I am a big, warm, kind but ferocious Bear (not a teddy bear). An equalist. Danish, well spoken, loyal, caring, history buff, spiritual, ACDF, socially anxious, musical, artistic, dog owner, married, and Jewish.
What am I about?
My life is dedicated to Tikkun Olam - Mending The World - if need be one being at a time. I don't have time for stupidity, I have no patience with arrogance, false humility, hypocrisy or intellectual dishonesty. If I think you are either of the above, I will call you on it. I will say that the Emperor is naked, even if the whole world says he is dressed and even if it hurts the Emperor's feelings.
I am very passionate about Human Rights, Children's Rights and Equal Rights, and chances are that if you are not, I am going to be up your rear with a chainsaw.
I believe that G-d, the Creator of all there is, meant us to be His hands, eyes and voice to each other in Life. That is the task we have been charged with, and that is what we are here to do. It doesn't matter to me what path you choose to do this on, as long as that is what you are doing.
In addition to being a Bear, I am also an Ogre - like Shrek - and like all Ogres I am bound to respond forcefully to kicks in the groin, burnings of my house, beating of my kids and friends. I am also VERY grumpy in the morning. I am true to myself, not to you or to social conventions. I have been through and seen so much bull crap and horse manure in my life, that I'll bet my last dime that I recognize both when they come across my path. If you poop on my floor, I will ask you to scoop it up and put it in the trash. If you do, that's the last you will hear about it, if you don't, if you don't, I'll come after to you till you do or one of us die, which ever comes first.
Here are all the blogs that I am allowed to link to on Care2:
I have decided to try an weave two of my most precious life-lines together - Torah and the 12 Step Program of Recovery - there really is no better place to start that challenge than on the second Last Shabbat before Roshashana and Yom Kippur.
So this weeks Dvar Torah is dedicated to my friends in Recovery - you all know just who you are
Focal Point Devarim/Deuteronomy 30:6-14
Then the L-rd your G-d will open up your heart and the hearts of your offspring to love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul, in order that you may live. The Lord your G-d will inflict all those curses upon the enemies and foes who persecuted you. You, however, will again heed the L-rd and obey all His commandments that I enjoin upon you this day. And the L-rd your G-d will grant you abounding prosperity in all your undertakings, in the issue of your womb, the offspring of your cattle, and the produce of your soil. For the L-rd will again delight in your well-being, as He did in that of your fathers, since you will be heeding the L-rd your G-d and keeping His commandments and laws that are recorded in this book of the Teaching — once you return to the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul.
Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, "Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?" Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?" No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it. impart it to us, that we may observe it?"
We admitted we were powerless over [insert your drug, process of choice here], that our lives had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of G-d as we understand G-d.
Did you know that in the original "order" of the 12 Steps [which were actually 6], steps 1, 2 and 3 were baked into one?
Why was that? Because realizing that we are powerless and that our lives have become unmanageable can be very overwhelming, and more often than not there are behaviors we need to stop right away if we are to save our very lives, so we need to move from powerless and unmanageable without anywhere to go, to powerless and unmanageable with not only hope of a place to go, but to a place where we can actually be restored to some resemblance of sanity - and that my friends happens in step 3.
See, step 1 won't tell you anything but that your are powerless and unmanageable, step 2 will only tell you that sanity is possible - but neither of them will actually provide sanity so being confronted with steps 1 and 2 is rather harsh - that's why, originally, people were asked to take the 3 first steps as one, because step 3 will restore sanity on a daily basis, because step 3 is where we give up trying to control ourselves and the world around us and let G-d (as we understand G-d)take control of us one day at a time.
"But I don't believe G-d loves me, that He cares about me or that He even exists!".
One of my sponsors once told me that it doesn't matter what I believe - it matters what I do. So my beliefs is immaterial, because if I tell G-d every morning that I turn my life over to Him (whoever or what ever He is) He will do the work as long as I do my footwork - go to meetings and check in with my sponsor. Did I believe it would work? No. But I did it because it was my last way out of a life that had brought me to the abyss where I was seriously staring suicide in the eyes. I was in so much pain that I would probably have done acrobatics if my sponsor had told me it would work.
But the simple wisdoms "Act as if" and "Fake it till you make it!" is actually in Torah: "And he took the Book of the Covenant and read it within the hearing of the people, and they said, "All that the Lord spoke we will do and we will hear." (Shemot/Exodus 24:7)
Children learn through mimicking what adults do - they do before they understand what they are doing. Torah tells us that, in regards to a functional life (because that is what living according to Torah leads to) this is the attitude we need to take - learning/understanding through doing what we need to learn/understand.
So, I can work Step 3 even if I don't believe it, just because I need to, and eventually it will be something I believe, something I do with faith and hope and trust that G-d as I understand Him, is restoring me to sanity on day at a time.
So how is this all connected to Torah and being Jewish?
Well, for one working step 1 is a natural part of the Jewish Path - every year, with the start of Elul, Jews all over the World begin a process of self-reflection, self- examination that will eventually lead them to identification of areas in their lives where they are out of control and need to do Teshuvah (return to Torah and G-d). Hope is also built into the Jewish Path - that G-d will restore that which was broken and bring sanity, because when the Gate closes on Yom Kippur all of Israel has been forgiven and a new beginning is declared.
"In all their troubles He was troubled, And the angel of His Presence delivered them. In His love and pity He Himself redeemed them, Raised them, and exalted them All the days of old" (Isaiah 63:9)
Step 3 is just a natural sequel to all of this in Judaism - Teshuvah - Forgiveness - Renewed Observance. All in the manner that fit each of us and our recovery.
Here's a Jewish Prayer that fit perfectly to say at the end of any 12 Step Meeting:
The Lord of the Universe who reigned before anything was created. When all was made by his will He was acknowledged as King.
And when all shall end He still all alone shall reign. He was, He is, and He shall be in glory.
And He is one, and there's no other, to compare or join Him. Without beginning, without end and to Him belongs dominion and power.
And He is my G-d, my living G-d. to Him I flee in time of grief, and He is my miracle and my refuge, who answers the day I shall call.
To Him I commit my spirit, in the time of sleep and awakening, even if my spirit leaves, G-d is with me, I shall not fear.
1 If you see your fellow's ox or sheep gone astray, do not ignore it; you must take it back to your fellow. 2 If your fellow does not live near you or you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home and it shall remain with you until your fellow claims it; then you shall give it back to him. 3 You shall do the same with his ass; you shall do the same with his garment; and so too shall you do with anything that your fellow loses and you find: you must not remain indifferent.
My friend Yael commented on another Blog Entry:
"But, the ones who lose what was always a part of their identity sometimes have a pretty rough time moving on with life. I wouldn’t be bragging about doing that to anyone.[...]In my interactions with people I always try to encourage Christians to live by the teachings of Jesus the best they can; if they are Jewish to live by the teachings of Torah as best they can; whatever religion they are, use it to be a truly good person."
If we connect those two statements it becomes clear that Faith is something you can lose. What to do if you find a fellow's lost Faith by the way-side? You keep it for him until he can come and claim it, and then you give it back to him! Ok, I admit, I am stretching the text here, but I still think the thought has merits After all, we can ask forgiveness on account of those who cannot, will not or do not know that forgiveness is possible - we do it every year on Yom Kippur, so why not hold on to my fellow human's lost Faith?
After all it's something he lost, he probably misses it, and even if he doesn't miss it, doesn't know he needs it or doesn't want it, what's the harm? Will it cost me anything to hold his lost faith in trust until he can claim it for himself? No. On the contrary, it will help me grow a person?
So how do I return someone's lost Faith to them? One thing's for certain, unless they are actively looking for it, there's no way it will be fruitful to try and dump it on them like a sack of potatoes, that's just mean, pushy and arrogant.
Faith's little Sister is Hope. Hope incites Faith.
What is hope? "...the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible..."
Most of the time hope is kindled by the simple act of being present for someone who is in any kind of need. By simply being human, compassionate, honest and attentive towards another I can show that the out-look of life is not at all that bleak. I cannot be sure that this will succeed, but for the sake of the commandment to return anything lost back to the one who lost it, I have to try. Like I stand with The People on Yom Kippur and ask forgiveness on account of those who cannot do it for themselves, so I can hold Faith in trust for those who cannot do it for themselves.
We have a Tradition that teaches us that Mitzvot can be performed in honor of others. So why not hold Faith, perform Mitzvot for the sake of those who cannot do it for themselves, whatever the reason. So when you get up in the morning, instead of berating those you think are lax in their Observance, put on your Tallit and Tefillin for the sake of those who cannot, put an extra coin in your Tzedakah box, do an extra run through the Weekly Parasha when you study and Hold Faith for them who have lost it, until they can claim it for themselves.
"if you rely only on scientific methods for knowledge, without any input from any religious dogmas, then the idea of a Supreme Creator might occur to you as a hypothesis, but an untested, unfalsified, and therefore unscientific hypothesis is all that it would ever be."
Which gave me reason to say:
"Correct. Which is why it’s both bad science and bad religion to mix them with each other. But it is equally bad science and bad religion to claim either redundant.
To me this is where Philosophy enters the scene - it is apparently possible to arrive at the hypothesis of a Prime Cause through experience, as well as it is to arrive at the hypothesis of a Non-Prime Cause through experience - but both are dependent on further elaboration of the experiential evidence from a personal stand point to have any meaning. From a philosophical point of view both are equally valid. It is when we elevate unfalsified hypothesis’ to doctrine that we enter the realm of bad theology and bad science."
I then had the idea that:
"One of these days I am going to give the justifications behind my personal beliefs, I seem to be running into the issue a lot these days."
So I'll have a go at it...
I agree that there is no scientific evidence either to prove or disprove the existence of G-d, and in fact such evidence is not needed. Why is that? Because when we enter the realm of theology we also enter the realm of Belief, where there is nothing to guide the human mind but circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence is defined as 'evidence providing only a basis for inference about the fact in dispute'. Basically what it means is that there is no hard, physical - scientific - evidence for the hypothesis of G-d being a reality in the Universe, but that it is possible to understand experiential evidence in such a manner. Circumstantial evidence is a weak form of evidence, but it is nevertheless a valid form of evidence. In matters of Law and Science it needs physical evidence to back it up, but for the purpose of personal meaning it works just fine.
When the Author of Tehillim/Psalm 8 says:
“When I see Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars that You have established, 5. what is man that You should remember him, and the son of man that You should be mindful of him? 6. Yet You have made him slightly less than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and majesty. 7. You give him dominion over the work of Your hands; You have placed everything beneath his feet. 8. Flocks and cattle, all of them, and also the beasts of the field; 9. the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea, he traverses the ways of the seas. 10. O L-rd, our Master, how mighty is Your name in all the earth!”
he is looking at the Universe and all the wonders it holds and from this experiential evidence he concludes that SomeOne is ultimately responsible for this abundance of wonders. That is my personal position. To me the existence of all those wonders, from the microscopic one-celled organism to the Planet Itself and the Space beyond it is inference enough to spark a Belief in G-d as the Ultimate Cause of it all.
I find it difficult to accept the idea that the Universe as it appears to me on a daily basis is the result of chemical and physical laws, without any form of Ultimate Source.
Carl Sagan wrote:
How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant’? Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’
I feel that he was mistaken on one point - what the Hebrew Scriptures actually convey in terms of the Magnificence of our Universe and its Creator and what we are told it means are not the same thing. What is the basic dogma of a religion and what is what its Scriptures actually say is rather divergent matters. The seeming limits of experiences in the times when those Scriptures were presented to the world are just that SEEMING. We assume that because there is no detectable preserved Scientific understanding of the Universe among the authors of the Hebrew Bible that such Scientific understanding didn't exist. The arrogance of such assumptions is staggering, in my opinion.
I would also like to disagree with the assertion he makes about what people of Faith say about G-d. I disagree simply because as one of those People of Faith I do not describe my G-d as little, nor do I disregard what Science says about the Universe and it's intricate and magnificent mechanisms and laws, on the contrary I accept Science's assertions of these matters, and in my mind it only increases the Magnificence of what I believe to be the Ultimate Source.
As I have said in other posts:
Many years ago I resolved the seeming conflict between Science and Religion by looking at what questions they answer respectively on the matter. I think perhaps I intuitively knew that the conflict lies not between the two Disciplines, but between the Disciples of both, because the answer to the conundrum of Science vs Religion I found looks as follows:
Torah/The Bible/Religion answers the Questions “Who and Why?“ Science/Evolutionary Theory answers the Questions “How, When and Where?“
in my opinion Science as such doesn't give MEANING to human existence. It provides us with a basic idea of what we are in terms of biological, chemical and physical set-up, but it doesn't explain the ontological aspects of human existence. It doesn't explain why we, as a cultural species seem to be on the constant look-out for something beyond ourselves. It doesn't answer the existential questions of human reality.
Correctly or incorrectly, Faith does explain and answer these queries to an extent that to most people seems satifactory, or at least enough to keep us looking.
Belief or non-belief in an Ultimate Source is a matter of personal preferences.
Ultimately I believe in G-d because I want to, because I need to and because I have found no reason not to. Belief in G-d as a statement is extremely personal and while the theological workings of such belief can be questioned and should be, ultimately it all boils down to very personal and very fundamental reasons, that cannot be questioned other than by the individual.