Thursday, May 18, 2006

Why Is Judaism Relevant To You?

The Jewish Atheist has a post that gives good food for thought. It is called:

Intermarriage and Interdating, Part II: or, Jewish Guilt

There were a couple of comments that caught my attention:
"I want to speak to the question of Jewish survival, since this comes up all the time as the key reason not to intermarry. My question is why is Jewish survival so important? I think there's a significant difference that tends to be lost on some between the horribleness of the destruction of the Jewish people through genocide and the gradual waning of a faith because it is no longer as relevant to the lives of some people today as it was to their ancestors."

I think you hit on an important point. That Judaism seems no longer relevant now. That is the failure of our religion, that it hasn't sufficiently adapted to the changing needs of our society."
So here are a few questions to consider. Would you be able to respond to these comments? Can you provide an answer based upon logic and reason? Why is Judaism important to you?

The floor is open. I am interested in hearing what you have to say.

(crossposted here)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Learning About Faith From a Television Show

If you are a fan of the TV show LOST on ABC and haven't yet watched last night (May 10th) episode then you will not want to read this post past the warning further down. This post contains major spoiler information.

You don't have to watch the show to read this post.

On ABC's Lost we have a show about a large group of people who mysteriously end up on an uncharted island. Strange things happen which force the survivors to deal with emotional times in their pasts. Many times these are instances that proved to be trying times in their lives. Through whatever is happening on the Island the survivors are forced to reconcile their troubled pasts and most times they come out for the better. In a few cases when a person has worked out their issues the character had died on the show. Many fans believe that this is analogous to completing your mission on Earth and therefore passing on.

The show has had a spiritual overtone since the beginning. For all of the first season and a half the shows main two leaders were two men. One by the name of John Locke, billed as a Man of Faith. Another man by the name of Jack Shepard. A Man of Science. A doctor who doesn't believe in fate, he only believes in what he can see. He goes on the facts and then makes decisions.

These two men have clashed many times, as would two men coming from such polar ideological opposites. The shows creator a man by the name of J.J. Abrams is Jewish, as is one of the two main producers, Damon Lindeloff. The show's other main producer is a man from a christian background whose name is Carlton Cuse. It's safe to assume that many of the shows creators religious backgrounds have gone into this show.

The concept of faith vs. science is something that permeates throughout all of religion. I want to address it's place in Judaism.

Every day that a Jewish man wakes up he is supposed to pray, put on leather straps with boxes filled with parchment containing verses from the Torah. Every day Jewish men and women eat kosher which does not allow us to eat fish that do not have both fins and scales and animals that do not chew their cud and have split feet. Every Friday night we stop using all forms of electric and we cease working.

Many of these things are based on faith. Being a religious person is something that requires lots faith. Sure there are many laws from the Torah that make sense, but there are just as many if not more that are impossible to really understand. Believing in something simply because we are told to is very hard. To do something simply because "it says so" is something that every Jewish person has to internalize.

On the show there is a hatch, in this hatch is a computer. At the beginning of this season a man left them there and told them that they have to press specific numbers into the computer and press enter every 108 minutes. If they don't do it, it could mean the end of the world. Why was the man doing this? Because when he came to the hatch a man before him told him the same thing. Our main characters John Locke and Jack Shepard argued over whether to press the button. Jack Shepard, the man of science believed this made no sense and was probably part of some experiment. Locke on the other believed there was a higher meaning to all of this and decided to trust the original occupant of the hatch and press the button.

Every 108 minutes Locke made sure that the button was pressed. Why? Because he had faith he was doing the right thing.

This season on Lost a new character was introduced. This was a man by the name of Mr. Eko. Mr. Eko, like John Locke was also a man of faith. Mr. Eko was a priest, well, he became a priest after being a drug l-rd, but that's a different story.

(Spoiler starts here, this is your last chance to stop reading)




Last night Mr. Eko and John Locke, two men of faith showed us how there are different levels of faith. They discovered the location of a new hatch. In this hatch we learn that this really is all part of an experiment. We're told that the people in the other hatch were "told" that they are doing something of the "utmost" importance. Locke takes this to mean that now that we know the reason for pushing the button, its obvious that there is no true need to push the button. Mr. Eko on the other hand takes this to mean that now there is more reason to push the button then ever.

I found this to be very interesting. For many years Jewish people followed the mitzvahs in the Torah simply because it said so. Later we learned that some things did in fact have logical explanations. Kosher dietary laws helped keep us healthy, psychiatrists will tell you that taking a "break" once a week is great for the mind and also great for strengthening the family bond.

The problem with this is that then we turn into John Locke's. Now that we know the reason for something, our faith is tested. Faith is really believing in something - just because. When we know why we are supposed to do something we can then come up with reasons why they shouldn't be done. Mr Eko believes that even though we think we know the reason why they were supposed to push the button, that doesn't take away from the faith he had in the button and its purpose.

It's a very interesting turn and it really is something that speaks to any religious person.

So why do we push the button? By button I mean remain religious. Are we doing it because we have true faith or because we think we know the reasons. What if we found out that the reason for something didn't make sense.

Would you still do it?

Tell me, why do you push the button?

(Cross-Posted on Life-of-Rubin)