Monday, August 10, 2009

Ten Thoughts

I woke up this morning and these ten thoughts just gripped my fingers and controlled the keys. Here they are as raw and unedited as they came to me. Comments welcome.

Judaism is the invention of the Jew. Different Jews invent different Judaisms. There never was, nor will there ever be, just one Judaism.
• • •
The Jew is the invention of the Torah. Torah is the story of the Jews, and there are no Jews without this story. But Torah is also the invention of the Jew. Hence the Jews invented themselves.
• • •
The Jews invented God. Well, not GOD, but YHVH, their God. Different Jews, different Gods. Priestly Jews invented a spectacle¬–hungry God who loves priestly pomp and power. Prophetic Jews invented a righteous God who hates what the Priestly God loves, and demands justice and compassion instead. Rabbinic Jews invented a lawyer God who loves legal wrangling and obedience to rabbinic law. Secular Jews invented a doubting God who denied even Himself. Zionist Jews invented a realtor God who loved land more than law, especially now—Century 21 indeed!
• • •
All gods are as real as those who invent them, as powerful as those who profit from them, and as immortal as those who worship them.
• • •
Christian Jews invented a powerless God. Can you imagine YHVH hanging from a cross? The YHVH who terrorized the Egyptians and slaughtered their firstborn sons being captured, scourged, and crucified by Romans? Of course not. Jesus was the son of a powerless God worshipped by a powerless people who, since they couldn’t save their sons, invented a God who couldn’t save his either.
• • •
The God of Jesus eschews power, for Jesus had none. And the God of his followers eschewed power until they get some.
• • •
While the early Christians embraced death and their crucified God, elevating martyrdom to the greatest mitzvah, the Jews imagined new life into their old Warlord and went to war. But imagination wasn’t sufficient, and Rome won.
• • •
This should have been the end of the Jews, but it wasn’t. They imagined differently, and YHVH went from a God who rewards those he loves to a God who tests (read allows to be hounded, hunted, brutalized, tortured, and gassed) those he loves. The Jews imagined a Divine Batterer and loved him all the more for it. Jews imagined themselves as the Bride of YHVH, and made a religion out of Battered Wife Syndrome. Maybe that’s why we invented psychotherapy?!?
• • •
Today the questions are these: Will the battered become the batterers? Can the Jewish imagination invent a new Jew, a new Torah, a new God, a new future? Or are we too old, too tired, too tied to what was to imagine what might yet be?


Andrea Perez said...

No, our god will become our concience. We are created in the image of god with the same power as god to do good or bad or simply to exist. Battered wife syndrome? Hopefully we learn that it's not acceptable to be beaten or kicked around. That there is a reason we have lasted for this long...maybe there is some truth to the ethics that have kept us going...maybe some validity to the ultimate unity of all existance that we believe in? Maybe our god isn't a giant Santa Claus handing out favors to those who behave themselves, but maybe we do believe in a great artist god who creates, makes mistakes and does his/her dammest to make things better. Or not so, afterall, if I agree with you and say that god is a human invention, then shouldn't we learn to be kinder to him/her? Afterall, god is only human....

dtedac said...

Rabbi Rami,

I think your ideas are not so raw. Some are medium or even medium well. (I had steak last night!) Here are some takes:

I would extend your first idea beyond Judaism to say that there never was nor will there ever be one Christianity or Islam or anything else. All faiths are in a state of development and change. Even those who proclaim that they have never changed for centuries.

So I was just thinking: if we are developing ideas about God, then why not formulate a "nice" God? A God who is not out to destroy, humiliate or dominate, but a God who is good, loves all creation and lives in a world of peace and service? It's worth a try. I bet there are many people who would go for a nice God. What do you think?

Unknown said...

dtedac: I have to admit, my problem with a nice God is that often, reality can't be represented as nice. So what do we do when life's not nice?

So I would say that, if you want a nice God, maybe it's better to be a nice person, which parallels the Jewish notion of tikkun olam for me.

eashtov said...

Shalom Rav,

Once again, "gut gezogt!!"

Re "Battered Wife Syndrome:"

I don't remember "Blessed are the doormats for they shall inherit my heels," as being one of the beatitudes (attribution for this "faux beatitude,"
is Dr. Henry Cloud, a Christian psychologist,

Re your questions: "Will the battered become the batterers?"

Knowledge of incidents of Jewish resistance to Nazism as well as the understanding of post WWII Jews that "Blessed are the doormats..." was not a part of Jewish teaching, allowed for Israel to be born in the midst of an overwhelming hostile Arab majority in the region. Any hint of ascribing the label of "batterers," to Israel today is a libel of epic proportion much like the label of "torturers" for American soldiers.

You continued to ask:

"Can the Jewish imagination invent a new Jew, a new Torah, a new God, a new future?"

It's hard to be upbeat here. Your recent summary
of Dr. Barna's survey found in his book "The Seven Faith Tribes"

suggests that the majority of Jews couldn't care less about these things, "a new Jew, a new Torah, a new God, a new future?" Dr. Barna's Jews are the accurately portrayed vast majority of non Orthodox
Jews in America for whom all of your categories
would have to re earn a place in their lives. Dr. Barna's Jews are perfectly content to be virtually indistinguishable from other politically liberal Americans, with little to nothing beyond the trivial to meaningless "just Jewish" self identification. You continued to ask:

"Or are we too old, too tired, too tied to what was to imagine what might yet be?"

In the consumerist world in which we live where “what’s in it for me,” is the operative question, “relevance” is the key to bringing the
disenchanted,disengaged majority of Jews (read Dr. Barna's Jews) back to Judaism and the synagogue. These folks will not care about creating “a new Jew, a new Torah, a new God, a new future” until Judaism and the synagogue prove that they understand their lives as they are lived and experienced in the 21rst century. The folks want to know that the synagogue and and Jewish teaching, have “walked a mile in their moccasins.” People ought to leave the synagogue saying, “yes, they really get it,” and not “so what,” or heaven forbid, “whatever.” The only hope for Judaism’s life transforming prescription of a life of holiness is through the doorway of relevance.

So how about it Rabbi Rami; you and I get out of the grandstands and into the game and make this happen. None of this stuff about being too old as I'm older than you and Colonel Sanders was older than both of us. How strong is that fire in your belly about "invent(ing) a new Jew, a new Torah, a new God, a new future?" Let's both step up and show that it's more than just writing about and bemoaning the status quo!


dtedac said...


You're probably right; a nice God might not be realistic either. I guess I'd just like a more balanced picture than the one that is usually presented.

I do believe in tikkun olam. I am not Jewish, but I think all religions can agree that living by that standard is the best way to live.


eashtov said...

Shalom Aron and David,

When we read Isaiah 45:6-7 we find that God is in all things, "Creator of light and darkness, Maker of peace and Creator of evil." This fits very well with Rabbi Rami's definition of God (and I paraphrase) as the Sum and Substance of All Things.


Unknown said...

David: I concur with what Jordan said, but to add, I don't mean that we must accept reality and become cynical or "realistic" as a result. I suggest we must learn to love reality as it is, good and not-good, then work towards a higher good.

So I believe in as you said "God who is good, loves all creation and lives in a world of peace and service" just not only those things.

Mr Green said...

Interesting... I came across this blog while exploring my current theory about religion and God. It goes something like this:

The nomadic Jews of antiquity, being shunted about for centuries, decided that they needed a place all of their own. Since ordinary fighting didn't do the trick, they came up with this concept of a supreme being that stipulated that they should have a particular homeland. In other words, they invented God as a political device with which to manipulate those around them and to justify their actions.

History and the bible tell us what they went on to do on the back of this superior "authority".

Then along came a dissident, a revolutionary whom we now call Jesus Christ. He was duly eliminated, but not before spreading the idea that a God is not there just for the benefit of one particular people.

Centuries later, a chap called Mohammed again re-invented matters, this time to suit the political ends of another people.
And so it goes on.

In short, the three major religions of today are all rooted in a self-serving political device invented by a bunch of nomads.
At least that's my theory for now.