Humanistic Acts of Prayer
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.