A good friend calls my clinging to belief in God “hedging,” I call it irreversible. My faith has evolved, as readers of this column know by now. God, in my opinion is not a micro manager, period, full stop, end of story. He is also not wrathful; He needn’t be, as we do a good enough job screwing things up on our own. So despite believing in the existence of God, how I believe in him is of course, in the eyes of the community I come from, heresy. Altering my Orthodox belief is a big step for me, I didn’t get here overnight and I still self-doubt my new thinking occasionally, so deep is the decades of conditioning that I cannot shed completely a feeling of iniquity about not conforming.
What I was taught to believe, the tenets that kept me, and many others like me, in the camp was fear, fear of excommunication, fear of Hell, fear of punishment, fear of ridicule and any other panic tool available for use by my religious masters. Dread is the contagion that keeps the masses blindly following a concept solely on the basis of faith, without a modicum of scientific or other proof.
On the flip side, buying into the program and sharing a history, value system, culture, tribal affinity and community – strengthens us, gives us a sense of purpose, shared values and kinship. It often benefits us personally, gaining us friends, a community and business relationships.
In times of peril, the tent we belong to is large and open to anyone suffering as a result of their tribal affiliation. Yet the tent becomes very small when it comes time to open our hearts and minds to those who practice differently from us, or those whose sexuality we don’t approve of, or those who marry outside of the faith, or those who just choose to alter their level of observance.
The Talmud teaches that the Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed because of baseless hatred. Despite a high level of religious observance at the time, the intolerance of people to their fellow man, set into motion events that brought about the destructions.
It is left for us to define what baseless hatred is. My social media is filled with comments about me being a self-hating Jew because I believe peace is achievable with the Palestinians or because I believe that a Ukrainian with a Christian mother and Jewish father, who fights in the IDF should be granted Israeli citizenship or because I voted for Obama. I call for inclusiveness, for broadening the tent, while the chief rabbinate in Israel won’t even accept Orthodox conversions preformed by US rabbis and I am the self-hating one.
Those who cloak themselves in protecting the Torah way of life very often pick and choose which part of the Torah they defend. They will fight to the death to prevent tolerance of homosexuality. Yet they defend abusive rabbis because of their scholarship and thieves because of their charitable contributions. The Torah way of life will be threatened if we recognize Conservative or Reform Judaism while not allowing their daughters to marry someone whose family uses the wrong colored table cloth on the Shabbat table. Female clergy, women’s prayer groups and gender equality will destroy traditional Judaism while their children are taught no math, science or language skills. Freeing chained women with Halachic innovation will destroy the fabric of our Torah while families with ten; twelve or more children with no working parents collect government handouts paid for by the taxes of the self-haters and it is we progressives who are self-loathing and assimilating our way into extinction.
The comments section below will soon fill up with those who claim I am an attention seeker, looking to validate my choices. Some will claim that I am free to do whatever I want so why make a big deal out of it? Still others will remind me that once I cross certain lines I can no longer claim one label or another.
I am here to articulate the way many of us feel and to give voice to those who refuse to practice Judaism out of fear and certainly not out of forced conformity.