Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Monday, December 11, 2006

In Which I Blaspheme And No Doubt Raise The Ire Of Many Of My Readers

As part of my Reintroduction to Judaism course, I've been reading the Torah. (And I think it is quite telling about the state of my previous education in Judaism--i.e., none--that it came as a shock to me to realize that the Torah and the Bible are the same thing. I knew that Jews didn't call it the Old Testament, it being our only Testament, but I had no idea that those Torah scrolls up in the ark on the bima in the synagogue bore the same stories as in the old, leather-bound family "Hebrew Bible" that I'd never bothered to read, but which sits on my bookshelf nonetheless.)

Here's what I'm taking away from this reading: There are some fan-fucking-tastic stories in that book. And it's fascinating literature, fascinating reading. But this God guy? I hate to say it, but he really does come off as kind of a capricious jerk. I'd always assumed that if and when I developed a relationship with God, it would be with a God, a force, that cared about and reached out to each and every person on the earth. But the God in the Torah? He totally plays favorites. Being a pious person isn't nearly enough for him to show you favor. He seems to be all about collateral damage; huge numbers of people dying in battles so that he can teach one person a lesson. And he seems to also way favor the exalted over the everday Joe. What's that about?

Not to mention that this 'holy book,' this 'word of God,' appears to me to be filled with contradictions and mistakes. Sure, bible scholars have other names for them--doublets being my personal favorite way to explain away the fact that the same story is often told twice, with conflicting details--but they are what they are. That would be all well and good, except...This is the basis for why we so often go to war, both figuratively and literally, with one another? This is why we discriminate against our fellow man/woman, if said man/woman wants to love someone of their own gender? This is why there is so much hate out there? This document that can be manipulated to say almost anything you want, if you just put the right kind of spin on it?

Reading this, you'd think that my foray into religion has turned me off of religion. You couldn't be more wrong. I think that these issues make religion all that much more approachable for someone like me. I can look at it with my scientific mind and my literary bent, and I can grapple with it. I can consider and question. It's so clear to me that I'm not being told to simply accept. Nobody with a brain can simply 'accept' the Torah as it is written. I'm encouraged both by my rabbi and by the document itself--or so it seems to me--to consider the stories therein parables, which are thereby enriched with meaning and depth because I'm not told to take them at face value. And since questioning and wondering are what I do best, that makes religion so much more approachable to me.

In fact, what I like about Judaism is that this kind of questioning is not only accepted, but expected of me. After Jacob wrestles with "the angel" and wins, he is told that his name is no longer Jacob, but Israel--he who wrestles with God. As one of the people Israel, I am officially a God-wrestler. What I am doing, what I am thinking, is what I am supposed to be doing and thinking. I feel accepted in my religion, despite my doubts and my concerns. I feel welcomed to be exactly who I am, and to say and think exactly what I'm saying and thinking, except maybe without quite so much profane language.

It's quite the journey.


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