“Some keep the Sabbath going to church, I keep it staying at home, with a bobolink for a chorister, and an orchard for a dome. ”
“Earth’s crammed with heaven…
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.”
An epiphany this morning… and more to follow, soon.
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?
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?
Of all of the religions, all of the religious groups, and all of the belief systems that exist, the Hebrew religion – the Hebrew people – may be defined very simply.
Torah. Only Torah.
No additives, no chemicals, no preservatives.
No heaven to aspire to.
No hell to be damned to.
Seriously, the basis for the Hebrew belief is that following Torah, in its pure form, is the requirement.
This presents a new twist on religion, a new but old thing which typically sends minds reeling from the shock. Hebrews rely on the priest to deliver the Torah information, as defined in… (wait for it… you might already know this… ) Torah!
Just as Torah describes, the Aaronic priest is born into the duty, born into the hierarchy, to lead the Hebrews in their religious life. The priest directs the community, according to Torah. The Levites are directed to serve the priests, and to carry the Tabernacle (yes, tabernacle not temple) and Courtyard and Articles.
I don’t have a need to do Torah readings, Torah studies, although I spent nearly twenty years doing just that. As my priest told me, “you know Torah, just go live Torah.”
Had I been a true member of a Hebrew community throughout life, or came upon such during travels, I would have been exposed to the Torah by the priests there.
Some of the differences between a Hebrew and nearly every other religion:
- We work to accept our punishment. The reality dealt to the Hebrew people and their generations for their refusal to keep Torah Law.
- We do not ask of Almighty, YHWH. This means we do not make prayer requests.
- We, the congregation, do not read the Law. We rely on the priest for matters that are too difficult.
- We accept that we do not have the right to live in the Land. We’re in exile, see the first point.
- We are not commanded to ‘go forth and gather people’ to believe as we do. You either believe as we do or you don’t. Each and every human being has the right, the ability to choose. If you choose differently, so be it, you are allowed to do so.
- As exiled people, we recognize that the land we live in is not up to us to rule. We are subject to the laws of the land we’re in.
- A Hebrew may or may not be genetically tied to the original people of Torah. The only difference for the Hebrew who voluntarily joins the community is that they don’t appear to be included in land inheritance.
- There is no satan, no messiah, no king, no temple. Our sole worship, our sole belief is in Almighty and the hierarchy set down by Almighty. The anointed one is the High Priest.
- The commanded Dwelling is the tabernacle and the enclosure – to keep out any but those who are of the tribe of Levi. The priests are the only who offer, and the only who enter the tabernacle. Only the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies.
- It is up to the community to freely give items for construction of the tabernacle, the enclosure, the cloths and coverings, the Ark, table, lampstand, priestly clothing and articles of the clothing and tabernacle.
- There are elders chosen who take the message of the priest to the community, should the community be too large for adequate delivery.
- Only Hebrew Priests are allowed to say the blessing. As described in Torah.
Those are the primary differences, for any who were wondering.
Dabbling with photography, I find that my perspective of creation has shifted.
I’ve always been most relaxed in the outdoors, providing I’m not in a crowd; and appreciation for the beauty of our fabulous world, the colors, the varying landscapes, the wildlife, has always been an important piece of my makeup.
This lens finder view, however, has greatly enhanced what I see.
As my focus shifted to the quality of light, the positioning of the subject and the backdrop, it changed the whole picture for me. Suddenly, I can see the snapshot, the perfect setting, the quality photo – most often just before I pass by it doing seventy miles per hour!
I miss a lot of kick-ass photo ops.
I see them.
I enjoy them tremendously.
In fact, you could say my heart fills with their radiant beauty. If I could reproduce what imprinted momentarily in my mind, I could wow you with that vision.
I have a lot of work to do, to up my game in photography. I can’t tell you if I’m up to that challenge – I truly enjoy my hobby, but I worry that taking it to a higher level, or even to a business level, would remove the joy. I’m anal like that, obsessive about things that I shouldn’t be.
What I can tell you is that right now, the appreciation for Almighty’s creation has me filled with such awe, such gratefulness that I can simply be witness to that beauty.
If you could feel what I feel… if you could see what I see.
That is enough. That will keep me.
I recall during the early years of grade school, a teacher had asked us to find out about our ancestry. So, I went to my best resource, Mom.
I asked “what are we Mom?”
Well, she must have been in fine humor that day because she answered me “hillbilly”.
And that’s what I reported back to the class.
I’m really glad that I don’t recall the reaction, as I’m certain that teacher was moved to either shock or laughter!
I thought Hillbilly was my label for a long while.
It did make sense, somewhat.
The family reunions for Mom’s side were happy, musical affairs, always including acoustic guitars, tambourines, banjos and mandolins. Bluegrass was always the theme, and quite a few of the relatives could play and sing.
There’s a small town (population 200 or so) that several of the relatives call home, so when we all assembled to enjoy each other’s company, moving from house to house – mostly barefoot – it seemed like it was “our town”.
They’re fabulous memories to have: My hillbilly memories.
For the record, it turns out I’m mostly German/English.
Whatever that means.
You see, I’ve transitioned.
I don’t want to be thought of as hillbilly
I have a preference now, and no – it’s really not Hippy either, hehehe.
Because I’ve taken the label of Hebrew – in fact, it was a label that was given me by my Priest.
Accepted; willingly, eagerly, and with great respect for the serious implications that it requires.
You see, I have agreed to keep the law of Torah as best I can in a world that is not conducive to Torah.
It’s complicated, yet breathtakingly simple.
If only all things were so simple!