Secular Jew (SJ): OK God, it’s high time we had a serious discussion about what You expect of me.
God: I’m really happy you’ve come to Me with this, although I’m not sure you’re going to be happy with the answer. Here’s the story. I created the world and everything in it, and inside every Jew is an actual part of me – a fusion of physical and spiritual. I want to have a deep and meaningful relationship with you. Every morning when you get up, I want you to thank and acknowledge Me. I want you to pray and meditate three times every single day, to eat only kosher food, to dress according to the laws of tzniuit, to keep all of the mitzvot, to bring Me into the world and to be a light unto the nations. In short, I want you to be engaged with your Judaism in every part of your life.
SJ: Created the world? Jewish soul? We know that stuff isn’t true. I only know what I can see and what science can prove. Maybe you should lower your expectations a bit and be reasonable?
God: Well, after I created the world in six days, I rested. Because of this, I want you to rest every Shabbat. Now, when I say “rest”, what I mean is to avoid the prescribed 39 types of “work” as the Rabbis explained in the Talmud. Because you don’t go to work, I want you to spend more time in Synagogue and immerse yourself in a bit more spirituality once a week. Surely that’s reasonable?
SJ: Again with the creation business? Look – while I don’t agree with the motivation, the whole idea of a weekend break is actually really great. After my Jewish mother told me every day how fantastic I am, I’ve actually developed into a bit of a workaholic and one week just seems to blend into the next one. Taking a rest on Saturday is a great idea, although I’m hardly inspired by the way your Rabbis define “work”. Switching on the lights is work? I’m going to make Saturday family time – we’ll eat together on Friday night and then sit down in front of the TV and watch the football. On Saturday we’ll go out for a nice drive to the country and a picnic, or maybe to the beach if the weather’s good. This is what I call rest! In fact, I’m going to do the same thing on Sunday – how about that? If one day of rest a week is good – surely two days is twice as good?
God: Well (big sigh), maybe you’ll get inspired by some of My Holy Days. Once a year, I want you to celebrate Pesach for seven or eight days. I want you to clean out your kitchen of any leaven products, eat only matzah, have a Seder meal full of meaningful rituals with your entire family, and celebrate Me saving you from slavery in Egypt and the birth of the Jewish nation.
SJ: You saving me from Egypt? Please – we all know that didn’t really happen. And this whole business of Jewish nationalism is sooo 20th century it just reeks of colonialism. And tell me – did you ever actually taste that matzah stuff? But how about this? There is a huge problem of slavery in the world. Maybe we can make Pesach about world advocacy against slavery? I could invite refugees to my house for this Seder thing, and we could have everyone personally reflect on how terrible slavery is and how we can end it. We’ll all wear matching wrist bands with “end slavery” on them.
God: Well (bigger sigh), how about this one. When the Jews travelled through the desert for forty years, I protected them with the Clouds of Glory. I want you to celebrate that every year on Sukkot by building a temporary hut and eating in it for seven days. You should take four types of plant, bind them together to symbolize the unity of the Jewish nation, and walk around the bima in Synagogue with them. After doing that for a week, I want you to celebrate the conclusion of the annual cycle of Torah reading with a massive party and dance with the Torah.
SJ: God – this is getting weirder and weirder. Clouds? Huts? And still this fixation of yours on the Torah? But there is something there that really resonates with me, and that’s homelessness. Do you know how many people are living on the street? During Sukkot, we’re all going to put in some volunteer time at the local shelter. We’re going to set up social justice programs to help the homeless get themselves back on their feet and self-sufficient. Didn’t Rambam say that’s the highest form of charity – helping someone help themselves?
God: Well (even bigger sigh), it’s not at all what I had in mind for Sukkot, but at least you’re helping other Jews.
SJ: Jews? Oh no, there aren’t any Jews who need my help. I’m talking about helping all the desperate non-Jews.
God: OK, let’s try one more thing. There’s this very special Holy Day – in fact the Holiest of all days of the year. It’s called Yom Kippur. On one day a year, I want you to fast for 25 hours – no food or drink – not even water. I want you to come to Synagogue for most of the day and pray. It’s going to be like an annual cleansing for your soul. And what I will do after all that is forgive all of your sins for the entire year. Completely wipe the slate and cleanse you so you can start again from scratch.
SJ: Hmmm – this is interesting. I don’t eat for a whole day, and you will forgive all my sins and I start all over again?
God: Yes – that’s pretty-much it.
SJ: Very interesting indeed. Tell you what – I actually like this one. I’m going to fast every year on Yom Kippur for the whole day and I won’t even drive to Synagogue. If it’s a Saturday and AFL Grand Final day, I won’t go. And if the Australian government calls an election on that day, I will kick up a big fuss about it and do a postal vote instead. I really appreciate the time God – it’s been a great chat. Maybe we could do this again some time soon.
SJ (as s/he walks away): Wow! Total forgiveness …
God (musing to Himself): אַ גאַנץ אפיקורס אָבער יום כיפור ער האלט? (a complete heretic but he keeps Yom Kippur?) Go figure …