Why I Choose to Be an Orthodox Jew – Positive and It Fits [Part 3/3]
- How Does Judaism Provide a Positive Answer for How to Live?
- How Does Judaism Fit Within the Observable Reality
- Using the Physical World, But Being Spiritual
- What About Heterodox / Non-Orthodox Jewish Movements
- If Judaism is So Great, Why Do Even People Educated Properly In It Leave?
- In Conclusion
- Please comment
In part 1 I discussed living for meaning and how that brings one to go towards an infinite purpose beyond our lives and world which is destined to end.
In part 2 I discussed which alternatives do not fit this criteria – they either do not provide a positive purpose for this world in which I am in and/or do not fit with observable reality where I find myself.
Now in part 3, I discuss why Judaism fits into the criteria I used as my basis for part 2.
How Does Judaism Provide a Positive Answer for How to Live?
We have to deal with “bad things” if we are going to discuss the observable world. These “bad things” do not happen without purpose in Judaism. “Bad things” are not desired by the Creator. They happen to bring about good. They happen to help us grow. Everything is a lesson for us, and every “bad thing” teaches us something or jolts us to do better because we should be doing something more. If never tested, we could never grow to do more. You can’t be “great” if you are never given the chance to overcome challenges … and succeed. This is for the individual and this is for society as a whole.
Thus, while we lament 2000 years since the destruction of the second Temple for example, on a day of mourning each year, Judaism believes that it’s not the fault of the others who did the destruction. The Jews could have been doing better and it was done with the angelic creatures in the holy of holies facing towards each other … out of love. We strive for greatness by breaking something and putting it all back together a whole lot better.
On a personal level, this goes throughout our day and our life. Adversity and seeming “bad things” become good … because Judaism believes they are, no matter how small or large. You can test me with my life and you can test me with my keeping of the Torah. The latter is actually a test which is able to hurt us much more, but still, the test allows us to achieve. As long as we look at the world in this manner, we will always be happy. It’s not always easy, but this does fit within what we observe in the world – all people go through trials and pains. We are all meant to realize what we are going through is for us to have and for us to overcome in our personal struggle. It is, after all, the struggle that brings meaning. It is this struggle and this meaning which makes us greater, as a part of the Creator which is infinite, than just a hypothetical Creator with no creation.
How Does Judaism Fit Within the Observable Reality
As referred to in the previous article, the reality is that the whole world does not believe the same thing. The Torah accounts for this, pointing to many nations with different beliefs. The reality is that we don’t meet perfect people. The Torah accounts for this, telling us exactly what our prophets did wrong.
Muslims love to use this as an example of how their prophets were perfect, but we speak badly about ours. On the contrary, I say that all the others like to talk up the perfection of their holy person, whereas Judaism has no single holy person, but has a nation which struggles for greatness and with real faults. This is evidence, to me, that Judaism is much more likely correct since it’s impossible logically for all the contradictory “religious” belief systems to be true and contradictory, but yet they all, to my knowledge claim their leader was perfect … except Judaism. When Jews are described as “stiff-necked” in the Torah, is it an anti-semite writing or the Creator speaking truth?
When one looks as Ismael, father of the Arab nations and Esav, father of the Rome, Ham, father of the African nations … it all seems to fit well. Just as, in a silly example, Star Wars has staying power because it speaks to lots of people through time, so has the Torah. The proliferation of so many beliefs based on it seem only to show how much meaning is in there.
Then, take for example the prediction of the destruction of Israel, the scattering of the Jews, an the return to Israel described in Devarim [Deuteronomy]. What kind of man made religion predicts such a crazy thing? How is it turning out to be true 2000 years later? Who disperses around the world and then returns in any recognizable fashion to their original land?
Using the Physical World, But Being Spiritual
Judaism provides an intersection between the spiritual and the physical. The physical is “elevated”. The Talmud asks how one can eat anything – you’re stealing from the Creation. Answer: you say a blessing where you thank the Creator and have a relationship with the creator. You turn it into a spiritual experience (when done right).
We have six days a week of work and one day a week of spiritual existence where we disconnect from acts of creation in the physical world (the Shabbos). On the work days, we say blessings, we kiss mezeuzahs when we enter through doors, we put on tefillin, and we take time out three times a day for meditation. On Shabbos, we take are whole day out, but still eat and do physical things so long as they don’t remove us too far from the day or involve acts of new creation.
Then we have the exceptions – Yom Kippur, a day dedicated to the spiritual with no food, but not no food out of affliction. Rather, this is because completely spiritual beings do not need food. On the flip side, we have the physical day – Purim, where we use the physical as a tool to remove our inhibitions and connect to the infinite. Most times, however, are in the middle of the extremes … something like Pesach where we eat a full meal as thanks to the Creator and then finish with some matzah for dessert … flat bread devoid of having risen, which we eat when full for the mitzvah itself, not the sustenance. However, Jewish law says that we must have some room left over to eat it because, after all, we are still physical and must involve the physical.
What About Heterodox / Non-Orthodox Jewish Movements
Along with this question goes, “Why do I have to do all these things?” and “What if I don’t find meaning in them?” One of the tragedies of modern Ashkenazi Judaism is lack of education. Judaism is an entire way of life which works and has tremendous staying power. No matter the adversity, there is something to it. Still, most recently in history, Jews when through enormous physical struggles and came out wounded, but with a Torah system which is rebuilding anew and in many ways, much stronger.
The practical reality is that today there’s very little distinction between the different non-Orthodox variants. For example, the written Torah and every Jewish sect and breakaway known in our entire written history says that we don’t light a fire on Shabbos. This is an act of creation from which we refrain. Every modern heterodox movement will say something like, “that’s too hard for us today, so you can drive your car with combustion engine.” Some will say, “but only to synagogue,” as if this is more logical. In an attempt conserve, they’ve put a band aid on a huge wound and taught what is not Torah is the name of Judaism.
It’s a huge failure. If you don’t teach the children that it’s truth and strip the inner essence to leave some rituals that you view as antiquated … you won’t be left with many adherents. This seems obvious to me. The last time I heard a heterodox leader speak, it was at a great-uncle’s funeral. He asked why angels were going up a ladder and another set down in Jacob’s dream. He then went into some sort of attenuated comparison about my great-uncle’s volunteering for the WPA. I wanted to scream out, “Rashi [most basic commentator to the Torah] gives two answers to your question! Just pick one!” The problem is I’m pretty sure I’m pretty sure no one in the room would know what’s a Rashi.
Conservative Jews are so because Judaism meant something to their parents. Reform Jews are so because Judaism meant something to their grandparents. With this exception of a very small knowledge inner core, the substance of Judaism has been replaced with nastalgia and modern American liberal politics having nothing to do with a counter culture that has transcended continents and cultures.
If Judaism is So Great, Why Do Even People Educated Properly In It Leave?
People don’t run away from something good. I don’t think there’s one answer to this question. There are different groups of ‘leavers’. Many, I have found, come from very rigidly structured groups without the ability for self-expression. Others are rebelling from their parents to lesser or greater degrees. Others had social issues, especially as children – Jewish learning is demanding. A boy who has trouble learning can be at risk of leaving if he fails he is a failure and it is a wholly negative experience. A boy who is way too smart may also not fit in and may not find a suitable peer group and may be teased. Others don’t want to be “told” what to do; they want to have their version of “freedom” and don’t have room for another power greater, smarter, or better than them. These reasons for changing what one does in life are not exclusive to Judaism, I think tend to have an emotional underpinning, and is a topic that needs further exploration.
Part of my goal here, besides more content = better SEO = higher ranking for my work website which is linked to from here … where was I. Part of my goal was to put down in writing “What I answer myself” as well as common questions that come up in discussions on the topic.
I hope I have explained a rational basis for belief in a Creator. Added to this is that the more one believes in a Creator, the more one experiences a Creator. Things happen because of a Creator and answers come. One starts seeing a Creator everywhere. Here’s one example I see.
I hope I have also explained that a belief should be both positive and fit within what we observe in the world – I cannot test or rely on what is not here, nor do I choose a belief which negates this world or looks at it negatively.
Finally, I hope I have explained how Judaism best satisfies all of the above criteria, and is, in my view, correct and only re-enforced by other beliefs from scientific thoughts on creation and evolution to other Judaism-based beliefs. Still, there are of course questions and nothing is a proof, though I choose, with reason to place my belief over here.
[…] Click for the final article. […]
[…] In part 3, I will discuss why Judaism fits into the criteria I used as my basis for part 2. […]