Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah–B’chukotai

I found God in the oddest of ways. For many, the path to faith appears via an epiphanic moment of some great or devastating event in life. I cannot count the number of times I have heard people share their witness, “I hit bottom and did not know where else to turn. I opened my heart to God.” I have heard, “I could only explain the miracle by accepting that God intervened.” For so many, faith comes on the heels of the storm … or the rainbow. For so many others, they accept or reject God because they were taught to. “Mom and Dad took me to prayer, so I grew up praying.” Or, “Mom and Dad never did anything, so it was not important.” Still others reject God simply because they either get so mad at the God in whom they do not believe that they pretend God does not exist, or reject God since God is indefinable. So many people accept or reject God based on his or her personal experience, as if that is definitive of all possible interactions with divinity. His/her personal experience makes God absolutely real or absolutely false … for all people. People mock (or far worse) each other over their divergent theologies. The “personal God” experience, rather than affirming the breadth of God for all of us appreciating each other’s experience only serves to diminish God. These people lock God in their own personal protective boxes.

I was one who rejected God because I could not touch God. I kept hearing people talk about all that God demands, and many of those people made God look schizophrenic. God’s demands seemed to contradict each other depending on who was telling me what God commanded. “God demands that you accept Christ.” “God demands that you reject that there has been a Messiah.” God demands that marriage is only between a man and a woman.” “God demands that we seek love and pursue love … and respect all equally in love.” “God chooses some people over other people.” “God loves all people equally, for everything that breathes is God’s child.” I will not even get into the connotations offered and problems started if we dare argue that everything thing that breathes being God’s equal child would include jellyfish. So, for years, I sat out of religion, believed that science controlled all, and defiantly argued that man invented God.

I first found God through Albert Einstein. He argued that we have a choice to make. We can live as if everything is a miracle; or as if nothing is. If everything is a miracle, than even the fact that we disagree on all this stuff is, itself, part of the miracle. It is miraculous that we can all be right. This was a scientist talking about miracles. A major door opened for me. What I figured out was that “truth” was only the best answer we could fathom with our limited tool boxes, and that “truth” would evolve as we grew our experiences and allowed ourselves the freedom to look beyond the fences we build around our theologies. I get it. Each of us needs something different upon which to rest or grow our faith. Martin Buber affirmed this reality in delineating his concept of “I and Thou.” No one can do your “I and Thou” with divinity, but you.

Then, many years ago, I read a verse from this week’s Torah portion, “I, Adonai, am your God who brought you out from the land of the Egyptians to be their slaves no more, who broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect. (Lev. 26:13)” We were freed from Egypt so that we could walk, unyoked, erect, and with our head held high. I love this imagery. But then, I thought about all the “religious” people who try to force others to put back on the yoke of servitude to their brand of God. I was not freed, just so that I would have to enslave myself to someone else’s version of God. In this epiphany, I came to understand that faith is about doing the best that we can to live life in a way that respected everyone else’s way of life. Who am I to tell someone who to love? Who am I to tell someone that they pray in the wrong direction or ineffective body position? What I see is that there a whole lot of amazing and wonderful people who “do God” in wonderfully diverse ways. I think that in this big mix is where I find God … celebrating the incredible diversity that somehow finds its way to join in one heartbeat. Shabbat Shalom.