I don’t believe in Jesus being resurrected. I don’t believe Muhammed was a prophet. Why should I believe in the validity of the stories that are told in synagogue?
I don’t. Or I at least take most of what I hear with a grain of salt. Or I explain away things as allegory. I don’t consider myself religious (although Sophia says I am — why?). I do, however, appreciate the fact that religion deals with the big issues of life, and by that I don’t mean which young actress is or isn’t anorexic or just out of rehab. Religious or not, as a storyteller, I do like stories, especially fanciful ones, and religion is filled with tons of them. I don’t see “fiction” as less real than “reality.” It just is another version of reality. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I treat the posts where I talk to my Penis as seriously as I do any other. It is both untrue and very true. In religion, symbolism and rituals can speak a truth far more important than reality. I think Judaism has some really great symbolism and ritual. I would be bored being an atheist. That “story” would flop at the box-office.
I also think it is important for the non-traditional and not-very-religious to take an active role in religion. Can you think of anything worse than the world’s religions being run by people who are seriously ultra-RELIGIOUS — those who are totally convinced of their own beliefs? I’m pretty sure we all can come come up with plenty of examples of how religion — and religious intolerance — has screwed up mankind throughout history. If I meet someone who is positive that their religion is “the one and only true one” or if this person has absolutely NO DOUBTS about their faith, I run the other way.
That said, I love Rosh Hashanah. It is all about renewal and hope for a better new year, for “being inscribed favorably in the Book of Life”. It is also about making amends, thinking over your wrongs, and about how everyone’s sins are inter-related; about taking upon yourself the “sins” of everyone in the community.
Yesterday, we went to South Coast Botanical Gardens rather than the ocean, to observe the ancient tradition of Tashlich -“tossing away our sins”, but this being Los Angeles, the lake at the gardens was closed for some dull-looking Showtime TV show that was being shot at the location.
I was ready to leave but Sophia, being Sophia, schmoozed with the bored sound man and he showed us how we can get around to the other side of the lake for Tashlich.
Rabbinic tradition states that it was preferable to go to a body of water containing fish, since “man cannot escape God’s judgement any more than fish can escape being caught in a net; we are just as likely to be ensnared and trapped at any moment as is a fish”. Another rabbinic interpretation that also prefers a body of water containing fish to perform Tashlich states that “the fish’s dependence on water symbolizes the Jews’ dependence on God, as a fish’s eyes never close, God’s watchful eyes never cease”. However, since Tashlikh or Tashlich or Tashlik is merely a symbolic ceremony, any body of water will suffice, even if it is water that runs from a hose or from a water faucet.
On Rosh Hashanah, Jews also recognize that God is above Time, and the idea of “forgetting” does not apply to Him, nor is He limited in “understanding” the inner thoughts of His creatures. Nevertheless, we ask that He “remember” only the “good” in our behalf when He Judges us.
For the Jewish People in particular, we ask that He “remember” the early loyalty of our People, who followed Him as a bride, as He said “I remember your youthful devotion, the love of your bridal days, how you followed Me through the desert, in a barren land” (Yirmiyahu 2:2)
Judaism’s central prayer: Sh’ma Israel, Adonai Elohainu, Adonai Ehad. “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.”
A blogger asked me why Jews wear yarmulkes, or kippahs in temple.
The uniqueness of a Jewish head covering is hinted at in the blessing we say every morning, thanking God for “crowning Israel with splendor” (Talmud – Brachot 60b)
Historically, in Eastern cultures, it is a sign of respect to cover the head (the custom in Western cultures is the opposite: it is a sign of respect to remove one’s hat). Thus, by covering the head during prayer, one showed respect for God. In addition, in ancient Rome, servants were required to cover their heads while free men did not; thus, Jews covered their heads to show that they were servants of God.
The Talmud says that the purpose of wearing a kippah is to remind us of God, who is the Higher Authority is “above us” (Kiddushin 31a). External actions create internal awareness; wearing a symbolic, tangible “something above us” reinforces that idea that God is always watching. The kippah is a means to draw out one’s inner sense of respect for God.
(sometimes, when you’re outside, Sophia’s hat will do, even if it looks totally dorky. I must have to explain away wearing this hat as a “sin” next year, at least a fugly one.)
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, but even if you’re not Jewish, September always feels like a new year, with school starting and fall approaching. Hopefully it will be a “sweet” year for everyone.
Idea for Rosh Hashanah 2008 — To make going to temple more interactive, I suggest a new prayer book in which certain prayers have missing lyrics, and congregants have to guess the missing words to the prayers to win prizes such as bagels and lox at Canter’s Deli.