Monday, July 15, 2013

Walls and More Walls ... trying to explain why I don't want to be in a tribe.

Me: I'm bothered continually in the Torah class how Jews see themselves as members of the Jewish tribe as opposed to the human tribe.

He: I know a lot of Jews ... being one myself ... I've never yet met one that considers themselves separate from the human tribe ... in fact one of the central teachings, Tikkun Olam, is about how we all have a responsibility to repair a broken world and make it a better place for everyone. I've never heard any Jew saying those of other faiths would go to Hell, or were any less loved by God ... something I do hear quite often from our non-Jewish friends. Also, notice most Jews wear their mezuzahs inside their shirts, not feeling it necessary to broadcast to the world their faith ... it's a personal thing ... I've always wondered why others feel it necessary to display theirs ... often very garishly ... seems to be a “I'm holier than thou” kind of thing.

She: What does this have to do with Jewish people? Most jews that I know (and that includes family and friends) embrace cultural understanding and mutual respect for ideas that they might not share. They see themselves as very much a part of the human tribe, extending energy and other personal resources trying to better the human condition without regard to race and/or different religions.

Me: I really like what he and she said. I agree with every word, and still stick by what I said. Here are some words by a rabbi about interfaith marriage: In the talk, he uses the phrase, "we Jewish people." For me (a Jew by most definitions), that phrase separates us from others. It would be as if I said, "we people with a white gold wedding ring." Immediately I see set up two groups where one has excluded the other. It is great that the white golds do such good in the world. But I think that (also) that do gooders can be seen as demeaning. If I knocked on your door and said, "let me care for you" then I've identified you as one who is both separate from me, and one needing to be cared for. (I hypocritically took the Buddhist vow to save all beings from suffering. I suspect that has the same shortcomings of being both a separator and a demeanor.

Judaism, like all religions, separates some from the many. I don't think that how some take care of the many alleviates that separation. In the talk cited above, Rabbi Freeman says, “Any person who wishes to join the Jewish people and their holy mission is welcome, regardless of race, color, sex or family background. We only ask that they commit to keeping the rules G-d gave us ..."

My friend H sends me, almost daily, articles about the separation in the Middle East between the Jew and the non-Jew. I feel like saying “Duh, if you separate yourself from others then you shouldn't complain that you are seen as separate.” The photographer Edward Steichen was so brilliant when he coined the term, the Family of Man. He did that partially in response to his mom who scolded him when, as a kid, he yelled out an anti-Semitic remark. He worked tirelessly for the benefit of all beings, not as a member of one religion, but as a bonafide human being.

William Blake: I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

Me: I imagine that each of us resides in a circle in a vend diagram. We have constructed that circle, be it artist, female, or Jew. My Zen teacher reminded me the other day (as I talked to him about my dislike of separating one from another) that the separation is only occurring in the mind. I feel sometimes that we have the walls around ourselves that the ancient cities had/have in Europe. We understand why they needed their walls. But do we need them as well?

Dad: “Please, when I die, don't have a service in any church or temple. I don't want to favor one faith over another.” “Would you like to see a priest or a rabbi?” they asked him on his death bed, “no,” he answered, “a philosopher.”

Note one: I learned in Torah class last week that it is not okay to be satisfied as long as their is some injustice or unmet need in the world. I liked that. Seems that as the little girl is throwing back the sand dollars into the ocean, one by one, satisfaction would only cause her to hesitate and a few (more) sand dollars would dry up from the sun.

Note two: I'm attempting to see if I can not join anything in an effort not to separate myself from others. Of course, that may be counterproductive and the ultimate separation.


Anonymous said...

Kim, It seems to be an inbred trait for we humans to subdivide into discreet groups. We can still appreciate our common ground with all of our species. H.

Anonymous said...

Generally speaking, in my experience, Christians see me in either of 2 ways: 1) as a Christian (they are mistaken); or 2) as a potential Christian. Jews see me as a non-Jew. Christians want to include me, even if I don't want them to. Jews (strangers or acquaintances, not friends) have excluded me: "Oh, you're not Jewish." "You're a Gentile."

If I tell people I'm not Catholic, they assume that I'm Protestant. If I tell people I'm not a Christian, they assume that I am an atheist. I am none of these.

When I was growing up my best friend was Jewish and how I longed to be Jewish! However, I have not studied the religion or converted. I grew up without religion, but I do have certain beliefs.

It breaks my heart when I feel excluded by Jews. People I have known of other religions (Sikh, Muslim) surely knew I was not of their religion and perhaps assumed (incorrectly) that I am a Christian. But I never thought that they were thinking of me as a non-Sikh or a non-Muslim (even if maybe they were). But I know that some Jews have thought of me as a non-Jew. --BQ