We Need a Good Jew

I named this blog belonging2all because my years as a seeker have led me, a non-Jew, from a Unitarian upbringing through atheism, socialism, meditation, Eastern philosophies, agnosticism, Pentecostalism, evangelical Christianity, and Messianic Judaism, to where I am now, which is undefinable.

Despite the word “all” in the blog title, I am not living in the land of “It’s all good” nor do I ascribe to the belief that “all” religions share an essential truth and fit together like pieces in a wild cosmic puzzle to reveal the meaning of life (attractive as that theory seems).

My “born-again” awakening many years ago was not unlike what many people have described as a near-death encounter, an out-of-body experience, or a psychedelic event. Though I had my first unexpected encounter with the Almighty in a small Pentecostal church in upstate New York, I have since come to the realization over and over again that the dogma in each place of worship could not expand enough to embrace the fullness of the universe that opened to me the night I found God to be real.

Along my journey, it had been my wish to align myself with a steady faith community, and I’ve been in some different congregations, searching and searching. But in each instance, a time would come when I could no longer ignore the signs of an us-and-them mentality, when the natural human tendency to circle the wagons and promote a party line would overshadow the potential for spiritual growth. Then, sadly, I would move on to keep searching for a larger-hearted home. I suspect I am not alone in this spiritual migration, though I am happy for those who stay in one congregation and are able to thrive there.

For quite some time, I have been unaffiliated with any one place or community. In this extended time of apparent freedom from dogma, my personal study has led me repeatedly to the feet of the rabbis.

I read a thought-provoking segment of an Artscroll Mesorah booklet on Tashlich, lent to me by a friend. Mesorah means, among other things, the transmission of a tradition. Tashlich is a time of sincere repentance and honesty before God, a yearly ritual essential to Judaism during the 10 Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Tashlich is performed in a variety of ways but centers on being near moving water, like a river or stream. We cast stones or pieces of bread into the water while in sincere appraisal of our faults, mistakes, and shortcomings. We realize our inability to do any better without God’s help, and as the bread or stones sink to the bottom of the water, we experience anew God’s generous forgiveness as well as the invitation to be transformed by love.

This booklet explores layer after layer of the historical, liturgical, and cultural traditions of Taschlich. Often, I find rabbinic commentary obtuse, and sometimes I fail to follow the bouncing ball, suspecting that my uneasy sense of having missed a step must be caused by my Western way of thinking (plod, plod, plod through the clearly delineated, logical steps) and my lack of Jewish background.

Unfettered by those restrictions, the rabbis’ ideas fly like free birds, but wise birds informed by centuries of tradition. I want to understand these ideas at the foundational level. I know the truth lies gleaming like a diamond in the mountainside within those stories and interpretations. How do I know? Because my experience of the Messiah, even with my puny ability to understand, has proven bigger and better than any of the programmed answers I have found in any other spiritual or non-spiritual search.

And Judaism focuses on this huge promise, as I believe we all must if we are to dedicate ourselves to the highest good:

—God’s Presence on Sinai was proclaimed by a powerful, incessant shofar blast. Hearing its call, Israel accepted, and dedicated itself to, the Torah. . . . The day at Sinai was the lesser of the two greatest days in history, because Israel was not yet fully ready to play the role assigned it. But that day will come . . .

—The shofar of Moshiach will be . . . the great shofar that will summon even the forlorn and assimilated exiles from earth’s most forsaken lands. Then they will come to Jerusalem, to the mountains of God, to Mount Moriah where Abraham stood at the Akeidah and sanctified the present and future for all time.

…Abraham’s deeds were the seeds that grew into service at an altar, songs on a harp, courage on a mountain, the announcement of mankind’s destiny, the call of creation’s fulfillment.”

Tashlich, Artscroll Mesorah Series

Hoop, there it is! Look to the source whenever the path grows dim. That’s exactly where I am now. Though it’s true that I don’t regularly step over the threshold of a house of worship, I am in a place of worship each day—inspired by the foretelling of the one good Jew who will come and transform us all if we will accept him.

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