I want to begin this post by saying, to understand the precepts of Judaism is no easy task. Orthodox men spend a lifetime studying the Torah and the books that have been written interpreting those words. You may question the origin and even the relevance of the Torah but one fact remains constant: we have survived for three thousand years. That is both the mystery and the miracle of our people. I believe that all of us have the ability to touch and reconnect with the raw essence of our religion. I am not asking you to become a practicing Jew, just a Jew who understands a little bit more than you know right now. You may be asking yourself why you would even want to. Maybe you don’t. But here is the headline: it does not matter if we are assimilated into society, denying our Judaism: that changes nothing! We are Jews and we are in this together and we always have been. Those are the facts. Hitler never asked his victims if they believed in the religion.
I am not a scholar, just a seeker sharing with you what I am learning. It is piecemeal, a crumb here and a crumb there. If I sound preachy or pushy it is not my intention.
The basis of Judaism is the way we treat other people. Rabbi Hillel who lived one hundred and ten years before the birth of Jesus was asked by a non-Jew if he could be taught all of Judaism while standing on one foot. Hillel replied, “What is offensive to you do not do to others. That is the core of Judaism. The rest is commentary.” I am sure this brings to mind the ideology of many religions that say, do unto others as you would have them do to you.
On this remarkable journey, I have begun to study with learned men. One rabbi is firmly planted in the reform movement and the other is the head of a well-respected orthodox Yeshiva. (an Orthodox seminary) I glean bits and pieces from both. Many of the comments and teachings I hear from the Orthodox rabbi do not resonate with me. I will address that at a later time. What is important for you to know is that I believe without reservation in the equality of woman in religion, life and politics.
The Jewish custom is to study a portion of the Torah each week and then to contemplate the interpretations. This week I had a personal revelation. It was about Moses. Now I don’t know about you but I always believed that Moses was not allowed to enter the Holy Land because he had killed the man who was beating a Jewish slave. I am sure I learned that in my very short stint in Hebrew school when I was seven.
Here is the other story, the one the rabbi sighted as the reason Moses never entered the Holy Land. Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron died while they were wandering in the desert for forty years. When Miriam passed away all the water disappeared. The Jews went to Moses, angry and threatening rebellion. Moses turned to G-d for help. G-d instructed Moses to call the Jews together. He was to bring his staff and a rock, and to talk with the people. When he did this G-d would make water flow from the rock. It was to be a miracle for the children of Israel, inspiring this new generation that would enter the Promised Land. But Moses lost his temper, calling the people rebels. In anger he struck the rock twice. G-d brought forth the water as he promised put as a punishment Moses was not allowed to enter the land of Israel.
As an aside for more information, Moses was forty years old at the time he killed the Egyptian overlord. He fled Egypt after the murder and went to Median and did not return to face the Pharaoh and free the Jewish people until he was eighty years old. Did you know that? He then wandered the desert with the Jewish tribe for forty years. That made him one hundred and twenty years old when the Jews reached the Promised Land. I thought that was really interesting. I hope you did to!
Another thought: At my writing group last night a man I usually respect really upset me. He is Catholic and when I told him my information about Moses he challenged me, giving me the Christian version of OUR story. Sorry, but it is our story. Learned Jewish scholars spend their lives reading and interpreting the Torah. He gave me the slam dunk version, about Moses striking the rock twice in defiance to G-d.