As I read books on meditation and self empowerment, (I hate the phrase “Self Improvement” (Even though we ARE trying to become better versions of ourselves) I realize just how much of it comes from the source… the Torah… and also Kabbalah and other Jewish teachings. It is amazing, but not surprising.
To those who think that Judaism is nothing more than a cold and sterile set of laws… they are missing a huge and vital point. Within those laws… within the beautiful words of Torah and Tehillim, the ideas of Pirkei Avos and Kabbalah, are life lessons so significant and insightful and imperative. The answers to almost everything are ours for the taking, if we stop and study and embrace them… with all our hearts, souls, and might (Or “resources”… Or “means”… the translation is a whole other debate, and definitely one for another day!)
It has taken me a long time, wandering in the desert, to get to this point… this understanding… but here I am… better late than never… and on the path that Hashem wants me to be on.
In another life I think that I would have become a Rabbi… and while it is NEVER too late, I don’t see it happening now, and that’s fine. I can still study and learn and envelop myself in this beautiful religion. The learning is important and empowering… heart-filling… soul-warming… brain-expanding… and is making a huge difference in my outlook and demeanor.
What I am finding, interestingly, is that as I embrace my Judaism, certain friends and acquaintances are getting nervous… afraid I may leave them behind, become self-righteous, or enter into some cult like existence. I find the push back sad and frustrating, and wish they would even make the smallest effort to come on the journey.
But… we all have our personal beliefs. Some people like to keep those private… and others are as open as a Dime Store Novel.
While I would love to know where many of you stand, I am fine with not knowing… After all, we are all on our very own, individual journeys. This is my attempt to understand and grow and learn.
For the sake of this post, and for documenting my own, personal path, I am airing it all out… pulling out the map and showing you all the routes… and stops… and side trips. Some uplifting, some filled with doubts and questions. I will show you where I stumble on a rock, bathe in a river, or ascend the mountain. And unlike most men, I am not afraid to ask for directions and to say, “I don’t know.”
And that is also the answer to the question “Do you fully believe that G-d exists?”
I don’t know.
I think so… I feel it… I believe in Hashem… more so than ever before! But am I at a 100%? I don’t know and I cannot say I know for certainty, as that comes off as being presumptuous and arrogant… and not fully truthful, at least for me. I would like to be 100%, but I still question and doubt from time to time.
As I was walking yesterday, I stopped and stared at a tree… and as the wind gently blew its branches, I stood in awe and watched them sway and dance. A flock of birds flew by. I watched them until they disappeared and then I took full notice of the mountains in the background… And at that moment, with certainty, I knew I was seeing G-d… Hashem… I could feel it… so warmly and deeply.
With many of my posts I have a friend who sends me Christopher Hitchens’ videos. He was, perhaps, the most famous atheist… or at least the most vocal and visible one in quite a few generations. He was articulate, could often be obnoxious and condescending, but a great speaker and highly intelligent, and boy, he could fluster even the best Rabbis.
Bill Maher, who I like very much, is very anti-religion. He mocks it in a similar way to Hitchens. And yet, as I hear both of them speak, I realize that they are not describing MY religion.
Judaism does not propose that a spaceship is coming down from the sky, as my friend likes to tease me about.
Judaism is not about sitting around and giving all power over to G-d. It is about Free Will and a partnership. Yes, we may believe that Hashem controls the weather and global warming… but he also let’s humans make their own mistakes… have consequences for their actions… AND try to fix the things they break.
It frustrates me that I am not yet at 100%, but I am very clear about seeing what comes from not believing… and thinking that the universe is solely random and operating only on scientific laws. Judaism does not deny science… And in fact the Big Bang Theory actually proves that there was one, very specific moment of creation. Is it Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden? I have issues with this and other Biblical stories, especially in the face of evolution and other data, but it is interesting to think the world went from a Steady State Theory… to the Big Bang Theory.
Judaism does not deny atoms and protons and neutrons… but as we take things… discover things smaller and smaller… almost infinitesimally… we come to understand that there is a miracle… something higher… in holding those things together in a specific order… a specific way…
Science changes all the time, and therefore science and scientists also have to say, I don’t know… at least not for certain. I think… I hypothesize… I extrapolate… but I do not know 100%. To say otherwise is insincere and arrogant.
So I don’t know either, at least not yet. But I believe… I do believe…
My Morning Jacket says it so wonderfully in “Believe (Nobody Knows)”:
“Believe, believe, believe, believe
Nobody knows for sure.”
And the band Blind Pilot, in their stunning song “Half Moon” says:
“So hold high have faith your reasons
(Or you’ll never get on)
Don’t you forget you come from nothing
(Or you’ll never get on)
That wind is calling my name
I won’t wait or I’ll never get on.”
There is Judaism in those lyrics… I hear it in a way I never did before…
There is Judaism in the world… I am seeing it for the first time…
And in that Judaism, I know that I don’t know… and I embrace the unknown, I accept it… I am okay with it, because I put my faith in Hashem. And that… I do know!