Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Is it only a package deal?

The more I think about my issues with Orthodox Judaism, Torah, and God, the more I realize that I really have no problem with God at all. Or Gods. Or some other supernatural being that made/started the universe as we know it. Regardless of the answer science comes up with, I feel like we are still left with the question of what created that first thing regardless of how primitive it may have been. Maybe I like the idea of putting it on a God that I don't have to explain. It just seems convenient since I don't think we can ever know the real answer with total certainty (even if it was God as described in the Torah). We all can look at the different theories and just put our faith into one that works best for us.

That said, my issues with OJ and the Torah are ones that bother me constantly. The laws, the historical/scientific issues etc. are on my mind all the time.

So I was wondering if it makes sense to anyone else that I have no problem believing a God figure could have created the earth, but that this God did not give the torah and doesn't really care much about us humans. That is, can you believe in an initial God, but not an everlasting one?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Moshiach sources

Can someone please give me some Torah sources for why Jews believe in the the coming of Moshiach (Messiah)? I would prefer the sources be from the Chumash (five books of Moses) as I just don't believe the Navi to be divine.

I don't have time to write now, but this will be part of a longer, more in-depth post.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

When there are no satisfactory answers

When i started to move away from OJ, it was because I just didn't like it. It didn't speak to me at all and I did not get any spiritual uplifted from it. The minutia of halacha was incredibly annoying to me. And, unlike JP would like everyone to believe, it had NOTHING to do with wanting sex, drugs, or the like.

After a while like this, my wife encouraged me to seek out answers to my questions and to deal with my feelings instead of just giving up on it. I told her that I would honestly look for answers, but that she has to also understand that the conclusions I reach may not be the ones she desires. So I started to pay attention to the torah reading and actually read through it on Shabbat afternoon. I also began reading books that dealt with questions on Judaism or science/torah issues. I critically read some of the skeptic blogs and tried to look at the issues from a fair vantage point. Similarly, I read blogs from a traditional OJ vantage point.

Yet, what happens in the end of the day when the answers just don't satisfy one's need? Does that give one "permission" to leave the fold and follow the answers they have found? certainly not according to traditional OJ. Seems to me that people like me are really left in a bind because of this.

On one hand Judaism likes to state that, unlike Christianity, we are allowed to ask questions and think critically about our religion. On the other hand, if you are only allowed to come up with answers that lead you back to "proper" OJ, then you really aren't allowed to question after all.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Is "Don't Kill" common sense?

In this past week's torah portion (Genesis) Cain decides to kill his brother Abel and is duly punished by God. There have been some bloggers that have suggested that without the torah we would turn to a life of murder, robbery, debauchery etc. These people claim that we need the torah to help us act as a just society.

So if that is the case, why was Cain punished by God? The torah was yet to be given, so he didn't break any rules. According to this line of thought, he was just acting on a natural uinstinct that God just imbued in him.

I think it is sad that the obvious answer, that common sense is what tells you killing is wrong, is unfortunately not so obvious to some. I am not saying that the torah has not helped improve morals, but to say that we would have none without it just seems ludicrous.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Trying (and failing) to find purpose in Prayer

Several weeks ago, I spent some time with friends of mine who happen to be a Rabbi & Rebbetzin. I was talking to them about my general lack of interest in orthodox judaism and how i have a hard time believing in some of the tenants. In any case, the conversation turned to davening (praying) and I said that I just have a hard time really caring about davening. I rarely go to shul during the week and generally go on shabbat, but more for social reasons than anything else.

About a month ago, I saw them again and the Rebbetzin lent me a book called Praying with Fire. It has 80-something 5-minute lessons that are meant to be read one at a time on a daily basis. She had heard good things about the book and thought it might help. I started to read it and have used it to really think about davening in general, the specific lessons for the day, and the words of the prayer i was saying at that specific time.

All this focussed thinking about prayer has led me to believe that prayer is virtually worthless. I don't believe in the power of prayer to change our lot with a higher power. I don't believe that prayer for someone helps them get better.

I have also come to realize, that like the belief in God which can't be proven with absolute certainty in either direction, people have a belief that prayer works. And what happens when the prayers are not answered? Well then, God just said no. So there is really no way to determine with any certainty that prayers do (or do not) work.

This is why I say prayer is "virtually" worthless. If prayer can help someone reflect and think about their life and where they can improve perhaps they will go beyond the prayer and put it into action. Along the same lines, I also think that it shows a caring side of someone when they pray for a sick person.

One side note about the book . . . If you are generally into prayer and just need that extra push or focus, then i would actually recommend this book.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Shofar & a break in the mesorah

One of the main parts of our Rosh Hashana service is the blowing of the shofar. I had always been taught in school that we are really only halachically required to blow a set of tekia-teruah-tekia blasts. However, in our times since we do not know the true sound of the tekia, we cover our bases and blow it in several possibilities. therefore, we have sets of tekiah-teruah-tekia, tekiah-shvarim-tekia, and tekiah-teruah + shevarim -tekia (for those not familiar with these terms, i have defined them below). After these, we blow additional ones just to round out the service.

This doesn't really jive with the concept of an unbroken chain from the time God gave the torah at Har Sinai to the Jews until our present day, which is something that is en essential belief in Orthodox Judaism. For if the chain was trully unbroken, we wouldn't have an issue of forgetting the right sound. This of course leads me to wonder what other things may have been forgotten and we are doing completely wrong.

Shofar sound primer:
teruah - one long shofar blast of approximately 5-6 seconds
shevarim - 3 medium blasts
teruah - 10+ very short blasts
shevarim-teruah - 3 medium blasts folowed by 10+ very short ones.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Do proofs (for or against) matter?

I was reading an article the other day about that was advising Jews on how to properly combat Christian missionaries on college campuses. It said that the best thing to do is avoid getting into the conversation at all since it is fruitless. It stated that you can discredit one of their proofs and they will say something along the lines of "well, that may not be true, but what about . . . " and then move on to the next proof.

Is that really any different than Orthodox Judaism? Take the following issues the trouble many skeptics; Creation, The Exodus, The Flood. You have scientific/geological issues with 6 days of creation. You have archeological/historical issues with The Exodus. You have geological/zoological issues with The Flood. So how does OJ answer? Well it says so in the torah and therefore it must be true.

So in the end, it doesn't really matter how you argue against anything in the Torah if you believe in the divinity of the Torah because it can't be wrong . On the flip side, is there hope of convincing an affirmed athiest (or skeptic) that the Torah is indeed divine?

While it is possible to convince people to move from one camp to the other, I think that once we are educated enough to make these arguments and back them up, we are pretty entrenched in our ways.

I would like to think that if someone showed me a side of Judaism that actually spoke to me that I would be open to it, but I just don't know that I am. I openly admit that I am looking harder for the proofs to back up my skeptic thoughts than ones that support the opposing view.

Monday, September 1, 2008

TSBP/Oral Torah issues Part II

I am still looking through the issues raised in the previous post, but I think my issue stems from a very basic question:

Why have the Oral Torah at all?

What is the point of having all these additional rules that are not specifically included in the most popular rule book in the history of the world, The Torah (Written Torah, aka 5 books of Moses)?

It can't be, as some suggest, that then the Torah would would be ambiguous, because the Oral Torah has just as much of a chance of being ambiguous. Plus you then have the issue of why God can't write an unambiguous book.

If it was to keep it from the general world population by passing it from person to person, then you have to wonder why God wanted these parts hidden from the non-Jewish population while sharing the Torah. If that is the reason, why not just make the entire Torah inaccessible to non-Jews? Are we hiding something?

Like the old kids party game of telephone, you know the message is going to get screwed up over the years. So it was inevitable that at some point the Oral Torah was written down since the Jews were losing the details. Couldn't God foresee this and just forget the whole Oral Torah idea and write it all down?

Finally, by having a chunk of the rules passed down through word of mouth, you increase the chances of some Jews keeping different rules than others. Wouldn't God want us all following the same set of rules?

If we are worried about the length of the Torah if all the rules are included, couldn't we just get rid of all the geneology stuff that seems pretty superfluous? Or maybe we could get rid of things that are repeated more than once.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why can the Rabbis add to the Torah?

So I am sitting in shul last week and we read in the parsha the comandment that you "Can't add or subtract from the Torah". Before I get to my issues with the Torah She Ba'al Peh, can someone explain to me how we have hilchot d'rabanan? How can the rabbis add something like muktzah on shabbat when that is clearly not what the torah said? How can they add extra boundaries to make sure we don't transgress the real torah laws? wouldn't you think God knew what he was doing when he made it up?

Regarding Torah She Ba'al Peh . . . Does it not bother anyone else that it isn't mentioned in the Written Torah (i.e. the 5 books of Moses)? Of course, this is assuming for the sake of argument that there is no question that the Written Torah is divine. I just can't get past the fact that we have so many laws that have nothing to do with what is plainly written in the torah.

so what's the deal?