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Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Nitzavim-Vayelech – Teshuvah – A New Beginning

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 4, 2007


Torah Portion: Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:9 31:30 Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10 – 63:9 Isaiah 55:6 – 56:8

I have decided to try an weave two of my most precious life-lines together – Torah and the 12 Step Program of Recovery – there really is no better place to start that challenge than on the second Last Shabbat before Roshashana and Yom Kippur.

So this weeks Dvar Torah is dedicated to my friends in Recovery – you all know just who you are 🙂

Focal Point Devarim/Deuteronomy 30:6-14

Then the L-rd your G-d will open up your heart and the hearts of your offspring to love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul, in order that you may live. The Lord your G-d will inflict all those curses upon the enemies and foes who persecuted you. You, however, will again heed the L-rd and obey all His commandments that I enjoin upon you this day. And the L-rd your G-d will grant you abounding prosperity in all your undertakings, in the issue of your womb, the offspring of your cattle, and the produce of your soil. For the L-rd will again delight in your well-being, as He did in that of your fathers, since you will be heeding the L-rd your G-d and keeping His commandments and laws that are recorded in this book of the Teaching — once you return to the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul.

Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it. impart it to us, that we may observe it?”

  1. We admitted we were powerless over [insert your drug, process of choice here], that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of G-d as we understand G-d.

Did you know that in the original “order” of the 12 Steps [which were actually 6], steps 1, 2 and 3 were baked into one?

Why was that? Because realizing that we are powerless and that our lives have become unmanageable can be very overwhelming, and more often than not there are behaviors we need to stop right away if we are to save our very lives, so we need to move from powerless and unmanageable without anywhere to go, to powerless and unmanageable with not only hope of a place to go, but to a place where we can actually be restored to some resemblance of sanity – and that my friends happens in step 3.

See, step 1 won’t tell you anything but that your are powerless and unmanageable, step 2 will only tell you that sanity is possible – but neither of them will actually provide sanity so being confronted with steps 1 and 2 is rather harsh – that’s why, originally, people were asked to take the 3 first steps as one, because step 3 will restore sanity on a daily basis, because step 3 is where we give up trying to control ourselves and the world around us and let G-d (as we understand G-d)take control of us one day at a time.

“But I don’t believe G-d loves me, that He cares about me or that He even exists!”.

One of my sponsors once told me that it doesn’t matter what I believe – it matters what I do. So my beliefs is immaterial, because if I tell G-d every morning that I turn my life over to Him (whoever or what ever He is) He will do the work as long as I do my footwork – go to meetings and check in with my sponsor. Did I believe it would work? No. But I did it because it was my last way out of a life that had brought me to the abyss where I was seriously staring suicide in the eyes. I was in so much pain that I would probably have done acrobatics if my sponsor had told me it would work.

But the simple wisdoms “Act as if” and “Fake it till you make it!” is actually in Torah: “And he took the Book of the Covenant and read it within the hearing of the people, and they said, “All that the Lord spoke we will do and we will hear.” (Shemot/Exodus 24:7)

Children learn through mimicking what adults do – they do before they understand what they are doing. Torah tells us that, in regards to a functional life (because that is what living according to Torah leads to) this is the attitude we need to take – learning/understanding through doing what we need to learn/understand.

So, I can work Step 3 even if I don’t believe it, just because I need to, and eventually it will be something I believe, something I do with faith and hope and trust that G-d as I understand Him, is restoring me to sanity on day at a time.

So how is this all connected to Torah and being Jewish?

Well, for one working step 1 is a natural part of the Jewish Path – every year, with the start of Elul, Jews all over the World begin a process of self-reflection, self- examination that will eventually lead them to identification of areas in their lives where they are out of control and need to do Teshuvah (return to Torah and G-d). Hope is also built into the Jewish Path – that G-d will restore that which was broken and bring sanity, because when the Gate closes on Yom Kippur all of Israel has been forgiven and a new beginning is declared.

“In all their troubles He was troubled, And the angel of His Presence delivered them. In His love and pity He Himself redeemed them, Raised them, and exalted them All the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9)

Step 3 is just a natural sequel to all of this in Judaism – Teshuvah – Forgiveness – Renewed Observance. All in the manner that fit each of us and our recovery.

Here’s a Jewish Prayer that fit perfectly to say at the end of any 12 Step Meeting:

Adon Olam

The Lord of the Universe who reigned
before anything was created.
When all was made by his will
He was acknowledged as King.

And when all shall end
He still all alone shall reign.
He was, He is,
and He shall be in glory.

And He is one, and there’s no other,
to compare or join Him.
Without beginning, without end
and to Him belongs dominion and power.

And He is my G-d, my living G-d.
to Him I flee in time of grief,
and He is my miracle and my refuge,
who answers the day I shall call.

To Him I commit my spirit,
in the time of sleep and awakening,
even if my spirit leaves,
G-d is with me, I shall not fear.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in 12 Step Program, Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30, Faith, Haftarah, Hope, Isaiah 55:6 - 56:8, Isaiah 61:10 - 63:9 Isaiah 55:6 - 56:8, Parasha Nitzavim-Vayelech, Recovery, Seeking G-d, Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, Teshuvah, Torah, Weekly Parasha | Leave a Comment »

The Lost and Found of Torah

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 23, 2007


Parashat Ki Teitzei – Torah Portion: Deuteronomy 21:10 – 25:19 Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1 – 54:10

Focal Point: Devarim 22:1-3

1 If you see your fellow’s ox or sheep gone astray, do not ignore it; you must take it back to your fellow. 2 If your fellow does not live near you or you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home and it shall remain with you until your fellow claims it; then you shall give it back to him. 3 You shall do the same with his ass; you shall do the same with his garment; and so too shall you do with anything that your fellow loses and you find: you must not remain indifferent.

My friend Yael commented on another Blog Entry:

 

“But, the ones who lose what was always a part of their identity sometimes have a pretty rough time moving on with life. I wouldn’t be bragging about doing that to anyone.[…]In my interactions with people I always try to encourage Christians to live by the teachings of Jesus the best they can; if they are Jewish to live by the teachings of Torah as best they can; whatever religion they are, use it to be a truly good person.”

If we connect those two statements it becomes clear that Faith is something you can lose. What to do if you find a fellow’s lost Faith by the way-side? You keep it for him until he can come and claim it, and then you give it back to him!

Ok, I admit, I am stretching the text here, but I still think the thought has merits 🙂 After all, we can ask forgiveness on account of those who cannot, will not or do not know that forgiveness is possible – we do it every year on Yom Kippur, so why not hold on to my fellow human’s lost Faith? After all it’s something he lost, he probably misses it, and even if he doesn’t miss it, doesn’t know he needs it or doesn’t want it, what’s the harm? Will it cost me anything to hold his lost faith in trust until he can claim it for himself? No. On the contrary, it will help me grow a person?

So how do I return someone’s lost Faith to them? One thing’s for certain, unless they are actively looking for it, there’s no way it will be fruitful to try and dump it on them like a sack of potatoes, that’s just mean, pushy and arrogant.

Faith’s little Sister is Hope. Hope incites Faith.

What is hope? “…the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible…”

Most of the time hope is kindled by the simple act of being present for someone who is in any kind of need. By simply being human, compassionate, honest and attentive towards another I can show that the out-look of life is not at all that bleak.

I cannot be sure that this will succeed, but for the sake of the commandment to return anything lost back to the one who lost it, I have to try. Like I stand with The People on Yom Kippur and ask forgiveness on account of those who cannot do it for themselves, so I can hold Faith in trust for those who cannot do it for themselves. We have a Tradition that teaches us that Mitzvot can be performed in honor of others. So why not hold Faith, perform Mitzvot for the sake of those who cannot do it for themselves, whatever the reason.

So when you get up in the morning, instead of berating those you think are lax in their Observance, put on your Tallit and Tefillin for the sake of those who cannot, put an extra coin in your Tzedakah box, do an extra run through the Weekly Parasha when you study and Hold Faith for them who have lost it, until they can claim it for themselves.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in Deuteronomy 21:10 - 25:19, Devarim 22:1-3, Faith, Hope, Isaiah 54:1 - 54:10, lost faith, Mitzvot, Parashat Ki Teitzei, Torah, Yom Kippur | 8 Comments »

The Introduction Part 2

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on July 26, 2007


Sage

“The very ascription of normative force to a divine command is a matter of decision. Like many other weighty decisions, this one may be tacit rather than explicit. In the typical case, one is committed to halakhic practice as a result of socialization. Only in situations in which it cannot be taken for granted need the decision enter one’s awareness. The tradition presents the decision to accept the Halakha as a unique historical event which committed the future generations of Israel. However if we follow out the logic of Leibowitz’s position, it would appear that recognition of the validity of this commitment requires constant renewal of the basic decision. The heteronomous force of the Torah and its Mitzvoth is dependent upon continued autonomous commitment (either explicit or tacit) on both communal and personal level.” (Introduction p. xv)

This sounds self-evident to me – again thoughts that have been roaming my mind for years. First the idea of acceptance of faith as a matter of fact (tacit) through socialization and then the idea of acceptance of faith as a result research (explicit) f.i through conversion, but also if the socialization was missed because of f.i secular parenting. Both are valid, and both require constant renewal.

I’d like to enter a thought that was put forward in the comments to “The Introduction Part 1” –

“And with that you should keep in mind that Leibowitz was a Litvak. While we see eye to eye on Jewish ethics, his approach to Jewish observance does not suit the needs of every Jew.” (Mobius July 25th, 2007 at 9:32 am) My emphasis.

When I read Leibowitz I am constantly reminded of Dr. Ellis Rivkin, and the idea that every generation of Rabbis pass the authority of Torah, the Mitzvot and the interpretation of those on to the next generation of Rabbis – which in reality means that even if one were to reverse the order of importance of Written and Oral Torah, the halahka one decides to follow would still be binding, because it’s been transmitted through a chain of halakhic decisions from Sinai to the present. If I choose to take up a certain practice, regardless of which order I give to WT and OT, I cannot one day decide to not do that practice, as that would be violating the level of observance that I have accepted on a personal level.

I also see how Ellis Rivkin and Yeshayahu Leibowitz share a strong kinship in terms of what Judaism and being Jewish is. This is a great comfort to me as I search for a way to reconcile within myself a Zionism that is based in Jewish Law and Tradition with a sense of something not being quite right with secular Zionism. But again I am forestalling the discussion 🙂

“In Leibowitz’s opinion, a need cannot possibly be a value since it is given, not chosen. Freedom of choice is not a value in its own right, but a condition of all valuation. It is something imposed, part of the human condition, not an end in itself. Autonomy does not commit one to any specific norms, not even “the Moral Law.” Hence there is nothing contradictory about the idea of autonomous commitment to a heteronomous system of rules.” (Introduction p. xv.)

I must say that I really don’t see any conflict or contradiction between an autonomous commitment and a heteronomous system of rules – such as halakha. After all, I still have to get up in the morning and put on my tzitzit, lay my tefillin and say my prayers. regardless of whether the decision to do so originates from within me or is imposed on me from without. Both require that I activate myself and move according to a religious imperative.

Posted in Faith, Halakha, Introduction, Litvak, normative, Yeshayahu Leibowitz | Leave a Comment »

The Introduction part 1

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on July 24, 2007


Reading Glasses

The Introduction to the Book is written by Eliezer Goldman.

I admit that I have difficulties getting all the finer points in Goldman’s Introduction to the Thinking of Leibowitz – I am not too familiar with the thinking of Kant on factual and normative. But I understand the meaning of the words, thanks to Dictionary.com!

Philosophy
In philosophy, normative is usually contrasted with positive (i.e. descriptive) or explanatory when describing types of theories, beliefs, or propositions. Descriptive (or constative”) statements are falsifiable statements that attempt to describe reality. Normative statements, on the other hand, affirm how things should or ought to be, how to value them, which things are good or bad, which actions are right or wrong. It is only with David Hume in the 18th century that philosophers began to take cognizance of the logical difference between normative and descriptive statements and thinking, although Socrates had emphatically established it more than two thousand years before. There are several schools of thought regarding the status of normative statements and whether they can be rationally discussed or defended. Among these schools are the tradition of practical reason extending from Aristotle through Kant to Habermas, which asserts that they can, and the tradition of emotivism, which maintains that they are merely expressions of emotions and have no rational content. Normative statements and norms, as well as their meanings, are an integral part of human life. They are fundamental for prioritizing goals and organizing and planning thought, belief, emotion and action and are the basis of much ethical and political discourse.

You get that? I kind of do – normative is what we decide is the rule about something – regardless of whether it’s facts or not.

“Ultimately all normative obligations and value-imputations are dependent upon personal decision. A valuation may, of course, be justified in terms of already recognized values, but one’s ultimate values cannot be the subject of rational argument. Their validity for a person results from decision, not from recognition. Since Leibowitz regards religion as an exclusively normative domain and denies that Scripture was intended to be a body of information, this is as true of religious commitment as it is of all other basic life-values. Factual knowledge may be forced upon us by experience. There is nothing to compel one into acceptance of any ultimate value-commitments, including that of religious faith.” (introduction pp xiv-xv)

So religious faith is a choice. Well, I believed that already – though I wouldn’t have said it like that – I usually say it like this: “the existence of G-d cannot be proved nor disproved, so any belief based on the existence of G-d must be a matter of Faith.”

So what is religious faith according to Leibowitz? Leibowitz is Jewish (or was, as he died in 1994) so he is speaking about Judaism. To Leibowitz religious faith is the “Commitment to observance of Halakha as worshipful service of G-d”.

I like this – because it carries a thought I have had, often in discussion with more liberal Jews who complain about the rigidness of the Orthodox: “If it hadn’t been for the rigidness of the Orthodox there would have been no Judaism for you to claim!” Observance of the Mitzvot is the core of Judaism and what it means to be Jewish – in essence that is what makes one Jewish, and that observance is what has kept both the Jewish People and Judaism alive for more than 3000 years.

Posted in Aristotle, Faith, Halakha, Introduction, Kant, normative, Philosophy, Yeshayahu Leibowitz | 5 Comments »

 
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