Rules

Pick up a “how to” guide on being Jewish and encounter a collection of very specific mandates. It is, at first blush, less a religion and more a list of rules. There are exact words to utter upon rising from bed in the morning, the precise blessing to say depending on what foods a meal includes, and prayers to be spoken at various sites—including what to declare should one happen to lay eyes on a rainbow.

Almost no aspect of an observant Jew’s day is free from guidelines. These are not just the broad strokes I encountered on my journey into Christianity like the order to refrain from murder. Even though the Christian Old Testament is the same book as the Jewish Torah, Jews approach their holy book differently. An observant Jew will try to adhere to all the instructions contained within its pages.

In addition to the Ten Commandments, the Torah spells out 613 do’s and don’ts—and from these, Jewish sages have spun additional mandates to promote adherence to the original 613. These are included in two supplemental guides: the Talmud, and its modern companion, the Midrash.

Take, for example, the biblical instruction of “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk” (Deuteronomy 14:21). This simple commandment about how not to prepare a young goat for consumption has spawned instructions about never letting any dairy product come into contact with meat of any kind—and not just during the cooking process. Meat and dairy are never to occupy the same space whether on a plate, in a mouth, or in a belly. Even a basin that washes the utensils used to prepare one should not be used to clean the utensils for the other.

The guidelines are so detailed that they require Jews to wait between three and six hours after consuming meat before eating an item containing dairy. However, if the dairy product is eaten first, one may reduce this waiting time to a maximum of four hours because dairy-based items tend to be softer and more easily cleared from a person’s system. Unless, of course, the dairy was a particularly hard cheese—a piece of which may have gotten lodged between the teeth. In that case, sages have determined one should wait the full six hours—just to be on the safe side.

All told, it’s quite a bit of instruction generated from a brief line in the Bible, a comment that some contemporary scholars suggest may have been meant as a metaphor for a larger point about the ethical treatment of animals—even those intended for food.

For weeks, I pored over books trying to take in every letter of Bible-based law. I was in a state of wonder at both the breadth and specificity.  I could never comprehend all the instructions much less abide by them. How much of Judaism could I hope to experience?

Had I set upon an impossible task?

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29 thoughts on “Rules

  1. This reminded me of a recent program on HGTV wherein the Realtor was directed by a young Jewish couple to find a home with two kitchens in order to live up to the requirements you have described. He did manage to find one for them. I suspect that is why there are so many branches or sects of Judaism from the Hassidic to the Reformed. I think we do better when we transpose our religious traditions into a personal philosophy, a way of life that fulfills our spiritual need and that allows us to study and research its history and requirements but gives us the freedom to move within them with grace and ease instead of rigidity and self doubt.

  2. Can’t quite imagine being in this religion unless one is born into it. Conversion would certainly offer depths of family and historical welcome, but all the regulations could be intimidating. Perhaps that commitment is attraction. Laws are stated; if you haven’t broken a stated law you’re okay. .

  3. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the supplementary rules for “help” in trying to obey commands….I know what I’m tempted to say, because of thinking about how Jesus answered questions about traditions and such that were added (e.g., Sabbath rules, etc.). I just don’t know what present day Jews say/think about all this. I’m guessing that,, when you became so overwhelmed–as it seems from your comment about not comprehending or being able to abide by all this–you started probing to find out what modern rabbis would say…..whew!!!

  4. Corinna said:

    For weeks, I pored over books trying to take in every letter of Bible-based law. I was in a state of wonder at both the breadth and specificity. I could never comprehend all the instructions much less abide by them. How much of Judaism could I hope to experience?

    Had I set upon an impossible task?

    Can’t be any more impossible than figuring out the IRS tax code, right? 😉

    See, that’s the problem: it’s easy to dispense vague aphorisms and topsy-turvy paradoxical platitudes (eg “he who wants to be first is last”: does that apply to track and field events, too? You can just imagine Jesus serving as a judge at the Christian Olympics, asking the the first-place finisher if he wanted to be first, who responded, “why YES: I trained very hard for a YEAR to win this event!”. So Jesus would have no choice but to disqualify him, and declare the last-place finisher the winner, since the first-place finisher apparently wanted it too much). 🙂

    It’s ALWAYS hard when going from principles into “rubber meets the road” law codes, a process known as ‘codification’ (like is done when transferring ideals contained in the Constitution into laws). Most Christians don’t understand that the Torah is a LAW BOOK with historiographical stories intertwined to explain WHY it’s important to pay attention, and to tell the people of Israel their family history. Genesis opens with the account of Adam and Eve, who didn’t pay attention to subtle details spoken by God and the serpent and paid with eternal strife for all of mankind! The story is a bit like a driver’s education course, which begins with gruesome photos of car accidents: the instructor is trying to justify why the class should pay close attention to the otherwise-dry and boring vehicle code, except the Torah is civil codes.

    All sets of laws have a way of experiencing bloat over time, which is hardly accidental: aside from the different needs of individuals within a population facing inevitable permutations of situations that arise (eg what do we do if your oxen kills another person’s oxen, but the owner didn’t know about the animal’s violent tendencies?), the hard-to-untangle IRS codes basically serve as job-creation bills, job-security legislation for the hordes of registered agents, CPAs tax preparers, and book-keepers. It’s the very reason we’d be unlikely to ever see a flat-tax at this point: it would put too many financial services with well-funded powerful special-interest groups out of work. Similiarly, the Torah has bloated into the Tanakh, Midrashim and Talmudic interpretations, etc, thus ensuring the job safety of rabbis and the priestly class of Hebrews. Now THAT’S a blessing from God!

    Life is complex: it’s nice to envision a ‘pie-in-the-sky’ time of idyllic simplicity just around the corner returning (which is ironic, since Jesus’ time of living in Palestine under Roman rule was arguably the most VIOLENT and horrific time of human history for centuries before and afterwards), but it’s a nostalgic representation of the World existing as it never actually did, imagining a time that never actually was. There’s been no time in the history of homo sapiens where the standard of living and quality of life has been greater than the present.

    Dave

  5. Corrina, I’m reminded of one of acorporatewife’s posts in an earlier thread on Judaism, where her friend told her it wasn’t about accountability in the way many Christians understand it; he practiced what he could and tried to live being Jewish day-to-day. I think that’s a much healthier viewpoint than being rule-bound and paranoid of breaking some obscure law. I was thinking about how that relates to one of my posts in “Days of Awe” about the chart showing how many years we get in Purgatory for various sins. It’s easy to see how the Pharisees of Jesus’ time got caught up in the rules more than the faith, just as its easy to see how many Christians get caught up in their rules.

    • Hi Tim,

      This topic of “rules” directly ties into your comment about Jesus rejection of hand-washing, based on being a “man-made” tradition, so I’ll post on it over here. But first a bit of ground-work to make sure everyone is on the same page.

      Tim said:
      “It’s easy to see how the Pharisees of Jesus’ time got caught up in the rules more than the faith”

      Most Christians are aware of Jesus’ famous diatribes against the Pharisees and their “man-made” rules (as well as the warnings Jesus gave to “lying scribes” who tampered with the written Torah).

      Most though are unaware that those “man-made” rules were actually considered just as God-given and binding upon Jews as the Torah itself was, per ‘rabbinical’ (Pharisaical) Judaism, the group that survived and is synonymous with modern Judaism (yes, I know: there are other sects, eg Karaites).

      There’s a long tradition in rabbinical Judaism of an ORAL set of laws (torah) being handed down by YHWH to Moses atop Mt Sinai, where God is claimed to have given Moses BOTH the written Torah AND the oral Torah to supplement and fill in ‘gaps’ (there’s many references in the written Torah where it assumes familiarity with concepts that are actually found in the handed-down oral traditions, although they MAY have been added AFTER the fact, as if an attempt to continue with the patch-work process).

      Per rabbinical sources, God supposedly required that the oral traditions be handed down VERBALLY to each successive generation by the elders, in order to “write the law on the hearts of the people” (a concept found in the Book of Isaiah; it’s also an idea reflected in the common expression, “to memorize by heart”, and is based on the ancient misconception of the heart serving as the center of memory and cognition in humans when the role is actually carried out by the brain. Oops!).

      The oral Torah was placed into written form after the threat of extinction of the practice of Judaism arose as a real possibility in 200 CE: Jews were afraid the oral laws would be forgotten due to difficulties of teaching successive generations in the diaspora under foreign rule, or while facing severe religious prosecution (the practice of Judaism had been outlawed many times, and such persecution was at it’s peak after the Roman-Jewish wars). Oral recitation was just begging for trouble, since it would mean death if a young boys were heard reciting the oral Torah to memorize it, due to the difficulty of whispering it under the watchful eye of overlords (likely viewed as very suspicious behavior).

      Hence the work Corinna referred to above resulted: the Mishnah and Talmud, written circa 200 CE, supposedly containing the much-older oral traditions (which were in existence in Jesus’ time, since he often refers to them). The Talmud was far from monolithic: many different versions sprung up, coming from different sources (Babylonian and Jerusalem versions are the best-known). In that regard, it’s not really any different from the written Torah, since successive generations of scribes felt free to “correct” or “clarify” certain points which bothered them, but often significantly altering the meaning over hundreds of years (this type of transcription/translation error is well-studied, repeatedly demonstrated in many differing versions of the Torah found (eg Dead Sea Scrolls), and is the entire basis of the study of literary analysis used by OT scholars).

      Of course, the Talmud appeared about 170 yrs AFTER Jesus’ death, but he was referring to the oral traditions presumably later found in the Talmud, the result of an initiative spear-headed by the Pharisees, but NOT supported by the Sadducees who rejected the validity of any such added-on laws, seeing only the written Torah as the sole source of divine authority (a belief later shared with Early Christians). Perhaps the Sadducees saw it as a power grab, an excuse to write a sequel to the Tanakh as if an attempt to tamper with Divine Authority and gain control over the rank-and-file; oral traditions obviously allow room for alteration, esp when there’s few people responsible to transmit an idea by memory (and anyone who’s played the “pass the message” game knows how quickly meanings get altered via oral transmission).

      Problem is, the Sadducees completely rejected the belief in resurrection of the dead and the existence of souls that survived death, which was a central tenet of the Pharisees AND later, the Early Christians. In other words, the Sadducees resisted the influence of Zoroasterian and Hellenic beliefs of souls and resurrecting entering into Judaism, which was a similar polluting influence that had occurred over the recent 4 centuries.

      Hence Jesus was a Jew without a sect to ally with, since he rejected central tenets important to both groups and was thus neither fish or foul; he also wasn’t a follower, but a leader. In modern parlance, Jesus wasn’t a team player who was willing to accept ideas just for the sake of obtaining a consensus, or one to “go along to get along” (i.e. not tolerant and accepting of the beliefs of others, or one who’s goal was to obtain peace and agreement). Thus Jesus was forced to syncretize (mix) the beliefs of BOTH sects (and even added a bit of paganism into the blend, to taste).

      Here’s an article explaining Jesus’ anti-Pharisaical attitude, which is lost to many modern-day Christians who fail to understand the significance of the subtle jabs that Jesus was taking in the Pharisee/Sadducee theological battle, since these are often missed by modern readers who fail to learn the historical context of Judaism as it existed in the first century:

      http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/2007/02/Rabbi-Jesus-Not-Really.aspx?p=1

      (He briefly mentions Jesus’ hand-washing protests, but I had to lay some foundation before getting into that topic.)

      Dave

      • Hi Dave—

        You’re right about Jesus being a threat to the power structure in place during His time. I think most people forget how much of a “troublemaker” He was, because they read about Him without knowing the context of what it was to be live in Palestine under Roman rule. For example, His famous saying of “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” has a subtle rebellious sub-context. In those days, a Roman officer could randomly press you into service to carry something for him, but only for one mile. Roman law and a deal with the local authorities limited the service to a mile. So, if you “went the extra mile”, you were actually breaking the rules and humiliating the officer. Historically, the Romans didn’t much care about local religions or customs as long as you didn’t cause them any trouble. Had Jesus just been a nuisance to the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Romans wouldn’t have much bothered with Him. But when He started threatening the power structure, He became dangerous. People also forget the Jewish authorities had no authority to impose capital punishment under Roman rule. When the Gospels say “Pilate turned Jesus over to the Jews to be crucified”, that’s misleading. The leadership could have asked Pilate to condemn Jesus, but only the Romans carried out the death penalty. Clearly, He was a threat to the entire power structure.

        • Hi Tim,

          Yup, seems about right. 🙂

          The view that the Jews were across-the-board strict observers of the dictates of the oral and written Torah is a Christian-fueled myth based on the Gospels, since then, as now, there were rabbis and priests who offered different opinions, some of which were quite diverging and contradictory (Essenes vs Sadducees vs Pharisees were three main religious and political sectarian movements within Judaism at the time). It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but the Pharisees were more popular with the common people, and Sadducees were more aligned with the cause of the elite, being more orthodox Torah literalists (the same dynamics exist in Christianity today, with the Biblical literalists who believe in strict literal interpretation, even to the point of absurdity (eg talking snakes), and those who place greater weight in following the ‘spirit’ of the Bible).

          But as you say, from 600 BCE onwards Jews were living under conditions of slavery and/or Imperial (whether Persian, Greek, Seleucid, or Roman) rule. WIth rare exceptions (eg the Hasmonean Dynasty, which was semi-autonomous rule) the Jews didn’t call the shots, and weren’t allowed to self-regulate, or they WERE, but it was tightly-controlled by the Empire. Perhaps the most lenient was the Persians, who actually ENCOURAGED freedom of religion and self-rule in the lands they conquered (although a tax was paid to the Persian overlords); they may have actually encouraged the final canonization of the Torah (hypothesis of “Persian Imperial Authorization”), where the Persians required any Nations they conquered and/or liberated to codify a set of laws in written form before allowing them to self-regulate.

          Here’s an interesting short article written by David De Sola Pool in 1916 called “Capital Punishment Amongst the Jews”, which discusses how the Sanhedrin was actually a toothless tiger, being exceedingly liberal in demanding incredible standards of evidence that basically blocked obtaining conviction needed to sentence any Jew to death; the idea was God would render “perfect” justice, hence better to err on the side of caution and let 1,000 guilty men go free rather than put 1 innocent man to death, since miscarriage of justice would be the greater sin:

          http://archive.org/details/capitalpunishmen00pooliala

          (downloadable as a PDF)

          Speaking of liberal judicial systems, criminal “justice” under ancient Egyptian, Babylon, Hittite and early Hebrew legal codes included the concept of a defendant being able to swear out an ‘Oath of Innocence’, where the person accused of some civil or criminal crime could literally “cross their heart and hope to die” in the presence of their deity (eg in the presence of YHWH in the Hebrew Temple, or Istanu in Hittite beliefs, Temple of Ra in Babylon, etc). The accused would state they were innocent of the charge, and they’d be completely exonerated as their defense, as this method was used by courts as a final adjudication on the matter! Worse, the accused could then point the finger at another person, and that person’s trial would proceed immediately with them in absentia (if the person couldn’t be located and served), so they often weren’t even present for their own trial! The system worked pretty well until someone finally figured out that people could lie to save their own skin; worse, some people could lie and honestly believe they were NOT lying. Whoops, sociopaths and pathological liars actually DO exist. That’s a pretty big fly in the system’s ointment.

          So ancient courts (from approx 3,000 years before Jesus’ time) across various ANE cultures actually accepted “I swear to GOD!” as total absolute PROOF of someone’s innocence. How’s that for some pretty high-tech “perfect” God-given criminal and civil justice?

          That’s not just MY eisegetical interpretation of ancient legal practices: aside from the archaeological evidence of surviving legal codes carved onto massive steles found throughout the ANE across many cultures and periods, the very same concept is repeatedly seen in the OT: in fact, the ancient legal practice is the very concept on which the story of the Book of Job is premised!

          In the story, Job declared his innocence, and accused God as being the author of undeserved punishment since Job KNEW he hadn’t sinned; YHWH instantly appeared in a whirlwind of dust to present his own defense (which largely consisted of verbally stripping down the presumptuous mortal Job, with the “where were you when I did such-and-such” bit). In the end, Job decides it’s not wise to accuse one’s deity of a crime, and backs down from making the accusation (as Satan predicted he would).

          Robert Sutherland is a Canadian lawyer (and a Christian, actually) who’s researched the ancient legal concept of the ‘Oath of Innocence’, and analyzed the ‘Book of Job’ in the proper light in which is was written and interpreted:

          (Info is available on his webite, bookofjob dott org)

          So people who feel they don’t need any actual evidence to support their hypotheses will just LOVE this idea of justice, as it’s evidence-free “perfect” justice, based on having faith that others can’t lie in the presence of God!

          Fortunately, homo sapiens have advanced from a time when God’s “perfect” justice system served as the rule of law: courts now actually insist on BOTH sides of a trial being allowed to present and/or challenge incriminating physical evidence, or to cross-examine any eyewitness testimony BEFORE rendering a verdict convicting people of crimes. It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly more rational than God’s “perfect” and insane evidence-free “kangaroo-court” justice based on a false premise that people cannot lie.

          (BTW, the “Oath of Innocence” concept lives on to this day in the ‘swearing in’ process, where someone about to give testimony places their hand on a Holy Book and promises to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. If they should lie, they’re liable for perjury charges, not being cursed by God.)

          I’ll get around to Jesus’ hand-washing bit in a future post…

          Dave

  6. When I wrote in the Day of Awe post asking about how the actual Day of Atonement worked, I was thinking that it was going to be an in-depth but simple self assessment I guess I could say. After reading this posting, I am thinking that I might have been naive, considering how codified the rules for behavior have become. Me thinks that it might be a lot more complicated. And I look forward to hearing about it in a future post, Corinna. MET

  7. I didn’t realize that there are Jews who are still keeping all those laws. We have a conservative synagogue in our town and I’ve seen the families walking there on Friday nights, the women wear clothes that cover their entire bodies even in summer and are never allowed to let anyone see their hair except their husbands, so they wear scarves or wigs. I guess I figured these folks were probably keeping kosher. But all those other intricate laws? I had no idea. I would love to know, from a conservative Jew, how that is for them? Does it feel like a burden, or a freedom? I wonder if Corinna was able to get a sense of that.

    Also, what about all the Jews who don’t keep all those laws? How do they feel about the laws? about the folks who keep them? about themselves as Jews, not keeping them? None of the Jewish kids I grew up with lived in conservative households, so I’m very ignorant about this. wish I wasn’t.

  8. Oh boy, I just came across this, and even though I’m hijacking this thread I don’t care! Because this sort of this is right up our alley!
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/13/us/a-religion-that-embraces-all-religions.html?_r=1&

    ““Many of our most intractable ills may be laid on the altar of our divisions into ‘them’ and ‘us,’ ” Mr. Greenebaum, 65, said during his sermon. “Such a mind-set allows us to judge others and find them lesser beings. Now, I’m not here to try to convince anyone that there is no such thing as right or wrong. But I am here to say that there is no ‘them.’ And there is no ‘us’ who are somehow superior to them.”

    What do you guys think of this???

    • Shelley, this church is just a 2+ hour drive across the mountains from me! Truly, it sounds very much like the Unitarian Universalist Church that I attend. All UU churches pull widely from many of the world religions. Our responsive readings reflect this diversity. We are social justice oriented. Our last minister was Buddhist as well as being in our pulpit. Mr. Greenbaum obviously puts his own spin on this Interfaith community, but you all need to know that there are many of us in the UU churches who have already embraced this philosophy and, what I am sure, are similar principles. I am wondering what the differences actually are?
      Merrill

      • Interesting, Merrill–I didn’t know the UU Church was that broad-based….just proves you learn something new every day!

      • I wondered if you lived near the Living Interfaith Church, Merrill. It really sounds like a cool place to me. And yes I wonder too what’s different about the UU church and this one. Why he didn’t just start a UU church. Maybe he wanted to start with no preconceptions or the expectations a certain name gives?

  9. Wow, Corinna, you pick some doozies for topics! After reading what you said and thinking about the synagogue I attended in LA, they didn’t seem to be overwhelmed as they kept Kosher, etc. I know that’s a little different, of course, than keeping the rules.

    The rules began with 10 that were meant to foster relationships — a relationship of love between us and God, and relationships of love and peace between people. Loving God kind of lifts us out of letting our own desires drive us. And, when we are not so focused on ourselves, we can love others better. One of the biggest losses Adam and Eve suffered when they ditched God was peace. With the next generation violence erupted and it continued to get worse over the next few generations until God was beside himself with grief because of the violence. The law was meant to help with that. Also, there’s always grace. People couldn’t keep their part of the covenant, but the biggest good news is that God forgave when they asked. (But they did have the consequences of their decision.)

    The NT has lots to say about the rules as Christianity developed. Peter said: “We couldn’t keep them, why should a yoke be placed on them (the pagans who had become believers) that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?” Very interesting discussion on if the rules needed to be kept. But we need to stick with the OT right now and not get ahead of ourselves.

    I am getting ready to go on a trip so may miss a few discussions — going to NYC!! Can’t wait and hope to catch a play or two. Still think the last Days of Awe was a great post. I don’t think being forgiven by God means there’s a sort of a pall over life — ‘oh no, I sinned again– yikes, I’m in trouble with God’; or that I have a continual sense of “badness.” I don’t think it’s like that at all. It’s more of a relationship like with your spouse where you can know that you can be a jerk one day and yet he or she will still love you. So it’s being able to lean on that love no matter what. So the concept of needing forgiveness is a comfort to me, because it always gives me the chance at restoration, and also the sense of being loved no matter what. It’s a close, living relationship.

  10. Have a great time in NY, Ginger! It looks like you and Patti will be tag-teaming; she should be returning just as you are going. Loved your comments!

    Shelley, I checked out the link in your post. Technically, you didn’t hijack the thread because the congregation’s leader used to be a Reform Jew, so you’re still on subject! It sounds like this church puts into action what many of us have been saying—that there is a core set of common ideals that almost every religion (and philosophy) shares; to treat each other as we would be treated, to look after the less fortunate, etc. I was also intrigued by Dr. Prothero’s statements. I think I’d be comfortable visiting a congregation like this, but I’m not sure, having found the type of worship and belief system that resonates with me in the Anglican tradition, that I could commit to something so different. I think anything that brings a person closer to God (in whatever form He chooses to reveal Himself) is a good thing, but as Dr. Prothero said, it can be difficult combining some elements of each religion its adherents consider sacrosanct. For example, the Roman Catholic Church still prohibits non-Catholics from taking communion, even if they’re members of other Christian denominations. It could be very difficult to overcome that kind of institutionalization on a large scale.

    That said, I was cheered to see Mr. Greenbaum’s desire to erase the “us” versus “them” mentality. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t feel the need to prove someone else wrong just so I can feel I’m right. Who knows, I could be wrong about this as well. Maybe the Living Interfaith Church is what Jesus was talking about when He said He wanted to “gather all nations unto me.”

  11. Tim said: “I was cheered to see Mr. Greenbaum’s desire to erase the “us” versus “them” mentality. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t feel the need to prove someone else wrong just so I can feel I’m right. Who knows, I could be wrong about this as well. Maybe the Living Interfaith Church is what Jesus was talking about when He said He wanted to “gather all nations unto me.'”

    Amen, brother!

    Wondering if Frank’s spiritual gathering place has similar tenets? The description of this church made me think of Corinna’s subtitle. It seems like they are mining religion, and taking the gold from all of them.

    • Good morning!
      I was so interested in the Living Interfaith Church and how it compared to my UU church that I went to their web site and dug around (HA HA…a mining metaphor!) anyway, I dug around to see what interfaith meant to Mr. Greenbaum. The UU Church is inclusive and broad-based in our endeavor to search for our own truths….and in cherishing the universal truths from the great prophets and teachers of other religious traditions. We integrate rather than trying to re-create the various forms of religions into our services. All are welcome. Short version, obviously.

      The Living Faith Church seems to take a different tack. They appear to not integrate, but instead endeavor to maintain the form of each of the several religions that they recognize: Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Native American beliefs, ….there are 7 or 8. Their Sunday Services read like a course in comparative religions. They have posted a list of the topics for its Sunday Services for the past three years…..a veritable smorgasbord of opportunities. It is impossible to tell from this list of “Honorings” what these services include……if they are just informative, or if they try to emulate some of the practices of that faith. And I have to admit that most of the services sound intriguing and would certainly expand my level of knowledge and understanding of these various belief systems. Constructive Agnosticism? See that one piqued my interest!

      However, this approach made me a bit uneasy. For two reasons. First, it is not so different in many ways from the journey that Corinna has taken us on. However, we have been able to reach some depth of understanding both by reading her posts and through our long, diverse conversations. Questions asked and answered. We spent many days on each new visit….which were really mostly in the Christian realm. And we still didn’t scratch the surface.

      The second directly related to the post we are presently on: The Rules. One of us earlier posted about the problems of going through the rituals and traditions of a religion without the belief foundations to support them. It is worrisome to me to have people skim over the top of religions without understanding the broad history and belief system that hold that group of people together through time. Look how we are struggling to understand Judaism in the form that Corinna has presented! Look how naive I was about the Day of Atonement. Religious beliefs are just darned complicated and complex! If I have learned nothing else in the past 7 months, I have learned that!

      Living Interfaith Church has a Covenant and Six Living Assumptions that recognizes a “spiritual core” in the universe but they do not define what that must look like…..they honor multitudinous spiritual paths…..call for social action and stewardship of the earth……and are all inclusive human-wise. They intend to erase the “them” and the “we.” And their Sunday services certainly support those general principles. It just makes me uneasy to think that taking one dish each week off of the smorgasbord table and sampling it will be a good way to satisfy ones appetite. Again, that is just me.

      I hope I have not slighted the work of Mr. Greenblum…..go to the Living Interfaith Church of Lynnwood WA site and gauge this for yourself. If is an interesting and surely novel approach. And, he does have a book for sale, if you’re interested. There is that marketing thing again! And I am sure that many have purchased it to see how they might start a Living Interfaith Church where they are, as there is presently only that on here in Washington. It is very a very appealing concept for many who feel disgruntled with and disenfranchised from present day churches…or their non-churched lives.

      I am sticking with my UU Church for now; it suits me better! I have never though of myself as a casserole woman, but I seem more that way than not! And that’s just me! Thanks, Shelley, for bringing this different view to us……for those who don’t like all these rules, it is a breath of fresh air!
      Merrill

  12. I just read the article you suggested, Shelley. Lots of food for thought in Greenbaum’s philosophies – I could definitely check this out if I wasn’t geographically challenged! I really like the ecumenical emphasis and the ‘virtue in action’ stance. No religious intolerance here; the focus is on the positive from every source of inspiration. Too bad there’s only 30 people onboard!

    • I know Carmen, I want to move to Washington so I can be #31, not because I want to join yet another church, but because I like what I read so far and want these folks to grow.

      I read this sermon: http://livinginterfaith.org/?p=452 on the church website, and dang, I like what he is saying. Like this: “Now, I’m not here to try to convince anyone that there is no such thing as “right” or “wrong.” But I am here to say that there is no “them.” And there is no “us” who are somehow superior to “them.” And there is no wrong that is somehow made less wrong because it is practiced by “us” against “them.” ”

      And this really makes sense to me: “There’s another reason “right belief” stands as a wall of separation. Because if among all beliefs there is only one “right” belief, and if your belief begins to make sense to me, then my beliefs must be wrong. And if my beliefs are wrong, my life and my parents’ lives have been without meaning. With this much at stake, if I face someone who believes differently than I do, and I embrace the idea that there can only be one “right” belief, I have a very real survival reason for holding my hands against my ears and not listening.”

  13. Hi Folks
    I spent the morning on the road. I dropped our son off for a three-day orientation at UCLA, which meant crossing the breadth of L.A. during rush hour. Like I told Carmen in an email, regardless of your spiritual position, try driving across L.A. during rush hour and you’ll know what hell on earth is! But I relieved the stress by cleaning the house top to bottom! LOL.
    Shelley, I think the quote from the sermon is the essence of how I view spiritual life. I’ve found what’s right for me and my family in the Anglican/Episcopal tradition, so that’s where I need to be right now. However, I think God speaks to us in a variety of ways, using whatever method resonates with us. God isn’t just the God of Catholics, Protestants, or even Christians. If you believe, as I do, He is the universal God, then He is the God of all people. So it makes no sense to me that, having created in us different ways of seeing Him, He’d condemn those who don’t follow one certain path. It’s like this morning. Because I know L.A. pretty well, I didn’t follow the standard directions the college emailed me, because I wanted to avoid the worst of the traffic. So I didn’t follow the “approved” route. But when we got there, nobody closed the gate and told me I took the wrong streets. They were just satisfied we got there.

    • What a big smile you put on my face, Tim, as I read your “parable” about driving other roads than the approved way to get to UCLA and the gate was still open. I’ll have to remember it to give in a talk some time.

      • Tim, I love it when real life creates metaphors! Sometimes it is in taking those alternate routes that we find things that we never expected….the best surprises! Congratulations to your son as he enters UCLA and the next stage of his life. And you and your wife must also be proud. MET

  14. Frank said:
    What a big smile you put on my face, Tim, as I read your “parable” about driving other roads than the approved way to get to UCLA and the gate was still open. I’ll have to remember it to give in a talk some time.

    Merrill said:

    Tim, I love it when real life creates metaphors! Sometimes it is in taking those alternate routes that we find things that we never expected….the best surprises! Congratulations to your son as he enters UCLA and the next stage of his life. And you and your wife must also be proud. MET

    Thanks guys. When I was writing it, I thought it sounded kind of corny, but what the heck, I took the shot. Yes, we’re very proud of our son; he’s a good kid. We were extra lucky—he got my height and my wife’s looks—LOL!

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