Why I Choose to Be an Orthodox Jew – What to Live For [Part 1/3]
In article 1 (below) I discuss 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 article 2 I will discuss 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.
In article 3, I will discuss why Judaism fits into the criteria I used as my basis for part 2.
The meaning of life is in the struggle for greatness. Those who are happy are those who have something to life for and a goal to seek. Some struggle for freedom from oppression, some struggle for food. Some struggle for power, some struggle for money. All those struggles end in death. I write nothing new here, as this is more or less the beginning of one of the first classes I ever heard from an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi. His name was Noach Weinberg, and this speaks to me.
This immediately rules out, at least for me, a life devoid of connection to G_d, the infinite, the Creator, the spiritual plane of existence. You can have all the pleasures in the world, all the money in the world, all the power in the world, and even all the knowledge in the world. Then what?
I’ll tell you what: heat death of the universe. This is what science has to offer us. For all our struggles, we will die. Our ideas will die. Humanity will die. It will be for nothing. If all there is, is a physical world . . . that’s depressing. You can do something “lesser” or something “greater” but compared to heat death, all is nothing. Again, I say nothing new here. King Solomon said this long before me as did Iyov [Job], as did many modern philosophers.
Every day, I wake up and thank the Creator for returning my life to me another day. This is, in Jewish law, the very first thing we say upon waking up every day. From the very beginning of the day, I arise with purpose. I head off to synagogue and continue . . . thanks for giving me eyesight, thanks for giving me the ability to walk, thanks for giving me the ability to . . . well, not be like an animal that seeks it’s food to live in an endless circle of food for life, living for food. Thank You because I can connect to You.
Sure, there are morning I don’t make it to synagogue and there are mornings I’m late and unfortunately rush through faster than I should. Still, I get up, and do this no matter what, the getting up with purpose culminating in a mediation session where it is just me and the infinite . . . who I talk to in the second person: You [ata in Hebrew].
That is all well and good, but the atheist will argue that one can run tests and experiments and write peer reviewed articles and come to a consensus on a great many things in the physical universe. I have spent many a conversation trying to understand the beliefs of an atheist, here, here, and here for example.
At the end of the day, however, a consensus does not bring truth. Consensus is often wrong. One can neither argue nor prove the existence nor lack thereof of a Creator, though the more one sees the world as though there is one, the more it becomes obvious that there has to be. One cannot know why the Big Bang did what it did. One cannot know why the laws of physics are just right such that ice floats, protons and electrons exist and form compounds … that carbon can bond with itself four times. The famous Dr. Crick, who discovered DNA, a wonder in itself that stems from life just spontaneously existing, declared that it must have come from an outer space seed because … how else could it have happened?
There is evidence of, and mathematical theories as to how evolution, for example, might have worked. These theories are usually written by people who don’t believe, don’t want to believe, and start with a premise of disbelief. They believe in it without ever having seen a fish grow legs and walk on land, for such a proposition is far from testable. It’s a tool to understand creation by a Creator, nothing more. The Talmud describes it in the second chapter of Chagigah, that such studies are like examining the King’s trash heap . . . see all the things the King discarded. You, the atheist will argue, “but you’re pre-supposing G_d exists when you call it ‘the King’s trash heap'” to which I rebut, “Okay, let’s examine from your perspective: you’re examining the dead remains of what came before you while on your way to heat death. Go find a hot tub and enjoy the moment instead.” That’s not a belief. It’s an attempt, all to often, to escape from G_d, not find a positive belief of your own. As Dawkins famously said, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”
In a Dawkins world, one receives Intellectual fulfillment as long as one doesn’t think too long term as from where you came and where you are going. For this, the various Greek philosophies made more sense … go for physical pleasure how you desire here and now. What’s in it for examination of the past … unless you believe in G_d and then, hey, maybe it’s a trash heap, but it’s a heap of a King! Now I can understand something about how G_d functions and how the progression went from simpler to more complex as both the geological record and Judaism-based beliefs both tell us.
So an honest answer is – we all believe in what we cannot test unless we simply do not think about it. Some believe in “evolution” as a reason for us to be here, some believe in “G_d”. Most in either category do not think about it one way or the other. Once you begin to think, that’s when you get yourself into trouble. Absent emotional reasons to believe one way or the other, one cannot prove one way or the other, but one must logically choose to believe there is a Creator and then follow the evidence from there.
Aren’t we still just going around in a circle, back to a Creator? What for? Part II will answer this.