Why this emotional fitness topic
For Jews the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is about standing before our God, choosing him as our judge and asking him to choose us for inclusion in his love.
The major message of the teachings at the services I attended were choosing to worship God. The Jews are often called the chosen people, but the story goes that they agreed to worship God when all the others approached at the time rejected his offer to be their king. The question was why does God need us to chose him. The answer was God doesn’t need us, but we need to chose him to elevate our behavior.
I went looking for some quotes relevant to choice and here are the ones that spoke to me:
I whispered to Dad during Rosh Hashanah services, “Do you believe in God?”
“Not really,” he said. “No.”
“Then why do we come here?”
He sucked thoughfully on his Tums tablet and put his arm around me, draping me under his musty woolen prayer shawl, and then shrugged. “I’ve been wrong before,” he said.
We are at this moment as close to God as we really choose to be. True, there are times when we would like to know a deeper intimacy, but when it comes to the point, we are not prepared to pay the price involved.
J. Oswald Sanders
It is our choices, Harry, that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right.
Each (hu)man has inside him/her a basic decency and goodness. If s/he listens to it and acts on it, s/he is giving a great deal of what it is the world needs most. It is not complicated but it takes courage. It takes courage for a (hu)man to listen to his/her own goodness and act on it.
I would say to young people a number of things….I would say let them remember that there is meaning beyond absurdity. Let them be sure that every little deed counts, that every word has power, and that we can, everyone, do our share to redeem the world in spite of all absurdities and all the frustrations and all disappointments.
Abraham Joshua Heschel
Thinking about what matters
I don’t care particularly whether you believe in God, Buddha, Shiva, Jesus, gods, goddesses, aliens, Socrates, the Force, or simply in trying to be good. I like that as a Jew I am not forced or called upon to preach my way is the only way.
For those who don’t know, Jews chose to worship God as the one true God and as proof of their worship to obey many, many laws. Those who did not make that choice must only obey the Noachite laws. Here they are:
- Idolatry is forbidden.
- Incestuous and adulterous relations are forbidden.
- Murder is forbidden.
- Cursing the name of G-d is forbidden.
- Theft is forbidden.
- Eating the flesh of a living animal is forbidden.
- Mankind is commanded to establish courts of justice.
Do these things and you are written into the book of life and beloved by God whether you are gentile, Christian, atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, or Martian.
And with all things Jewish, what the seven laws mean and how they are implemented is the source of much discussion, much disagreement, and ends with majority and minority opinions. When I became a daughter of Sarah via conversion, I studied the law for a year.
When my conversion was completed the Rabbi said, “I have taught you the law. How you obey it is between you and God.”
And that, of course, allows me to quarrel a bit with the Rabbis.
So in the end, for this person, it comes down to three sentences. These were spoken several generations before the birth of Jesus, but echoed by him in his Golden Rule.
Rabbi Hillel was approached by a gentile seeking to convert but only if the Torah could be explained while standing on one foot–perhaps the world’s first request for a sound byte.
Hillel’s response, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and study it.”
The words “Go and study it” remind me it is not enough to listen to your own opinions. It is all too easy to think what you want is kind.
Emotional fitness tip
Faith is a choice. It is a choice to believe what cannot be proven. A major Emotional Fitness Exercise is Thinking About What Matters. To me that means when it comes to faith, thinking about the following:
- Have you chosen your higher power?
- Why did you make the choice you made?
- Have you tested your higher power against the edict do avoid doing what is hateful
- How does your religion treat those who do not share faith in your God? Also, how they treat women, the handicapped, and animals are markers on the path of kindness. Does your religion have a mechanism for revising doctrine or has it become frozen in time?
- Are you free to criticize yours and other people’s religion?
- Are any of your religion’s beliefs used to justify oppression of others both historically and in today’s world.
- How are you acting to counter your religions unkind beliefs?
- Does practicing your religion elevate you?
I am not a believer in free choice. I believe many choices are there, but some are limited Often the limitation is one imposed by family and culture. This is particularly true when it comes to choosing a higher power. If all around you believe Maritians created earth and that those who disagree should be shipped to outer space to orbit endlessly, it will hard to chose another belief. A few will, but even among those few many will keep silent about their disagreement.
While the choice may be limited by the teachings and behaviors of those around you, faith remains a choice. The more we own our choices, the greater our power. I am grateful, that each year I am able to choose again. I suggest you might find greater faith spending a bit of time thinking about the questions I posed.
I would be very interested in hearing what my questions meant to you.
Life is a struggle, full of pain and suffering, but also full of joy and goodness. Relationships also bring pain, but without caring connections life is bleak. Kindness is the path to caring relationships.
Liking, commenting, sharing are acts of social media kindness. Kind to me, perhaps kind to another, and I promise to repay your kindness with kindness.
Disclaimer one: Emotional Fitness Training is not therapy.
Even the most learned researchers and therapists quarrel about much. Take their advice and mine carefully. Don’t just listen to your heart, but also think; don’t just think, listen to your heart. Heart and head working together increase the odds you will find useful advice amid all the promises and hopes pushed at you be others. As others have noted, take what seems useful, leave the rest.
Disclaimer two: Forgive my grammatical errors
If you need perfect posts, you will not find them here; I will understand if you don’t follow, like or share what like me. Not only am I dealing with an aging brain, but all of my life I have been plagued by dysgraphia–a learning disability, Some of my posts might be peppered with bad spelling, poor punctuation, and worse words that make no sense. If you want to hang in with me, thank you; you are kind. If a post doesn’t make sense or bugs you too much, try reading it a few days later. Often I catch the worse mistakes when I read the post after a few days.