Friday, February 26, 2010

Random Musing Before Shabbat – Tetzaveh 5770 – A Nation of Priests (and a Shtickel Purim)

Does it bother you? It bothers me. Judaism is a religion with a hereditary priesthood. G”d does play favorites.

People still take this hereditary priesthood seriously, despite our pretenses otherwise. We still give the Kohanim the first aliyah. Geneticists have identified common genetic markers among the Kohanim. Are we waiting for the priesthood to reclaim its place? Do we really want a rebuilt Temple and a return to the cultic practices? Is our spiritual evolution that incomplete, that we’re not past those needs? Does it really matter if someone is a Kohen? Should it matter? Are classist and elitist divisions meant to be eternally part of our religion. Perhaps this is not what G”d had in mind.

How cozy and convenient to have it all in the family. Maybe it’s a way for G”d to assuage any hurt feelings Moshe might have that he wasn’t getting the  deal that Avraham, Yitzkhak and Yaakov got. To insure that Moshe would carry his humility all the way to the grave (and a grave to be located in a place unknown, so that Moshe should not become as One who is worshipped and overly revered) maybe G”d struck a deal. Maybe there are conversations that took place on Sinai that weren’t reported in the Torah.

Moshe: Um, excuse me, G”d?

G”d: Yes, Moshe, what is it? Can’t you see I’m busy inscribing these tablets?

Moshe: Er, I don’t want to appear selfish and prideful, but I was wondering about my descendants?

G”d: What about them?

Moshe: well, for one, will they be as numerous as the sands or the stars in the sky?

G”d: Literally?

Moshe: Well, maybe figuratively..but, wait, no maybe even literally

G”d: Moshe, I’ve made you a leader of these people, but not their ruler, King, or Sovereign. That’s a role only I can fulfill. What, you were hoping maybe I’d allow your children to become a dynasty?

Moshe: I know, I know. You chose me because I am humble, and willing to be a servant leader to the people. Still, one likes to provide for his family, his descendants, and future generations. Will my status help put food in their bellies?

G”d: Moshe, your arrogance begins to trouble me. Is it not enough I have placed you as leader of these people, and enabled you to lead them out of slavery into freedom so that they might worship me alone, and follow my commandments? Don’t push me, Moshe. Don’t tee me off. You won’t like the consequences. You saw what I could do to Pharaoh.

Moshe: So what, you gonna harden my heart too, and make me suffer extra? Hey, I’m on to your little tricks. This is me you;re talking to, former prince of Egypt and now leader of the Israelites, not some ignorant ex-slave.

G”d: Also a murderer,and a guy with a really bad speech impediment.

Moshe: [silence]

G”d: [after a pregnant pause] Well, that seemed to shut you up.

Moshe: Well, when You’re right, You’re right. Still, it just doesn’t seem fair that my miskpokha don’t get anything out of this.

G”d: Boy, you don’t take a hint, do you? Does this really mean that  much to you?

Moshe: I guess it does. Say, maybe we can make a deal.

G”d: who do you think I am, Monty Hall? I don’t make deals!

Moshe: Oh yes, You do. want me to enumerate some examples. We can start with your negotiations with Avraham over S’dom and Gomorrah. Shall I go on?

G”d: OK, I got it. What’s your proposal?

Moshe: Well, since you don’t seem to want to make my children a dynasty, what about my brother?

God: Aharon?

Moshe: Exactly. For an older brother to be in the shadow of the younger-well, that can’t exactly be easy for him. He deserves more than to just be my spokesperson. He’s a good egg. He works hard, he’s patient, a lover of peace, and he absolutely worships You.

G”d: If you knew what your brother was up to right now, you might not be so sure.

Moshe: what’s that supposed to mean?

G”d: Nevermind, You’ll find out soon enough, anyway. Alright, tell you what. I will make a deal with you. I’ll make Aharon my high priest, and all his sons and their descendants can be a hereditary priesthood. OK? He doesn’t deserve it, especially with what he’s up to at the moment, but I’ll overlook that for your sake.

Moshe: A priesthood? What the heck will we need priests for? I thought we left all the nonsense behind in Egypt?  You, you’re the REAL G”d, not these phony idols, or that pantheon of half-human-half-animals the Egyptians worship. Those Egyptian priests are no paragons of virtue, let me tell you. The control the granaries and so much more in Egypt. I suspect if some Pharaoh teed them off, they’d arrange quickly for a new Pharaoh.  You really want to concentrate power in the hands of an aristocratic elite? Is that the sort of religion You have in mind? If so, I’m not sure I wanna go along for the ride. I may be an ex-prince of Egypt, but You;re the One who put me in charge of the rabble, and now I feel like one of them, and I care about their equality. why should they trade one kind of enslavement for another? Is that freedom? Priests? I think we should be a whole nation of priests. Yeah, that’s the ticket. A nation of priests. I’d like to see that. Wouldn’t You?

G”d: Moshe, have you noticed my nose? It’s really, really flaring. You are pushing it to the limit. How dare you? Look, this was your idea-to give Aharon something so that the family line could benefit from your service. I can take that way in an instant. Don’t cross me. Though I do like that “nation of priests” thing. I just don’t think it’s time yet. Moshe, deal with it. There are going to be priests!

Moshe: But a hereditary priesthood? Next I suppose you’ll want sacrificial altars and regular tributes and all that. I thought You were above all that nonsense-that it was just for show.

G”d: [driven by intense anger, G”d is prepared to strike Moshe dead on the spot. The G”d pauses, takes a deep breath, counts to infinity, and says:] Moshe, you’re a good man. A pain in the tukhis, but a good man. Let me lay it out for you in simple terms, okay?

Moshe: OK.

G”d: Moshe, you’re an educated man. Maybe you’ve read some philosophy. You can probably think of concepts well beyond the comprehension of the average Israelite, or Egyptian, for that matter (although there was that Amenhotep, but never mind that…) I am going to have to do all sorts of things at first to help people come to terms with the idea that I’m incorporeal, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. So yes, we’re gonna have altars, and incense, and sacrifices, and all that stuff. I’m gonna arrange it so that there’s a Mishkan you;re gonna build, and a place in the Mishkan where I can come and be “present” among the Israelites.  They’re not fully ready for a theology as advanced as you think, Moshe. It could be millennia before they are. Lucky for Me, time doesn’t matter much. I can wait until they evolve, spiritually. [trailing off] At the rate they’re going now, I might be waiting a long, long time…

Moshe: Well, OK. I get it. Sort of. Just give me the instructions for this Mishkan thing, and all the rituals and sacrifices and stuff, and I’ll make sure the people know it and do it right.

G”d: One step at a time, Moshe. One step at a time. Let’s just start with the ten things I’ve written on these tablets, OK?

Moshe: So, about my brother?

G”d: He’s gonna be the high priest, and his sons will also be priests. I’ll set it up so that his descendants will be the priestly family.

Moshe: Well, that ought to make him happy!

G”d: Don’t be so sure. With privilege comes a price. Keep a close eye on your nephews.

Moshe: There’s something You;re not telling me?

G”d: Moshe, my little boychik, there’s a lot I’m not telling you. Get used to it. Deal with it. And now say “thank you” to Me for striking this deal with you.

Moshe: Thank You. I think.

G”d: You’re welcome. I think. Now here, take these two tablets and head back down the mountain to the people. Your big brother has committed a great sin.

Moshe: You’ll still make him High Priest.

G”d: That promise I’ll keep. Now get out of here before I change my mind!

Well, maybe that’s not what happened. Nevertheless, does it matter. Whether we had need for a hereditary priesthood then or not, do we really need it now? Is there any good reason to cling to the remnants of that system? Or is it time for all Israel to be as equals before G”d?

I should end here, but I can’t resist, since Purim is also upon us, to reflect a bit on that. Boy, there’s a great holiday. They tried to kill us, but we turned the tables on them and killed them first. Let’s eat. I don’t know about you, but I have a problem with some of the very basic underpinnings of Purim and its attendant celebration.

Although you know that sometimes I have issues with G”d, and the way G”d acts and behaves, I have to give G”d a thumbs up for one thing. G”d isn’t in the Purim story. Oh, the rabbis like to pretend that, like “Esther” G”d is “hidden” behind the story. I’d like to believe that maybe it’s more because G”d doesn’t really approve of this story, and didn’t want to be included. Yeah, Jewish pride is a good thing. Avoiding extinction is good, too. Sometimes, even turning the tables is desirable. But wholesale slaughter? You ever really look at Chapter 9 of Megillat Esther? Sure, G”d as described in Torah and subsequent books I sometimes a warrior, and sometimes tells us to kill others. Yet there is a learning curve. I’d like to think that by the time of the Purim story, G”d had matured. And any mature G”d would certainly opt out of inclusion in that story. N’est ce pas?

Shabbat Shalom,

©2010 by Adrian A. Durlester

Friday, February 19, 2010

Random Musing Before Shabbat – T’rumah 5770 – Finessing Idolatry, or Outgrowing It?

C’mon. C’MON! Mishkan, the place of dwelling. Such a thing should be anathema to an omni-present G”d. If G”d truly is everywhere, what is the need for this Mishkan, and inside of it this holy Ark, all of them designed to be portable and travel around, yet intended to be a place where G”d might dwell among the Israelites.

OK, so where is G”d when the tribes are on the road, and the Mishkan is all packed up? On vacation? Taking a nap? Is G”d with the people on their way, or just when they stop and set up the Mishkan?

I’m sorry, but having altars of any kind, shrines of any kind, to a G”d that is not manifest, is sort of silly. Twice as silly if you make them portable.

When the Israelites were praying, and sacrifices were being offered by the priests, were they all really thinking about this incorporeal G”d, or were their thoughts really focused on the physical representation via the various parts of the Mishkan. Did the Ark itself come to represent G”d? Does that not make it an idol?

We’ve all heard the apologetics-that the mishkan (and ultimately the Temple) were not for G”d’s sake but for human beings, who weren’t quite ready to make the leap to the sort of understanding most seem to have about G”d these days.

Given the prevalence of asherot and other idols found among the Israelites all the way through the destruction of the Second Temple, it’s clear that through a thousand years or so, they still hadn’t made the switch to the idea of a G”d that is truly incorporeal. Add in that which became Christianity and things get even further muddled, for, to this day, their belief encompasses that of a G”d that took human form, however briefly.

Sure, the prophets spoke bravely about sacrifices of our lips and hearts being more suitable than bulls, but then again, were the prophets heeded (even to this day?) What is the need of offering a physical sacrifice to a G”d that is invisible? Is it a precaution? A hangover for existing practice? Like G”d really needed the Israelites to build a Weber? (Well, it wasn’t really a Weber, especially since it was made of wood. The sacrificial altar that is. Had to be. Covered with copper-or bronze if you prefer-so it wouldn’t self-consume every time it was used. If it were stone or all metal, it would have been too heavy to move around--or maybe not. Ask yourself this? Why didn’t G”d tell the Israelites to put wheels on the Ark? Or the Altar? Or the Show Table? That had to be easier than carrying them! Was G”d trying to make the work harder?)

Abraham, the first monotheist. Hardly. Moses, a monotheist? Possibly. We’ve really only the midrash to tell us that he though idols were meaningless pieces of stone. After all, even Moses himself built altars. For my money, altars are effectively idols anyway.

And what of the Ark itself. G”d says that G”d will speak to the people, from a literal physical location above the Ark between the two cherubim.  If that doesn’t serve to raise the status of the Ark to that of a representative idol in the minds of the Israelites, I don’t know what would. Couldn’t G”d just be a disembodied voice? Was this charade truly necessary? Seems to me that, rather than ease the transition from idolatry to true incorporeal G”d, having the Mishkan, and later the Temple, became impediments to our spiritual evolution. It is from the ashes of the Temple (both first and second) that were born true Judaism. Just think what the world might be like if we had been forced to make the transition at the very beginning of the Israelite religion to accepting the sort of understandings we have about G”d in our own time.

Yes, I’ve tried to mine this and the coming parashiyot for meaning, and have found some. Yet, in the end, it’s all hypocrisy. It’s all apologetics. It’s all about finessing the continuing idolatry that was still at the heart of the Israelite religion.

Today, we still have our apologetics, and our idols. There may be no altars in our temples, but we’re bowing and kissing a sheepskin scroll on a regular basis. We’re still insisting that worship is more efficacious when done as a community in an organized institution like a synagogue. Will we ever truly outgrow our need for a mishkan, a Temple, an edifice on (or in) which to focus our spiritual energies? There are signs all around us that we may be entering a new era of Judaism. Just as the destruction of the two Temples led to what would ultimately be considered great improvements in Judaism, we may be at such a junction now, as old institutions give way to something new, and, hopefully, more evolved.

Shabbat Shalom,

©2010 by Adrian A. Durlester

Friday, February 12, 2010

Random Musing Before Shabbat – Mishpatim 5770 – Divine Picnic

Just three years ago I wrote a musing for parashat Mishpatim entitled  “To See, To Behold, To Eat, To Drink.” In it, I wrote this about the brief encounter with G”d that Moses, Aaron, and 70 elders had, in Chapter 24 vs 9-11:

Moshe, Aharon, Nadav and Avihu (we'll be hearing more about them in a while) AND seventy elders of Israel ascended the mountain. And they SAW (vayiru) G"d, and underneath G"d's feet a pavement of sapphire, as pure as the sky itself. Even though G"d had pretty much said earlier that only Moshe was to ascend the mountain, G"d does not strike down any of the others. So the seventy elders, Aharon, Nadav and Avihu BEHELD (vayekhezu) G"d, and THEY ATE and THEY DRANK.

They're in the presence of the almighty, and they make a picnic? Of course, the rabbis of the Talmud put a little spin on it, seeing it as an intellectual encounter with the Divine-that what they were eating and drinking was G"d's presence. A possible and acceptable interpretation. In the presence of G"d there is no need for earthly, quotidian things. G"d provides all that is necessary, and perhaps more. The rabbis say that the elders didn't really "see" (vayiru, from the root resh-aleph-hey, to see) G"d, they "beheld" (vayekhezu, from the root khet, zayin, hey, which also means to see, or perceive, but is cognate with other Hebrew and Arabic words that mean things like "seer" and "vision" and "inner vision") G"d. That is to say, they finally "got it." They understood that G"d was real, and truly could not be represented by idols." The food and drink are perhaps metaphor for "they perceived with all of their senses."

However, it could just as easily be telling us "even in the presence of G"d, you have to meet your basic human needs. It's easy, in the face of something awesome (or awful) to forget all about yourself and your needs. And, with all due respects to the mystics, G"d's presence isn't likely to provide your body with the necessary amino acids and proteins to enable you to survive.

Or think of the Grand Canyon scene in National Lampoon's vacation. "Oh, look, it's G"d. How impressive. OK, gotta go!" It's nice to encounter G"d, but we're hungry and thirsty after that climb.

Of course, it doesn't say who provided the food and drink. Was G"d being a good hostess, or did they bring they stuff with them?

Or maybe G"d had a plan after all. Keep the elders happy and sated, while Moshe comes up the mountain to get these tablets that G"d has inscribed.

To begin with, I left a thread hanging from that musing. After all, here are mentioned my two favorite Crispy Critters, Nadav and Avihu. What are they doing here? Well, they were Aaron’s eldest sons, and would soon become newly minted priests. Yet the Torah seems to be getting ahead of itself here. Leave it to Rashi to find an explanation: that by ascending the mountain, as they were instructed to not do, Nadav and Avihu incurred the death penalty, which was then later imposed when they made that un-asked-for extra sacrifice. So, Rashi, it wasn’t their misdeed in making an added sacrifice that warranted their being zotzed – it was just G”d’s justice  delayed? Then what happens to all the interpretation (including your own) surrounding the deaths of Nadav and Avihu in parashat Sh’mini? Why, you yourself, Rashi, blame their deaths on being intoxicated by wine when coming into the Sanctuary, and go on to suggest that Nadav and Avihu’s death were the means by which the Mishkan becomes sanctified. (Rashi also posits that the 70 elders received justice delayed--very much so--in Numbers 11:1. Talk about going out on a limb.)

Yes, the Torah is full of such foreshadowing. Had Joseph’s brothers not thrown him in a pit and then sold him off to traders, the whole Exodus thing might not have happened. Had Eve not been tempted by the serpent.  Had there been at least 10 good people in S’dom and Gomorrah. Had G”d not created the universe. There are dangers when we tread such a teleological path. Even Hiro Nakamura had to let go of his Charlie at some point. (If you don’t watch “Heroes”, ignore the reference.)

For whatever reason, even though G”d specifically told Moses to tell the people that no one should ascend the mountain, Moses brings Aaron, Nadav, Avihu, and 70 elders with him for a little picnic with G”d. For whatever reason, G”d decides to overlook this transgression, for, as the text tells us, G”d  did not send forth G”d’s hand (presumably to strike them or otherwise cause them harm.) No, they get to have a picnic.

So, back to our picnic. The text seems plain enough (if one can ever say that about Torah, the ultimate onion.) Moses and the gand ascend the mountain. Then, plain as day it says they SAW G”d. In fact, they saw G”d’s feet, and under them, a making in the form of a brick of sapphire, which looked as pure as the heavens.

They did not, as it says later, simply view/apprehend G”d. If the intent of the Torah was to suggest, as the rabbis and sages do, that the elders “got it” then why muddy the waters at first by clearly using a verb that means literally “to see?” Why have the elders, Aaron and his two oldest sons eating and drinking and viewing G”d? Why have this entire incident at all? Why not have Moses just go up the mountain and get the commandments?

Wait a minute. Hold your horses. How can we have overlooked the obvious. Just a few verses earlier (24:1) G”d instructs Moses to “Go up to Ad”nai, you, Aaron, Nadav, Avihu, and 70 elders of Israel, and you shall prostrate yourselves from a  distance. Um, Rashi, if G”d TOLD Moses to bring this group up a bit on the mountain (but not too high) then why this insistence that Nadav, Avihu, and the elders were later punished for ascending the mountain? Yes, earlier on that instruction is given-that no one is to ascend the mountain (save Moses.)  Yet it seems to be superseded by the instruction in 24:1.

OMG! G”d contradicting G”ds self? But G”d is not capricious, whimsical, and…oh wait, G”d is all those and more, if we can believe all that we’ve read so far in the Torah.

Guess Rashi et al believe that if they can jump ahead in the Torah to justify or rationalize something, they can just as easily jump backwards, past that inconvenient instruction from G”d to have the gang of 70 plus 4 ascend and have a picnic.

Of course, there’s an even easier “out” as it were. Look at the construction of 24:1. It doesn’t say “G”d said” it says “To Moses He said” and then this queer imperial self-reference:

To Moses He said “Go up to Ad”nai, you Aaron, Nadav, and Avihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and you shall prostrate yourselves from a distance.

We always assume that it’s G”d talking to Moses when there’s an ambiguous “He.” In context it makes sense since we’re coming off a continuing set of instructions from G”d to Moses. Still, maybe it was just some random guy who suggested that Moses and the gang go on up and have that picnic. Whaddaya think? Nyah, probably not. Nice way to get G”d and the Torah off the hook for seeming contradictions, but let’s not be too hasty.

Maybe G”d was taunting the people? Not sure you’re gonna believe in me, follow my laws, even though you just said you will do all that G”d has spoken. OK, I’ll give 74 of your elite a sneak peak (but only one of them, Moses, gets to really encounter me.)  I won’t really be showing them Me, after all, I’m incorporeal and simply can’t be apprehended by mere humans (even though I created them and could have given them that ability.) G”d, that capricious and whimsical? Never say never.

Of all things, a picnic? Why do they get to eat and drink and stare at (what they believe to be) G”d? Why not just have them come up, get a peek, and then maybe bow or pray or build an altar?  Nope, G”d knows the Jews. Even then, it took food to get and hold our attention. So, Jewish professionals, don’t be so cynical about how offering food seems to make attempts to get Jews involved more successful. If it was good enough for G”d…

Maybe that’s what we need. More picnics in the presence of the Divine. Why not have us all go to the buffet in G”ds presence? Boy, that would pack them in at the synagogues, JCCs, and elsewhere. Sure, they might be coming for the food, but maybe just a few of them might get interested in something more.

G”d may have faults, be whimsical, capricious, petulant, and more. Yet sometimes, even G”d has a good idea. Jews, food.

Have a nice picnic.

Shabbat Shalom,


©2010 by Adrian A. Durlester

Friday, February 5, 2010

Random Musings Before Shabbat - Yitro 5770-Special Effects

Jeremy Moses posted a most interesting dvar Torah at on Yitro entitled "LOST: Was Yitro Right or Wrong." link removed for security purposes
It's a great read, and I heartily recommend it. It also got me thinking about a lot of things - about this week's parasha (and haftarah,) and about contemporary television shows like "Lost." It occurred to me that perhaps "Heroes" was also interesting fodder for contributing to Biblical exegesis. The short lived "Kings," as well. Not to mention (the new) Battlestar Galactica and its new prequel, "Caprica." Lots of shows about G"d, religion, things beyond our understanding, and more.
One thing all these television shows have in common is lots of special effects. In this day and age, it takes truly great special effects to amaze us, hold our attention, and keep us interested. The sort of cheesy (though less so in their own time) effects of shows like the original Star Trek just won't cut it anymore.
I wonder if the theatrics employed by G"d at Sinai would be as effective on us as they were on our ancestors? Of course, since the idea is that we were all at Sinai, we should all have been equally impressed. Clearly, we are not so. If G"d were to speak to us today through miracles, would we even notice? Yes, G*d should be (notice I'm hedging here, by not saying "surely") capable of creating effects as amazing, and even more so, than what the effects geniuses for television and film can create. If G"d truly wants our attention, well, a brief study of our contemporary society should point the way to effective techniques.
In modern theological studies, we have concepts like a G*d with limited omnipotence. Perhaps G"d is only capable of cheap theatrics. Perhaps G"d is like the child-like entity in that classic Star Trek episode "Squire of Gothos." Nine years ago, I mused about G"d's cheap theatrics at Sinai. I think those words are worth revisiting this year.
Random Musings Before Shabbat - Yitro 5761
From Cheap Theatrics to Impossible Possibilities
A classic exposure of cheap theatrics:
"Pay no attention to the man behind the screen."
Our world is full of wannabe "Totos," all eager to pull back the curtain, strip away the mask of mystery, and reveal the wizard for a hoax, a simple sideshow magician with fanciful gadgets to work apparent magic. Lots of flash and boom. [5770 - like that "Razzle Dazzle" from Chicago]
"Humbug!" they cry. "There are no mysteries-all can be explained." Sometimes stripping away the mask has become a favorite pastime, even an obsession with some. But just because some magic and mystery are humbugs, does that mean all are equally fake? Imagine those gullible Egyptians falling for all those plagues. More coincidence. All have plausible scientific explanations, in one form or another. And those that seem more difficult to explain - the real story has just been twisted a bit. A little "corroborative detail to support an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative." (Any Savoyards out there?)
Yes, lots of things are humbug. And deceptions and lies have become stock in trade. So it's good that some humans have dedicated themselves to seeking out the truth. But sometimes the truth-seekers become so obsessed with the idea that what they are trying to disprove just couldn't be true no matter what. Or vice versa-that what they were certain was true proves not to be. The Kennedy assassination. Area 51. The Nixon tapes. The moon landing. Natalie Wood. Pearl Harbor. Whitewater. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. [5770 - Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. Bernie Madoff. Banks too big to fail. Ted Kennedy's seat going to a Republican?] The Shoah.
I throw in that last one to make a point. Is there one reader of this musing that truly doubts the reality of the Shoah? Yet all about us are deniers, rewriters of history.
When people see the tell-tale signs of grand theatrics, they automatically assume-"Aha! Fake."Thunder. Lightning. Clouds and fog. The standard tricks of the trade. Plenty of those in parashat Yitro, and it's accompanying Haftarah from Isaiah. So why is it that G"d has to resort to them. Why wouldn't G"d use something that couldn't be duplicated by spending some money at a good theatrical supply company?
The sages answer by telling us that this was no ordinary thunder and lightning. The people could literally see the thunder and hear the lighting. Even today we speak of being able to taste the fog.
But what if it were, in a sense, simply cheap theatrics by G"d. To get our attention. After all, G"d had parted the sea for us and still many of us doubted and still doubt. Too awesome to have really happened, they say. Knowing this, G"d figures, "OK, I'll give them something more within their comprehension. Yeah, I got it. Thunder, Lighting, Smoke. A Shuddering Mountain. What the hey, it might convince them even when the real miracles haven't!" It's possible.
(Maybe the Wizard of Oz really was a wizard. What better way to disguise the truth than to leave a few obvious theatrical tricks for the people to discover.)
G"d knew there would always be doubters among us. G"d knew that doubters were useful, and played an important role in society. G"d also knew that doubters are part of the price for giving us free will. Convince the doubters, and what's left to do? Without the doubters the whole system might fall apart!
But I think there are at least three levels to all this. There are the doubters. It's all smoke and mirrors they say. There is no G"d. Then there are the believers. Those who are convinced by the cheap theatrics and don't question. And the third group? Let's call them Israel. Those who can rise above the simple level of all or nothing doubt or belief. Some things are explainable. Some situations aren't explainable. And even if they are, G"d can and still exists. Evolution and G"d can coexist. So can cheap theatrics and true miracles. The reality of G"d is not dependent on whether we can prove it or disprove it. (I've written before, however, about "If you are My witnesses, then I am G"d..." but this isn't inconsistent with my viewpoint. Gd can and will be Our Gd, that we know by the ineffable name that is the tetragammaton if, and only if we are witnesses to Gd. But again, that ineffable name-isn't that for our benefit? For what need does Gd have with a name except in communication with Gd's creations? Even with us out of the equation, G"d can exist.
We each have our place. The doubter. The believer. And Israel-Those who struggle with G"d. Whichever you are, spend some time this Shabbat trying to understand the other two points of view. It might not change your mind, but it will open it to possibilities. And that, after all, is what G"d really wants us to do. Be open to possibilities. Even impossible possibilities.
Shabbat Shalom,
©2010 and 2001 by Adrian A. Durlester