I wear a kippah on my head to show that I am a Jew by religion.
I wear the Star of David to show I am a Jew by nationality.
But really, I am only half a Jew by religion. I practice something that some more observant Jews refer to as “K-Mart Judaism” – which I interpret to mean that I only shop for the “cheap rituals.” I wrap tefillin every week day but don’t wear tzitzit under my shirt. I don’t mix milk and meat but will eat at a restaurant that doesn’t have a Kosher certificate. I walk to shul on Shabbat then drive over to visit my in-laws in the afternoon. The list goes on…
Also, I am only half a Jew by nationality. I am a dual citizen and live half the time in Israel and half the time in the USA.
This past week I celebrated my 50th birthday by inviting some close friends over to drink whisky and discuss Jewish philosophy. My friends are all leaders in the Orlando Jewish community, they are all either past synagogue presidents or executive board members on Jewish agencies from the Federation to Hillel to AIPAC. In my eyes, my friends represent the foundation of Judaism in the USA.
At my party, we discussed all the big questions: What is creation? What is God? What is the soul and free will? We read a little from Saadia Gaon and Moses Mendelssohn and even Immanuel Kant. With the help of the scotch, we all learned a lot.
We learned how little we know.
Of my friends, I am the most religiously observant. They asked me whether or not I really believe in the miracle of the splitting of the Sea of Reeds and the 10 plagues and the receiving of Torah at Mount Sinai. These are committed Jews questioning the fundamental beliefs of Judaism.
I answered that I know from studying history that Jews were slaves in Egypt and a few hundred years later, we ruled an empire under King David.
I answered that unlike most miracles that were witnessed by only a few people, the miracles that they are questioning are claimed to be witnessed by an entire nation.
I answered that I do believe in these miracles. But I question these beliefs every day.
At the receiving of Torah at Mount Sinai, our nation said, “Na’aseh v’Nishma” (We will do and we will understand.) I know that I am supposed to first be a Jew and that understanding is supposed to follow.
I am trying. I think that I have to try harder because I still question the fundamentals.
But truly this does not bother me because my best friends, whom I deeply admire, have the same questions.
I guess that I prefer being around half Jews.