Thursday, December 5, 2013

Divine Providence

It's not the roof above my hea─Ć that's keeping out the rain
It's not the doctor's medicine that takes away the pain
It's not because of my hard work that I'll do well again
It's the One who was, and the One who is, and the One who will remain.
(Pulling Strings by London Girls' Choir)

People think the line of demarcation between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews is Shabbat observance.  And for the most part, at least on a practical, obvious level, this is true.  But there is another philosophical aspect at play that I have found to be huge line of demarcation as well.  Granted, the line is not drawn as clearly in the sand (some non-Orthodox Jews believe in this too, whereas some Orthodox Jews have a really hard time with it) but I've found it to be a barrier in conversation and understanding.

True story a friend told me:
My daughter went to Israel after graduating high school, like so many Jewish day school students do. I did not have any kind of a formal Jewish education and knew nothing about seminaries or yeshivas. I had heard many girls talk about different seminaries, but had no idea how one was different then the other. So when it came time to choose a seminary, my daughter did the investigating on her own. She decided on a seminary in Har Nof that turned out to be a great fit for her. It was a small school and the girls were very close with a lot of the faculty. My daughter often had Shabbos meals at her Rabbis’ or Rebbitzens’ homes. My daughter also forged a close relationship with her Aim Bayit (dorm mother), which was like an RA (resident advisor) when I was in college. 
My daughter had been accepted to a college in New York City, deferred for a year and was planning on starting her college years right after her year in Israel. It was getting towards the end of her year in Israel and she asked me if I would be open to her returning for another semester. I was so glad that she was enjoying her seminary and seemed to be gaining a lot from the experience. I was happy to send her back for another semester.

First year ended and she was home for the summer. It turned out that the college which my daughter planned on attending in NYC had a campus in Jerusalem. My daughter decided to take two college classes in addition to her seminary classes when she first returned to Israel. The class schedule worked out fine and she was all registered. The only problem was that the college classes started earlier than the seminary classes and the seminary apartments were not going to be open until two weeks after she got back. She didn’t know where she was going to stay for those two weeks.

The dilemma was solved quickly. The Aim Bayit, Sarah Leah Silverman, lived two blocks from the school and said she could live with her until the seminary apartments opened. My daughter was just about to go back to Israel and an old friend of mine from 7th grade saw on Facebook that my daughter knew Sarah Leah Silverman, so she asks her how she knew her. My daughter explains the relationship. My old friend then tells my daughter to ask me if I remember Shari Teitzman. I said “Sure. We were friends during my high school years. We knew each other through a youth group and had friends in common. We spent a week of our summer at a camp together and we even sang a duet in a talent show together."

Well, it turns out, Shari Teitzman became observant about 30 years ago and started using her Hebrew name. Years later she got married and was known as Sarah Leah Silverman. So the woman who my daughter had built this relationship with, was an old friend of mine from over 30 years ago. There was no way of me making the connection, and Sarah Leah had no idea that the young woman she befriended was my daughter.

My daughter finished seminary, made a life direction change, and ended up making aliyah. She now boards at Sarah Leah’s home and they are extremely close.  What incredible hashgacha pratis.

This story expresses how a [fill in your favorite term: frum, Orthodox, religious] Jew thinks.  It's the belief in Divine Providence, called in Hebrew "hashgachah pratis/t."   In Maimonides' epic Thirteen Principles of Faith, the generally accepted list of philosophical bylaws for an Orthodox Jew, it's #10.  It includes:

1. The belief that God is aware of the small details of your life (omniscient)
2. that He has the power to intervene and manipulate events just for you (omnipotent)
3. that He cares enough to do so (all-loving)
4. that everything He does is good (all-good).

(In fact, as Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith of aish.com observes, anyone asking "why do bad things happen to good people" is using these four truths as a premise.  If any of these are not true, the question disappears.  More on this later.)

There does appear to be, at least according to some, a "sliding scale" on personal attention that any given human being will earn.  Leviticus 26:21 warns, "If you act toward me with an attitude that everything happens by chance, I will respond and allow the forces of nature take their toll on you without any intervention on my part" (SR Hirsch's explanation).  Meaning, that if you try to see God's hand in your life, He will show it more and give you more personal intervention.

What I've found interesting is two-fold:

One, the angst that some Orthodox Jews experience with this philosophy and its corollaries, and two, the instinctive nature of some non-Orthodox Jews to embrace this (it's for sure popular, in fuzzier form, in yoga), despite the fact that the Conservative and Reform movement officially reject it [addendum: the Conservative Movement does not officially reject it. See comment section below.].

At least I think they do.  You won't it find it here or here (except briefly in Reconstructionist Judaism), the top two Google search returns to "reform, orthodox, conservative beliefs." When I tried to find out more I got a lot of Christian sites and stuff about George Washington (?).  I base my words on things I have heard Reform and Conservative rabbis publicly state, although I do have a hard time figuring out why this information is so elusive on the web.  It seems from what I've observed in my own life, Conservative Judaism deals with the question by stating that #2 above is untrue - that God cannot actually control everything [note: this may be the views on individual rabbis, and not a movement-wide belief. Again, see comment section.].

In any case, I live my life with this belief.  The parking spot that just opened?  God loves me!  The store that closed right as I approached?  It was meant to be.  Everything happens for a reason.  The investment that went sour?  It wasn't determined for me on Rosh Hashanah; it was never mine.  That guy that dropped my friend when she though they were getting engaged?  His basherte is someone else.

You can see where this philosophy has the potential to bring a lot of serenity its wake.  And to the really tough questions, like cancer, holocausts, and mental illness, what can I say other than I've seen adherents to this philosophy pull through and draw immense strength from this belief.  To those who feel it strongly, it's a balm for life's ills.

I would like to request that this post not become a forum to angrily address where God has wronged you in your life.  I will not publish comments that speak disrespectfully to me or to God.  

44 comments

44 comments:

  1. The issue of God's Sovereignty is one we deal with a lot too. It's an especially prevalent theological topic in the particular branch of Christianity I'm currently a part of so is something I've had multiple conversations about in recent times. On a personal level, I moved to where I currently live just under two years ago. In the period of time and uncertainty leading up to the move (which coincided with the Christian season of Advent, which is a time of waiting), even though we had to wait to go through all the interviews, etc., I *knew* that this was where God was leading us. I can't say that I've experienced that as strongly any other time in my life as I did then. It's so hard to describe--but I was certain this was where God wanted us to go (even though there was another job opportunity in a state where *I* would much rather have preferred to move to!).

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    1. Kelly, thanks for this comment. I have heard from many people (Jew and non-Jew) who have experienced this instinctive "knowledge."

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  2. I love this, Ruchi. You are absolutely correct about the line of demarcation, and it is one of the reasons I identified so strongly with the Orthodox movement and began studying from there. I personally hold by The Rambam on this, and I also like his view that evil is not a creation of G-d, but rather an absence of the good that He did create. Hence our mission to partner with Him and bring more good and light into the world. Far be it from me to try to explain all of life or G-d's purpose in everything, but it is my belief that His will is carried out one way or another. I do not regard it as a coincidence that Abraham was born in the Jewish year 1948, and Israel created in 1948 CE. I very strongly believe it would have come about without the Holocaust happening, though sadly we did not experience a less tragic series of events leading up to it.

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  3. I always believed in some sort of divine intervention (I didn't know the Hebrew term for it until much later) even though I was raised Reform. Not that I was taught that but that's just how I am. After I became more observant it made more sense to me. My (current) personal philosophy is that while Hashem certainly can, and does, intervene in the small details of our life and manipulate events, not all events are hashgacha pratis. For me, that's part of having free will and faith in Hashem.

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  4. I do believe in:

    "1. The belief that God is aware of the small details of your life (omniscient) 2. that He has the power to intervene and manipulate events just for you (omnipotent) 3. that He cares enough to do so (all-loving) 4. that everything He does is good (all-good). - "



    However, I just don't believe from the story you put in your blog that that was proof that G-d does get involved. Isn't G-d also involved if the woman who put up your friend's daughter NOT an old acquaintance. Either G-d is involved or He is not involved. It is actually stories like that which are so troubling to me. Every single life story there is would be proof of G-d's intervention in our lives, it just seems more obvious in some than others. It seems more obvious to us when something which seems unlikely to happen happens. When there is a lottery, there is always one winner. that one winner can then say, "look, G-d exists, because I won the lottery" but that is silly. G-d exists for all the others who didn't win the lottery either. They just weren't meant to. For every cure of cancer, there are many stories of those that weren't cured. Personally the one that troubles me the most is the story of the two men hit by lightening on their way to shul. We were always taught that you can't die on your way to do a mitzvah. But even for the those two men who died on their way to do a mitzvah, G-d exists and intervenes. This is what G-d clearly wanted. Unfortunately, we don't understand the meaning. I think it is for these reasons that these "hashagacha pratis" stories always trouble me.

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    1. G-d created "nature" too. That's when certain dynamics are put into motion and allowed to proceed as all (per the Exodus quote above). The daughter who met the woman who was NOT an old friend - maybe that's "nature" - which is really also G-d in a covert way. The host who WAS an old friend - that's overt intervention. Either way it's G-d behind the curtain.

      The woman I had in mind who embraced this concept with cancer did NOT survive.

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    2. Chaya and Ruchi,

      I don't know if you know who Iyanla Vanzant is... She's a life coach and has her own show on Oprah's network, so she has also been on Oprah's Lifeclass. One episode of Lifeclass featured a woman whose husband had died from cancer. She was struggling with a lot of anger because she felt betrayed by G-d. Throughout his illness, she believed strongly that G-d would heal him and she would constantly say, "G-d and I got this." After she had expressed her anger, Iyanla told her, "Baby girl, why do you not see that just because He didn't do what you wanted, does not mean that G-d doesn't 'got this.' He brought your husband home." That hit me HARD, and I kept it in mind this summer when my uncle lost his battle with cancer. Obviously Iyanla expressed it a bit differently than a Rabbi would :) but it was one of those beautiful moments when faith in G-d transcended religious differences. As you said, Ruchi, there is a lot of comfort that comes from trusting Divine Providence.

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    3. Sometimes it's hard to know if our prayers are answered if Hashem doesn't do what we ask. But "no" is a valid answer.

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  5. The sliding-scale seems creepy and punitive. And I would feel like a suffocated child if I felt that every parking spot (or other positive thing) were thanks to God's intervention; and every big or small misfortune were either God letting nature do bad things to me (in his withdrawal from me as a response to my lack of belief in him) or his active decision to make me suffer (for some good he can see but I can't).

    I guess God's constant and vigilant intervention would seem comforting . . . but only if you come to that idea with an attitude that all is good anyway.

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    1. Your last sentence is the key that reverses everything else.

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  6. Great post! When the parking space opens and my reaction is "God loves me”, I want to develop that SAME reaction of "God loves me" to the soured investment. It's not just "it wasn't meant to be"- it's BECAUSE of God's great love for us that it soured. (Source: 6 Constant Mitzvos)

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    1. That's the (lofty) goal for sure. But even in "blessing the bad" the Torah recognizes normal human sadness. "Baruch Dayan haemes" is still not quite as joyous as "shecheyanu."

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  7. Hashgach pratis: divine intervention. One of my favorite topics. But that's not really the correct translation. Gd watches over each and every one of us. And while it's nice to see and recognize "divine intervention" that's not always the case. We like to point out those anecdotes where we can clearly see Gds hand so that in the times when we struggle we can remind ourselves "this too is God'sq plan for me." Understanding/acknowledging hashgacha pratis is like exercising your muscles. The more you practice the better you get at it.

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  8. Great post---it's a good distinction among denominations, although I'm not sure exactly where the Conservative movement stands on these theological issues.

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  9. Dear Ruchi,

    Hello from New Jersey!

    Allow me a few observations:

    1. The Rabbis in the Talmud and throughout the Medieval period had a wide range of views about Divine intervention. There is no one belief among these Rabbis. Some believed God intervened only at the national level; some believed He intervened only for the righteous; some believed God didn't intervene at all.

    2. The "generally accepted bylaws of the Orthodox world" are not necessarily accepted by all, nor are they officially sanctioned by the sage you quote (Rambam). Read Marc Shapiro's "The Limits of Orthodox Theology" to learn how people have misunderstood and misused the theological writings of Maimonides. BTW, Shapiro is Orthodox.

    3. Conservative Judaism doesn't officially reject belief in "hashgacha" (nor deny it) because, as a mainstream continuation of traditional Judaism, it follows the custom of not having a catechism. Given that the Bible and the Talmud present a wide range of beliefs, it would be inappropriate to push this particular idea as "official." Your Google search yielded one Conservative Rabbi's chart. As my statistics professor used to say, " 'For example' is not proof."

    4. When it comes to God's omnipotence (#2 above): plenty of people believe this. It underlies many of our prayers. But you make it black and white. There are other options that don't undermine this belief. One, Kabbalah refers to a "tzimtzum" - God holding Himself back to make room for creation (and human action). Two, the concept of "haster panim" - God temporarily "going dark" and removing Himself from direction interaction with people. Three, the Pirkei Avot statement that "all is seen" (God is omniscient) but "permission (freedom of choice) is given. None of these take away from God's omnipotence.

    I am not commenting on why people choose to believe this, nor am I taking issue with the theological and psychological benefit of this idea. After all, even atheists once in a while will say "Barukh HaShem" or "Im yirtze HaShem." We often think and believe through our hearts, not our minds. I just wanted to point out that there is a wide range of beliefs, and no one Movement owns a belief, or the truth.

    Be well,

    Jim Rogozen

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    1. Thank you, Rabbi Rogozen, for presenting a good summary of other perspectives on this issue. Although I have done some reading on the topic, I am not as knowledgeable and would not have presented it as thoroughly.

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    2. Rabbi Rogozen,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. As you can tell, I am hardly a scholar in Conservative theology (if "for example" is not proof, a web search is hardly research).

      I am the first to agree that movements do not own truths. And I concede that perhaps "reject" was an unnecessarily strong word.

      I am basing my words on two telling things. One, Rabbi Kushner's famous "When Bad Things Happen to Good People." His conclusion seems to be a rejection of #2. Two, a prominent Conservative rabbi I know regularly rejects #2 as well (forgive me for not calling him out). So it would seem that a rejection of #2 is not beyond the pale of Conservative Judaism, which *does* lead me to a rather black and white conclusion. If it's acceptable to believe that God's hands are sometimes tied, then He is NOT all-powerful - power to intervene at any moment being axiomatic to the concept of Divine Providence. Perhaps it would be accurate to say that Conservative Judaism believes in a limited form of DP?

      Of course concepts like Hester panim and tzimtzum would explain why God might *choose* not to intervene, but these two rabbis did not use those ideas in the final conclusion.

      I am also curious about Conservative Judaism not having a catechism. Can you explain that more?

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    3. One' or even two rabbis' individual believes speak almost nothing of a movement's official principles. I know a few Reform rabbis who think it would be fine to admit "humanist" temples into the Reform movement, which official Reform policy does not allow. I can't speak for the Conservative movement (R' Rogozen is doing a fine job!), but just my 2 cents is that you'd have to look up the movement's actual official positions on this stuff.

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    4. I'm trying. Direct me, someone.

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  10. Ruchi, one of the many things I love about Star Trek is the "Prime Directive", which the principle that they are not allowed to interfere in the lives of others: in a kind if way, I like to think that G-d has a Prime Directive: in other words, when something bad happens, for example, G-d *could* interfere/take action, but for whatever reason, unknown to us, does not. So, it's G-d's choice, not inability. Maybe sounds a bit weird, but it makes sense to me and helps me. I do believe that things are meant, but that we also have free will, which sounds like a contradiction, but isn't, to me.

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    1. Great analogy. Thanks :) I know exactly who you are!

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    2. As a life-long Star Trek fan, I love that analogy :)

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  11. And then of course, just to add to it, Reform in the US and Reform in the UK are different!

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  12. Ruchi
    ,
    Rabbi Harold Kushner's book is awesome, and he's an amazing writer, theologian and scholar. But he is clearly identified as having a theology more akin to Reconstructionism (a split off from Conservative many decades ago, with a theology that has God acting through people, rather than from "above" or "beyond" nature).

    Within the range of most traditional theologies God is seen as "choosing" to act. In fact, Yehuda HaLevi in his medieval book "The Kuzari" writes that God created the universe out of "ratzon" - a divine "will." . "Ratzon" implies that God had an agenda; He didn't create the world out of boredom.Many theologians have tried to figure out what that agenda was (or still is). Some say it's to perfect ourselves, or the world, or get closer to God....or all of those things. Whatever our belief about God our direct experience of the world is that we, too, are choosing...all the time. In fact, in the Amidah we thank God for granting us "da'at" - the wisdom to choose. And soon after that, we thank God for granting us forgiveness when we mess up because God knows we will and do mess up!

    The gift of free will is an opportunity and a challenge. We learn, and suffer, and celebrate as a result of our choices. When we introduce the concept of God pulling strings, or arranging things "out of sight" for us, we risk diminishing our humanity. It can lead to people "giving up" and thinking that "God will figure it out" or "He'll show me a sign." It also drives us crazy trying to figure when God intervenes and when He doesn't. It forces to choose among a variety of options (Did I sin? Is God angry with me? Is there an invisible plan at work? Should I pray harder? Is God unaware of my prayers?). None of these can be answered with definitive proof.

    Finally, Judaism has always been aware of the indeterminancy of beliefs. Once we left Har Sinai, we have had to experience God intellectually more than physically. And, we know from the Talmud, that since the close of the Bible, prophecy has only been given "babies and fools." That's why we don't stress a set of "acceptable beliefs" (a catechism). The siddur embodies a range of beliefs, and an historical study of our sacred texts shows theological development (even in the Bible) over many centuries. We've been more of a "doing" people, while other religions have been "confessional" in their approach to who is "in" and who is "out" of the fold. I think that's why you'll find, in the Conservative Movement, two Rabbis and three opinions.

    The one thing I know we'll agree on? Shabbat is awesome and I wish you a great shabbos!

    Jim Rogozen

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    1. Actually, I agree with almost everything you just said! Is that indicative of the movement? I would like to amend the original post.

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    2. Happy to be have such a nice dialogue!

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    3. Love this thread. Thanks Jim for clarifying! Working on the Reform piece. I hope to comment more fully Sunday. Good shabbes to all.

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    4. I still don't feel that I have gotten clarity, though, on the Conservative Movement's position on divine providence. Rabbi Rogozen's last comment did not differ in any significant way from the Orthodox position. Unless there is no significant difference. Looking forward to hearing your comments, Leah.

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  13. Helps if I say who I am....Alex, from stormy Scotland(aka craftyweemidden)

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  14. Ruchi - what a great post. I am a Conservative Jew and don't want to debate any of your points. I just want to say that when I think I have locked my keys in the car and found I haven't, I thank God. When I almost get in a car accident and avoid it, I thank God, when I wake up in the morning after having slept the entire night without getting up once (I'm of that age), I thank God. If you were to ask me if I believe that God is constantly intervening in my life, I would have to say no, however, I am constantly thanking God for intervening in my life - pretty strange, huh? And yet, up until this time in my life, I have never blamed God for the bad things in my life. What a strange connection I have!

    Susan

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    1. Susan, I am fascinated by your comment. Was your attitude influenced by your upbringing, or is it something you developed on your own? Do you think there's some kind of taboo involved in saying "God intervenes in my life"? Like that sports player who thanked God publicly/prayed for the game and got thrashed by all my more liberal Jewish friends?

      The blaming God for the bad is a very common human reaction, so how did you resist that urge? Thanks for weighing in!

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    2. Hi Ruchi, Thanks for your comment. I wrote a great response and then Google did a google on me so I'll try again.

      I grew up in a household that identified as Conservative. We kept the laws of kashrut and celebrated Friday nights together without fail - except when we went out to eat and then we had treif. It wasn't until I was in my early 20's that I realized I had been the only one to regularly go to services. So I'm guessing my attitude is my own - I don't remember God being a factor in conversations in my home. My mom died when I was 15 and we sat shiva and my dad and I went to minyan every day for 11 months where I really learned to daven.

      I don't see the point in blaming God for bad things. That's not to say that I don't get angry at God and pout and yell and turn my back for a while - those are human reactions and I'm very human. But I prefer the God that keeps me company when I am lonely and I prefer the God that helps me to appreciate what I have as often as possible. I don't gain anything by blaming God.

      We were given free will. I don't know how that plays out with God's intervention but blaming God for bad things is a little like accusing someone of something without knowing all the facts. I can't know the facts so really, what is the point of being angry with God every time something goes wrong. And really, if I get in a car accident, the other driver and I are probably responsible - that's the way it usually works.

      As for athletes, I actually think that whole thing is a bit silly - do we really believe that God cares which sports team wins? That if one team has a religious athlete that his/her team should win over the other team where they are all rotten? Ahh, if only life were that black and white :) But I think your point had more to do with the acknowledgement of God issue and that's a different issue. We live in a time and culture where most of us are uncomfortable with that. But for me, the issue is that I think it is silly.

      Anyway, thanks, as always. Love your blog.

      Susan

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  15. Such an excellent post and conversation starter as usual. I'm forwarding this to some friends. Thanks, Ruchi.

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  16. The erudite Rabbi Rogozen is 100% correct that belief in hasgacha pratit down the level of very minute detail of any individual's life is not accepted across the board even in orthodoxy. Actually, it was a chidush [novel idea] introduced by the Ba'al Shem Tov and as such, a cornerstone of Chassidic philosophy. My [adult] children, having been inculcated with this belief from a tender age, have a much more innocent and complete faith in G-d than I do.

    Of course, one needs to view all life occurrences - whether revealed good or chalila the opposite - as such. While viewing life trials and tribulations thru these glasses, we can and should believe that G-d intends them all for our good. Much as a doctor may administer bitter tasting medicine to cure bodily ills, so G-d strives to cure our soul's ills. Also, that we may merit to actualize any and all spiritual strengths that may lay hidden deep within us, until called to the fore by loss or grief.

    May we all merit to see only reveled good in this world or, barring that, merit to clearly see the good concealed within.

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  17. Rena,

    Maybe I can express a tiny difference between my view and yours? Rabbi Akiva who said we must bless God for the good and the bad. I don't think he was saying we must bless God because each good or bad event was specifically "intended" by God, but that all things are possible because God created the world in the way He did.

    In other words, blessing God for the good is an easy response, but to not bless God over the negative is to say that God's power is limited (back to the comments earlier in this thread, a la Rabbi Kushner). I'm not sure that the "bad" things are always directed, personal lessons, sent by God just for us. Sometimes "stuff" just happens and while we acknowledge that they are part of God's world (which includes people acting as independent, wilfful humans), we must figure out what, if anything, we can learn from them.

    The reason I push for this view is that sometimes we suffer and we are not to blame and God isn't pulling any strings. Furthermore, I believe that when things like that happen, (pardon the anthropomorphism) God "feels" our pain and is "with us" helping us get through our suffering. God pays a "price" for giving us free will.

    We can learn from everyone we meet and everything we experience. What we do with that defines who we are. This was best said by Victor Frankl: "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

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    1. Rabbi,

      If you could insert where you speak to your own position, and where you speak in the name of the movement, that would be helpful. Meanwhile, I have a question.

      You say, "The reason I push for this view [that stuff just happens sometimes] is that sometimes we suffer and we are not to blame and God isn't pulling any strings. Furthermore, I believe that when things like that happen…God "feels" our pain and is "with us" helping us get through our suffering."

      I think what you are saying is that you're OK with dp as a concept for the good, but not for the bad. But there are many reasons bad things could happen that have nothing to do with blame. God's world is infinitely complex and there are many multitudes of reasons why things happen. Something could be sad, but not bad. Michael J. Fox expresses just this in his memoir "Lucky Man." He doesn't view Parkinson's as a punishment from God, but rather as a wakeup call to live life meaningfully. Why is it not OK to accept this view?

      And, why can't God's suffering along with us ("imo anochi b'tzarah," as iconized in the burning bush) coincide with Him sending us personal messages that are tough but good? These two concepts seem eminently combinable. I do it all the time as a mother. I make my kid play with the awkward kid. My kid is uncomfortable. It's viewed badly by my kid. I know it's good. I feel her pain.

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    2. Ruchi I don't think he's saying that - I think he's specifically referring to bad things happening, and that a) we bless God for both per R'Akiva, and b) not every good thing is God pulling the strings either. Jim, am I interpreting this correctly?

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    3. Exactly! I was saying that many people only bless God for the good because it's natural to be thankful (or relieved when danger or illness passes). For those same people, the "thanking God for the bad" just doesn't come as naturally. To be intellectually honest, one could/should also question whether "good" things were sent specifically by God and (whatever the answer) what lesson can be drawn from those events.

      Ruchi, I can't separate out my personal views from "Conservative" views because Conservative Judaism didn't come into being as a separate type of Judaism with specific changes in the belief system. It was really a way of studying our texts and traditions through modern historical, linguistic and legal lenses in order to understand how Judaism developed over the centuries. It didn't dictate a new set of beliefs about God; rather it helped us understand where our beliefs came from. It also helped put into perspective the way Reform and Orthodoxy were responding to modernity. Obviously, from the 1950's forward, institutions within the Conservative "Movement" began making legal decisions that led to some distinctions between Reform-Conservative-Orthodox practice, though there is still a wide range of practice within Conservative organizations. But it has never created a fixed theology that everyone must follow. Put another way, it's "deed over creed."

      Jim Rogozen

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    4. I think I understand what you're saying now. So in my original post, it wouldn't be correct to say that Conservative Judaism officially rejects DP or any other particular belief tenet in traditional Judaism, but that it is definitely possible that individual Conservative rabbis may do so.

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    5. Yes. But one caveat: I truly believe that people's beliefs change over time, even from day to day. So the Rabbi who "rejects" certain views now may come to reconsider them later on. In the meantime, we live our lives as Jews, even as we question certain beliefs.

      It's like the two guys on a bench arguing about the existence of God. One of them, who had just spent an hour insisting that God does not exist, suddenly gets up and says, "It's time for Mincha!" His friend says, "But you don't believe in God!" The first man says, "Yes, but a Jew davens."

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