Why I am Jewish- Part II

I realize that I never quite justified the statement “why I am Jewish”. Not that it needs to be justified- perhaps clarified in the context of the article submitted by Rabbi Rosenblatt.

In my pre-Tribe days, I was frequently told by the leaders in my faith community that I was “too intellectual”, and that I “needed more faith….needed to just receive the love of God”. We cut our teeth on the “Faith-Fact-Feeling” rule set out by the publishers of Chick Tracts. I had the “faith-fact” down (or so I thought). I just needed to “feel the love of God in my heart”. This was during a time where “falling under the Power”, and “being drunk in the Spirit”, and “holy laughter” were considered to be manifestations of God’s presense and a sure sign that one was “receiving favour” from the Almighty. My husband and I were consigned to the “hard-to-receive” group, and found ourselves being prayed for by earnest believers who wanted more than anything to see us display ‘these signs which follow’. My husband ‘fell down’ once because he felt that he was being pushed down. We honestly really wanted to have this kind of connection with God- at least I did. I cannot speak for someone else. But God never met me in this way. I often walked away feeling like I was on a different planet; that somehow I had been weighed in the invisible celestial scales of holiness and found tragically wanting. I craved the intimacy that these other people seemed to enjoy with God. After all, they seemed to hear from Him 24/7, and He was a part of everything they did. Didn’t I love Him too? I thought that I did- but the things that moved me were worlds apart from those that set my companions swooning. For one thing, I believed that my actions were important- as compared to my contemporaries who avowed that “it was not what you did, but what you believed that was important”. I looked for the fruits of spiritual encounter- because an encounter with God, by its definition, must leave a person changed. My faith had to inform my practise. I also needed to find meaning in what seemed to be God’s silence in the face of suffering. Hard and irritating questions for those whose response was “you think too much”. But Job says “shall we receive good from the Lord and not evil?”. This was a difficult statement for one who had been taught to believe that God was “nice and likes us”. There were other troubling scriptures like “I am the LORD, I form light and create darkness”. For one who liked to see resonance, such a departure from “God is Light and in Him is no darkness at all” was difficult to reconcile without doing a bit of thinking. Learning to find the miraculous in the mundane, and to see holy signatures on the profane demanded that I start digging much deeper, at the expense of feeling emotionally and spiritually isolated at times. I used to think that it was only the heart that mattered- that the intellect could be discarded like a secondhand coat. However, I have learned that God has ordained that both head and heart be entwined, and that the latter should be ruled by the former. A case in point: when Cain’s offering was not accepted, he smouldered with anger and bitterness, directing his jealousy and anger toward his brother Abel. At this point in time, God addresses Cain directly, telling him that it is within his power to “rule” over his emotions. The “sin crouching at the door” refers to Cain’s impulsiveness to act upon emotion alone, rather than thinking about the situation at hand, and possibly taking a look at why his offering was rejected. We need wisdom (thinking) to inform our passions, and passion to inspire our thinking. God invites us to “come and reason together”. When the children of Israel stood at Sinai, Moses brought down the tablets of stone and held them over their heads. The Israelites cried “we will DO and then we will understand…[these words of the Law]”. In other words, right actions will produce the right heart response..eventually. I might not feel like doing the right thing at any given point, but once I act out of obedience to God, over time, I will develop the right attitudes. This helps me to understand that my actions- my responses to painful situations or difficult people, for example, have the effect of realigning my heart and emotions (for good or for evil). The lens through which I view difficulties, the abuses of others, or any kind of Jobesque event, will determine the way I question, and how I interpret my observations. I will see His signature, or I will get lost in the boils, dust, and ashes. I am grateful for a tradition that gives me the space to wrestle with God without rebuke, and to surface with a trust and love born out of Divine encounter. May we all, Jews, Christians, and all others who seek Him with singleness of restless heart “find our rest in Thee”.

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