One Girl's Journey
Effervescence is a state of mind. It's about choosing to bring sunshine to the day.
Every person I meet matters.
If it's written down, I know it (If it's not written down, I don't know it)
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2008-06-22 10:07 PM
Summarizing Lately, and Recent Ponderings
Summarizing Lately - Sometimes, what I have to share here is a narrative, sometimes it's the philosophical.
To sum up the narrative lately: My Intro to Judaism course (an 18-week commitment, with one week off for the Passover holiday) wrapped up at the end of May. Since I missed one class in February, I was done with my make-up class a week and a half ago. A Hebrew language course started up that same week (the first lesson I missed), and so I've been to one Hebrew class since then. It's lovely to have yet another chance to be in a language course, and it's nice to see what managed to stay in my brain, as well as having the opportunity to relearn what I had forgotten since last summer.
I've still a commitment to start another study program with my sponsoring rabbi, and still need to confirm with him what days will work best for our schedules. I also need to find more time to set aside for attending services, and learning to incorporate that community worship element into my regular habits.
Recent Ponderings - On the philosophical side, I've picked up a new book this week called, "This is my God" by Herman Wouk. I find it fascinating, sometimes, to keep the historical context in mind as I read various books in Judaica. This book, for example, was originally written in the late 1950's, when the modern State Israel was only 11-years in existence. It was revised once in 1985, but this just makes the footnotes humorous on occasion. Consider that this is still 2 years before the Berlin Wall fell, and so a book written in 1958 and revised in 1985 has a different context for the author than reading this discussion 17 years after the fall of the Soviet Union (in 1991).
(I have another book that discusses "Jewish Life in the Middle Ages" by Israel Abrahams, in which the prologue from the author is dated 1896. Talk about heart-breaking, since the author was writing before the Holocaust, but there are eerie foreshadowing comments. But I digress.)
So I've been reading "This is my God." And it's gotten me thinking along the lines of, "What do I believe? How did I come to believe this?" and most significantly, "What will I say someday when I tell someone in my family that I have chosen Judaism?"
I've noticed lately, not from this book but from other observations, that Christianity has an element of this "Yes, and this too" in its core doctrine. Now, when I was a Protestant, I used to look confusedly at Mormonism and wonder why it was "Christianity, plus this further belief over here." And lately I've noticed that Christianity claims to believe in "Judaism, plus this further belief over here." It's the "And" element of Christianity that doesn't ring true for me anymore. Occasionally, raised Protestant, I would wonder about the "and now we don't have to follow this portion of the Jewish law now, because we're Christians," which when I read further or asked about it was rephrased as, "Well, Gentiles never had to follow Jewish law." And being born non-Jewish, I hadn't really questioned these answers very much. I was Gentile, and I was Christian, so why did I really need to worry about traditional Jewish law. Further, the Christian embraces the notion that Jesus "fulfilled" or "finished" all the requirements of Jewish law, which is why the Christian isn't obligated anymore.
There's a problem with that, in an academic logical sort of way, as I see it. I don't really see a "and now you don't have to do what God said anymore" coming from God. It seems to come from "we believe in that, AND further, we've taken it to this new understanding or interpretation over here."
This is where I'm starting to find the core of *my* answer someday, my defense as to why I'm choosing to be Jewish. But I just don't feel right in adding the "And" to God's commandments. That "And" (of my Protestant training and youth) seems to have become "And now we don't have to, and here are the new rules."
But I'm finding such powerful and timeless meaning in the core of Judaism, that has at its core an immutability of God that remains, unshaken and unchanged. And yet, still as people, we each have our opinions, our flavor, our style, that colors our understanding of the unshaken core, so we come to different conclusions about how to manifest that core in our daily lives. Just because the core remains unchanged does not affect whether our outward expression of that core will be similar or not to someone else's outward expression.
But the core remains unchanged. I don't think there is an "And" to my expression of faith. There is what has always been, one God above all, in my world and in my worship. The "And" cannot be worshipped, and so just as a Protestant I couldn't embrace the "And" of Mormonism (and its Latter Day Saints with extra revelation later), I'm finding now that as someone who believes in her heart that she is Jewish, I cannot embrace the "And" of my Protestant upbringing. There's no place where I say, "And now I don't have to follow the Jewish Law anymore, it no longer applies to me." It does apply to me, because that's who I am. And it's who I choose to be.
It's nice to know I'm finding my answer to the "why are you Jewish" question that I'll be asked for the rest of my life. And I expect that I'll be digging into this answer, every day for the rest of my life, too.
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Today's Blessing That I'm Thankful For: The authors and teachers who have come into my life, even through generations past
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