Saturday, April 21, 2007

Solo Shabbat

This Shabbat Ryan was in Athens, Ga., so we had to do our Shabbat time by ourselves.

Quick aside: How funny is it that Ryan called me from the Holiday Inn parking lot upset over the notion that barhoppers had used up all the parking spaces? (Damn kids.) When did he get so old?

Anyway, I did the best I could. I lit the candles without burning myself, and muddled through the blessing, mispronouncing every fourth or fifth word.

I didn't want to get behind so I copied the latest chapter in Basic Judaism and gave it to Ryan for his trip. He sent me his notes this morning, like the good student he probably never was. :)

It was a chapter I had been looking forward to for a while. The chapter discussed dogma, G_d and evil.

The overarching theme? Do and believe what you want. The only absolute is that G_d exists (in whatever form you want to believe) and that G_d is one, not two, not three like in the Christian trinity and not none.

The book waged a written debate over the merits of a Judaic dogma. Apparently Maimonides wrote a Jewish dogma, but no one could agree on it. Some say that without a creed, isn't Judaism the "jellyfish of faith?" And if there is no creed, what did the martyrs die for? What holds us all together?

Steinberg writes that the Jewish principle of questioning G_d and free-thinking about G_d comes into direct conflict with the idea of having a formal creed of faith. He also writes that Jews are not Jews by faith alone. Unlike Christians, Jews are Jews for cultural and historical reasons aside from religion, whereas Christians unify around a singular faith in Jesus. Therefore, it also would not make sense to have a singular formal creed.

Because Basic Judaism was written before the founding of Israel, I did some quick research to make sure he was still up to date in regards to the creed topic. The only Jewish creed I found reference to is the Shmah creed, which simply states: "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our G_d, the Lord is One."

In terms of who G_d is to each person, Steinberg writes that Judaism takes a libertarian approach to that as well. Same goes for evil on earth: Steinberg lists numerous reasons for evil's presence on earth and then says "the Jew is free to make his selection, adopting the response or combination of responses which best satisfies him."

What I thought was the more important message: "That man's ignorance of God is greater than his knowledge..." Steinberg here quotes a Proverb: "In all they ways know Him." His commentary: Nowhere is it written: "In all His ways know Him."

My first reaction to all this chapter: What? It's that easy? I get to choose what I want to believe?

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how many questions such a free-flowing idea of G_d requires.

How do you all feel about have set requirements for what you believe? How are creeds and dogmas used in different religions? (Here is a copy of the United Methodist creed.) Is it something you learn at a young age? Something you gloss over? Were you taught that you could believe in your own version?

Wikipedia has a pretty exhaustive creed entry with links. There is also

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