1 Introduction

2 GOD

3 Torah

4 The Universe

5 Judaism 1

1,2,3,4,5,6

Judaism 2

  7,8,9,10,11

7 Messages

 

Judaism 2

PART 6.  Judaism 2

Sections 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

7.  Taking the name of the Lord, our God, in vain

What are we told about taking the name of the Lord in vain?  Two verses in the Torah, Exod. 20:7 and Levi. 19:12 are all that we are given, except that the first of these two is repeated in Deut. 5:12.

Here is what they say:

Exod. 20:7 You shall not take up the name of the Lord, your God, in vain, for the Lord will not hold innocent he who will take His name in vain.

Levi. 19:12   And you shall not swear deceptively by My name that you profane the name of your God.  I am the Lord.

Jews have taken the first verse literally.  They believe that one takes the name of the Lord in vain if he is not praying.  When not praying, they say Hashem or Adoshem for the four-letter tetragram, yad-heh-vav-heh, that is translated as the Lord.  They say Elokim for God, Elokechah for your God, and Elokeinu for our God.  When praying, they say Adonai for the tetragram, Elohim for God, Elohechah for your God, and Eloheinu for our God.

Many Christians, on the other hand, believe the commandment means not to cuss.  Part of the reason for this is based on the second of the above verses.  Jews, however, interpret this verse to mean you shall not swear an oath you do not fulfill.

Now I believe that God has revealed to me the proper meaning of these two verses.  You may sneer or laugh at the idea that God provides me with knowledge, but I tell you that He would reveal these things to you if you attuned your awareness and your “hearing” and your belief appropriately.  Unfortunately, Judaism offers little hope of teaching you how to do that, I suppose because most Jews believe that God is far away.

Now here is what I believe.  Take it for what you think it’s worth.

We take the name of the Lord, our God, in vain in the following situations:

  • We pray so fast that we gloss over the names of the Lord and God,
  • we pray so fast that we cannot know what we are praying,
  • we pray without being conscious or aware of the words we are praying,
  • we speak of the Lord without reverence,
  • we speak of the Lord frivolously,
  • we speak of the Lord falsely,
  • we speak of the Lord as if He is not present,
  • we speak of the Lord without acknowledging His presence,
  • we speak of the Lord without gesturing to Him,
  • we curse using God’s name or any substitute for His name,
  • we believe in the Lord and we tell a lie,
  • we don’t believe God exists and we utter the name of the Lord.
  • we attribute human traits to God.

We succeed in not taking the name of the Lord, our God, in vain in the following situations:

  • We pray slowly enough to pronounce the name of the Lord distinctly,
  • we pray slowly enough to feel our reverence for the Lord,
  • we pray with complete awareness and understanding of what we are praying,
  • we perform all actions related to prayer with measured and respectful behavior,
  • we speak of the Lord reverently,
  • we speak of the Lord seriously,
  • we speak of the Lord in truth,
  • we speak of the Lord to glorify His name,
  • we acknowledge the Lord’s presence when we speak of the Lord,
  • we gesture to the Lord (spreading our arms to show He is everywhere) when we speak of Him.

According to my belief, it is not necessary to substitute different spellings for the Lord’s name under any circumstances.  It demonstrates a disregard for the Lord, and dishonors His holy name.

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8.  The Book of Job

I have much to say about the Book of Job.  As you may know, it is included among the bible books of wisdom.  Few consider it an allegory as I do, most believe it wrestles directly with the vital questions of justice and suffering.  I actually believe it may be both allegorical and mysteriously prophetic, but wisdom maybe only superficially.  But then what is it an allegory about (if not justice and suffering)?  And what about the book makes it prophetic?  Well, to admit a deep secret, I believe it is primarily prophetic -- addressing the future of Israel, the Jews, and the world.

I have two reasons for my belief.

For one, the story of Job offers a mysterious, mystical  “proof” against a strongly held widespread belief that has persisted throughout much of the last 2,000 years..   You know that much of the world believes that Satan influences us in our minds.  The expression, “The devil made me do it,” stands as testimony to this widespread belief.  Well, in this book of Job, its author shows how Satan works.  And it’s not in our minds! 

In Chapters 1 and 2 we see that Satan functions in the physical world by making our lives harder than they need to be, sometimes disastrously so.  As a kind of aside -- but an important one! -- you will find in part 5, Section 8 on this web site that I believe the Lord speaks to us in our mind (in a still small voice) all the time.  And I dare say that God does not share the space in our head with any lesser being (other than ourselves).

For my second reason, I have guessed that Job is the personification of Judaism, and the three friends are the competing religions Christianity, Islam, and an as-yet unknown future religion.  Elihu may personify yet another future religion as well, one that comes, makes a relatively short appearance, and then fades.   but I’m a bit leery about Elihu.  He may be just an aberration.

Why do I believe Job represents Judaism?  First, he has ten offspring (two times to emphasize the fact) -- tribes, I would assume.  Actually, it may be that the second time means the ten tribes are resurrected in the future (DNA testing perhaps?).  So the second set of children is also prophetic.  That three of them are female is not crucial to my interpretation, as they would be considered equal in rank to their brothers.  But having made them women, the author may be conveying a hidden message, one that I can’t fathom.  Next, after an initially prosperous beginning (representing the patriarchs and matriarchs, the reigns of David and Solomon), Job sinks into trouble and abject suffering (loss of the two Temples and a prolonged exile in the Diaspora, along with continual unfounded but vengeful hatred and anti-Semitism).  Next, notice the things Eliphaz believes about Job:  Job speaks empty meaningless words, he is abominable and corrupt.  Bildad, on the other hand, is certain that Job and/or his children are sinners, witness their suffering and death; evil-doers suffer and the righteous prosper, and he curses Job incessantly.  And Zophar:  Job’s questioning God is mocking Him, and no one can know of God, the evil-doer will suffer.  Zophar’s advice is to repent, and the Lord will respond.  Does this not sound like Job and the others represent history (and the present and future)?

Why do I believe the friends represent competing religions?  There are several reasons.  For one, the three friends try to persuade Job to adopt their self-assured points of view (evangelism).  For another, they curse and insult Job without just cause, relying only on their own unfounded prejudices.  For yet another, Eliphaz professes to have received visions from God, informing him of the truths of which he speaks.  More:  Job is accused of not being “pure” enough to hear from God, he must be guilty of sins the three do not commit, and he is an insult to God.  Evil does not spring up from the dust (but from the devil), and humans are born evil.  Does that sound familiar?  Does it not sound like anti-Semitism?

I know there is at least one competing argument to all this, that Job is probably younger than at least one of the three “friends,” but the story requires that to an extent -- he had to live long enough after his release from his ordeal so he would have the opportunity to make up (two-fold) for his suffering.  I must presume that in the end he lives longer than the other four.

So as I imagine this story’s message, Judaism persists till the end, and the other world religions then in existence will be “corrected” and absorbed into it.  Now remember, if you are inspired to argue against this point of view, my opinion is all this is.  I do not put nor advocate any importance or significance, other than my own, on my beliefs.  However, if you were to discover evidence that my theories might be wrong, I would be delighted to hear about it.  If you show me to be wrong, I will sincerely apologize and state so here.

Next I want to offer my personal views on this book of Job.  Although I deeply admire the breathtakingly marvelous poetry it comprises, I have two points I want to stress, both being negative criticisms.  First there is my view of the story line.  Second is my belief about God and how this book conflicts with it; as part of this discussion, I will investigate God’s stunningly human attributes as revealed in this book.

As to the first point, I see this story, especially the first two chapters, as obviously (painfully so) and deliberately contrived in order to justify Job’s dire predicament.  As such, it immediately falls flat as wisdom literature.  But my complaint goes beyond the apparent artificiality of the book’s beginning.  It falls even flatter as a wisdom book for the rest of the chapters as well.

Incidentally, why is Job counted among the books of wisdom?  Does it offer advice about good living as Proverbs does?  No.  Does it provide sage insight into the meaning of life as Ecclesiastes does?  No.  Does it reveal an approach to the pious life as Psalms does?  No.  Then what does it offer in the way of wisdom?  I see little to qualify it as a wisdom book.  It deals with evil and human integrity, I admit, and the reason for human suffering.  But what does it say about them?  My answer?  Little meaningful at best.  The only “wisdom” in the book, if there is any, is in Job’s objections to his condition.  The soliloquies of the “friends,” of Elihu -- or even of God’s -- offer us little more than beliefs that are commonly accepted, mostly unfounded and untested opinions  I come away from this book with no new bits of wisdom or knowledge, only the same confusion I had when I started.  I suspect Job might have been included among the wisdom books only because it fit no where else.

Next, I move on to the book’s depiction of God.  As some of you may already know, that is, those of you who have visited my main web site, my perception of God is as an omniscient, omnipotent, everlasting, loving, benevolent, caring, forgiving Being Who is close to each of us, in our thoughts, our dreams, and our visions.  And on that web site I bring evidence from the bible to that effect.  I believe that God is unfathomable.  In some respects He is depicted as such in parts of the chapters of His soliloquy in this book, but this conclusion is implied rather than openly stated.  There is no evidence for the latter belief but I expect that the orderliness and complexity of the universe attests to it. What does seem to come through rather clearly in God’s speeches is that humanity is not in a partnership with God. But in a very important sense this “fact” presents us with a dilemma.  The Torah states that we are indeed in such a partnership.  It is represented by the covenant.

Finally, I believe that God doesn’t possess human instincts or attributes and He exhibits no human behavioral traits.  We may delineate and speak of His divine traits, but they are only dismally minimal approximations of His reality. 

Yet as described in this book, God is boastful, accepts dares, exhibits pride, is not omniscient or omnipotent, becomes angry, cares little for his servants, even his most faithful, and indulges His whims.  The divine Being Who created the universe, Who brought about the incredible conditions of the Big Bang!  Could a Being with such power, wisdom, capability, and majesty be anything like a human?  I claim He couldn’t be.  I have no proof, of course; I can offer no infallible argument.  I have little more than an instinctual (and fallible) knowledge. 

As I construe the bible, God sees all of time “simultaneously.”  In His “eyes” all potential futures,  possibilities brought about by human (and other intelligent beings?) free will, exist (“simultaneously”).  And God can “see” which outcomes are “good.”  And He acts accordingly when necessary to further His plan for the universe and His servants, whom He loves “passionately” with infinite “patience” and benevolent “fatherly” guidance.  Remember, in my opinion, patience is really only one of our imperfect human perceptions about God.  Seeing all time, He appears patient to us, but the term is meaningless for such a Being. 

Moreover, I believe that God does not exhibit anger.  Seeing all, He is never surprised as we are.  It is surprise, disappointment, painful but undeserved punishment and/or a sense of betrayal or unfairness that make one angry. I ask you, would God experience any of these?  I believe not.

Does God boast or “feel” pride?  Only someone who believes he has competition from his/her peers and feels the need to respond in kind would boast and feel pride.  And God has no competition.  There is none like our God.

Now why would God have to or even entertain accepting a dare?  As far as I am concerned, for the same reasons He would not be proud or boastful.  We accept a dare because we are proud and afraid to refuse.  Does that seem like God!  Again I say, “No!”

And why would He show such callous disregard for the suffering of one of His most faithful servants?  Because He knows He will eventually undo all the damage He allowed Satan to do?  Seems unlikely to me.  Seems to me more like a children’s story to justify otherwise unexplainable events.

Finally, to have allowed Satan to wreak such havoc with Job and his loved ones must be viewed as a whim.  It is an unpredictable and arbitrary decision based on feelings or desires.  That is a definition of a whim.   And I believe God does not possess these traits in the way that we know them.

In summary, as far as I am concerned, the depiction of God in the Book of Job is naive and simplistic, and leaves me with the uncomfortable thought that God is being diminished and insulted by it.

So I am left only with my own (silly?) ideas about God, the universe, and Job at the end of this book.  Make of them what you will.

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9. Our relationship with God and the World

In this section I will explain what I believe is the mutual relationship between God, the Jews, and the other peoples of the world and with the world itself.  Some of what I say will be familiar, things I’ve said in other parts of this site and in my companion site.  Some will consist of additional insights acquired during my journey through the bible and in contemplation.  I will discuss what I believe our attitude should be toward our Creator, the Supreme Being of the universe, what I believe His “attitude” is toward us, and how that relates to us who are His creation and are living in His creation.

As for what I believe our attitude toward the Lord should be, here are my thoughts:  First of all, we must be joyous beyond our imagined capacity, because of the simple single most important fact of all -- God exists!  We must be thankful for His having created us and placing us in this ideal (but utterly painful and treacherous) “laboratory” (or “school”) in which we live.  We must love God with all our heart, and soul, and might -- unconditionally!  We must revere Him unconditionally.  We must strive to overcome our selfish and egotistical desire to go our own way and ignore God, working mightily to  achieve the ultimate goal of regarding God above ourselves.   We must look at our life in this realm as an opportunity, an adventure of discovery, to personally learn what God “wants” of us.  And as Jews we must study and follow the Torah’s teachings as they apply to us today.  Everyone else has to follow at least five laws written in the Torah.  For one, after the Flood God “acquiesced” and permitted humans and animals to eat meat, but He said in Gene. 9:4, “Only the flesh with its blood, it shall you not eat.”  In other words, meat must be drained of its blood before it is cooked and eaten.  See  below for a discussion of the so-called Noahide (pronounced “Noakide”) laws.

Look, either God exists and is the Creator of the entire universe, or He is -- as some believe -- a fiction.  If we believe He exists, what can be more important to us, who are His creation?  That we exist?  That the world exists?  That the animals and vegetation exist?  Aren’t all these products of His existence?  If He doesn’t exist, then does any of this exist?  An interesting question!  Can anything exist without having been created?  Think of it this way:  If something exists that wasn’t created, it had to have been here since before the beginning of time.  Another view might have it that the chemical ingredients for the development of life did exist for most of the history of the universe.  My answer?   What was there at the Beginning?  An explosive flash of light!  Was that enough to eventually lead to humans?  No one is smart enough to say with absolute certainty.

Now what do I believe about God’s relationship with us?  First, as I said in part 2, I believe that God’s holy spirit exists throughout the universe (or universes).  It is found in every animate and inanimate thing.  It “sees” how all the parts of the universe interact and how quantum particles interact with each other.  It “understands” all.  It has all the answers.

Yet, despite the reality of God’s “immensity,” He has a personal relationship with each of His creations.  It appears that His most “desired” outcome is for us (all living creatures?) to learn and to improve.  As a result, He is “constantly” engaged in communicating His love and wisdom to us.  This communication may appear as ideas in our thoughts, visions, and/or dreams, and sometimes as spoken words that we hear with our ears.  Our job in loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, and might is to receive this communication, tell others about it, and act accordingly.

But therein lies the rub!  How can we differentiate between what we “hear” from God and what originates in our own head?  What is God’s and what is ours?  This can be a dilemma!  Another test!

Some people express or exhibit an assurance that they possess a special conduit between them and God.  Maybe some people do, but I’m sure not all of them do.  But most of us who strive to “hear” the Lord are often beset with doubts.  Yet there are times when even we who are filled with doubt or even disbelief may be certain we received a Divine message.  My own incredible dream that I dreamed circa 1991 that changed my life is one of those times for me (see my companion website for this story).

Finally, I have to briefly consider our relationship to the world.  Do you ever ask if we own the world or, for that matter, if we own anything?  Well, the Lord has given us the answer to these questions.  It is found in Levi. 25:23.  He is speaking to Moses, but is addressing the people.

                                                                                                                                                                   


`ydIM'[i ~T,a; ~ybiv'Atw> ~yrIgE-yKi #r,a_'h' yli-yKi ttĂȘumic.li rkeM'ti al{ #r,a'h'w>

Levi. 25:23  “Now the land shall never be sold in perpetuity, because the land is Mine, for you are strangers and settlers with Me.”

                                                                                                                                                                   

We are strangers on this earth, mere settlers.  We own nothing here.  But we are charged with taking care of this world.  God gives us dominion over it (Gene. 1:26).  Do we have the right to harm or destroy it?  I believe He answers with a resounding “NO!”

As I promised, I will now turn my attention to the Noahide laws.

These are the seven Noahide laws as recorded in the Talmud.

  • 1.  Do not deny God.
  • 2.  Do not blaspheme God.
  • 3.  Do not murder.
  • 4.  Do not engage in illicit sexual relations.
  • 5.  Do not steal.
  • 6.  Do not eat of a live animal.
  • 7.  Establish courts/legal system to ensure obedience to the law.

Apparently these seven laws are meant to apply to all non-Jews.  Moreover they defined “Righteous Gentiles” for some Jews.  To them these observant non-Jews were entitled to the rewards of the world to come.

I would like to comment on these laws and their derivation.  The first six were exegetically derived from verses in Genesis.  That is, they were derived through rabbinic analyses and discussions of various verses in the chapter following the Flood.  The seventh was dictated by the Talmudic rabbis as a legal means to maintain order.

I intend to write a critique of these laws.

First of all, I believe we Jews have no right to dictate laws to non-Jews.  Only God has that right.  And God did indicate in the Torah that some laws were applicable to all humanity.  But they were mostly not among the above seven.  The first of them should be “do not murder.”  This comes from Gene. 4:10-12 and Gene. 9:6.  In the first set of verses, God is speaking to Cain:

Gen. 4:10. And He said, “What have you done?  A sound!  The blood of your brother is crying out to Me from the ground.”  11. “So now cursed are you from the ground that has opened its mouth to receive the blood of your brother because of your hand.”  12. “When you till the ground, it shall not yield its strength to you.  A fugitive and a wanderer shall you be throughout the earth.”

In the last of these verses God is speaking to Noah and his sons:

Gen. 9:4. “Whosoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God He made the human.”

My second, third, and fourth laws are encountered in Genesis Chapter 9.  The second law is “be fruitful and multiply.”  The Lord is speaking to Noah and his sons:

Gen. 9:1 “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth.”

The third law is “do not eat the blood of any animal.”  God is still addressing Noah and his sons:

Gen. 9:4. “Only the flesh with its blood, shall you not eat it.”

The fourth law is “do not uncover the nakedness of your father.”  This comes from Gen; 9:25, but several introductory verses have to be included here:

 Gen. 9:21 And he drank of the wine and was drunk and was uncovered within his tent.  22. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and he told his two brothers outside.  23. And Shem took, with Japheth, a gown and placed it over the shoulders of both of them, and they went backward and covered the nakedness of their father, and their faces were backward so they did not see the nakedness of their father.  24. When Noah awoke from his wine imbibing, then he knew what his youngest son had done to him.  25. And he said, “Cursed shall be Canaan!  A servant of servants shall he be to his brethren.”

Some doubt remains as to what the fourth law should include.  Gen. 9:24 seems to imply that Ham did something more than just looking, but we are not privileged to know what it was.  As there is no way to know with any certainty, we have to follow the scripture itself.

The fifth and final law is “do not try to be like God.”  This one should be uncomfortable for many Christians, those who believe they should strive to be like Jesus (God to them).  This law is derived from Genesis Chapter 11, verses 11:3-6:

Gen, 11:3. And they said each to his neighbor, “Come let us try to build bricks that we burn thoroughly,” so they had brick for stone, and they had mud for mortar.  4. And they said, “Come let us try to build us a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, so that we can make a name for ourselves, lest we would be scattered over the surface of the whole earth.”  5. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the sons of humanity had built.  6. And the Lord said, “Behold, one people and one language for all of them, and this they begin to do, and now all that they will think to do will not be withheld from them.”

In summary, the legitimate laws of Noah from my point of view are these five:

  1. Do not murder.
  2. Be fruitful and multiply.
  3. Do not eat the blood of any animal.
  4. Do not uncover the nakedness of your father.
  5. Do not try to be like God.

I believe the first two of the traditional seven Noahide laws, noble as they may be, are not justified.  The same is true of the fourth.  Laws five, six, and seven are honorable rabbinic wishes, but I can’t see how they can be derived from Torah scripture. 

One more point:  The number seven is a magical number to those who study the Torah, so it has spiritual significance.  Primarily it represents the seven days of the week.  It also represents the number of years in the agricultural cycle.  I suspect the rabbis made up some of their seven laws in order to reach this magical number. 

Before leaving this section I must address one of the most basic beliefs of those I call tradition-observant Jews, that being in God’s rewards and punishments.

9.1.  Reward and Punishment

The belief in God’s anger, vengeance and punishment for wrong-doing and in His pleasure and reward for observance and repentance is strong among orthodox Jews.  I must object strenuously to that belief.  For a variety of reasons, which I will now discuss!

The Torah -- and indeed the bible -- regularly describes the Lord’s disapproval and punishment of our disobedience and reward for our obedience.  There are too many verses professing this view than I can possibly repeat here.  Implied and plainly stated, they are found throughout the chapters of the bible.  First and second Chronicles are replete with plain statements of punishment and reward.  The “notorious” Chapter 28 of Deutoronomy is all about rewards for proper observance and punishments for rebelliousness.

I believe I have a reasonable and logical explanation for why this is so.

I want you to travel back in time with me to those periods in your life when you were unhappy about something and thought to yourself, “Why am I being punished?”  “What have I done wrong?”  Or maybe you find yourself thinking this now.

Now I want you to remember times when you were happy and satisfied, and thought to yourself or actually expressed aloud, “God is good.  I am blessed.”  Or maybe you find yourself thinking this now.

Truly, I have experienced these moments often in my life, and I firmly believe I’m not too different from most people.

I am quite certain that every one of us (who believe or suspect there is a God or gods) has had such experiences.  I believe the authors of the bible (real people -- men!) also had these experiences.  So as they interpreted the revelations they were receiving from the Lord, they incorrectly incorporated these experiences into the interpretation equation.  After all, no one had told them otherwise.  They completely believed in their receiving God’s rewards or punishments.  And they were intent on revealing this “obvious trait” of the Lord to all.  To them it was the raison d’etre for life on this earth.

They were God-fearing Jews.  And here the words “God fearing” are meant to be literal.  Tradition-observant Jews try in vain to explain that “fear” in this context doesn’t really mean being afraid of God.  They may substitute another word for “fear” to illustrate their meaning:  Awe!  But this doesn’t help.  Their actions and words often reveal their abject fear of God’s “anger” or “disappointment.”  They speak of God’s love also and His “desire” for our love, as they give lip service to Exod. 6:5:

Exod. 6:5 “So you must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

For tradition-observant Jews, this is not even one of the commandments.  But it sure is one of mine.  Furthermore, there is no reason why it was not included among the commandments.  The verse fulfills the requirements for being a commandment.  Yet it is omitted from the 613.

As I’ve said in Part 2, we cannot both fear and love God.  The one precludes the other.

Moreover, like all or most who interpret the meaning of the bible, the authors ignored their own writings.  For the bible frequently refers to God’s love, most especially in Psalms, and His proclivity to “forgiveness.”  The Jews who believe in reward and punishment claim that God’s love does not preclude His  “correction.”.  They compare a parent’s loving discipline to God’s and claim it’s most reasonable to believe that He does what we do.  But as far as I am concerned, it is next to blasphemy to equate or compare our behavior with God’s. 

If we believe God’s attributes as enumerated in the Torah, we must acknowledge that an all-knowing and eternal Being probably would not resort to “crude” behavior like rewarding and punishing.  He would most likely build it into the laws of the universe as natural consequences of our behavior.  Yet the appropriate consequence may not be guaranteed in every circumstance.  External factors may sometimes intervene.

My conclusion?  None of us knows God!  And none of us knows what God knows or does!

I’m not quite finished.  To my way of thinking, this belief in God’s rewards and punishments has done irreparable harm to Judaism over the ages.  As Jews have suffered (and they have a lot), the rabbis have added to Judaism’s restrictions in an effort to “appease” God.  In their zeal, they have added so much to daily prayers that the services have to be completed with “breakneck” speed.  In fact, Yeshivah students compete for the prize of being the most rapid reciters.  And they are probably admonished if they linger on even a word.

This is hypocritical.  To speed over the most holy words of the service so as to not even understand what they are reciting is hypocritical.  To speak of important concepts with poorly hidden apologies and weak explanations with Jews who don’t completely agree with them is hypocritical.

I believe that these are among the reasons that prompt many to say they are disillusioned with Judaism.

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10.  Conversion to Judaism

Traditionally, converts to Judaism have to go through at least two years of study, circumcision for men, an intensive interview by a body called a Beit Din (house of judgment), and immersion in a ritual bath.  Many converts profess to have enjoyed these experiences (even the circumcision?), but they were instituted centuries ago by guardians of the faith to insure that every convert sincerely wanted to be Jewish.  I suspect they also intended to make Judaism as exclusive as possible, to be sure that its holiness is preserved.  They probably thought being Jewish was a great privilege and was worth all that effort.

I admit the following is my opinion, but I believe there should be no requirements (other than circumcision for men) for becoming a Jew.  My model for this opinion is found in the book of Ruth.  Ruth, the daughter-in-law of Naomi, was a Moabitess.  She had no formal Jewish training and did not face a Beit Din.  She voluntarily became a member of the Jewish people.  Yet she was the great- grandmother of David.  Ruth 1:16 says it all.  Ruth is speaking to Naomi: 

    “But Ruth said, ‘Do not plead with me to forsake you, to turn away from following you.

    For wherever you may go, I will go, and wherein you may lodge, I will lodge.   Your

    people are my people, and your God is my God.’”

Why are there now such stringent requirements to enter into the faith?  In my judgment, the practice and world experience of Judaism is fraught with difficulty.  Throughout history Jews have been subjected to beatings, murder, genocide, ugly words, a hopelessly bad reputation, and more.  Why would anyone wish to voluntarily join us?  So I say anyone who does is either crazy or a fanatic for the Jewish faith.  In either case, we should welcome them with open arms -- no strings attached.  They should be considered Jewish from the moment they express their desire to join us.  However, for men, there has to be one requirement:  Circumcision!  And for all voluntary Jewish converts immersion in a mikva should also be a necessary requirement.

I’m aware that my view would offend many Jews.  But I believe that it is far more reasonable than traditional practice.  So many modern Jews have little awareness of the details of Jewish observance.  If a convert desires to study Torah, that should be encouraged.  But it should not be a requirement.

I’m sure that some Jews would say “That would mean the death of Judaism.”  But as I’ve said elsewhere, Judaism will never die.  God has promised us that.  Faith is critical in recognizing the validity of that promise.  We Jews have withstood far more hatred, envy, destruction, and lies than any other ethnic group that has ever existed on the earth, and yet we have persisted and survived.  Why should we doubt God’s promise.

I also realize that reducing conversion requirements as I suggest would put many Jews out of business, or at least markedly reduce their incomes.  No doubt some personal adjustments would be in order.  We can survive that too.

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11.  My Thoughts on Halachah

Halachah is the sum total of all the Jewish laws.  It includes the laws written in the Torah.  And it includes the laws allegedly handed down to Moses in oral form on Mt. Sinai.  It was subsequently allegedly handed down orally by each generation.  It is the Talmudic rabbis who alleged this regarding the oral laws.

I have a great deal of discomfort with that allegation.  The major part of the Talmud (the Mishnah) describes the discussions of the Torah by the Talmudic rabbis.  These discussions were usually conducted by two opposing sides, always or almost always each arguing for an interpretation which was different from the other side.  There seem to have been disagreements with every aspect they tried to interpret.  Often, if not always, the “winning” side of the argument was dictated by which side had a majority of members at a given time.  In other words, it seems they voted on the proper interpretation.

Now when confronted with this picture I have always asked myself the following questions:  How was the oral law handed down from Moses until it came to the Talmudic rabbis?  Was it definitive or not?  Why was the “oral law” necessary?  Was not the Torah enough?  If the two sides of the Talmudic deliberation had mainly opposing views, then was the “oral law” either too vague or ambiguous to understand?  Was the allegation a fiction?

When I have asked orthodox rabbis about this, they seemingly innocently claim that both sides of the argument were handed down.  They each appeared to be sincere in believing this.  But from a practical point of view, why would this not seem ludicrous?  They never have an explanation for why both sides were necessary.  I was astonished the first time I heard that statement.  I was even more astonished when I heard a rabbi admit that most of the tradition is not in the Torah.

After considerable deliberation, I have concluded that the Talmudic rabbis violated the spirit of Deut. 4:2 and 13:1.  Certainly they were desperate to preserve “Judaism.”  But as I see it, because they and their ancestors had suffered so miserably, they were a group of disillusioned and fearful Jews who did not have a genuine faith in God.  They believed He had abandoned them.  They were sure of their purpose, sure that they could not depend on God’s protection, and sure that the Torah was not enough:  It had too many gaps and uncertainties.  And they had to make Jewish observance more strict and controlled.

This is the end of my diatribe -- for now.  As I encounter new personal “realities,” I will add them to this site.

 

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