Saturday, July 24, 2010

Back to Shul

Last night I went to synagogue for the first time since my parents died. It was a very very small gathering, since it was a low key service at which we would not have a speaker but instead discuss a passage of Deuteronomy in which all the major themes of the Torah return for the last time, a sort of finale.
I really enjoyed seeing people, and felt very much at home. Almost everyone asked me how I was, whether I was recovering okay from my parents' death.
The service was interesting, with a very stimulating discussion at which the members of the Torah group sat together and responded to each others' comments on the passage we were looking at. The Rabbi pointed out that the Shma, the declaration that is central to Judaism and can be said to be the only "doctrine" in the whole religion, is quite ambiguous, typically. We usually assume it means "Hear O Israel, the Lord is One," a monotheistic cry of faith. But it probably did not mean that, as the Rabbi points out, since the Jewish religion at the point this was written was not really monotheistic in the sense that people believed there were other Gods, but that they had been chosen to worship only this one. That was the reason for God's intense jealousy and concern that his people would pick up other practices and beliefs from the other peoples around them. So the firmest statement in Judaism is itself fodder for an argument.

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