be created in His image, that He is instead created in ours.
For the strong, God is therefore a warrior. For the caring, He is compassion deified. For the hurting, He is comfort.
As for me, I've always seen God as omniscient. Wise beyond all comprehension. I guess, by the theory, that would therefore make me smart. Or, at least, someone who values intellect above all else.
Tonight I attended Rosh Chodesh, my Temple's women's studies group for the first time. And we explored the concepts of Temple as the dwelling place of God, and how to juxtapose that dwelling place with the idea of omnipresence.
And while this topic was fascinating and enlightening in its own right, it was an offhanded comment that actually prompts me to write.
When concluding, Rabbi Perry told those assembled that "God is present here, and She is having a good time."
There were several chuckles from the group.
As we all shared a smile, I found myself increasingly struck by exactly WHY the concept of God being a female seemed so awkward to me (and likely many of the ladies in the group). Obviously, the God of the Abrahamic faiths is overwhelmingly referred to as male, and we live in a patriarchal society. God is male. but what does that mean?
Much can be written about WHY the God of the Torah is male. But what is in my heart to explore is more personal - namely, what does it mean to have a Patriarch versus a Matriarch?
1. What would it be like to imagine a God of my own gender? For thousands of years, men have had the - what? privilege? - of imaging a God that not only behaves in the ways they admire, but that LOOKS LIKE THEM TOO. What must that be like?
2. What would be the qualities of a Matriarchal God? Mothers are known as compassionate, caring, nurturing. Definitely present for the day to day. ACCESSIBLE.
3. I do not view God in this way. I do not view God as nurturing or particularly accessible. Indeed, I view Him as a Father - present and loving, but not in the way of a mother. Not to the degree of the mother. In my mind, God is the wise father in His study. Sure, He's there if you want to talk, but you have to come to Him. He's no mother, sitting with you and helping with your homework.
So now we come to the most important point - at least for me - 4. WHY don't I view God in this way? What does it say about ME that I do not assign Him these characteristics. Because if He is God, then certainly He possesses these traits. Certainly He is not confined to man's definitions of feminine and masculine traits. Certainly He is all things, and can provide all things in equal measure to each according to his need.
So, allowing that God is all things and offers all things, WHY DON'T I - ERIN L. GREER - NEED OR DESIRE A FEMALE GOD?
Let that sink in for a minute.
What does it say about me that I put God in a distant man box? What does it say about me that the concept of a God behaving like a mother makes me nothing short of fucking uncomfortable?
The truth is, I have no freaking idea. But it's definitely something I'd like to explore. because I think, if I can understand my revulsion, I may better understand myself and some of my deeply-buried core beliefs about what I see as acceptable, desirable and God-worthy.
And I think that's a worthy pursuit.
The violence in Israel/Palestine dominates both headlines and water cooler discussions.
In the United States, we are fortunate enough to live - Muslims, Arabs and Jews - in relative harmony.
Perhaps this can be attributed to American ideologies. Perhaps to the balance of power (Jews and Arabs are both minorities here). Perhaps it can be attributed largely to the fact that we have a lot o' land here, and, if you're feeling repressed in your own community, you have the option to move.
Whether for any of these reasons - or for ones I haven't laid out or considered - I am thankful to reside in a land where peace is possible and present.
Obviously, the Cradle of Civilization is not so lucky.
They haven't our mindset, our socioeconomic breakdowns, or our land area.
But what they do have is a centuries (millennia?) of conflict. Hundreds, if not thousands, of years of injustices on each side.
This fact cannot be denied, no matter where allegiances lie.
Recently, I have read Western media on both sides of the conflict. I feel it is only fair - not to a "side," but to humanity and to knowledge as whole categories - to at least make the attempt to look at both sides. After all, both sides are comprised of human beings - human beings who, despite claiming different ethnicities and creeds, have grey brains just like everyone else. And reddish purple hearts just like everyone else.
I am a Jew. And as a Jew I understand, to varying degrees, the need for an Israel.
But as a Jew (and just a general, grey-brained, red/purple-hearted person), I also understand the value of human life. And its importance.
As such, my particular reddish purple heart hurts equally for those Jews and those Palestinians killed in this conflict. And I pray equally for their families and their souls.
I have absolutely no say in world affairs. No one in Israel listens to me, and no one in Palestine either.
But here, in the United States, I can speak, and I know I at least have a few who listen.
And to those people (you) I say - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
From the Jewish Torah: Leviticus 19:34 - "The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God."
Leviticus 19:18 - "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself."
The Islamic hadith of Muhammad: "A Bedouin came to the prophet, grabbed the stirrup of his camel and said: O the messenger of God! Teach me something to go to heaven with it. Prophet said: “As you would have people do to you, do to them; and what you dislike to be done to you, don't do to them. Now let the stirrup go! [This maxim is enough for you; go and act in accordance with it!]
Also from the hadith: "“None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”
From the Christian Bible: Mark 12:30-31 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
So Jesus and I had a disagreement.
Not a knock-down, drag-out - no one threw any crockery. But definitely a conflict in "the meeting of the minds."
See, he says one need only ask forgiveness from God of one's transgressions, and one will then be forgiven. That's it. That's all. Just sincerely ask, and it's done. And then you can lead a life of peace, knowing you are forgiven.
I said, "That nice, but yeah right," and continued bludgeoning myself - Catholic-style - for things I did wrong as far back as elementary school. Because if I cannot forgive me? It makes no difference if God can.
It's a strange catharsis, but it seemed to vaguely work for me and for anyone else keen on faith walks that involve immense pain and suffering.
But the most recent conflicts between Israel and Gaza found me, just today, advocating for Jesus' cause.
This surprised me for two reasons. The first - I had to openly admit that I was maybe wrong about something. Either that or that I am coming to better understand beliefs I had in the first place. And second - that I might, maybe, be totally wrong about something (had to reiterate, as it is appalling to contemplate) and that my wrongness points out a hypocricy in the way in which I have been dealing with myself.
In short, I am awfully mean to me.
If someone asked my forgiveness, I'd give it. But when I ask it? DENIED.
Anyway, back to the Gaza thing.
So here's how it went down - Israel and Gaza - a friend posted a pic of Golda Meir with her famous quote that "We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us."
This quote rubbed me every way but "right."
To begin, the quote implies that we (as jews) are "forced" to react in certain ways to the behaviors of others. This is not correct. There are two ways by which to give someone else control of your life. One is to make no decisions of one's own. And to say you were "forced" to do something means you had no say in the matter - it means, in this case, that "the Arabs" have all the control over our actions, and we are therefore powerless and victims. We cannot stop them from forcing our hand. This is false. Our actions, whether justified or no, are ours alone. To blame someone else for something you did - no matter how provoked - is fallacy.
Second, it implies that forgiveness - and progress - are dependent on Arabs seeing the error of their ways. This is also false. (And this is where I started going all Jesus on the girl who posted the quote.)
In Jewish tradition, one must ask forgiveness of the person(s) wronged to achieve atonement. This is an aspect of Judaism I always liked and stood behind - for myself (that last part becomes important in a minute). For me, a girl who sadistically feels that punishing herself repeatedly for past "crimes" somehow merits forgiveness over simply asking God for it - this process of asking forgiveness from others seemed a reasonable path to exoneration.
In many ways, I still believe this. Asking forgiveness from someone you've wronged IS good practice. It not only holds one accountable, but also serves to "mend fences" and save relationships. It cleanses wounds which might otherwise have festered, and helps each party to "let go."
But here's the thing - personal forgiveness (ie. that feeling in our own gut where you let go of the wrongs of others so that those wrongs don't become all-consuming and swallow you whole), should in no way be contingent upon what another person does or does not do.
Consider this - if rape victims and the families of people murdered could only find the peace of forgiveness at the contingency that the rapist or murderer apologized...well, many rape victims and murder victims families would be damned to a life of victimhood and bitterness - they would, in this way, be repeatedly victimized - because, often, those apologies from perpetrators never come.
Rather, to find peace, victims must, on their own, come to a place of forgiveness, completely unrelated to the actions (or inactions) of the perpetrators. (I credit Buddhism for turning me on to this one. I still struggle with it.)
So where does Jesus come in to all of this?
Well, I am of the traditional Jewish "ask forgiveness when you wrong someone" mentality. But the "problem" with that mentality - or with people like myself who espouse it - is that you hold other people to your own standard. You expect apologies when wronged. Often, you demand them. And this leads to more anger, more strife. And, I believe, situations like the ongoing feud in the Middle East.
Jesus, on the other hand, had a different take. And it's one I think has merit. His take (though I am sure he would support apologizing when wronging someone) had to do with mercy and forgiveness, even when it is not earned (ie. even when it is not asked for). The ability to grant this - to forgive when forgiveness is not "deserved" - brings internal peace to the wronged party. And this is something that I am still struggling to understand and practice.
Here's the icing on that forgiveness cake I've been baking: I can forgive others (sometimes) now. At the very least, I am getting better at letting go of other people's "wrongs", even when those people don't ask forgiveness and continue with their hurtful ways. But, try as I might, I cannot seem to extend myself that same courtesy. I almost typed "leniency" instead of "courtesy"...and that, alone, speaks volumes about where I am coming from and how I view things. And why I am struggling.
That I can forgive others but not myself is something I am speaking to God about. And, though it has the potential of ruffling feathers, I think it's something Jesus could teach me about. (And what's more Jewish than seeking the advice of a Rabbi?)
I continue to pray for peace in The Middle East. I continue to long for some sort of understanding.
I continue to hope that, if I, as a flawed person, can challenge my heart and mind to forgive, that other flawed people are equally capable. That someday forgiveness will trump vengeance.
As Gandhi noted, an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. And we've been shoving sticks into each others' eyes since the dawn of human beings. You'd think that amid the blindness, we might all start relying on our hearts to lead the way.
But that'll never do either if we can't get our heads right.
Two great reasons to convert - Eleanor Parker and Josephine Baker.
Raised a Christian and now a Jewish convert, many believe my spiritual reckoning to somehow be a "rejection" of Jesus. That, like Judas or Peter, I spent time with the man, and opted instead to betray or deny him thrice before sunrise.
My friends, Jesus has nothing - and everything - to do with it.
You see, even before the conversion process, I did my research. On Jesus. On Judaism. And guess what I found?
THE TWO LINED UP.
Wanna know why?
Because Jesus - and go ahead and sit down for this - WAS JEWISH.
I know. I'll give you a second...
See, Christians engage in all sorts of rituals...many of which they do not know or understand the origins of...because the origins are found in Judaism - a faith that, in some ways, is embraced, but which, in other ways, was completely discarded or lost.
There are countless examples of this, and I'd list them here, but it'd likely begin a train of thought that I do not wish to board. Because the reason for my writing today is to clarify the meaning of "messiah," at least with regard to the word's origins in the Jewish faith.(And note, this clarification is for Jews as equally as it is for Christians. Because many Jews I've met can't tell you what I'm about to go into either.)
For Christians, there is one Messiah, and he is Jesus, and you must believe in him to get to Heaven.
But did you know that in Jewish tradition - where the entire concept derived - there are many "messiahs"?
Let me back up here.
The word "messiah" comes from the Hebrew "messiach," which, literally translated, means "anointed."
Back in the day, leaders of great significance were referred to as messiach, and were, literally, anointed with oils. Examples of Jewish messiahs include kings (Jewish and non Jewish), priests, and prophets.
Jesus, regarded as a teacher/rabbi and prophet, was therefore a candidate to rank among the many Jewish messiahs. And, he was, if I recall my Bible correctly, anointed with oil.
Therefore Jesus - and I'm talking to Christians AND Jews here - was a messiah.
Now hold your galloping horses...
There's tons of documentation on this, but to be succinct, I'll just quote you some from Wikipedia, so you can look it up easily without having to consult a buncha books we all likely don't own...
To be clear, in Judaic tradition - the tradition from which Jesus came and the tradition which he professed - "In Judaism, the Messiah is not considered to be God or a pre-existent divine Son of God."
Indeed, and in fact, "A common modern rabbinic interpretation is that there is a potential messiah in every generation."
As has likely become clear here, Christians have interpreted what THE Messiah is supposed to be as something entirely different.
Rather than harkening to the origin of the word and the culture from which it came, Christians latched on to certain prophecies from the Old Testament about a messiah that would come from the House of David and accomplish certain things.
As Jesus descended from the line of David and accomplished certain things, Christians believe Jesus was the fella the O.T. prophets were talking about. That the O.T. prophets may easily have been messiahs themselves, based on Judaic tradition, is a fact lost to many contemporary Christians and Jews.
Still, even if Jesus is/was the man referenced in Zephaniah and Isaiah, in Jewish tradition, that would make him a very important prophet messiah along the lines of Moses and Elijah. Which, for Jews, is pretty much as high a position of esteem as a person can hold.
The difference lies in that, "The majority of historical and mainline Christian theologies consider Jesus to be the Son of God, or God the Son, a concept of the Messiah as "the Word made Flesh," fundamentally different from the Jewish and Islamic concepts."
And there you go.
Nutshell messianic knowledge.
So what does all this mean?
Well, that's really up to you.
It's likely that this knowledge won't change the way you view Jesus.(And isn't really meant to.)
You likely came to this post with a pretty solid idea of who he is/was, and it's likely you'll leave it that way.
But for those of you who are like me - who enjoy the questions, who readily admit to not having the answers, but who, at least, enjoy researching the possibilities - maybe it will give you some insight into the other side.
And insight is important.
Pretty sure Jesus would agree with me on that one.
After all, we Jews enjoy a good philosophical debate. It's rabbinic tradition.
Today is Friday the 13th.
It's also the Sabbath.
And Yom Kippur.
Let's just say I was having a rough one, so I went up to Sinai to pray. (Hell, it worked for Moses).
While on the hilltop (the synagogue was closed), I beheld the beautiful day the Lord had made. I noted the marvel that is my body - sweat pouring down my back despite my not having had to ask. Heart beating and lungs breathing, no mental exertion necessary.
And I confessed. I confessed that I am, maddeningly, both bigger than I am and smaller than I want to be.
I confessed that I was both brave and scared. That I wanted to stay in the gilded cage He has made for me. And you.
And, having confessed all of this, I went down the "mountain," contemplating the need for and blessings of solitude and in general feeling myself lucky for having taken such a trip.
It's at this point, on my walk back to the office, that I stumbled upon an earthworm.
Prior to when I post this, only three people are aware of this fact about me (and one of them likely forgot):
I make a habit of saving earthworms.
Yes, yes, I know. You can just add it to all of the other ridiculous behaviors I've admitted to here. I mean, seriously. Eye color racism anyone? (frequent readers know what I'm talkin' 'bout here).
Having observed the corpses of countless martyrs, dry and blue/black, asphalt-baked alive in the light of the blazing sun, I somehow decided long ago to stave the apparent earthworm march to extinction.
Since childhood, when I've seen a worm making its way across our desert of concrete, I've taken pity. Scouting out a sturdy leaf or smooth, small stick, I claim one of nature's life preservers and begin the process that is to be the earthworm's only experience of flight.
The thing is, for those of you who've never tried, saving an earthworm is no easy business. And that's usually because of the earthworm.
Despite being in an inarguably precarious position, an earthworm flops madly when touched - much less lifted. Thus, when attempting the aerial rescue, it's often "savior beware".
The case today proved no different.
After procuring a sturdy enough leaf, I began the process of lifting the fellow out of harm's way, for deposit on some nearby grass. And wouldn't you know, despite the promise of shade and soil and prolonged life, the earthworm put up a mighty fight.
It took me multiple tries, but eventually the worm in question gave in, tired of fighting the Giant in the Sky that was intent on moving him from one ground to the other.
As I deposited him to a cool spot amid the fescue, I couldn't help but note the similarities between myself, you, and the earthworm.
How often in my life have I been utterly blind, crawling on my belly along an asphalt path, in agony, but still insistent upon my going my own way?
How often have I fought His hands, which attempted to lift me to safer ground, flopping madly in refusal, begging to return to the hell in which I placed myself?
And how often has He - or a person of His choosing - forced my movement, and delivered me to a place I never thought I wanted to go, only to realize later that I had, on that day and on many days since, been delivered?
My friends, life leads us to all manner of uncertain places, some of them sun-drenched on brutal pavement. But occasionally, G-d gives us the gift of intervention - of a leaf or a stick to carry us to softer ground.
Today, on Yom Kippur, I wish you peace. The peace of the earthworm who's given up fighting and instead allows himself to be delivered, miraculously, to safer ground.
Everyone on the Facebook planet seems to have something to say about the Miley Cyrus performance at this year's VMAs. (Bear with me here. This post is not about the degeneration of The Artist Formerly Known As Hannah Montana.) In the past few days, I've heard and seen it all - how the performance was offensive to women, to young girls, to black people. About the double standard presented in that it's being termed the Miley Cyrus debacle, when Robin Thicke was just as godawful (if not worse) than his *ahem* dance partner.
Among the various cries from the hundreds - thousands? - of outraged posters, came this. <- a="" all.="" link="" p="" s="" that="" y=""> For those of you patently averse to reading any blog other than mine, the premise of the afore-linked blog is simple: It's a letter from a father to his son, urging said son not to grow up to emulate Robin Thicke and his ilk. In it, writer Matt Walsh nails role models like Thicke, advising his son "Don’t let any of these pigs and perverts you see on TV be a lesson to you. They treat women like garbage; they possess no chivalry, no self control; they are disloyal and dishonest; they spend all day pursuing pleasure at the expense of others, and they encourage you to do the same."->
While I find this accurate...and while I fully support the message Walsh relays to his son...it wasn't this message that struck me. Rather, it was his definition of what constitutes a "real man," and, more specifically, what one commenter had to say about that definition.
It's this exchange, which inspired me to write.
Walsh writes, "Men are loyal. Men are honest. Men respect and honor women. A man goes out and finds one woman, and he vows to protect and love her for the rest of his life. A man would never betray that vow. Even the weakest and most cowardly man — if he is a man at all — would die for the woman he loves. Your dad is no hero, but let someone try to hurt your mom and watch him suddenly turn into Superman (or Batman, whichever you prefer).
"See, son, you don’t have to be big and strong to be a man, although I think you will be one day. You don’t have to be “cool” or athletic. You don’t have to play guitar or fix cars. These are all fine things, but they don’t define a man. A man is defined by how he treats women, by how he keeps his promises, and by how he protects and serves the ones he loves. That’s what makes a man a man. My dad taught me that, he taught it by example. I pray I can do the same for you.
"Oh, and by the way, if I ever catch you disrespecting women, I will sit you down and talk to you about it. But first I’ll kick your butt up and down the street. That’s a promise."
At this point, me and my likeminded are giving a standing ovation to Walsh, and wishing there were more out there like him. I mean, look at the values the man is preaching. Who could have any objection?
If you scan the previous paragraphs, you might think someone somewhere would complain about the "kick your butt down the street" language. "Violence is not the answer!", you might think. "That's child abuse!," you might decry.
And while I would roll my eyes and tell you straight to get a life, at least I can see where that argument would come from. But not commenter Kelly.
Kelly (presumably a female, but who knows), took umbrage with an entirely different part of the passage saying, "...you used the word “serve”….no body should “serve” anyone."
Yeah. take a minute and let that sink in.
I found this statement utterly appalling, and not just for the hellacious grammar that I was forced to replicate here for accuracy. No sir. My down-in-my-soul disturbance ran far deeper.
Friends - I ask you - when did "service" - the idea of faithfully (and joyfully) serving one's fellow man - become a naughty word?
In the Bible, much can be found concerning the virtues of service. Jesus, it turns out, was pretty big on it. (I started to include chapter and verse here, but was dissuaded the by the sheer volume of content. So I guess you're just gonna hafta trust me. Or Google it. Up to you.)
Likewise, service to others - placing others as equal to or above onesself - giving of yourself in others to service - is highly prized in Judaism, Islam and Buddhism, which, if we're playing a numbers game here, essentially means that at least the majority of people on this planet pay at least lip service to this principle.
So why is serving someone else - especially someone you love, as Walsh is suggesting - such an appalling prospect? Ladies and gentlemen, are we really that fucking selfish?
I'm far from the first to point out that we live in a self-absorbed culture. We are constantly told and sold about self improvement, self promotion, the importance of self. But at what cost? Because somewhere along the line we seem to have lost sight of the fact that, without you, I? Am pretty darned screwed.
If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have anyone to talk to (at.) Anyone to challenge me. Anyone to milk a cow and sell the 2% organic to me. My friends, you are a necessary part of me, and as such, I should love you as I love myself.
Sound familiar? It should. The foundation of many faiths is built on it. And, I would argue - so are good relationships.
Before I met The Jew, I had several romantic relationships that crashed and burned because one or both of the parties continually placed their needs ahead of the needs of the other person. I've witnessed many a friendship go down in similar flames. One of the reasons The Jew and I work? He puts me first. And friends, I return the favor.
And what's so wrong with that?
Since reading Kelly's comment, I've been needling my brain for circumstances wherein taking the other person's needs into account could go horribly awry. And here's the thing - I can't think of one. Sure, there are disaster scenarios where some halfwit rolls over and plays dead for a domineering jackass, but I share with you that those scenarios are not true examples of a life of service. Those are examples of a life of self-imposed slavery, which is a very different thing.
Service - true service - of offering aid, consideration, and kindness to one's fellow man can bring all manner of blessings and surprises, and they don't involve sacrificing who you are. Rather, by making sacrifices you learn and display who you truly are and where your values lie. And that, at least to me, seems like an imperative part of positive personal growth.
Those times in my life of which I am most proud? Usually grew for the seeds of service. Those times of which I am most ashamed? Can usually be traced back to behaving like a selfish bitch.
My friends, I have to disagree with Kelly. I have to say that, from where I'm standing, service is right up there with honesty in the realm of virtues. So I would encourage you to try to pay more than lip service to service. Because selfishness? Accomplishes its root word. Behave selfishly, end up by yourself. Or maybe with Kelly. And we know she's not gonna do you any favors.
First, it should be noted that I am skipping the usual ErinandScott Shabbas ritual of Jew & Q (Temple followed by barbecue at Heirloom. Have you tried it? Awesome! Best in town!) for a cover band's Prince concert, so, you know, I'm not necessarily what one would call an authority on spiritual adherence to the faith.
That said, I continue to be surprised by what I can only describe as an absence of faith in my Jewish community.
Now, I know there are many devout Jewish people. I see them walking around North Druid Hills, legs covered, yarmulkes neatly placed, far more pious than I could ever dream of being...
But I don't KNOW those people. And, to be frank, they wouldn't accept me, as I am not a naturally born member of the Jew pack.
So, readers, I am not talking about the street walkers.
*I just pleased my own self with that turn of phrase
Rather, I am talking about the Jews in my social circle. The lovely people who have been so kind to accept me and to invite me to all of their Jewish events (which, for all of you Goyim, are like any other group gathering, except with an exponentially increased usage of Yiddish.)
And while I enjoy the occasional Chosen People Simkhe (<-had because="" drawn="" faith="" i="" look="" of...well...="" one="" personally="" that="" the="" to="" up="" was="">the faith-had>
With most of my Jewish friends? This is simply not the case.
Most Jews with whom I associate know very little about the Jewish faith. Aside from what they learned - and regurgitated - for a bar or bat mitzvah, much of my naturally born Jewish circle can't tell you anything about the Torah. The don't know the key players (Moses is a big one though. They know Moses.), and they don't know many of the stories of their own people. In fact, if there's not a holiday organized around it, the Jews in my crew? Have no clue.
I suppose that stems from Judaism's unique position of being both a faith and a culture. And for those of you who don't really understand what that means, I'll break it down this way: You are born white. Or black. Or American. Or Jewish. It's not a choice you make. You're born that way. You can't change it. You shouldn't want to. It's your identity. It's who you are.
But in most cases, a faith is a belief system you come to. Sure, you may have been raised in the faith, but whether you become a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Christian, a Muslim - is a choice. It's a personal statement of the personal beliefs you have come to personally accept. As my own conversion proves, you are not born with it. You can change it at any time.
Judaism? Not necessarily so. As it is both a culture and a faith, you can be a Jewish Christian. Or a Jewish atheist.
A Christian atheist? Not so much.
So anyway, many of the Jews I know are cultural Jews. They know the traditions. They know the Hebrew prayers (though most could not tell you what they mean). They know the traditional meals and the silly inside jokes. But they don't know much about the faith. They don't care to. And why should they?
Judaism takes no "official" stance on Hell. There are no eternal punishments. No guarantee of eternal rewards for good behavior.
For Jews, the only definitive promise is NOW. THIS MOMENT. Be good in THIS MOMENT. Live well in THIS MOMENT. Give to and love your neighbors in THIS MOMENT.
It's beautiful, when you really think about it. Such thinking eliminates at least some of the false "good behavior" often brought on by fear of eternal punishment. (Though there is some fear of immediate punishment in the form of ostracism from "the group," which is a formidable threat.)
Rather than running about, constantly fearing whether an evil endeavor will leave them hell-bound, many Jews fear such an endeavor would hurt the community (or their mother), and thus, that strong community you hear so much about continues being fostered.
I see nothing wrong with this. I enjoy Jewish culture and very much want to learn more about and be a part of it.
But for me personally, it's all for naught without the faith.
Why? Because I do not share a background with natural-born Jews. For me, participation is not about indulging in the ritual of my ancestors.
For a convert like me, with no cultural ties, celebrating Jewish culture without celebrating the Jewish faith would be like attending a pro-Denmark party. Sure, I enjoy the crepes, but I've never even been to Denmark, so why the hell am I so excited about it? If my family was from Denmark? Sure. I've got some Irish pride because of my father's side (never been, but generally defend it. Am generally "pro" Ireland.) But, as a rule, if I have no connection...well...is it any wonder that I'm not connected?
So here's my point - what connects ME to Judaism is the faith. Not the culture, as I DO NOT SHARE THE CULTURE. So, when i am surrounded by Jews who relate to Judaism only by way of culture and not by way of faith, I naturally feel a disconnect. It's like I'm attending a rally as a "Yea" on the issue, and culture folks are attending the same rally as a "Nay" on the issue. Sure, we're in the same place and we're talking about the same topic...but the similarities pretty much end there.
I've been aware of this disconnect for quite some time, but it was again brought to my attention when I attended one of the first meetings of what is intended to be a group for young (20s - 40s ish) Atlanta Jews. A place for people in my age group to really "connect"...
But therein lies the problem.
I'm feeling a lack of connection, and it's stemming from everything I've just outlined in what I feel may be painstaking detail.
What I connect with is the faith presented in the Torah. What the group seems to connect with is shared memories of their mother's latkes.
And what's worse?
It seems that's what the group wants to continue to perpetuate.
Rather than be inclusive - the group's purported goal - the gathering reminds me of the same old same old in that everyone wants challah and cheese parties, and no one seems to want to get together and do Torah study (and THEN have challah and cheese.)
I'm not anti the fun stuff. I want to wave a sparkler at the Israeli New Year Fireworks Celebration as much as the next guy (My idea. Yay!), but the thing is, I want MORE than that.
I want a collaborative Jewish community that includes experiences of all kinds.
The way I see it, "community" loosely translates to an extended family. And family is supposed to embrace and nurture the whole person. Sure, that means filling the belly with latkes. But it also means filling the soul.
Judaism has so much to offer the soul, both culturally and as a faith.
I choose to be a Jew who embraces both.
Even if you can't "connect" with that.
Recently, I've had some medical misfortunes, and while those misfortunes are nothing compared to some of the stresses currently facing certain friends - I can say that this rash of cancer and cancer scares has shown me outpourings of support for all parties, most in the form of: "I will pray for you."
As a person of faith, I believe in the power of prayer. I certainly believe G-d listens. I believe He acts. I believe He can make moves, inroads, and progress in areas where human doctors are completely unable.
That said, I believe equally strongly that the words "you're in my prayers," when accompanied by zero additional actions on behalf of the phrase offerer, are hollow and lazy.
YES. I said it. HOLLOW and LAZY.
Example - recently a friend was diagnosed with cancer. He begins chemo in April. For anyone who knows anything about the effects of chemo, it destroys pretty much all of you - including your immune system. As a consequence, those small viruses that'd usually lay you up for about a week? Could kill you. Yeah. Chemo's no joke.
So, given the potential for serious complications, the friend involved (and his fiance) requested friends who were able to come to the house and help with an extreme cleaning.
And they were met with two responses - 1. What time can I be there? <- 2.="" and="" answer.="" be="" but="" can="" for="" i="" it.="" kudos.="" ll="" make="" p="" praying="" right="" s="" sorry.="" t="" that="" the="" you.=""> As you may have guessed by now, I view response 2 as a wrong answer.->
Why? Because it's lazy and hollow.
Can G-d cure my friend? Yes. Yes He can. But in the mean time, I can clean his tub.
Because G-d? Calls US to action.
THAT MEANS YOU, ASSHOLE.
This is likely where my readership roads diverge into two paths - path 1 saying "well, this is how you learn who your true friends are" yadda yah and path 2 making excuses for the prayer police.
Fuck one. I'm going after 2.
I'll say this - there are legit reasons for not being available on Designated Cleaning Day (DCD). You have a funeral. Your kid is in a play. You are out of town. (I'm not completely heartless.)
But NOT ONE of those reasons is an acceptable reason to do NOTHING.
You can't come? You can put forward a few bucks to pay for a cleaning service to come in your stead. if 15 people send $10 a piece - well, you've got a professional cleaning service coming to his door.
You can't come? Sure. Maybe not that day. But what about the day after? Or the day after that? Here's an idea: PICK UP THE PHONE AND ASK HIM AND HIS FIANCE WHAT THEY NEED. AND THEN DO IT.
Maybe they need food - send 'em a fucking pie. Can't drive to their home for any reason? MAIL A KROGER GIFT CARD.
And then send THAT with a prayer.
Because prayer is an intercession. It's a communication with Someone more powerful than yourself, who can accomplish things you can't.
But here's the thing - while G-d is busy taking care of the things you can't, HE'S EXPECTING YOU TO STEP UP AND TAKE CARE OF THE THINGS YOU CAN.
So get off your ass.
I call vacuuming. And laundry. I'll do the lights and darks.
It is only because You remain the same that I am allowed - and, finally, unafraid - to change. Your constant consistency acts as the safety net, a home for my spirit to rest from its travels. And I am only free to travel because I know I have a home to which I can return. My wanderings will never replace You. My experiences abroad only serve to enrich my thoughts and experiences of You.
It is only because You remain the same that I can finally allow myself to change.
Of all the things Christianity has gotten wrong *ahem*, there's one aspect that not even the Catholics have managed to botch: namely, that they're just so damn friendly.
Sure, a Southern Baptist will just as soon innumerate the reasons you're hellbound as look at you, but the moment you step into that sanctuary? BLAMMO! They are ever so glad you came.
The reasons for this are varied, but likely rooted in the faith itself. Christianity is an evangelical religion. And smiles win more souls than frowns. (For the record, Southern Baptists will tell you that barbecue is a successful -and tasty!- tool for soul saving. On this point, I happen to agree with them.)
Naturally, as Judaism is not evangelical (and is likewise averse to pork), one would expect there to be some differences in initial reception. Jews? Are usually born into the fold. No work required there. More of a "blood right" kind of a thing. Born to a Jew? Then you're one of us. Come on in. Have some matzah and let's complain about something.
But for those who are not born into The Tribe (moi), acceptance is not so easy.
Last week, while attending a local temple I have frequented on several occasions, I entered as I normally would: timid but friendly. Smiling. Shy. The perfect prospect for any Christian church.
And I was ignored.
Not. One. Person. So. Much. As. LOOKED. AT. ME.
Anyone who's read this page can surmise that I have, *erm*, "issues" with some of the tennets of the Christian faith...but I tell you, on this particular Shabbat, I flat wished the pretty yarmulke-clad people sitting with their blood-borne Semite families had a burning desire to save me from Hell Fire.
'Cause then maybe I would've gotten a kind word.
I stayed for what felt like hours (10 minutes maybe?) before silently retracing my steps to The Tracker. On my way, I asked G-d if He wanted me to stay. I said simply, "Just tell me, and I will go back inside."
But I received no sign.
So I went to IHOP.
And had a religious experience all my own.
With pancakes and bacon.
Southern Baptist style.
Received from my friend, Julie. A conversation with her daughter, Phoebe:
"Phoebe: Mom, we need to buy one of those candle things with the candle in the middle like we saw. The one with the helper candle because we do not have one.
P: The helper candle thing that lights the other candles...
Me: Oh! A menorah?!
P: Yeah! They're at the Boobie Store. The next time we're there again, we should buy it, k?
LOL SO funny! We had just seen menorahs at William Sonoma this past weekend, and then we walked right into Victoria Secret so she got the two stores confused! Bah ha ha ha ha I laughed so hard!!!"
New tactic de Jew? Using breasts for conversion. And may I be so bold as to assert they've chosen the right girl for that one? #ErinhasbigboobiesbeaJew#12-11-12
It sat there, staring at me: an omen.
That gift I'd gotten you near two years ago. An inside joke. Left for me to cry over. Alone.
And I knew then, as I have always known, that I am one destined to be alone. To suffer a thirst for love that will remain unquenched for the entirety of my life.
"G-d," I told myself, "just wants some people to be alone. You are one of those people."
And then He spoke to me. For the first time in the longest time, He spoke to me.
"No," He said. "I do not want some people to be alone." And then He placed on my heart the story of Adam. And how Adam, though ruler of all the earth, was incomplete. So G-d made Eve.
I was made to be a perfect compliment to another. And he was made to be a perfect compliment to me.
Keep faith, Little Lamb. For He has plans to prosper you and not to harm you.
"I AM," He says. And He is. A family, a home, a place to go to be nurtured, cared for, loved.
Seems to me that Christians are far more terrified of the nonexistence of Hell than they are that someone they know might be going there.
It's like I was born without a soul somehow.
Like there was a cosmic oversight somewhere in the human factory. Like the bloke responsible for the soul cog was on an extended lunch when I came down the line.
Externally beautiful, perhaps. Internally piecemeal.
No warranty. No recall.
The Rule of Threes states that many aspects of life are inherently more interesting, entertaining, or complete when taken in threes.
Which likely explains my penchant for multiple deserts, for my tolerance of new people and for the emergence of The Holy Trinity.
Three parts are just more filling.
G-d is no longer speaking to me directly.
He's mad at me, and kinda I deserve it.
But much like the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, he continues to do me the favor of pointing.
This morning, He pointed me to this truth: There is no harm I can do that cannot be undone.
In my life journey, I have hurt many that I have loved. Usually not on purpose, but they have been casualties of the war that is Winning Erin's Soul Back to Sanity.
Along this road, there have been many who deserted my camp.
My heart broke over what I saw as every dishonorable discharge.
Recently, some of those wayward soldiers have returned, and I have been shown that the dishonorable discharge was all in how I viewed it. From their perspective, they were conscientious objectors.
My friends, I have been the Mistress (pun intended) of self-flagellation for most of my time on this erf. Daily, I've tied myself to some or other whipping post.
But today I took pity on me.
For today the Lord has shown me (no words. Just pointing.) how others see me. Others made the choice to return. And people don't return after decades of separation to those they view as hopeless cases.
Today I stood up for myself. Instead of bludgeoning, I had mercy on my journey. I never meant to hurt anyone. And besides, others must be held accountable to and learn from their path. I have hurt people. But my infliction of harm has. on many levels, been turned by G-d for the good of those persons.
I have been hurt. But my faith tells me the pain you brought, G-d can use it to mold me into a beautiful creature. And I do so want to be a beautiful creature.
Today, G-d pointed, and I saw. Today I untied myself from the whipping post.
Tomorrow may find me running back to the stocks...but I may just find that there are no crowds left to throw pies.
You hurt me so badly, I haven't any pain left.
This experience? Has robbed me of my ability to feel. Anything.
Happiness? Sadness? Anger?
Oh, and as a side note, it's also cost me my faith.
This may come as a shock, but I don't want to kill anybody.
Unless they cut me off on the highway. Because then -- let's face it -- all bets are off.
Let that sink in for a minute.
I do not want to kill child molesters. Or murderers. I do not want to rid the world of Palestinians just for the benefit of Israel.
I do not want to turn the Cradle of Civilization into a giant sheaf of glass because the Taliban and groups akin call the Middle East their home.
In fact, if I were placed in the room with the cowards that shot up that school bus, I wouldn't torture them. I wouldn't starve them. I wouldn't even yell at them.
I'd cry for them.
Because, goddamnit, isn't there enough hate in this world?
And if you go about killing people, you rob them of their most precious possession -- no, not LIFE, you imbecile!
It's the only constant on this beautiful little marble G-d has given us, and, quite frankly, the ONLY HOPE FOR THE HUMAN RACE.
As was pointed out to me recently while attending meditation at the Buddhist temple, our bodies are in a constant state of change. Every system in the complex co-op that is "us" is in an ever-present state of repair, replacement, advancement.
And so too can be our brains.
For what is more powerful than a human idea?
I can think of nothing more instrumental in the shaping of the whole, wide world.
And, if we go about hating each other, killing each other, we rob each other of the one most powerful and important instrument in the symphony of our future.
You don't like the song? Help to change the refrain.
For every new day is a new chance for change.
Don't believe it's possible?
Think there's no hope for this or that group?
Jesus turned a murderer and tax collector (which is worse? Discuss...) into a faithful SAINT that folks have been trying to emulate for 2,000 years.
But that possibility is only present so long as there's a pulse.
The future, my friends, lies in the heart.
And not just in the beat of those you count as allies...much moreso in the echoes of your enemies.
Jewish boys are so incredibly HAWT. I have crushes on, like, ALL of them. I cannot help myself. They are like my bedroom's greatest untapped *ahem* resource. I just want to make them yell "Yahweh." I totally do.
"Just Call Me Dr. Faustus"
I need to see a rabbi. "Cause, frankly, I've got questions.
(P.S. A big "thank you" to Judaism for taking my questions in stride. Turns out I get approving nods for being smart and inquisitive. How's THAT for a faith? Yeah.)
Anyway, my annoying question for someone smarter than me today is this: Human kind was given free will, yes?
(The answer is 'yes.' Free will vs. Determinism is a question for a different day. Not this day. Let's stick with this day.)
So, assuming we were given free will and all the pitfalls therefrom, I pose this question: Adam and Eve were instructed by G-d not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. (Some call it the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Or TOKOGAE. It was a many-named tree.)
In any event, that was the only thing forbidden to the First Couple (leave Lillith out of this!). But we have free will, right? So, of course, we "ate the apple." We are, after all, "touch the fire to see if it burns" folks.
So my problem lies here: Without having first eaten the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve apparently had no concept of right and wrong. And this poses a HUGE problem for me.
For, with no knowledge of right and wrong, how are we to exercise our free will?
Seems to me we'd be destined for failure.
What a terrible gift we were given!
Seems to me that A&E had to eat the apple in order to make any use of this BS gift of free will that Yahweh apparently bestowed on a couple of moral infants.
Imagine it: how would you make any sort of executive decision (positive or no) without the benefit of first knowing the difference between right and wrong?
And on that note - doesn't lack of knowledge aforethought alleviate Eve of some of the guilt of "original sin"? I mean, as she did not know right for wrong (poor dummy), how was she expected to uphold said principles?
Basically, put it this way: We know G-d said not to do it. But with no knowledge of right and wrong, one would therefore have no idea WHY they were prohibited.
And "why" is a very, very powerful question.
For annoying little children like myself (and Adam and Eve, apparently) one's motivations behind a decision are key. WHY can't I do this? WHY can't I do that?
Brats like me need reasons.
Apparently Adam and Eve were expected to follow blindly.
And that's blind faith.
That's "because I said so."
And, my friends, I have NEVER embraced "because I said so."
You see, "because I said so" establishes a hierarchy. It places the sayer above the hearer. It says, "Do not question. Do not think for yourself. You do not need to know my thought process. You are not worthy of knowing. Don't argue. JUST DO!"
And how does such a command not make me nothing more than a flying monkey? Or a drone? Or a soldier? (and I'm not even getting the insurance or veteran's benefits!)
Thing is, these kinds of orders are often given by people in authority. And sometimes, like in the case of G-d, those folks are deserving of their post. Does The Man know better than me? You better believe it! But if He wants me to catapult myself from a ledge, well, He better give me a damn good reason.
Some would say this is an absence of faith on my part.
I argue it's an absence of thought on theirs.
I mean, even Jesus asked that the cup be taken from him.
News Flash people: it ain't wrong to question. It's just wrong to disobey.
With the gift of free will (Is it a gift? Discuss) comes the obligation to inform onesself. At least that's how I see it. Which is why I take issue with our founding family.
One cannot inform onesself adequately without the aforementioned knowledge of good and evil.
That they were denied this knowledge prior to making a decision that, according to some, bought humanity it's one-way ticket to Hell (and, some say, purchased women the gift of menstruation--a gift I would certainly take back with or without a gift receipt) is nothing short of unfair.
So I think I may just call "Bollocks!" on this whole concept of original sin. Sure, such a declaration is not within my power. But I have to be honest - I kinda feel for the poor Eden saps. They were given too much freedom and not enough information - and in my book, that's pretty much a guaranteed recipe for failure.
It's at this point that I hear my former church groups in my head, screaming about my arrogance at demanding G-d reveal His plans to me before I make a decision. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. Lucifer did the same thing and we all know how that ended up.
In the Garden.
By a tree.
With a woman.
A woman with a question that needed only an answer:
Of all of the tenets of faith that Christianity and Islam have gotten wrong (there are many) there is one which, I believe, they have gotten absolutely right:
Or, more importantly, its absence.
You see, in the Christian and Islamic faiths, there is no equivalent to the faithful floor versus the mezzanine. You do not, for example, get "grandfathered in" to a better view of the angelic choir. Early acceptance doesn't garner one more heavenly virgins or more jewels in the crown. Those "saved" in 2002 are no better -- no "more" Christian -- than those saved, say, yesterday at 2:11 p.m.
Not necessarily so with Judaism.
As someone not born to the faith, I have experienced my share of "yeah, but you're not really Jewish" as of late.
And while any Hasidic rabbi would probably rate my Judaism as on par with a pulled pork sandwich with cheese, most of this sentiment has not come from the Jewish community -- it's come from Christians. (In all fairness, I only know one Muslim. And she could care less. So it's highly likely Muslims are equally prejudice. Or not. Jury's still out.)
For example, I was recently told by one individual (Christian) that I was "less Jewish" than one of my coworkers. Why? Because my coworker was born into the faith, whereas I came to it as an adult.
That we all sprang from the cradle of civilization, and that (for Bible/Torah literalists) we all descended from Jews like Noah (as Jews were the only people to survive the flood and repopulate the world), is, I suppose, beside the point.
People with such views seldom listen to the "we are all one" argument. How do I know this? I've tried.
So, that aside, I got to wondering how such ideas came about. After all, one may be born into a Christian home, but one is not born into the Christin faith.
By its own definitions, one must grow to personally accept Jesus as a personal savior. This decision requires individual cognizance and choice -- neither of which are present at birth.
Still, Jews? Gotta be Jewish from infancy.
How does that make sense?
One would think that coming to the faith as a rational adult would, if anything, mean more about the strengths of one's belief system. Because, really, what do 13 year old boys and 12 year old girls know anyway?
Perhaps the answer lies in that Judaism is a faith, but "being Jewish" also assumes an ancestral tie to certain traditions. And it's these traditions that I do not share with my fellow Jews...at least not without tracing my ancestry back to Ham, Shem and Japheth. (Ironic that Noah's son shares his name with a forbidden food, no?)
And if this is the nature of the argument, then I must concede.
I do not share the genes which account for the "traditional" Jewish traits. I will never have a "Jew fro"...or be pale...or have a hook nose...or bear any notable resemblance to Woody Allen...or have horns, for that matter. (Horns. Really?!? WTF, people. Will we honestly believe anything our parents teach us?)
In many ways, I certainly wish I had been born to a Jewish family. It would make going to Temple easier. I'd already know the prayers and not have to study them. I'd have somewhere called "home" to go to for the High Holy Days.
But in many ways, I find myself fortunate not to have been born to the culture.
As an outsider, I have the benefit of perspective - I have lived the life of the majority, and can therefore compare to the life of the minority. I can act as a point of reference for my Jewish friends, who do not understand Christian custom. Likewise, I can offer my Christian friends insight on where some of their practices originate. Catholic confirmation? Try Jewish Bar/Bat Mitzvah. (Oooooh! So that's where that came from!)
Make no mistake, I'm not an uber Jew. You can fit the things I do not know into the Grand Canyon, and the things I do into a mustard seed.
But for right ow, I'm finding where I fit. And I don't need your judgement about my origins to do so.
A healthy person fantasizes about self-improvement.
I fantasize about ways to help improve you.
Not so much in the "you are a broken appliance that needs mending" sense.
No, you are no project. You are no toaster with a broken coil.
If anything, I see you as better than me.
And I therefore want to do anything in my power to help you shine.
You're hurt? What can I do to make you feel better?
You're scared? What can I do to make you feel safe?
You're stuck? What can I do to pull you from the mire?
You're depressed? Let me do a little dance for you.
On the surface, this type of existence seems so selfless. But believe me, my friends, this path is no Mother Teresa road.
Because this path is borne from a sense of inferiority.
On this path, I derive my only worth from what I can do for you. I have no inherent worth. I have no inherent value. I can therefore only establish some sense of a human price tag by aiding someone who, in my eyes, is already priceless.
My friends, I do not exist or have purpose without you.
The second little problem with the way I live is the after effect.
You see, a person like yourself eventually stops being hurt. You stop being scared. You stop being stuck. You stop being depressed.
And when you do, you no longer have use for me. Like the proverbial tool, if I can be of no use, I can have no worth. And with no worth, I am just taking up room in the shed.
Make no mistake friends, I know where I stand. And, as I rust from disuse, I know my end: discarded at a garage sale.
Sure, I will be picked up by someone else who needs me. But only for a little while. Suburban families only need a hoe (ho?) for the spring. Come (cum?) fall, I'm discarded again.
So there it is, dear friends. I have identified the cycle.
It's not novel. Anyone who's ever been codependent knows it. "Do for others. Do for others. Do for others. In saving them, you save yourself."
But there is no form of permanence in saving others. Because in saving them you either: a. expect such actions to save yourself or b. expect them to save you.
But there is only one person that can save you. And, sadly, she is once again busy saving someone else...
You think Mary ever resented Jesus? Maybe just a lil' bit?
"The Eyes Don't See What The Heart Don't Know"
Some people don't say "I love you."
At least, not in so many words.
Me? I am a words person. If I love you, you know it. 'Cause I'll tell you every time I see you.
So believe me when I tell you there were times (still are, occasionally) when my little wordy brain could not conceive that certain members of my family gave a damn for me...
Thank G-d for granting me increased understanding as I've aged.
Because, while my dad doesn't often iterate those three little words, he went up to his mountain house to make sure everything was in order for me and my friends this weekend. He even bought the industrial strength paper plates for our fajitas.
My friends, my father loves me.
And while Ryan would rather ingest Raid than say it, every time he sees me, he pokes the everlovin' shit out of me. And last year when I stayed at his house? He washed my car for me. Why? "*Grumble, grumble. Because it was dirty, and I was already out there so..."
Bullshit. That kid loves me.
And while Justin usually reserves his telephone conversations to one word answers, when I am down, I always get the strange urge to call him. Inevitably, he says something so brilliant, it ends up scrawled across my bathroom mirror in lipstick. Justin? Loves me.
My mother(s), my sister(s), my brother Josh? Vocal people. There's an "I love you" every time we speak.
I can hear that.
It's easier. It's how I communicate too.
But today I am thankful to G-d for opening not my ears, but my eyes, to see the love in front of me.
Now, not only is my sense of hearing engaged, but my sense of sight as well. Which means I am doubly loved. And doubly blessed.
Many were the years I prayed G-d would speak to me--show me a sign.
Now that He does, I've never felt so at peace and so complete.
Be thankful. Every day be thankful.
Most see the Golden Rule (The "love thy neighbor as thyself" translation) as a reminder to place others at the same level of importance as the self.
Me? Well, I'm codependent, so I see it a bit differently.
Codependents place others before self. Always.
But this isn't selflessness. Not in its truest sense. This is detrimental.
See, to truly be selfless, one must know self love, and make the cognitive choice to place others at that same level or higher. As codependents know nothing of self love, throwing themselves (ourselves? themselves? us?) in front of a train for someone else is a no-brainer. As we see it, we have no value, and therefore being mauled by a German ICE for another person inherently gives us worth. We had no worth on our own, but gained worth through saving another.
This manner of thinking allows us to endure (seek out even?) such rewarding life situations as abuse, abandonment and neglect. (why do nice girls always fall for assholes? Well, you have your answer.)
Basically, the Golden Rule demands two things - but most people only see the one: to love your neighbor. Yep. Do that. Love 'em hard and love 'em long time.
But the second commandment is the one I must constantly keep in the forefront of my mind: love the self.
If I don't love me, then I can't love you.
I continue to be astonished by the pseudo-negative responses I receive to my conversion. Many, upon seeing the Star around my neck, react as if there is a stinky smell in the room. They are not rude, per se, but the reaction is less than stellar. It's sort of along the lines of meeting someone you really like, having fantasies about skipping through flower infested yet mosquito free fields with them and then realizing that said person is of a differing political party, and therefore an idiot.
That kind of disappointment? It shows.
So what's the deal? Why would you be so Delores Downer on something that brings me immense joy? It's not like I'm hurting anybody.
Is it the Jesus thing? Is that what this is about?
Because, look...if your view on what Judaism is is "a rejection of Jesus"...then you really have no views on Judaism.
For one, Judaism was around for thousands of years before ol' Yeshua threw merchants out of The Temple (good move by the way. Seriously.)
For another, by embracing the true faith of Jesus, I'd say I stand to learn more about the guy, his culture and his motivations than say...you do.
Family, lineage, history, Torah, Temple - these things are paramount for Jews. Which mean they were paramount for Jesus. Which means they informed, influenced and shaped everything he did and said.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. Jesus never read the New Testament. He never stepped foot in a church. He never wore a cross around his neck. (How odd would THAT be?)
But he did go to Temple. He was a rabbi. And he knew the Torah and its teachings backward, forward and upside down. (And you thought you were doing well because you memorized John 3:16?)
My faith is not, nor will it ever be, the rejection of a brilliant teacher, of and sent by G-d, that revolutionized my faith by bringing it to the masses. If anything, Yeshua can be credited with bringing me back into the fold.
Judaism is not a rejection of Jesus. It's an embrace of Yahweh. And He is glad to have me.
I write when inspired.
I've never been one of those "must write today, must write today, must write today" kinds of people.
So when I tell you that Barrett Eben Lawrence was on my mind today...well, you know it's true, because my ill ass (sinus infection) took the inspiration and put it to paper...
But let's begin at the beginning, shall we?
On my bedside table I have 5 books. A journal, a devotional, "The Language of Letting Go," "I Hate Everything," and "How To Be Happy, Damnit!"
Usually, when I want to have a chat with G-d, I open either (or both) the devotional and "The Language of Letting Go." Somehow or other, the message(s) involved therein always seem to directly address the issue that was on my mind when I picked up the book. Funny how that works.
Well, today I opted for TLOLG. Today's message was about Step 8 in the 12 step program--the step where you make a list of those you've wronged (your name always goes at the top of the list) and then make a pledge to make right by those people.
I was disappointed.
I scoured my brain for a minute or two and--while I have many episodes from my past for which I am acutely sorry--I couldn't think of one for which I hadn't already apologized. Repeatedly. And usually in an embarrassing display of overt and uncomfortable emotion.
So on this day, I felt like my old trick of talking to The Man Upstairs had failed me.
C'est la vie.
I went on about my day.
I was having a bit of an emotional meltdown this morning, and my illness wasn't doing me any favors and somehow or other my feverish brain went back about 15 years, to a bus stop at the top of the hill.
I remembered a very special someone whose simple gesture had made a difference to me in that time, and had continued to make a difference over the years.
I figured it was time to page homage.
I wrote the note about Brett.
And then I got the text message. The one issuing condolences over my loss.
"Oh. He isn't dead," I replied.
Turned out, he was...
So I spent much of my evening crying. Reminiscing. On his laugh. On his inappropriate sense of humor. On his tastes in music. And pastimes. And sex.
How he and Richard James used to say "Rook" and then laugh maniacally. Apparently it was the funniest word in the English language.
Of everything I can say about Brett, I suppose the thing that brings me the most joy is that my mental image of him - the first thing that pops into my head - is his smile.
Brett was often depressed. I remember one sickening conversation about how, on the day he had decided he was going to believe in G-d, his dog got hit by a car. Brett laughed about it. He was like that...laughing about things that, when he was alone, made him cry.
Sadly, I know I made him cry.
I don't know if I ever apologized.
And that's when it hit me...G-d WAS speaking to me this morning. He knows so much more than I. He knew what I was to discover. He may have even lead me to it...
In short, the realization that there are people from my past that I have wronged, and that it is my responsibility to make right. Or at least to recognize and to learn.
I think if I had taken the opportunity to apologize to Brett, he would've mocked me. Openly. Maybe even a little cruelly. But with no malice. And with a smile. That was just his way.
Assuming we ran into each other at the mall again, I wouldn't--even now--take the opportunity to tell him what he meant to me. I wouldn't tell him that he made me feel beautiful. Or that he opened my eyes. Or made me question my world. I wouldn't thank him for my introduction to Richard James. Or to Nine Inch Nails. or to Ol' Blue.
I'd simply stop abruptly in midstride, point--obnoxiously and with gusto--and yell at the top of my lungs (in an inappropriately racist impression of an Asian person with an L/R reversal), "Rook! Over there!"
I'd keep my game face.
And he'd stare at me for a second.
And, as the look of recognition dawned on his face, he'd laugh.
Is it just me or do all fanatically "devout" people sorta remind you of the warden in "Shawshank Redemption"?
A year and a half ago, I was miserable.
Terrible relationship, terrible living situation, terrible mental state. Broke. No job. Estranged from my family. Terrified.
Today I am thankful to say I am in the best place I have ever been. I have a beautiful home in a beautiful neighborhood. Almost finished with my graduate degree. Two jobs I genuinely enjoy. I feel my relationships with my parents mending. And my faith stronger than it has ever been.
Of my core friendship base, only Joe and Shelly showed up for my 30th birthday. This year? There were--huh--more than 30 people?
Today may suck. It may be gawdawful. I may want to tear out my hair, slap a ho, hell, even take a leap off the 17th Street Bridge, but in this moment right now, I can look at my life and see the strides I've made.
In this moment right now, I am thankful for every single aspect of my life.
It's 6 a.m. I'm up. I'm grumpy. But I'm on my way to set. For money.
That's right. I'm being paid (however poorly) to do what I want to do.
Some can't ever claim that. I'm claiming it at 31. (And a half.)
Life ain't perfect, but there's progress. And I know I alone am not accountable for it.
Sometimes one must be forced to excise the chaff. It fucking sucked and I hated it. So, thank you, G-d, for excising mine.
Wanna know what's wrong with America?
I'll give you a hint: It's got nuthin' to do with abortion, the tax rates or the opinions of the CEO of Chic-Fil-A.
What's wrong with America--at least from my vantage--can all be traced to a very simple, Biblical root.
But before I blow the holy load on this one, please allow me to make a disclaimer: I give two thumbs WAY up to the separation of church and state. One can't govern based solely on a code to which not all of the constituency has universally subscribed. That said, I also give the dual thumbs to the 10 Commandments. So here we go...
As I Jew, I don't believe in Hell. At least not in the "you're a bad person so when you die you're going there" sense. What I DO believe is that there are laws, laid down by G-d, to keep your life on earth from turning into a living hell.
Enter the 10 Commandments (I AM going somewhere with this. I promise.)
If you lie, you aren't going to go to Hell.
Commit adultery? Nope. No Hell.
Cheat on your taxes? Eh, you shouldn't...but eternal damnation does not yon before you.
What does happen is this: If you lie, cheat or steal, you could get caught. And there are punishments. And even if you don't get caught, you run amuck worrying about getting caught. Which is its own form of hell.
The rules were therefore set in place to help you live happier here. Peace of mind, bitches. It's the highest blessing in Judaism. And one you can receive simply by living in the bounds.
So...given my multi-paragraph stance on the benefits of rule following, what's wrong with America?
Baby, it's consumerism.
Because we are being sold dissatisfaction with what we have in favor of coveting what we are instructed to believe we want.
My dears, almost every ounce of our American hardship can be traced back to this inherent desire to keep up with those infernal Joneses.
Daily, we are besieged with ads about the stuff we need to feel the way we want. Material happiness. Tangible successes. all joy coming from the outside. For purchase.
But, baby, that ain't where it's at.
As Americans, we are accustomed to a higher standard of living than many other places on the globe. We have more natural resources than any other country. We, friends, are the bees' muthafuckin' knees.
And we're miserable.
Because it's never enough.
Gotta be bigger, better, faster, stronger, newer.
Covet, covet, covet 'til I get it, get it, get it.
And then what?
Well, if you're an American, it's on to the next one...
Consumerism: somewhere along the line, some sweet-talkin' man with a suit and a smile convinced us we weren't happy with what we had. And he sold us an ocean front property in Arizona to fill the gap.
Thing is though--as G-d has known and told us forfuckingever--happiness is NOT an external pursuit.
Is it wrong to want a nice house, a boat, a car, a flat-screen tv, designer clothes, a Dooney & Bourke tote, Jimmy Choos? No. But you're gonna be in a lotta mental hell if you want those things and can't afford them.
And once your desire reaches its peak--once you are willing to lie, cheat, steal, and stomp all over your fellow man to get them--well, Houston, we have our problem.
As a grad school student, I have lived off Kroger brand veggies and student loans for the past two years. I have had to forgo luxuries like cable, new clothes and any product distributed by Apple. And you know what I've learned? I'm pretty fucking happy without them.
I have a roof over my head. I have friends and family that love me. I have a dog that sleeps all the time and doesn't shit in the house.
Life is pretty good.
Sure, there are times I lose sight of this. Times I covet my friends who can throw down the cash for whatever they desire or cuddle up to their certain someone on a Tempurpedic mattress at the end of the night. Sure, those pics they post from their most recent exotic vacation make me want to eviscerate them with spoons.
But at the end of the day, I've got the foundations in Maslow's hierarchy. And, when I cease my senseless coveting (and it IS senseless), I find I am much, much happier.
Dear friends, dear countrymen--G-d wants you to be happy. He truly does. He even went so far as to tell us how--WITH BULLET POINTS!
So how about we take a minute to say a quick thanks for all we have. Take the lil' peace of Heaven He's offering and be grateful.
Then you can go back to playing with your iPhone.
In other news, I suck at religious fasting (she says with a cookie in her mouth.)
About 200 years ago, a man HEARD THIS IN HIS HEAD.
Make no mistake. There IS a G-d.
If the Gospels are to be believed, Jesus preached between the ages of 30 and 33.
As one located slap in the middle of those ages, I think I may be starting to see why.
Because "there's no such thing as a door-to-door Jew".
Since converting, I have had only one experience with anti-semitism. For the most part, people have been extraordinarily supportive. My family has embraced my choice as best they can (thank you mom and dad for loving me and accepting to the degree you are able), and the Jewish community has been nothing short of "everything I have ever wanted in a faith family."
I experienced my second anti-semite yesterday.
As many of you know, I work in a bar. Last night, my coworker who is pregnant and was not feeling well, wanted to go home. I love her, so I took her one remaining table on the patio so her fiance could take her home.
I didn't really want another table. And, as it turned out, this table also did not want me.
As they ordered what appeared to be their third or fourth pitcher of beer, the conversation turned to religion. I didn't think much of it. I had about a million things to do to close down the bar, so I spent much of the time inside, sweeping, wiping tables and refilling bbq bottles.
I was in the middle of one of these activities when one of my regulars pulled me aside.
"I need to talk to you," he said.
He looked concerned.
"Sure. What's up."
"I just wanted to warn you. It may not be safe for you out there."
May. Not. Be. Safe.
I looked at him, puzzled and a little afraid. He looked very serious.
"I warned [your co-worker] before she transferred the table, and now I'm warning you. That guy [description here]? He's saying some pretty terrible things about Jews."
"Yes. Crazy stuff. Like you caused all the problems in the world. And, like, that you aren't even people. That you are subhuman."
I don't know what registered on my face. Or what I said in response. I do remember shaking. Out of fear? Of anger?
What I do know is that I went into a zombie state. (This seems to be my standard response when faced with imminent danger. The one time I almost got into an actual physical fight in the 6th grade? I felt it. I felt it the time I was almost raped.
A walking, waking dream.
I consider myself an intelligent woman, but sometimes I am so painfully naive. I had heard people in the world believed these things. But, in my mind, these were far away, ignorant people from a generation long before this one. In my mind, these people appeared in Holocaust footage. These people were in black and white.
But this man was in full color. And he was sitting on my patio.
I know I told a friend at the bar. I know he followed me out to the patio, and watched while I served this table. I remember my friend saying, "That is the most ridiculous conversation I have ever heard." I remember him telling me not to be afraid.
As the man ordered another round, he complimented me on my service. He told me I was beautiful. As he did so, his friend asked for me to do a spin. He wanted to look at me.
I was still in a daze. Confused. But I cannot forgive myself today. Because I did. I spun. A piece of meat to be feasted on. Feasted on by beasts. I don't know how I didn't cry then. I am now.
What am I to these people? And would I be so very beautiful--would my service be so good--if they knew I was a Jew?
When I brought the man his check, he said he wanted to sit a while. He said not to worry, that he wouldn't run out on his check. That Christians like himself didn't do that. That Christians "don't cheat people."
This, too, should have made me cry.
I know what a true Christian is. And it isn't this.
In his life, Jesus (a Jew) gave one commandment -- to love.
The Christians in my life know and practice this commandment.
But there was no love on my patio.
As I went to leave,(my friend standing next to me, unwilling to leave my side, walking me to my car) the man called out to me. He once again complimented me on my service.
I don't know how I responded. I may have even smiled. Was this bravery or cowardice?
My regular watched me from the patio, sorrow in his eyes.
I drove home, and I didn't think about it. I turned the radio on. I may have even sang to the music. I think I recall dancing, with a delirious joy. Like King David?
I know the man from the patio drove home drunk last night.
At some point in the evening, I know I asked if he needed me to call him a ride. he declined. I did nothing further.
Why did I do nothing further?
Oh, I have so much guilt.
If I live in love will it change his mind? If I call a cab to make sure he gets home safely, will he see? If I had taken him in my own vehicle, would my humanity make itself known?
I didn't offer a ride in my car. Maybe I should have.
If something happens to him, is it my fault?
And why can't I stop crying?
Most days I consider myself a little girl with some little words. But today G-d spoke to me of the power of those little words. (And now you are running for your life from thee crazy Jew girl.)
I get it. It isn’t really a “comfortable” topic. And I, like anyone else, fear the folks with the pamphlets accosting bypassers on the street with “The Word of the Lord.”
Difference is 1. I’m not carrying a big posterboard sign warning of gloom and doom in red and black sharpie and 2. I’m not trying to convert ya. Honest I’m not. (Not today anyway).
It’s another blog for another day, but I will sum up some of the significance of my wee pow wow with the Master of the Universe this way: 1. (I have a thing for numbered bullet points today) I have a personal relationship with the numbers 13 and 11. Let’s just say I identify with them. This morning, I began my discussion with Him at 9:13. And I am writing to you at 9:26—13 minutes later. Anyway, it’s a sign, significant to me. 2. I have two, completely unrelated devotionals by my bedside. One is meant to be read on the corresponding date on the calendar—so July 17, for anyone keeping track. The other is an anytime/anywhere sort of thing. I decided to read both today…and both were on the same topic (coincidence? I think not):
The power of words.
Often I feel the shit I spout from my brain goes unnoticed. I know I have this little bloggy thing that a lot of people read, and I know that when I talk, people tend to listen. But I often feel what I say goes in one ear and out the other. I mean, what are words when some people have beauty? Or charisma? Or the ability to juggle?
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
We all know this. What harm can they do? They’re just words.
Sure, our mommies taught us the sing song rhyme, and we were supposed to believe it…words being trivial and all of that…but do you remember WHY your mommy had to teach you the song? Probably because some jerk of an 8 year old made fun of you on the playground…and, no matter what rhymes your mommy taught you, that shit hurt. Still does, if you’re me.
A grown ass woman, I still recall with a twinge of pain so many instances in childhood where kids were mean to me. I learned to be mean right back—I even learned to be better at mean than they were. How? I discovered my power of words.
As far back as elementary school, I remember my teachers commenting on my vocabulary…on my ability to string words together in such a way as to move people…or to harm them. I had a note sent home once (we wrote notes in those days. No text messages people. What was a cell phone? We didn’t know. Hadn’t been invented yet. Ta least not for the masses.) Anyway, the note was sent home. In it I was lambasting a boy in my class. An annoying little monster who wouldn’t leave me alone. I still remember his name: Brandon (last name omitted).
In the note I warned a classmate that Brandon was, “having sensual, visual affairs with [her] butt.” (Yes. I remember what I write word for word. It’s an astonishing little annoyance—both for myself and for any editor I have ever had.) Imagine my fifth grade teacher’s surprise when she found this note. Or the one where I called a girl named Stephanie (perfectly nice young lady) “Steph-acne” because of the pock marks on her face.
Yep. I was a mean little 10 or 11 year old. I was an asshole. But only with my words. And words can’t hurt, right?
In journalism school, UGA students were taught to bear with great pride the knowledge that our chosen profession—the press—was the only profession specifically outlined in the Bill of Rights. Amendment One? Yeah, we got that.
But what does that really mean?
Well, it meant to the Founding Fathers that words—the vocalized or written expression of ideas—were pretty fucking important. Freedom of SPEECH. Freedom of THE PRESS. Freedom to use words to say whatever we mean and whatever we feel without fear of retribution.
Words. Important. Powerful. For what was the Declaration of Independence if not words on paper representing ideas of people? Words and then guns won our independence. Words and then guns also lead to the Holocaust.
Today, the Lord spoke to me of the power of words…most directly, He asked for me to watch mine. I am not sure what I have said in recent weeks to warrant this chat—or, terror ensuing—what I am going to say if I don’t watch myself.
But I am thankful for this little reminder. And for He who sent it to me.
In the Hebrew Bible, there are countless passages concerning the power of words. Many are warnings of the dangers of a malicious tongue. But there are encouragements as well. Consider:
“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” – Proverbs 16:24
As harsh words can hurt, kind words can heal and provide solace.
I recently read that, in the realm of outer displays of affection, Americans are considered a “cold” people. Sure, we show PASSION in movies and on television shows, but passion and love are not the same.
While peoples the world over kiss their friends openly and hold hands with their family, we reside in a culture where embraces between the same sex are looked upon with suspicion and nicknames and arm punches substitute for compassionate exchanges. We, as a nation, are not known for our verbal expressions of love and compassion. (But telling someone we’re gonna “smack a bitch”? Yeah. We got that.)
Somewhere along the line, we abandoned he healing power of words for the harmful. We drifted to The Dark Side of the Force.
I can’t tell you what to do. I’m not the boss of you. But I can tell you what I was told. T watch my words. Because words wield power. And this little girl with her little words may just hold the power to convert the masses.
One of 756 things that drew me to Judaism was the faith's reliance on personal accountability. While this virtue is undeniably present in the "proper" lifestyles of other faiths, I find Judaism's damn-near insistance on it strangely comforting.
As time goes by, I find each day to be a struggle to hold on to what I have left of optimism. It may surprise some of you, but I feel I am, by nature, a dreamer and an optimist. But life--as life does--has shown me that it's difficult to live life as a dreamer (at least if you don't want to end up dead in a ditch from opiate overdose or meet your end with a gun in your mouth. <-not actual="" and="" are.="" depressed="" disappointed="" dreamers.="" ends="" fantasies.="" favorite="" if="" know="" morbid="" my="" of="" p="" points="" sheer="" the="" they="" two="" who="" you=""> I work and study in industries that involve acquainting with a revolving door of people. I see some of the best, and some of the worst, depending on one's definition of those terms. But the more I see, the more hopeless I feel. I have so little power in this world. I am just a little girl with a flair for words.-not>
I get quite depressed when I think on it. Powerlessness. Hopelessness. My complete inability to change others--even if it's "for their own good." Because I do consider myself a benevolent--if misguided--spirit.
Day after day, I see people grind themselves and others into the ground, and I can do nothing about it. I cannot love them enough to "fix" it. It makes me very, very sad.
But this is where Judaism soothes my soul.
In a world of powerlessness over others, in a world where it remains difficult (not impossible, but certainly fucking h.a.r.d.) for one human being to affect change, Judaism reminds me of my responsibilities to and for myself.
Through the eyes of Judaism, it is up to me to make ammends--to myself and to others--for the wrongs I have done. My community is to hold me accountable. At least, with regard to me, my thoughts, my actions: I. Have. Power.
While other faiths call on the grace of G_d for forgiveness of "sin" and shortcoming, Judaism requires something be done about it. A penance of sorts. But not in punishment--rather,for one's own personal growth. Allow me to explain.
Catholics have a semblance of this. The process of confession is, by some degrees, a means to be held accountable to one's community. When a trespass is committed, Catholics are assigned a penance, usually in the form of Hail Marys and Our Fathers--a small means of showing they are willing to make a sacrifice of time for their shortcomings. It's a disciplinary exercise. I understand it. I like it. I just think Judaism does it better.
One of the final "straws" that lead me to the door of the synagogue was my search for a means of accountability that would truly free me from my past. A self-flagellator, I had been beating myself up for every wrong self-inflicted or aimed at another since childhood. And Christian grace, while perfectly adequate for G_d's forgiveness, was not absolving my soul. I WANTED TO DO MORE. Allow me to repeat that. I . WANTED. TO. DO. MORE.
The Christian faith upholds that Jesus died so individuals would no longer have to self-sacrifice. He was the sacrifice for all. His sacrifice bought grace to cover for your shortcomings. But this belief never sat well with me, and now I have discovered why: In eliminating self-sacrifice (while a beautiful gesture on Jesus' part), you eliminate part of the learning curve. And you can't have growth--at least not he kind of growth I'm after--without a learning curve.
Now, Christians will argue that one must still be accountable for one's sins. I am not here to argue that point. I am just saying it doesn't work for me. I don't WANT Jesus--or anyone else for that matter--to carry my sins. My sins are mine, damnit. I worked hard for them!
And I must therefore work to absolve them.
That's right. Nobody else but me.
This idea would horrify some. It brings me a perverse amount of solace. FINALLY I have power over something.
I have power over ME.
I, through the discipline of Teshuva, can absolve myself in my own eyes and in the eyes of those I have wronged through my own actions and my own attempts at growth and change.
I, not Jesus or anyone else, am therefore accountable.
Some of you quake in your boots at that thought. I smile.
I haven't the brass balls to think I can somehow make myself acceptable in G_d's eyes. His grace must therefore be enough for me. And if it isn't? Well, it sounds incredible to say, but I trust Him that much. If He decides I am forever unworthy, then I will accept that judgement, because He is He, which makes Him infinitely better than me.
But in the mean time, I will attempt to live by His commandments (stupid, stupid envy!) and make right by myself and my fellow man. (For more on envy, click here: http://erinscominduckandcover.blogspot.com/2012/04/i-hate-my-roommate.html or here: http://erinscominduckandcover.blogspot.com/2011/10/ode-to-envy.html
This is in my power. And that's a pretty powerful place to be.
When are we going to learn that being a person of faith is NOT synonymous with being a person of principle?
And, given the choice between the two, I'd take the person of principle.
Blind allegiance is to faith as Fanta is to grape juice.
Jesus never preached the New Testament. And the Apostles never heard it.
Because there wasn't one.
Not until hundreds of years after everyone involved was dead.
Paul's letter to the Corinthians? A letter in its time. Not gospel. Just encouragement.
Raised in a devoutly Jewish home, Jesus was reared and educated in the stories and faith of the Old Testament.
Allow me to repeat: The. Old. Testament.
That one that gets overlooked all the time.
The Last Supper? A Passover Seder. Do you even know what that means?
This is my body? This is my blood? In the tradition of the Jews...a representation of higher principle through the symbol of food. Like the bitter roots Jesus and the disciples were eating at the very same meal. The maror--the bitterness of slavery.
Jews (and therefore early Christians) from Isaac. Muslims from Ishmael. Brothers. Do you know them?
All of it means so much more than you give it credit for...
In times of trouble, Jesus would have turned to the Psalms. Or Ecclesiastes. He likely turned to those same sources in the joyful times.
These are the places I and other Jews turn in times of trouble. I, like Jews and even Muslims go to the Ten Commandments for a guidepost on correct living.
In this way I live like Jesus. In this way Jews live like Jesus.
We know the G-d that Jesus knew, and worship the G-d that Jesus worshipped.
So there's a bitter dose of Christianity for you.
7-2-12 "Mustard Seed"
It is proported by the Christian faith that Jesus came to earth to live among the people, not only to save souls, but also to live as Man. To know what Man knows. To experience the trials and tribulations Man experiences. And to conquer them.
If the Bible is to be believed--if every word is to be taken as *ahem* gospel truth--then Jesus was truly fascinating. Perfect in every way. Sinless. Without fault.
A true Messiah.
But even if every word is, indeed, divine...I cannot help but notice that there is one major snag in the "Live As Man" plan. Namely a crisis of faith. For, though Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, though he had to endure the most trying of religious, social and political times, he never bore the burden that you and I carry each day.
He never bore the burden of faith.
He never had to.
If the Bible is to be believed, Jesus, being part of the Father, had already experienced Heaven. (He even went on to conquer Hell.) Coming directly from the Father's Right Hand, he never had to doubt the existence or nature of God. He'd met the guy. The two were--how do you say?--close.
By definition, faith is a belief in things unseen. And I can dig that. Because, for the first time in my life, I have it. I truly do.
But it wasn't always this way.
I did a lot of soul searching. A lot. I lifted many rocks. My prayer-ridden knees gave out a few times. There were days I thought my cheeks would literally stain with tears.
Jesus never faced this.
Oh make no mistake--he had his questions. He asked that the "cup be taken" in the Garden of Gethsemane. He asked why he was forsaken on the cross. These instances--while moments of doubt in G-d's plan and in G-d's behavior--do not constitute a crisis of faith per se. Never once did Jesus have to question whether or not He was up there. Jesus already knew he was.
And this is why a god can never fully be a man. Not unless said god has the power to erase all he has previously known, so he or she may be free to discover it again.
I wish I could have spoken my argument more eloquently. But I hope the message stil comes across.
A crisis of faith is a human condition. And, therefore, rather than be ashamed of it, we should be proud: proud to b thinking, rational, inquisitive individuals. What develops therefrom is a faith born of discernment. A place of mental, emotional and spiritual agreement based on experience, learning, questioning, prayer, determination.
Because if you never really question your faith...is that truly "faith" at all?
Inappropriate and hilarious bumper sticker: "If Christ died for my sins, I think he overreacted."
Prepare the stake if you want to, but it made me laugh.
Because it's so damned true.
Sure, ain't none of us righteous. "No, not one." (Romans 3:10) But there are certainly some of us that are just better than others.
I'm not saying I'm perfect. Far from. But what I AM SAYING is that if there's an express line for Hell, pretty sure Michael Vick, Jerry Sandusky and anyone with the last name of Kardashian are in line in front of me. Like, waaaaay out in front. Like "I paid a million dollars at Six Flags and got the Q Bot so I can cut in line in front of you" out front. Yeah.
As I was telling my dearest Brian Perry over iced coffee and challah french toast this morning, I truly believe that the Sanduskys of the world are what sent the Lord and Savior to an early grave. Because, seriously, by any scale 33 is an awfully young age to go.
Were it just MY sins Yeshua was carrying, I'm sure he would have lived to the ripe old age of 74. Sure, he still would have been crucified ("none righteous," remember?) but at least it would have been at a time when he'd lived a full life and could no longer feel his feet anyway.
So were it not for the bastards, the dick heads, the chauvinists, the liars, the bitches, the cheats, the scoundrels and the BLACK VWs of the world, pretty sure all of the rest of us would have gotten a few more pearls of wisdom from one of my favorite Jews. (Others include but are not limited to John Stewart and Daniel Day Lewis.)
If I had to boil it down--put it in a nutshell--or, on a bumper sticker, let's say, it'd go a lil' sumthin' like this: "Lay off the Smack and the Whores, and Jesus could've lived longer."
A rabbi recently told me that, in the Jewish faith, there are three main types of blessings. The greatest of these is peace.
Not peace as in "world peace"--though I'l take some of that too, if you're offering--but peace as in peace of mind. Peace as in that little voice to tell you that, despite present circumstances, everything truly will be okay. That still, small voice that says, "Don't worry. I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you..." That knowledge that there is something greater, and that I am a small piece of that greater plan. A small but important piece.
On May 21, I wrote "Pieces." http://erinscominduckandcover.blogspot.com/2012/05/pieces.html On June 1, the rabbi spoke to me of peace.
I wish you peace today.
And all the days of your life.
LATER THAT DAY:
When we're lonely, we comfort ourselves with thoughts that somewhere out there are friends and family who care for us--those people who, push come to shove, would be there for us no matter what. Those people for whom we would give our life because we know, with assuredness, that they would do the same.
True loneliness, therefore, would be being forced to live without those relationships. Without those assurances.
Among those of faith, there are a faction who profess belief that Hell is not a place of fire and brimstone, but merely a place devoid of the presence of God. That the true form of suffering is brought on--not by horned men with pitchforks--but by absence. The absence of love. The absence of presence.
Hell--true Hell--is being utterly, hopelessly alone.
Today, while driving on Spaghetti Junction, my car blew a belt. Suddenly, I lost all control of the vehicle and spun, backward and toward the edge of the overpass.
Had there been another car on the ramp, I would have been killed.
I pulled over and called my parents. As I was driving to meet them for family brunch, I had every confidence they would come and get me. I had every confidence they would be relieved to find me in one piece. I had every confidence that they would help.
They stayed and had pancakes.
I sat in my car, stranded on the side of the road in the pouring rain.
I tried a couple of friends. No one answered the phone. The few who responded to texts said they "wished me the best of luck."
No one came.
That the pain of this revelation was indescribable is the opposite of hyperbole. If loneliness could literally suck the soul from your chest, leaving you completely physically capable of feeling the cavern left in your gut... If it took a form of blackness and then intertwined itself, completely pervasive...
It was at this point that I honestly contemplated walking into traffic on 285.
When the tow truck man arrived, he found a mumbling girl, face drenched in tears, muttering to herself and contemplating suicide.
Because death isn't the worst that can happen. Hell is. And I'm already in it.