1. Three Religions Judaism A thru E
1. The Three Religions-Judaism1. Three Religions Judaism A thru E
This section does not concern itself with inward realizations, but rather acquired information from outside sources. Judaism, and the two religions that emerged from it, Christianity and Islam, are discussed. Pros and cons and various observations are written about each. This is not fully fair and balanced and scholarly. Rather information that led to insights that affected my thinking are my concern.
It has been written during a difficult time. My dad broke his hip and for a time it was touch and go and he still is in survival mode. I would have started this earlier but had to spend six weeks in New York near him. His situation effected other areas of my life, so this is written with some sense of urgency. I think its important to get this done.
Originally I had 140 pages of notes from many years of reading. I could not read my own handwriting easily. So I reviewed some of the original material and took 50 pages of notes and hopefully some major themes come through. I mention the authors, some more credible and some less so. My basic research was pre google so total accuracy with facts and names and spelling can't be guaranteed. I value accuracy but the thrust of what I'm after comes first. If you need more information and want to verify the facts, google them, look them up on Wikipedia or email me.
My bias is to use Judaism as a basic reference and standard and material to draw from. It is the root from which the others emerged. I don't spend as much room justifying Christianity as it is the dominant culture that we were exposed to in North America and its underpinnings are more widely known. I spend more time pointing out its discrepancies because I've had to learn them when Christians often tried to convert me. Of course outside of there being the one and only God, all that I know, or all anyone can know, is what is observed on the path from A to B which changes perspectives as one progresses along the way.
I'm inspired by the story of Rosenzweig who, when fighting in the trenches in WWI, wrote letters to his colleague and friend who converted from Judaism to Christianity and with whom he carried on a full debate under such conditions. His deed helps me push myself.
1 A. Rosenzweig....A place to start
His history is worth reading about. Living in the early 20th century, he began as a brilliant philosophy student in Germany who also was friends with Eugene Rosenstock, another philosophy student who also was born Jewish. Philosophy left both empty. Rosenstock eventually converted to Christianity and persuaded Rosenzweig to do the same. However, before doing so, Rosenzweig wanted to experience a taste of what Judaism was, for he was raised with mostly Christian and secular influences. He attended a Yom Kippur service and soon afterwards miraculously committed to becoming a Jew. During WWI he carried on an historic friendly debate with Rosenstock while fighting in the trenches. Through all the years of both religions coexistence, few intelligent dialogues have taken place. This was one of them.
According to Rosenzweig, he came to Judaism a free man, meaning he liberated himself from his surrounding cultural influences and obligations so he could follow his own thinking and instincts. .it wasn't an entrenched cultural affiliation that drove him. He considered philosophy, Christianity, and I'm sure numerous other avenues before becoming a Jew. This applies to many of us and I'm sure is valued above. We have a choice on what path to take and are not enslaved to one religion from birth. Slaves have no choice. We come bruised and muddied but free to choose and to discover. Is not that the true contribution of America? To find out for yourself?
In a sense this describes a group of Jewish thinkers all existential in their approach. Since they were all living in foreign lands and not under the roof of one temple and place of worship, every man was an island. On this island one had to come to one's own conclusions. Their conclusions individually were arrived at eventually forming a consensus. There is some integrity with this process. Martin Buber, Leo Baeck, Abraham Heschel were others rooted in this process. (There is even some relationship to Kierkegaard here.) What choice did they have? Theirs' was not the dominant culture, so they had to become independent thinkers and searchers.
The downside to being a Jewish existential thinker is that the community is downplayed. It does not live and function as one cohesive entity. The family, children, their upbringings cannot have their proper environments if people are 'finding their own way' to the truth. The lone pilgrim is not the best volunteer to help set-up meetings.
Eventually Rosenzweig saw some validity to Christianity as way to reach all the nations and introduce the God of Abraham. If Christ is 'the way to the truth and no one comes to the father accept through him,' the Jews were already there. He saw many avenues as contributing to God's overall purpose, such as 'socialism.'
On that Yom Kippur eve what convinced him to embrace Judaism? I can only surmise that he experienced for the first time what 'worship' of God through ceremonial service was like firsthand and it spoke to him. This worship and praise of God is actually the core of what Judaism is about.
Eventually Franz Rosenzweig was challenged by Lou Gehrig's disease but he continued to write and study Judaism and to grow in his wisdom and peace until his end.
1. B. Brief of traditional Jewish history
In an hour long brief on the whole of Jewish history, Heinrich-Boll Stiftung sums it up in a few lines. Abraham, an important player in the whole design, established a direct relationship with a monotheistic God.
Eventually a book called the 'Torah' was written describing the Jewish journey (descendants of Abraham). Stories, history, wisdom, teachings, God's words, and later commentary comprise its content.. Mr. Stiftung sums up the entire immense endeavor with two words “be nice.” So clever. I agree. Beautiful summary. Abraham was the inspiration, and 'be nice' captures the essence of all behavior.
In a brief history crash course, Rabbi Ken Spiro begins with the premise that God is in charge of everything. Judaism is a story with a plot. Everything in the universe is under God's control. There is no random activity. Finally, there is a finish line. These few sentences say a lot.
Man was created to have a relationship with God. In the Garden of Eden, the design was for man to have the highest relationship with God while in a perfect environment and cultivating this relationship. Something went wrong. Man's attention and focus strayed and began to value and respect various forms of nature worship, including the sun, the moon, the trees, and the purpose of creation was lost.
A general decline took place and accept for Noah this relationship with God was lost. The flood was an attempt to clean the slate and start over. Abraham was part of this restart. He was 75 when God spoke to him. The idea of monotheism was introduced and here was a chance to bring the people back to God. God basically said 'I choose you' and the Jewish people were like point men leading the way back. At least this was the design.
Jewish time in theory began with Adam and would last for 6000 years. The first 2000 years, from Adam to the Tower of Babel, is referred to as 'desolation.' Humanity has little relationship with God. The second 2000 years, from Abraham until the completion of the Mishnah in 240CE, is call the 'Torah.,' the law. The final 2000 year period from 240CE to 2240CE is called the 'Messiah.' where humanity returns to God and Jews play a key role. Before the end of the 6000 year period is the 'Messianic' era, setting up a final stage for 'The world to come.'
The Greeks believed in cycles and fate and humans had little control of either. Time went on for infinity. People were created to serve the Gods. Hence they often said someone has a tragic flaw. There was a tragic character to the Greek world view.
The Jews, on the other hand, emphasized human potential to make a difference and partner with God to create a better world. Each holiday represented a certain theme. Passover represented free will and freedom, Succoth joy in this world. The author compares time to a giant slinky, where cycles are repeated but also time moves forward through the marking of the holidays. Each holiday relates and repeats the past, while adding its own take on time as it passes by. The author emphasizes that the Jews believe that our decisions matter and we play a part in forming out destinies. The holidays allow us to have a dialogue with the past and learn from it while living in our present.
Finally, it is pointed to that the Jewish people are perhaps the oldest surviving culture and in considering their past one considers all of humanity's pasts. To some extent it's all inclusive. The Rabbi makes an interesting point in a succinct way and this helps even Jews themselves understand their own purpose. It helped to clarify some points for me too. I think this general outline is somewhat useful.
1. C. The case for historical Judaism
According to Lawrence Keleman, a student and teacher of Jewish history, the Jews have trouble accepting Jesus or Mohammed because there was no large group of people witnessing their revelations or anointment from God. In contrast, at Mt. Sinai, God spoke to Moses and 3 million Jews, men, women and children, witnessed the event. One or two people could be delusional, but not 3 million. So if there was an update or new agenda, it is natural for the descendants of these 3 million to expect a fairly large audience.
Rabbi Josef Mizrachi, a contemporary Israeli Jew turned American and who later became an orthodox rabbi, states there are 80,000 religions and all started with no witnesses and no proof. He says the Torah said God will speak to Moses through the clouds and all will hear. If this is the case, all descendants have a distant relative who heard God speak, both literally and figuratively (some were converts.).
1. D. The Torah
Rabbi Mizrachi is a Haredi Jew. From what I read or hear about them they can be overly zealous in their ultra orthodoxy. He was a secular Jew before and oversaw the technical proficiency of Israeli army jets. Regardless of what he was or is, his points hold interest.
In Judaism, Moses wrote five books which traditionally are the centerpiece for the Torah, often called the Pentateuch. Other books were written but these are considered the core. The meaning for Torah is instruction and this instruction consists of knowing how to live. Also recorded at the time was the oral Torah, which elaborates and offers commentary on the original text quite extensively.
Given that Moses wrote the five books inspired by God, the orthodox hold to a strict adherence to every word originally written. The claim is that there are no modifications. If the Torah is from God it has to be precise. According to Mizrachi, if there is one discrepancy with one accent or letter or fact or phrase, the entire Torah is invalid. Copies also must be precise, or they have to be redone. There is no room for error here. Every word and dot has to identical to the original. Any deviation means it can't be from God, for God does not make errors This is how the strict orthodox see it.
1. E. Proof of God in the Torah
Mizrachi points to scientific proof that there is a God in the pages of the Torah. I must add personally I believe there is no definite proof of anything. There is however, things that appear evident beyond a reasonable doubt. The question for each of us would be how could men/women at the time know these things. They seem beyond the scope of knowledge and technology capabilities of the day, or even until very recently.
In Leviticus fish only with fins and scales are kosher. Fish that have fins with no scales are not kosher. All fish with scales have fins. No fish exist that have no fins and no scales. Of the millions of fish in the oceans how were these guidelines known with such certainty so many years ago? Observation, experience and passed down information can just cover a limited territory. Hence, its alluded to that such knowledge must come from a divine power.
Again in Leviticus, animals with divided hooves that chew cud are kosher. There are approximately two million animals to consider. Out of all these animals four are the exception which have only one sign. The camel, the pig, the rabbit (hyrax) and the hare. Of all the millions of animals there were found no other exceptions. Again, how was this known at the time? It appears to be from some supernatural power.
In the same chapter circumcision is performed on the 8th day after birth. From research in 1953 it was discovered that on this one day during the average life of seventy years for a man, the blood contains 10% more vitamin K, thereby helping blood coagulation during this surgical procedure. Again, how did they know it was the best day? Why not the 5th day? Trial and error? Perhaps. Still impressive.
The shortest time for the renewal of the new moon as discussed in the Torah is 29 days, 12 hours, 40 minutes plus 73/60 of a minute, or 29.53059 in decimals. NASA found the shortest renewal period to be 29.530588, a difference of 2/100,000 of a second from what was written thousands of years ago. In 1965 German scientists refined that to 1/100,000 of a second in their calculation of 29,530589. Makes one think.
In the Zohar (mystical interpretation of the Torah) written about 2000 years ago the length of the year was calculated at 365 days a year. The earth was said to be spinning which took 24 hours and night was on one side while day was on the other. In the North pole night could not be found accept for one hour. In 1908 the first person went to the North Pole and confirmed this.
It was written the Western Wall of the Holy Temple would never fall down as that would be the end of Judaism. The 1st Temple was destroyed 2600 years ago, and the 2nd Temple was destroyed by the Romans 2000 years ago. During these millennium the Greeks, Babylonians along with the Romans occupied Jerusalem at different times. Somehow the 'Western Wall' was left standing. How did it avoid destruction as predicted?
It was claimed until Galileo's time there was 6000 stars in the sky. The Jews claim there are more stars. It is said there are 12 sections in heaven and each section is 30 degrees totaling 360, as in horoscopes. Each section has 30 armies, and each army has 30 legions, each legion has 30 divisions (My notes aren't clear on the last two names for the last two categories so I call them divisions. I can't find the original resource and I can't afford the time to dig for it at this point,) and each within this category has another 30 divisions each containing 365,000 x 10,000 stars. All this comes to 12 x 30 x 30 x 30 x 30 x 30 x 30 x 365,000 x 10,000 which equals 10 to the 19th power.
Eventually Galileo did find out there were more stars and later NASA confirmed there were 10 to the 19th power number of stars. Whew. Again, please forgive my not being specific on a couple of categories. I spent some time trying to find them but couldn't and I think this is interesting enough even if not complete. Otherwise I just couldn't include this information. It's important I get the gist out there and move on.
The point is it seems hard to imagine humans were able to arrive at this information on their own.