Monday, August 01, 2005

The Dragon's Fine, Thank You.

I've avoided discussing my theological struggle on this blog until recently, for various reasons. At this point, I think it would be best to articulate one of those reasons, even though it's kind of silly. You see, for whatever reason, most of my readers are to the right of me on the religious spectrum. As a result, I often find myself defending liberal Judaism. (This is somewhat ironic, given that my religious practice is to the "right" of the vast majority of American Jewry, but never mind.) I've often thought: what would it say about liberal Judaism, if its defender turned out not to be a believer at all?

The truth, I've come to realize, is that it doesn't say anything about liberal Judaism. All it says anything about is me. I've met Orthodox Jews who seriously doubt God's existence, and I've met Reform Jews with deep, unquestioning faith. And, while it's true that my doubts were partly responsible for my shift toward a more liberal interpretation of halakhah, I know others who have moved in a similar direction for entirely different reasons. Movements are made up of many individuals, each with his or her own distinct spiritual history, convictions, and doubts.

It should be clear by now that, notwithstanding my doubts about God, I am, in my own way, still deeply committed to Judaism. I've never questioned that fundamental commitment, any more than I'd question my love for and commitment to my husband and family.

So, about that dragon: It may be invisible. It may not even exist. That won't stop me from putting out milk and cookies, and otherwise making sure that my garage remains a comfortable place for an invisible, heatless fire-breathing dragon to live.

(Please, spare me the observation that I don't have a garage.)

26 comments:

Shaya said...

You should also read up on Kaplan, he basically believed in judaism, but not God.

elf said...

At this rate, it should only take DH another 5 years or so to finish Judaism as a Civilization. Then I can read it.

My impression, though, is that Kaplan did believe in some sort of God, just not a very traditional one.

elf's DH said...

Yeah, it is my fault. Lemme think of how to write this nicely: Kaplan's writing style isn't very interesting to read. It takes a really long time to plod through it.

I haven't gotten up to the theology part yet...

Dovid said...

How can you be "deeply commited" to Judaism, and doubt the first of the ten commandments? If you want to rephrase that to you are deeply commited to the "practical obsevence", I'll understand.

elf said...

Hence "in my own way." When I say "Judaism," I don't mean the particular conception of contemporary Orthodoxy, but the larger complex that Mordecai Kaplan called the "evolving religious civilization" of the Jewish people. When I speak of my "commitment," I mean that the themes and language of Jewish literature and history are integral to the way I conceive and talk about the world, and halakhah is integral to the way I live my life (even if I don't observe it perfectly).

Mis-nagid said...

"My impression, though, is that Kaplan did believe in some sort of God, just not a very traditional one."

Kaplan did not have one opinion his entire life. He seemed to vacillate between some variant of Deism, Agnosticism and Atheism. Any impression you get of his thoughts should be credited with the time he thought them.

"Kaplan's writing style isn't very interesting to read."

"Folkways" was cutting edge stuff back then :-).

"It takes a really long time to plod through it."

Guilty as charged. I'm still making my way through my copy.

"the larger complex that Mordecai Kaplan called the "evolving religious civilization" of the Jewish people."

Does that mean you're a Reconstructionist, or do you just utilize some of Rabbi Kaplan's ideas?

Mis-nagid said...

BTW, R' Kaplan may be tough to read, but he's got nothing on R' Soloveitchik. Reading Halakhic Man or The Lonely Man of Faith is like chewing gravel.

shanna said...

(Please, spare me the observation that I don't have a garage.)

OK - but I didn't realize that dragons ate cookies and milk, either. ;)

elf's DH said...

Always keep cookies handy. You never know when you're going to need them.

fleurdelis28 said...

OK - but I didn't realize that dragons ate cookies and milk, either. ;)

Ooh! This could be the first denominational difference in invisible-dragon-care.

Mis-nagid said...

Cookies and milk? How Christian. The Jewish Dragon preferes a cup of wine on the seder table.

elf said...

mis-nagid: I'm not sure I even know what it means to be "Reconstructionist." Kaplan himself never left the Conservative movement, even while his followers were creating the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. His ideas seem to have had a profound impact on the Conservative and Reform movements, but I don't think that makes them "Reconstructionist." (Or, maybe it does...)

DH and I daven with a Conservative minyan, but we have close ties to the local Modern Orthodox community, partly because our mode of observance is roughly in keeping with its standards. I don't think I'd fare very well in a typical Reconstructionist community because of my observance level, and because I find the Reconstructionist liturgy aesthetically distasteful. In principle, though, my approach to Judaism is more or less "Reconstructionist."

To the rest of you: My dragon eats cookies and milk. Wanna make something of it?

aaron said...

elf's DH: It's not so easy to keep cookies handy. They tend to disappear...

fleurdelis28 said...

Sounds like it's time for a dragon nutrition holy war! ;P

Rachel said...

Dragon nutrition. I love the Jewish blogosphere, I really do. :-)

elf's DH said...

Well, then what are you going to feed the dragon? health food?

elf's DH said...

tofu salad?

shanna said...

Seasonal fruit and whole grains. Duh.

Mis-nagid said...

The Invisible Pink Unicorn prefers oats.

elf said...

The article says that the IPU (blessed be her hooves) likes raisin bread and pineapple pizza.

fleurdelis28 said...

Somewhere ages and ages hence, some doctoral student is going to do a very serious dissertation on early-21st-century worship of the Invisible Pink Unicorn.

debka_notion said...

Well, oughtn't we give said doctoral student a hand and provide more useful information of the care and feeding of Invisible Pink Unicorns?

shanna said...

Wait - the IPU and a dragon live in elf's (non-existant) garage? If they, y'know, get along really well, do we have to worship their children too?

BTW, we actually have a (shared) garage in our new building, so any dragicorn spawn are welcome to live at our place, if yours gets too crowded. ;)

elf's DH said...

I don't know if space will be a problem. How many dragicorns can fit on the head of a pin?

miriam (aaron's dw) said...

Now why would you want to keep them on the head of a pin? Out of room in the garage? dragicorns sound really cute, though, if a bit dangerous. (Sharp horn *and* fire-breathing?) I'd offer to bring them some cookies, but aaron and the kids ate them all. Have to go bake more...

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