Ye Olde Guest Blog Written by my son Eli’s beautiful gf, Ashley who is converting to Judaism on October 1st. One big point for the Tribe. Woop woop!
What I Believe: I believe that humans are the creators of God in all its forms, as well as all existing moral codes. I do not believe in a cosmic set of laws handed down that are uniformly effective for all living beings, but rather that good and evil are subjective terms for every society, and indeed, for every person. Despite my belief that there may be no universal imperative towards or definition of good, I know that cooperation and respect are absolutely necessary to achieve a society that functions with the ultimate purpose of peace and advancement. I also know that all humans have an equal capacity for suffering, and that no one deserves to suffer needlessly or excessively. I believe that humans are full of primitive and selfish desires which exist in constant conflict with their more recent and nobler acquisitions of empathy, kindness and self-sacrifice. While altruism does often win out, it is our narrow-mindedness and drive towards self-gratification, especially when comparing our own needs to those of strangers, which is the cause of much of the world’s suffering.
I believe that to be a good Jew is to be willing to regularly reflect and evaluate oneself as to the true sources of one’s motives and behavior and to make a lifelong commitment to a realistic sublimation of the self in the service of others. It is to always remember that the needs of one are not inherently greater than the needs of another, and to judge merit with compassion as well as logic. It is to retain humanity and reject a reversion to animal behavior or selfishness even in the face of desperate circumstances. I believe that, while there is no God to mandate or force compliance, our greatest calling as humans is to live mindfully and always with respect and gentility towards our fellow man. While many religions claim these as their central tenets, in my experience, it has been Jewish people who have been most willing to follow, respect and commemorate a more “godly” set of principles to live by, and if necessary abandon their personal egos and false assumptions in the search of a higher understanding and harmony among all people.
While there are many mitzvot and items in halakhah with which I do not agree nor feel called to, I do greatly respect the concept behind a practical Jewish way of living that seeks to eliminate the human reflex toward greed, impulsivity or base desires that lead to unrest and unhappiness. Fundamentalist Christianity and Islam claim absolute faith as a virtue and an absolution from ones sins, and it is my belief that such a rigid notion can only be detrimental to society. This is especially true when such values are instilled in simplistic fashion to the masses, as it encourages people to justify their selfishness and their many failings in the name of their God. They fail to observe the many instances of doubt and sincere questioning that are instrumental in a proper reading of the Tanakh. It is the Jewish people, with an eternal love for learning and analysis who have most fully integrated this critical quality into their culture and religion. I believe that memory, enlightenment, self-reflection, and respect for all life are indispensable aspects of a world that truly values peace, and it is Judaism that, to me, most encourages these ideals in ones daily living.