Tag Archives: Judaism

What If God’s Not One of Us?

3 Mar

I was in high school when that Alanis Morrisette* song came out and I remember being very confused at the positive reaction. Was I slow, or was everybody else?

Like “Isn’t it Ironic”, in “What if God was one of us”, Alanis tries to be brilliant, but comes across more as under-educated. (For the record: rain on your wedding day is not ironic.) The concept of God being one of us is cute but dumb. What I’m saying is obvious, but I think people like the concept as an extension of God’s love and empathy towards us. Personally, I don’t think that’s a very likely concept either.  

Think about it for a minute. Here we have God, an all-powerful, perfect entity. There is nothing that can exist without him, and nothing that can cause him the slightest danger. He, a being needing nothing, decides to create the universe for whatever reason. Not being able to fully understand what an existence like his means, I’ll agree that his reasons can seem unfathomable to us, and still be perfectly logical to him. However, now you say that he understands our problems and then empathizes with us to help us out. Understands? Fine. But feels human feelings? Impossible. He is a perfect being. He has no fear or desire or any other emotion.

(I know it’s getting a little dry, but stay with me here. I’m building up to something at the end.) Continue reading

God’s Court Jester

27 Feb

A conversation with my brother:

Me: The classic yeshivish argument is that God is good because look at everything he does for us. Why would he create us out of nothing and give us watermelon and babes and sunshine, right? That’s probably what philosopher cows think too. “This is the life. Hanging with my cows, eating grass, banging other cows, I’m blessed.” They don’t realize the whole thing’s a set up to go to the great circular saw in the sky.

Brother: So God’s harvesting us.

Me: Yeah, you don’t know. He puts nice things here to ease it along for us. He has his own evil reasons. He loves eating souls, but he doesn’t like them plain. That’d be like cannibalism to him, right? They need to be matured and seasoned here first. Sometimes he likes happy ones, sometimes vicious ones, sometimes he likes depressed, sometimes tough with a pain-filled gooey middle.

Brother: You’re out of your mind. Who the hell thinks of these kinds of things? OK, so God’s doing all this, why do you care? If you’re a smart cow, you just enjoy life as it goes along, and who the heck cares about what happens when you die?

Me: That’s true. That would be the smart way to look at things, I just can’t. I’m too involved with the whole afterlife idea. I mean life sucks here if you think about it. You build up a life and then it’s slowly pulled away from you. You’re body breaks down, your friends die, you can’t eat. Eventually, you’re stuck in a home with tubes inserted to keep stuff going in and out, and the highlight of your day is if the Jamaican nurse says hello to you that day while cleaning you up. Oh- that’s if you don’t get shut down by a horrible disease first. I mean, my life sucks right now. If I got cancer or something, I’d quit right then. No cut-out tongue or whatever. “Itche’s battling cancer.” Fuck that. Battle over, you win. I’m outta here.

Brother: Yeah, I guess that’s true. That’s why you have to believe in it. Then everything is worth it.

Me: I don’t think so. I mean, I would if I could, really. It just doesn’t work. I really think if God exists, he has some other purpose for all of us. You know, his own purpose.

Brother: Right, he’s eating our souls.

Me: *laughing* Exactly!…Hey, it’s just as likely, right? You agree.

Brother: No, because God is up there and all-knowing and all-powerful, and if he does have this evil purpose, why would I want to piss him off? 

Me: What’s the worst that could happen? This place is a hell-hole as it is. So what, I get 11 months in hell? It’s 11 months. I’ll be boiling in semen for 11 months. I’ve had worse.

Brother: *laughs* It’s always semen for some reason, right? Where are they getting all that semen? *laughs* Well, why don’t you just imagine he’s good? It’s the better half of the equation here, and you have a good chance it’s all worth it.

Me: That’s good for you. I heard the Baal Shemtov said God acts towards you like you act towards him. So you have your own reality and I have mine, and they’re both true.

Brother: Yeah, but yours sucks. Why wouldn’t you act towards him my way?

Me: He’d know I was lying.

Brother: *Hahahaha!*

Me: Seriously, I have my own relationship with God. Everybody else sees him as the good king, and they come and ask him to help them out. Or, other people- atheists, right- are, like, warring against him, trying to pull him off the throne. I’m like the court jester. I’m with God in his court all the time, and I know he’s a putz. But God keeps me around because I’m entertaining. All the other people are there begging and whatever and God has to be serious and always play the game with them, even though secretly, he’s just keeping them going for his secret plan. He has nobody who gets him. That’s why I’m there. People come in and say things like, “Oh, Lord, open your hand and satisfy-” and I just cut them off with really loud fart noises. And God is pretending he’s angry with me, and like, “Don’t be afraid of him, my precious daughter. Continue.” But secretly, he’s laughing his ass off.

Brother: You hope.

Me: Well, he hasn’t killed me yet. Right? I’m still here.

Brother: Thank God.

Me: Sometimes, I can get this Zen moment where I see someone like failing horribly, like, life just keep falling on him, divorce, you know, losing his job.  And he gets back up and then gets cancer- and there’s nothing I can possibly do, so that biological “help” mechanism isn’t automatically engaged- like, situations where I’d usually go “Oy, terrible.” Now, something just clicks the thought rail-road tracks in my brain onto this other path, and I just pull out of the human view, and into the God-eyed view, and I just can’t stop laughing at how fucking funny it is. This whole playground of people wandering around, pushing against an empty wheel with all their might.

Brother: *laughing* And that’s your spiritual moment. Man, you’re so messed up.

Just Be.

24 Jan

One of the most fascinating people in Judaism has to be Rabbi Nachman of Breslav. R’ Nachman was a manic depressive genius chassidic Rebbe who lived about 200 years ago, at the beginning of the haskalah period, and was the closest thing to a frum existentialist I can imagine. Of course, I don’t exactly know what an existentialist is, being that Wikipedia is boring, but I assume it means to simply exist. To just be. No fate, or divine plan, or purpose to concern yourself with. Just being.  You might be catching the contradiction with the frum part here.  

His stories use all the classic Jewish archetypes, like Kings, princes, children, animals, forests, but they don’t match up to any Jewish morals. The king, who normally would play God, makes mistakes in these stories, or even dies. The prince isn’t having any sudden einfal to figure things out. The characters mix together and wander around, lost, with decidedly un-cosmic, human problems, and the answers given are fragmented and cryptic. Some parts of the story obviously have a point. Other parts seem to be put in randomly. Sometimes the most fascinating, fantastically described characters tell you a trivial detail about themselves and then just leave the story. It feels like the taste of an awesome fairy tale, with no main course to lose yourself in. 

R’ Nachman said, “The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the main thing to do is not to fear at all.” No explanation of where the bridge is going, or why we’re on the bridge. The bridge is here, and we’re on it. That’s it. Just walk. Do you want to stay in the middle of the bridge forever? No? Then what’s holding you back? A question about the purpose of walking? That’s insane. The only thing in your power is to walk across the bridge. Worrying about why or where is pointless. And it’s just harmful if it stops you from walking. Just let it go and walk. 

Where God comes in in all of this, I have no idea. But I’m starting to try it.

Wait, Wait! Hold up! New Guest Post by Gutman Braun!

19 Dec

All of them are right

By Gutman Braun

 Little Johnny grew up in an orphanage. As it happened, the orphanage was a little unusual: instead of being run by a community or religious institution – as was so often the case – this was a secular orphanage called, “The Melting Pot.” The Melting Pot was run based on number of fundamental principals that were established by its founders (with some tweaks along the way), but one of the most significant elements was that it had an established separation of religion & institution. As a result, the caretakers, nurses and counselors, were not allowed to provide a specific, form of religious instruction, and the children grew up and entered the world without any personal religion to speak of.

The orphans, however, were not ignorant of religion completely. In their studies, they had encountered many religions and religious ideas, and many of them were familiar with the religious affiliations of their families (either due to visits by extended family members, or based on information found in their personal files that was fully disclosed to them). Not all that surprisingly, upon growing up, a number of the boys and girls did seek-out, or were sought-out by, religious groups. Our Johnny, too, tested the waters of religion: “Who knows,” he wondered, “maybe there is truth there that I missed out on?”

So search he did. He checked out a religion that his parents had belonged to called “Scroll Worship.” He wanted to give it a chance, and he began to see that it really was fascinating. There were many interesting and compelling elements. The message was generally positive and seemed to state a goal of improving the individual and the world, which sounded so nice. There were a number of things that he wasn’t so sure about, but overall, he decided it was worth a shot – so he gave it one. In time, though, he couldn’t get past the reality that the more he looked at it, the more he noticed flaws that troubled him. One of the more troubling elements that ne noticed was that for all the positive talk and content, there wasn’t all that much of it in action and there was plenty of implicit, even overt, hatred of the other religions. So, he decided that he must check out the “hated” others as well.

Some of those “others” shared element of the Scroll Worshippers (although they were quite different). One of them was called “The New Scroll Worship,” another was called “Worship of the More Accurate Scroll.” Since they were large groups, he tried them both out – but, once again, while he saw some nice ideas and positive elements, he couldn’t help but notice the many flaws and the deep hatred for all others that they each harbored and discussed ad nauseam. Actually, all three forms of Scroll Worship contained many sub-groups – too many to list here – and he looked into as many as he could. But after a very long while, he decided that since each one invalidated the other, they were probably all right – and he discarded all of them.

He checked into some of the other religions as well, perhaps a little less enthusiastically at this point, such as the “Enlightened Ones” and the “Epic-ists,” he even looked into the many forms of “Ism” as well as study many thinkers of the “Condescending-wise-ass-know-it-all-schools.”

It was a very time-consuming endeavor (indeed, it had taken up so much of his time that he never did manage to take out the garbage, which had piled up to such an extent that he had to pay fortunes of money in fines for environmental violations), but when finally he decided that he’d had enough of searching through the remaining schools of belief, he concluded that while all of them had some elements worth keeping, the absolute claims and the gaping flaws invalidated each of them. Furthermore, it struck him that he probably could have come up with the good elements on his own without any of the various belief systems anyway. Ugh.

But he was a little sad. He felt that had lost his innocence and become jaded and cynical – yet, he was satisfied with the knowledge that he had put many of his questions to rest. Of course, now there were new and different questions, but he had learned that the orphanage had been right all along: by giving him the freedom to choose, he had been granted the opportunity to realize that he was above it all.

Walking down the street, he met Maimon, an old friend from the “Scroll Worshipper” days. Maimon, greeted Johnny warmly, even excitedly, and offered to share a novel insight into the Scroll that he’d thought of. Johnny asked if perhaps they could discuss something more personal, but Maimon couldn’t think of anything personal or intimate to share – emoting was always a problem for Maimon anyway – so Johnny allowed his old friend to ramble on about oxen, fringes, mixing of fibers, offerings and miracles. When he had concluded his pilpul, Maimon looked to Johnny for approval, but Johnny just shook his head.

“OK, so what was it – why did you leave us?” Maimon asked.
“Maimon, I could ask you the same thing – why haven’t you left?”
“What?” exclaimed Maimon,”Leave? To go where? We have truth!”
“Yep,” replied Johnnie, “doesn’t everybody.”

P.S. If we’re really going to start this multi-member blog collaboration, we need to call the posts something other than Guest Posts. Any suggestions?

Funny Religion Pictures

8 Dec

When I was looking around for a picture for yesterday’s post, I found some really funny ones online that I just couldn’t pass up. One thing: Most of them are about Christianity. I don’t mean to offend anyone by picking on Christians, it just happens to be what 99% of them are making fun of.  Anyhow, I hope you enjoy:

(This is a Yom Kippur Ecard)

Deja Vu 2: Religion: What Is It Good For?

7 Dec

Note: I put this piece up as one of 8 start-up posts for this blog, on May 8th of last year. I’m a bit more jaded on the issue now, but I still like the piece.

The Kotzker Rebbe’s yahrtzeit is today. The Heilige Kotzker, as he’s known, was a man who devoted his entire life to the pursuit of truth, and to a relationship with God. Yet he, like many other Tzaddikim was extremely depressed. How does this reflect on Judaism?

When I was a kid, I was told -and firmly believed- that following the Torah leads to the only truly happy life. The proof was brought from our best examples, R’ Moshe, the Steipler, et al. Even as I grew a little older, and realized that my family kept the Torah and was still, to put it nicely, hell on earth, I still held on to the dream that, if done properly, Torah was the road to El Dorado.

Years passed, and I found myself turned into a jaded, depressed adolescent. Experience, colored by my own preconceptions, had destroyed any idea that the ‘masses’ could do Judaism properly. We weren’t a light unto the nations, and frankly, we weren’t even very well adjusted to regular life. Yet I knew, and hoped, it still existed.

Well I’ve grown a lot since then, and today I am a jaded, depressed adult. The honest truth is I don’t know anymore. Is a belief in a set of instructions that will fix all my problems if followed, a childish notion? Yes, undoubtedly. But my personal attachment to the religion really has nothing to do with the idea itself. So if you’ll indulge me to go on for longer than a normal blog post , I’d like to share my current ideas on the topic.

Humanity can be seen as a continuum, one long body constantly changing. Generations are shed like dead skin cells, and new ones grow in their place. There is a single soul that all of us share. (This is referred to in Kabbalah as Adam Kadmon.) The point of humanity is to get in touch with the spiritual, true, essence, and win the body over to it’s ‘service’. This winning over will bring about the Messianic era. In this sense, Mashiach is not a savior, but a necessary outcome of our own choices. We will have brought about an awareness of spirituality.

And what is this idea of spirituality? Hillel says, “What you hate, do not do unto your friend.” In the words of Isaiah: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Our ‘universal brotherhood’ will be the knowledge that covers the earth.

Now, based on what we know in modern psychology, our free will operates on a very small level. Almost all of our actions are ‘predetermined’. What sense, then, is there of giving a Torah that prohibits certain actions? Why not give a manual for good psychological functioning? I think the answer is that a manual like that would inhibit free choice. It is, once again, a childish view of our role in the universe. The Torah outlines proper behavior. We need to study it and figure out what the underlying precepts are, and act on it. Using the body analogy again, there are brain cells, and body cells. The brain cells choose to figure out what to do; the body cells, however, choose to follow or not. We slowly change our own natures and pass on the changes in our parenting to our children. They do the same. With continual change, we can reach our goal.

There are certain preconditions, though. In order to be able to follow the Torah, God had to free us first. A slave cannot participate in the game of history because it lacks the time to think clearly about life, and the ability to act on it. So too in our own times. A Church forcing everyone to follow certain ‘slave values’, as Friedrich Nietzsche calls them, accomplishes nothing. What we need is emancipation.

Western democracy and the technology that followed gave us that freedom by improving our and the entire world’s living status. (Once again, people did that. The argument that Western values, shaped by Judeo-Christian values, caused it, is noteworthy, but conjectural. After all, they were also used to enforce an ancient feudal system.) With modern technology, we live securely enough to be able to safely connect with each other and thereby erase hatred. Why don’t we? Why do we follow a jealous, competitive lifestyle when it’s no longer necessary for survival?

This is where God comes into the picture. If we see ourselves as the purpose of everything, then it doesn’t matter secure we are. We will naturally devote ourselves to our most important value. However, if there is something greater, like a cause, then we will devote ourselves to that. So Communism, Nationalism, the progress of Science, The Tower of Babel, all cause a sense of brotherhood. But it’s merely a utilitarian alliance. It isn’t transforming the body into an aid to the soul.

Acceptance of God as our father: the only source, the only truth, total giving; and of our fellow humans as part of ourselves causes us to seek constant connection with each other and with God. Sex is referred to as “knowing” in the Torah. That is the true purpose of bonding, knowing and connecting with the true nature of others and with the greater reality of existence. And true bonding seems to me to be the only true happiness possible.

Turtles Are Gay, Violets Are Blue, Something Something, I’m Too Horny To Think

7 Nov

bullshit frum society rules

Being that I have no evidence to support my theory on elevated levels of frum gayness, I’m going to talk about something less interesting. Namely, Turtles. Not even real turtles, actually. Turtles chocolate. And Snickers, and every other chocolate with nuts in it.

I like all these candy bars, but not for the nuts. I don’t like the nuts, but the overall package is good, so I tolerate them. I wonder how many things are like that. Someone makes a product they like and it catches on- but not for the reason he thinks. But he doesn’t want to screw with a working product so he keeps it the same.

Now, with certain things, like Snickers, that’s fine, because someone else thinks up nutless snickers, and now you can choose to have Milky Way or Snickers. But some things, like you know exactly what I’m talking about, worked well at one one point, and are unfortunately set in stone. Now, if you think it would be better without all the nuttiness, it’s too bad. You eat the same thing as everyone else.

And what about people who are allergic to nuts? (Not that I’m allergic to nuts. I’m saying some people are. Not that there’s anything wrong with being allergic to nuts.) Too bad, nuts for you too.  Maybe if someone is allergic to chocolate, you can share a Turtle and still work it out, but it will be really weird.

You know what, I feel bad for chocolate lovers, but forget all that right now. What I’m really saying here is, jerking off till I’m married is not working out well on this side of the screen. Let’s change this stupid d’rabbanan so I don’t end up killing myself or being kicked out of the community for banging someone. And jerking off is actually d’oraisa according to most people. It’s just easier to hide, so you don’t lose any respect in the community. Isn’t it incredible how much of what we do is actually bullshit? Not that this knowledge helps you at all. It just gives you more reasons to be pissed off about what you’re forced to do anyhow. FUUUUUUUCCCKK!