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Humanistic Acts of Prayer

by basilevine / February 16, 2011

Have you ever been asked a question that seemed to come out of nowhere?  One of those questions would be, “What about God?”  And I respond:  what about god?

Why would I be surprised you ask?  Shouldn’t I be used it?  For some reason, it seems to come up in a discussion of Humanistic Judaism.  After all, we speak about drawing on the traditions and wisdom from Jewish culture and history.  So, though it seems like a non sequitor to me, I guess we must get into it.

Our Jewish tradition has always included a wide spectrum of belief.  How important is what any particular Jew believes in any particular generation?   Do one’s beliefs really make one more or less Jewish?   I reassert that it is our actions and not our beliefs which are of prime importance.

Actually, didn’t our ancestors realize that something so indefinable should also remain unnamed as well?  Thus, they created many references, without actually broadcasting “hashem” or “the name.”  Let’s look at what our words mean.  I believe that we ought to take what we say very seriously.  Say what you mean and mean what you say.  It is what Humanistic Jews mean by “integrity.”  A worthy goal, in my view.

Humanism does embrace the possibility of spirituality.  Many of us have had powerful experiences of connectedness.  The awesome power and beauty of nature, the sharing of warm moments with loved ones, voices raised in song, can all be spiritual experiences.

We also work together performing acts of tsedakah and tikkun olam.  When asked about prayer, I reply that I choose this form of prayer – acts of justice and good deeds.  I speak aloud my commitment.  By saying, “this I will do,” those around me may choose to support my undertaking.  They may participate in ‘my’ project or activity and make it ‘ours.’  Their actions help make my vision real.  In so doing, my original idea may change, it may evolve, it may take on a life of its own.  This is how one Humanist’s endeavor has a prayer of succeeding.

Thus, my commitment here is to broaden the spectrum of opinion and discussion about Judaism in general and in Greater Boston in particular.  I appreciate this forum as one of the places to do that.

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That's one of the things I like best about Judaism. We hold secular heroes like Spinoza and Einstein in as high regard as we do religious thinkers like Maimonides and Rashi.  In fact, I learned more about secular/Yiddishist/trade-unionist Jewish history at my suburban Conservative Hebrew School than I ever did about midrash or Talmud.

This is a serious question?

Esther makes a great role model for Humanistic Jews.  She sees what needs to be done and does it to save the Jews of Shushan.  No mention of the name in her entire book!

In some ways, isn't this the question.... Can you be a good Jew and not believe in God?

Divorce is one thing, Beyond is something else.  I think beyond implies that there is so much more to Judaism.

Turn to wikipedia for this definition:  Ignosticism, or igtheism, is the theological position that every other theological position (including agnosticism) assumes too much about the concept of God and many other theological concepts. The word "ignosticism" was coined by Sherwin Wine, a rabbi and a founding figure in Humanistic Judaism.

I thought one of the most basic ideas of Humanistic Judaism was to divorce the benefits of Jewish culture from the supernatural elements of religion... after all, wasn't the movement founded by someone whose big book is called Judaism Beyond God?

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Actions of Prayer humanism humanistic judaism prayer

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