Every once in awhile some of the birthright people who pass by the street where I work come in to look around. Yesterday I got into a conversation with a couple of them, twentysomethings from South Florida. Both are grad students, bright and articulate. They were having a great time on their trip but expressed the view that, if I'm repeating this correctly, Judaism is something that it's nice if it's passed down from generation to generation, but if it doesn't happen, that's life. One of the guys said that his family kept kosher, nominally, and his parents were interested in maintaining traditions. The other guy had some connections with Chabad on campus.
For his college thesis, one of these kids wrote a piece called something like "Why Religion Will Destroy Humanity". He said that the rabbi that he consults told him that Judaism's creed is "do what you have to do".
I am -- stunned. If someone told me that the essence of Judaism was "do what you have to do" I'd head out too!This was a rabbi who told him that? A Jewish leader?
This morning I read an article about a new Israel 20somethings tour where the participants are exhorted to "marry Jewish, have Jewish babies, raise Jewish kids". It's better than the generally parve "don't-open-the-whole-issue-of-Jewish-assimilation" attitude of most of these programs. But....why? Why marry Jewish? Why have Jewish children if Judaism is just a kind of "do what feels good" religion? That wouldn't hold me for long either.
Judaism teaches that Jews should search to find what God wants them to do. Yes, God -- the only four-letter-word in existence that's really just three letters. The word God isn't supposed to be uttered by modern free-thinking progressive Jews, but it's time that it is. Jews are God's Chosen People, not because Jews are better than anyone else, but because Jews are chosen to seek out God's will and try to fulfill it.
Maybe God wants us to "do what we have to do", but if we go forward with the knowledge that it's a Higher Power that wants us to behave and act in a certain way, it will put our spirituality in a new and stronger perspective and hopefully give an understanding of why it's important to adhere to our heritage by each and every one of our actions.
I'm afraid that I wasn't very politically correct when I was talking to the guys -- when the one guy told me that that's what his rabbi said, I just burst out "that's b.....t". Sorry, rabbi.