Thursday, April 18, 2013

Life's most important question and Jewish life in Yiddish cartoon

GOOD MORNING! What is the most important question in life? Perhaps: "Is there a God?" If there is a God, then there is every possibility that God created the world with a purpose and our lives have meaning. If there isn't a God, then all was created randomly and meaninglessly and the only meaning in life is that which we choose to impose upon our lives.THESE ARE REALLY THE ONLY TWO CHOICES.
If there is a God, then there very well may be consequences for our actions; God may have a standard of behavior He expects us to live up to and if we don't, then to use the colloquial "there is hell to pay." If there isn't a God, then it is only the justice of mankind we need to be concerned about. As one wit put it, "If there is no God, then there is only one commandment, not ten: "Thou shall not get caught."
There are at least five main possibilities on our decision about G-d: 1) we never think much about the question 2) we espouse believing in God without thinking about the consequences 3) we believe in God and think that how we decide to lead our lives is exactly how God wants us to live it based on our concepts of what G-d wants 4) we believe in God and believe in a Revealed document of God's will with specific traditions (like Orthodoxy) or 5) We take the revealed document with the the specific traditions (like Orthodoxy) and realize that the "Rabbis of the day" as ordered by the document in Deuteronomy chapter 17 verse 10 have not done their job and one has to adjust what we have with a combination of choices 3 and 4 in order to try to follow G-d's directions. This is I believe is the choice for someone who has studied for years like I have. One should not throw out the baby with the bath water, simply because there are problems with 10% of a theology. One must realize that having 90% of a directive from G-d is much better than making it all up on your own.
There are reasons why people do not believe or do not want to believe in God and resist investigating if there is a God: 1) because there is evil in the world; bad things happen to good people 2) they look at belief in God as a crutch for losers who can't make it on their own 3) if there is a God, it implies that there is purpose to creation, values to live by and ultimately restrictions. People do not like restrictions in their lives.
However, even if one has strong questions on how God runs the world or doesn't want restrictions in his life, it does not change the objective reality: Either there is a God or there isn't a God. Because one person believes there is a God or another person doesn't believe in God, does not make a difference as to whether God does indeed exist.
Does it make sense to pursue the question whether or not there is a God who is Creator, Sustainer and Supervisor of the Universe Who dispenses reward and punishment? Does it make sense to pursue the question whether the Torah is a revealed text from the Almighty instructing us how to lead our lives?
There was  a conversation with a person who proudly proclaimed, "I am an atheist!" The rabbi responded, "Fabulous! I have always wanted to meet a real atheist. Do you know that an atheist is a person who has evidence that there is no God. What is your evidence?" The young man responded, "Uh, I guess I am really an agnostic." The rabbi responded, "I am truly disappointed. I was really excited about meeting an atheist, but an agnostic is second best! Do you know an agnostic is a person who has evidence that one can't know whether there is a God? What is your evidence?" The fellow responded, "I guess I really just never looked into it that much."
Probably most of us have never looked into the questions that much or have thought out reasons why we believe, if we do. This is just as true for those that have a tradition from there family, only they usually don't think they need to understand what they are doing.
Actually, the first of the Ten Commandments is the source for the mitzvah "To Know There is a God". One is obligated to investigate the question and to clarify the evidence of God's existence. This is different than "faith." Faith is an emotional leap to a conclusion. Belief is a point on a continuum from "no knowledge" to "absolute knowledge." The more evidence we have of the existence of God, the stronger is our belief. I learned in Yeshiva (bible college) that Judaism was a religion of intellectual investigation rather than Christianity which you took things on faith. Unfortunately my own choice of organized religion is poisoned with fanatical thinking forcing me to adjust what is considered accepted by those that don't about what they do.
As I face a large test today, I have faith in G-d to save me, but realize that G-d helps those that help themselves.

Love Yehuda Lave

: FW: Oy! You'll love this one.