Tuesday, May 31, 2005

My God, Your God, Our God?

I have recently had the opportunity to take time to reflect on why God enjoys making me fret. I feel that every-so-often I, the good pious little Jew-boy that I am, am forced to come to grips with some element of my theology/practice that I really had intended to avoid. There are a bevy of theological issues to encounter, and well, I only choose to ponder those that I can solve. For some reason I find myself in situations which require me to ponder, very immediately, these other "dirty nasties" (as Dad would call them) that I would have preferred to skirt. Bekitzur, God has a sense of humor (echoed by Kevin Smith and Jose).

Tonight, I had the pleasure of dining at the Brackman's and listening to an Alum (turned Chabad) and his wife (also turned) talk about their religious experience. The wife spoke of being an executive with a record label, only to find that the Rebbe would show her a path away from her job and towards her beshert [husband]. (This happens bederech hateva [in the normal course of things], of course, when she does not get the promotion) I am not slighting her religious odyssey, but rather find myself puzzling over why some peoples journey takes them towards emunah [faith] and others away. Are we (ehm, I) just not looking for God? Does He play games (i.e. challenge us)? And on what grounds is this the same God? Obviously, as a monotheist, there is only one God, but what does that mean to say that our conceptions vary so distinctly?

9 comments:

sam said...

This is an excellent post. I would ask: does Hashem care? What I could never figure out was why God would create people with such a discriminating intellect and then impose rigid intellectual orthodoxies. Also, why God would want people to live essentially ethnically exclusive lives (I guess I'm being unfair.)

I believe that Jewish spiritual life has less to do with God and more to do with community and daily life---what food you eat, how you structure your day, who you talk to, who you love. For someone like me who wasn't born into a frum household, but was born into a God-fearing one, this was the difference between orthodoxies, Reform, Conservative and nothing.

On a totally different note: the new Meshuggah album dropped today. On the first listen it's not as good as the last EP; it's more like Isis or the Mars Volta (or Mogwai, so I hear) with way too much noodling. It's probably a lot more fun live. Save your money or buy the new Converge instead.

miriam said...

rav kook says, belief is like a ladder - there are many rungs, ie, discrete formulations of ideology. there is also empty space in between the rungs, which is the space of questioning the "lower" beliefs as you reach the "higher" ones - these periods of questioning are in some ways periods of non-belief (at least in specific ideologies, not necessarily in "the whole process"). teh reason this process occurs is that every formulation of spiritual expreience is necessarilly, well, wrong. that is, incomplete.

"And on what grounds is this the same God? "

based on the above, i might (though i'm not sure i actually will here, so don't shoot) argue that "belief in God" in a Jewish sense is intentionally amorphous. it is more an agreement to engage in a spiritual pursuit, and an agreement that "spirit" is meaningful, than anything else.

as for sam's point, orthodoxy is, empirically, a lot about the non-God stuff, yes, but there is still some theology of the religion out there, distinct from its practice, for the interested (And engagement with that theology, when it does occur, is arguably more intense for its being communal). the jewish tradition seems to believe, i think not unjustifiably, that "community and daily life" are central to "spirituality," whatever that is, so regulating them makes sense. [no, i have not adressed the "rigidity" of those regulations.]
that's what i have to say al regel achat.

Zev said...

Your regel achat is better than many people's two.

Phoebe said...

I responded (well, more of a tangent) to this post on my blog, but the link works only to the whole blog and not this post in particular.

jacob said...

rav kook says, belief is like a ladder - there are many rungs, ie, discrete formulations of ideology. there is also empty space in between the rungs, which is the space of questioning the "lower" beliefs as you reach the "higher" ones - these periods of questioning are in some ways periods of non-belief (at least in specific ideologies, not necessarily in "the whole process").


Not doubting you but I have to ask, "where does Rav Kook say this?"

miriam said...

jacob:
heh heh. you caught me. i forget, and i am at an aboluste loss as to how to find this passage for you in the near future. (if i have time to dig through my sourcebooks from the brov. next time i'm in boston it may be there...) i *have* seen it "inside" though, so doubt my rendition, if you want, but not my sincerity.

sam:
it occurs to me after i wrote my initial response that, while there is certainly a large subset of orthodox people who do what they do because they deeply believe that "Hashem cares," a lot of people I know (ie, semi-atypical people. perhaps) generally don't think to ask that question first, asing instead, "does it help me [religiously]?" "it" in this case is the whole kit and caboodle, not every individual mitzvah. i'm not sure whether that means we've "lost sight" of something or that we just have a different (less Protestant?) perspective.

miriam said...

ps - jacob. i admitted my somewhat irresponsible use of texts, but i did find this: http://www.bayitchadash.org/articles/uncertainty.shtml which says something like what i was trying to say, involving rebbe nachman and also, somewhat, rav kook. (I don't remember the Israel-connection in the passage I'm thinking of from Rav Kook, so maybe its not the same, or maybe it was pruned by my teacher...)

sam said...

Sorry for the harsh tone, and I ought to have been more careful about the term "spirituality." I'm not sure what you mean by losing "sight"---of God or of law? Aside from, say, needing kavannah to pray, how is one's piety affected by what one thinks before performing a mitzvah (or avoiding breaking one)? I am not asking this rhetorically---I am curious how and where this comes up. Is a Jew who says "I'm doing this because I have to" worse than a Jew who says "I'm doing this because God wants me to" or "I'm doing this even though I don't have a clear reason"? Where is the genesis of belief in Jewish thought? And although I guess I didn't end up Orthodox I didn't mean to belittle any of you!

I guess I am uncomfortable with the language we're using ... anyway, I think people make themselves and others fret.

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