Tomorrow will bring with it the arrival of my best girl friend, in time to share the celebration of Sukkot.
The new moon sighting in Israel set the times for the Seventh month celebration, and Yom Kippur has passed. Now we celebrate the time spent by the Israelites in booths/temporary structures as they traversed the wilderness.
On the agenda: some outdoor photo treks, some fun kitchen and garden time, visits to local interests and a lot of chatting it up. 🙂
Yeah, I’m stoked!
“Of all the hardships a person had to face, none was more punishing than the simple act of waiting.”
What is it that drives religion? What keeps the gears of the masses oiled, the coffers full, the leaders employed?
Predominantly, it is fear of punishment or desire for reward.
Fear of hell-fire and damnation. Fear of a god named satan, a devil, an angel gone bad. Spending eternity in a fire pit ruled by the devil, surrounded by the worst of the worst sort of evil people – rapists, murderers, cannibals, thieves, liars.
Desire to live in a paradise with no pain, no death. Streets that are lined with silver and gold, and mansions galore. Rights to rule over and judge other people, to enact punishments upon others. Ultimate power, to be like a god. Angels floating nearby, surrounded by all of the note-worthy saints and patriarchs of old.
I took up residence in that camp, or one quite similar, for a long period of time.
I’ll concede that there are many variations to this view, and I’ve taken the most liberal case in point. The gist is still the same, however.
I’m no longer fearful of hell or a make-believe devilish character.
I no longer strive to spend eternal days in the heavens, ephemeral beings and blissful promises dispelled.
I’ve chosen my truth. The fact that what I have, what I know, what I live, is what it is. There’s no better place, there’s no better time. This is my life and this is what I have to work with.
The punishment, sans an operational Priesthood to govern, is self-imposed. If I transgress in one of the minor issues, I do the best that I can to make the required restitution. It’s pretty simple, really. Thievery – pay it back, and add a fifth. Liar – okay, there’s no punishment for this unless it’s been as a witness, or to incur punishment on another who is not guilty. If the lie was to hurt another, then the pain should belong to me. If my dog gets out and eats a neighbor’s chicken, I need to repay the chicken.
Major punishments – those I intend to never have to deal with. I don’t want to be expelled from my already virtual camp, nor do I want to die. I’ll keep myself from that evil by remaining faithful to my husband, by keeping the Sabbath. I’ll control my anger and not go into a rage and kill another person.
As a result of grave misdeeds and vile doings, the people I would reside with, the community in the Land of Almighty’s choice, have been expelled, punished, judged to live outside of the Land, outside of the covenanted protection. Therefore, the ultimate reward of Torah, to dwell safely, to have productive lands and productive wombs, is suspended and not available to those who would join the community.
The ability to continue to enjoy Almighty’s creation, however, is still available. The joy of Almighty’s created beauty is still reward. The ability to wake up each day, to know that there is no other; this Creator, this Almighty, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is my God.
What more reward would I desire?
“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .””
An oft bandied phrase, one that has been ping-ponging in and out of my thoughts for weeks, months even: Love thy neighbor.
How do I treat the woman next door who is sneaking out the back door to go cheat on her husband? How am I supposed to love the two men at work who just announced their sexual relationship? I believe those things are against Torah, so how am I supposed to love these people?
The attached condition, “as thyself’ also gives me pause. How do I apply that if I don’t so much love myself?
I did an online search and looked at the context of the Law: 18 ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.
Ah, some context is now given. It’s not simply a willy-nilly overview of how humanity should be each others’ doormats; to the contrary, this is a simple provision that it’s not up to me to take the matter of law/justice/judgement into my own hands and apply as I desire, angrily so.
Additionally, the condition defines that I’m not to act by my own determination against the sons of my people – against my tribe, so to speak. This certainly isn’t an obligatory statement regarding the whole of humanity. The whole of humanity is not addressed by Torah, just the nation of the Hebrews and those who would take that citizenship.
By extension, this relieves me of an obligation to pass judgement, to call to attention a broken Law of Torah unless the violation is made by a fellow Hebrew. I can point out the matter to the violator, or serve as a witness when it’s my fellow tribesman, but assignment of the duty of repayment and the pronouncement of recompense is not mine to dole.
This also means that I should not take vengeance or bear a grudge against myself, right?
Not as simple.
When my guilt is intertwined with that of the culture in which I’ve been raised, the separation of the threads of real guilt and perceived and societal guilt is an intricate and timely endeavor.
Not truly an easy task, that: cleanly separating what would be expected of me should I truly live in a Torah community, and take an active part in the scales of justice that would prevail there. In order for a release from guilt, there is a penalty to be applied. Justice served, penance done, go on and live your life. Complete.
In absence of that community – well, what then?
So, I continue to live the Law as best I can, in a society not understanding of that Law, not conducive to the keeping of that Law. I keep to myself, do my best to get along with others, because I have no need and no right to judge others’ choices or to preach my beliefs.
And wonder: will there ever be a day that I could wholly practice this simple phrase?