I have always found the notion of “belief” rather troublesome.
It reminds me of the story from the Gospel of John, when Jesus told doubting Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” That story bothered me, which is the nutshell version of why I became a Jew.
I chose to be a Jew. I chose it not because of any belief, but because of things I see, things I can believe. I see a way of life that offers me a path to goodness transcending human failure. I see a tradition that demands that I yearly examine myself and ask, sharp-tongued, am I being my best self? I see communities of people who care for and about one another, who care for and about the world, who make room for difference.
(Yes, I know there are Jews who don’t do those things. Show me any group of human beings that never fouls up and then we’ll know that there is alien life among us.)
I saw a community that made room for me, a fat disabled lesbian with a Southern accent, and who then turned to me and said, “Bring it!” I saw a prayer book full of words that I could say or choose not to say, words with which to wrestle, words that if I let them flow over my brain long enough would show me where I next needed to grow. I saw a history full of role models to emulate, from the kind patience of Hillel to the audacity of Doña Gracia Mendez to the scholarship and devotion of Rabbi Regina Jonas.
I saw a community that had room for belief, but that also honored disbelief. I saw a tradition that valued words almost more than anything – except actions.
I saw a religion that did not claim to be the One True Path. It is one of many paths to holiness and wholeness.
In that, I can believe.
This post is part of #BlogElul, a series of social media posts created during Elul, the month preceding the High Holidays. During Elul, it is customary for Jews to prepare spiritually for the upcoming new year. An annual project, #Blog Elul is the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer. Learn how you can participate.