Photos taken during a recent Sabbath convocation.
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?
An integral part of living the life of the Hebrew is the observance of the Holy days, primarily Shabbat – the Sabbath.
The seventh day, observed from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.
A day of rest, to do no work.
A day to assemble as a community.
A day to touch base with the lives of the other believers, to recap the week, to share and to care.
A day that reminds us how important we are to each other. A day that reminds us of the connection we have to one another: Almighty and the Law of Torah.
We often talk for hours. Some talk more than others, we’re just like everyone else in that aspect.
We talk about the week, our ups and downs. We talk about joys, kids and grandkids and accomplishments.
We talk about disappointments, and hard times, and challenges. We talk about Torah and the world around us – how those things are often at odds.
Sometimes, we talk about troubles between us, the differences we may have, or our contrasting opinions.
Most importantly, we talk.
Our time is mostly free for the talking. Sometimes, we have other items on the schedule – family time, or time to gather with friends who believe differently.
Sometimes, there is simply a need to recharge with silence.
We’re so much like others, you see.
Except, we’re different.
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:
Those are the primary differences, for any who were wondering.
It seems that the camps are often split. No matter the topic, the opinion, there’s not much middle ground and all parties line up on one or the other side of the fence, the rope, the line in the sand:
Democrats vs Republicans.
Black vs White.
Country vs Rock and Roll.
Us vs Them.
You vs Me.
Ya know? Why is it always one or the other? What is it about us that makes it so hard to come to terms with each other? Why can’t we just agree to disagree, and get along? Why does it always have to be a competition of opinions?
Okay, not a problem that’s left for me to solve, right? But I can share an opinion about a rather minor sort of split.
Dog vs Cat
I saw a post about animals yesterday and found myself countering a recent cat vs dog post last night. The post is about the difference in how dogs and cats greet their owners.
There’s a photo of a dog, mouth in a happy and open pose, tail in the mid position, obviously in wag mode – and the phrase “omg you’re home, I’ve missed you!”
Then there’s the photo of a cat, kicked back in ownership style on a recliner (presumably the master of the house’s favored chair) and with a look of indifference – and the phrase “I see you’re home, feed me now.”
I’ll concede, I have seen cats act similarly (and there’s no question the dog pose was straight on). The strange thing is, the cats we’ve owned (albeit there have only been two) do not fit that stereotype.
Both of our cats were the first to the door as we came through. Both were vying for attention alongside the dog, and both were extremely happy to get that attention.
For the record, both the dog and the cat are trained to expect a ‘treat’ when My Love comes home from work each day. That may be the key… but I get the same reaction whenever I walk through the door. I don’t give treats by schedule. No sirree bob! It’s always going to be a happy little surprise when it comes from me. I’ve always said that our cats truly think they’re dogs. Perhaps that is where the real secret lies. Who knows.
At any rate, could I judge the whole cat kingdom by mine? Could I presume that all cats will playfully box a dog snout several times during the day and the dog would always playfully nuzzle the cat’s belly? Could I solidly state that every cat would sit at the window watching for our arrival and then be the first to the greet us at the door?
Sorta like saying all Muslims are out to kill Americans, huh? Or like saying all Mexicans are trying to overtake America? No? Maybe it’s like saying all men are pigs, or all cops are power freaks? Or like saying all women are shopping crazed, man-hungry bitches?
See? It’s not that simple. Not one side or the other. And certainly not solid facts splayed across an entire segment of a population based on the action of a few.
I challenge you to see the other side, to read between the lines. I challenge you to not accept every stated fact-ism at face value, but to get to know the real information behind the quote, the article, the statement. I challenge you to check your ‘facts’ before you share them, before you help spread vitriol.
So, to speak on behalf of the cats out there: They’re gettin’ a bad rap. Ya gotta give those cats a break!
Religion is one of those subjects best left off the table.
You keep to your beliefs and I’ll keep to mine and we’ll get along just fine, yes indeed.
But years go by…
Beliefs evolve and mature, as an aging soul takes stock. The outcome: a realization that time is slipping ever so quickly past and that what there is left is all there is.
Time to make the best of what I’ve got.
I find that I no longer care to get along. Haven’t, in fact, cared for almost two decades. But I’m polite, sociable, so I’ve kept my mouth shut for the most part. Carried my beliefs in my innermost being and trudged along like everything was just fine on the exterior.
I’m saddened, you see.
I’m bereft and disconnected.
My people, my community, is not to be found.
I’m a functional silo, like the others who believe as I do, with our only support system one that is as tenuous as the continued strength of the electrical grid and the satellite system.
Our “community” is who we are – individuals pocketed and scattered hither and thither, singular souls taking stance in a world of difference and indifference.
It creates a sorrow like no other, an ache for what has been lost since before the first Israelite temple was built, before the first king was chosen:
The community of the Hebrews, comprised of twelve tribes and the Levites, all ruled by the Priests. The Aaronic priests, who were the sole recipients, the sole keepers, the sole instructors for God’s words. A community whose rules included full acceptance of strangers, like me, who stumbled across and took as oath the wholehearted beauty of a system entirely dependent upon the Rule of God.
Mesmerizing in its perfect simplicity, it has created a longing, a desire for a thing that I don’t believe I will ever live to see.
That’s the reason for the sorrow, the ache.
Dreams dependent on people who are blind to their roles.
My role is to be a common man, the role of the twelve tribes and the stranger – no gender bias, just simplicity – and to fulfill my daily role of living a life commanded by God through Torah, relayed by the Priests, sons of Aaron.
I’ll keep my role. I’ll not waver from it.
But damn, it’s lonely out here.