What is so special about the religion I believe in?

The Bible’s stories are God’s way of transmitting great ideas through words, images and terms we can understand.

‘NO, IN the Afterlife there are no halos or angels sitting on clouds playing a harp.’ (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
‘NO, IN the Afterlife there are no halos or angels sitting on clouds playing a harp.’
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The religion I believe in sees God as a person. Not human, mind you, but a person nonetheless.
God has feelings and emotions. He loves justice and hates evil. She has a special place in her heart for widows and orphans, anyone really, who has no one else to turn to.
God is not an unmoved mover. He is moved by prayer and His love of mankind. An absolute God has absolutely no ability to make a special relationship with us. And God does have a special relationship with man and a special love for the people of Israel.
When God sees us, She is reminded of Her old friends Abraham, Moses and David, and sees their likeness in our faces. His love for them extends to their progeny forevermore. Thus, if we do the right thing, He loves us for that, and if we do the wrong thing, He loves us for them!
Oh, by the way, God has no gender.
The religion I believe in is anthropocentric. That means human beings come first. It is from this position alone that we can serve God.
THE RELIGION I believe in accepts the Bible as the word of God, yet while we do not take the Bible literally, we sure do take it seriously. The Bible is not history, nor is it science. It is theology, a fancy word for how we relate to God and how God relates to us.
Of course the Earth wasn’t created in six days, and it is foolish to believe that the universe is 6,000 years old. To accept those ideas as facts is to reject everything we know about biology, paleontology, geology, astronomy and physics – basically the entire scientific enterprise.
That doesn’t mean the stories of Genesis aren’t true. They are true. They are just not facts. It is true that I love my wife with all my heart. But it is not a fact. The fact is that I love her with a few cells in my prefrontal cortex, but I dare not tell her that, as it will only fire up a few cells of hurt in her amygdala and will not adequately communicate the depth of my feelings for her.
The stories of the Bible are God’s way of transmitting great ideas through words, images and terms we can understand. Once God chose spoken and written language as the means of communication, God, too, is limited by its scope. And just as language takes abstract ideas and compresses them into sounds that have concrete meaning to us, all of the Torah is a compressed translation of the mind of God. The alternative of silence in the face of this poor translation would have robbed us of a relationship with Her.
To agree about the text’s anthropomorphism of God’s outstretched arm and strong hand but insist that Adam was literally created from dust six millennia ago just makes you look stupid.
THE RELIGION I believe in demands no abdication of reason.
The religion I believe in has no place for magic or Kabbalistic miracle workers. It amazes me that people think that a rabbi can have mystical insight into the future. If this were true in any way, why do these kabbalists never, ever correctly guess the lottery numbers? Not to enrich themselves, God forbid, of course not; but why not win a million dollars and donate it to the poor? Why didn’t any of the magical rabbis warn European Jewry of the horror that awaited them before the Holocaust? How is it possible that they did not “pick up the scent” of Auschwitz? Do you know who did pick up the scent? Secular Zionists! Some of them were even atheists. How do you like them apples?
The religion I believe in sees the commandments as an expression of a special covenantal relationship we have with God. Great fundamental truths about the universe might very well be expressed by the mitzvot, but there are no magical powers associated with them. Mezuzot on your doorposts do not guard your homes. Mezuzot did not stop Nazis from entering homes in Warsaw, nor Cossacks in the Ukraine. No one in Majdanek attributed their arrival to not checking their mezuzot. We do the mitzvot because there is no greater privilege. Period.
The religion I believe in does not punish people in this world for their sins, nor does it reward them for their good deeds. Terrible and awful things happen to wonderful people. It is not a test. It is certainly not evidence of sin. We just don’t know why.
The religion I believe in has an afterlife that we cannot even begin to imagine. No, there are no halos or angels sitting on clouds playing a harp or eating the leviathan. Nor are there any fires or pits of destruction. To be frank, I believe that I have no clue of how to even begin to contemplate what an afterlife can even be. And you know what? Neither does anyone else, no matter how long their beards and pe’ot are! I only know that Hitler and his victims do not share the same fate.
The religion I believe in has no explanation whatsoever as to why the Holocaust happened. None.
The religion I believe in sees the State of Israel as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy and the beginning of the redemption of Israel. If the state should, God forbid, fall, this will not end our belief in our religion. We will simply have to wait a bit longer. “The eternal people fears not the long road!”
The religion I believe in has no problem offering a reason for Israel’s success and being silent about the Holocaust. It is not a contradiction of theology. It just “is.”
The religion I believe in has room for Christians to believe in Jesus, and Muslims in Muhammad’s prophecy. It saddens me that churches in Europe are being abandoned or turned into museums and concert halls. (Mosques, on the other hand, seem to be doing all right. Good for them!)
The religion I believe in sees every single human being as created in the Divine image, no matter the person’s race, gender, sexual orientation or creed. Any attempt to chip away at the divine image in any human being blasphemes both God and man.
The religion I believe in thinks it is better to donate money to those who need it than spend it on scotch, herring and cake to commemorate the death of a loved one.
The religion I believe in is one in which God acts in history. “I am the Lord your God who took you out of Egypt” wasn’t a command. It was an introduction to the parameters of our relationship.
The religion I believe in always made me wonder why its present leaders fail so miserably when it comes to social action.
The religion I believe in has a message that is both the most ancient and modern at the same time.
The religion I believe in sees Halacha as the best distillation of the Divine Will.
The religion I believe in is Judaism.
The writer holds a doctorate in Jewish philosophy and teaches in post-high-school yeshivot and midrashot in Jerusalem.