Thursday, May 24, 2007

Shavuot Reflections

The importance of recognizing the role of our predilections in forming our attitudes toward God and revelation is that they force us to take responsibility for choosing the form of our agnosticism. We can be disengaged agnostics, waiting passively for someone to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that God exists and that the Torah is God’s word. Alternatively, we can become engaged agnostics, taking our not knowing as a symptom of the limitedness of our own understanding and seeking as a consequence to know, understand, and experience more through Torah and mitzvot.

And that is precisely why those of us who doubt God’s existence and/or the historicity of revelation need to celebrate Shavu’ot. We need to allow ourselves to be challenged by the message of Shavu’ot, that there is a God, and God has a will for us individually and collectively. The deep truths of existence lie beyond our individual and collective grasp. We need to return again and again to the study of Torah in an attempt to discover these truths and apply them to our lives.

Perhaps the Torah is literally God’s word... Perhaps it is an imperfect reflection of a supernatural revelatory experience. Perhaps it is the result of a collective effort by the Jewish people to understand God’s will for us here on earth. These are important historical questions that admittedly have theological implications. However, there is a deeply religious question transcending these that faces each of us: how will I respond to the possibility of God and Torah, with indifference or with the humility of human limitedness that leads to encounter? We need your answer by tomorrow.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Eliezer Diamond, JTS

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