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So - you're not a believer. 

Guess what?  Most non-religious, non-observant Jews are not believers.  And guess what else?  YOU DON'T HAVE TO BELIEVE TO BE A GOOD JEW!

Unlike other religions that are based more on belief - Judaism is based on behavior - Deed not Creed, as it's said. 

Of course Judaism is FOUNDED on a firm belief that our laws of behavior come from G-d - - stem from G-d's decrees to those that stood before G-d and Moses on Mt. Sinai and received the Ten Commandments - AND ALSO - ALL THOSE THAT FOLLOWED - INTO THE FUTURE - INCLUDING NOW!

That's a basic Jewish belief. 

BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT to be a Good Jew and to practice good behavior that conforms to Jewish tradition!

The thing that's amazing about Judaism is that there is SO MUCH TO LEARN, STUDY, DISCUSS,  PRACTICE, ENJOY in the religion that actually DOESN'T REQUIRE BELIEF TO DO! 

I myself had many problems with the belief aspects that I heard in the traditional community.  And I rejected many of those beliefs as being impossible for me.

What I found, though, were a few things that helped me:

1.  The people who do believe, really do believe!  It amazed me but it's true.  And it's GOOD that they believe - because those beliefs are comforting to people - AND - they allow people to practice Judaism in the most traditional way.  And I came to admire these people - not so much because of their beliefs, but because of the consistency and committment of their practices.  Orthodoxy really does form the BACK BONE of Judaism.  I don't care what wonderful liberal values you have - and how committed you are to Liberal Judaism - which is all to the good - the FACT IS THAT THE TRADITIONAL COMMUNITY REALLY DOES FORM THE BACK BONE OF JUDAISM. 

This was something that I learned while being IN that community - while reading the texts - while actually hearing the Torah read - something I hadn't actually experienced  before I TASTED traditional Judaism - and something I came to respect tremendously. 

2.  I found that I could go with a belief in G-d that actually fit my own beliefs.  If there's no G-d, how did the universe get here?  I don't know what kind of answer an atheist gives to that question - and I kind of don't care.  To me there is a FORCE OUT THERE that had SOMETHING TO DO WITH CREATING THE UNIVERSE.  I will admit that as a human being I probably cannot begin to fathom who or what that force is - AND I LOVE THE FACT THAT IT IS SO GREAT - AND SO VAST - AND SO SUPREME - AND SO UNKNOWLABE - THAT I CANNOT EVEN IMAGINE IT.  I LOVE THAT!  Therein lies the great mystery - and it's good that it's a great mystery.  That's how the program is SET UP!  I LOVE THAT!

And guess what?  Judaism SAYS - G-D IS BEYOND IMAGINATION - G-D IS NOT IMAGINEABLE - NOT KNOWABLE - NOT DEFINABLE - NOT FINITE - YOU CANNOT PUT YOUR FINGER ON G-D  - YOU CANNOT SEE G-D OR KNOW G-D.  I LOVE THAT! - BECAUSE I CAN ACCEPT THAT THAT IS TRUE!

3.  I am one of those people who can look at the beauty of, say, a strawberry - or a fresh rose - or a perfect, plump, fragrant lemon - a fluffy kitten playing with its tail - a cherry tree in bloom - a BABY! - the OCEAN! - and feel, THERE'S GOT TO BE SOME FORM OF MAGNIFICENT POWER, FORCE, BEING BEHIND THIS GORGEOUS piece of PERFECTION - this NUGGET OF NATURE - this SPLENDID ENTITY - this DEAR LITTLE BEING! - this  OVERWHELMINGLY GIGANTIC ENTITY!  And I just LOVE BELIEVING THAT!  I don't find it HARD to believe that at all - I find it easy - and enjoyable.

Ditto, great acts of kindness, charity, bravery, courage, giving, compassion - all these things strike me as being part of "G-dliness" - and I LOVE BELIEVING THAT!

Watching parents who are doing a fine job with their children - parents who are both loving AND firm - parents who guide their children in good, healthy, wholesome directions - who affirm and validate their children's specialness and worthy efforts - who are loving and affectionate and generous with their praise - and also who don't put up with bratty behavior - but who firmly and lovingly move the child in very positive directions - these forms of parenting strike me as being - somehow - connected to G-dliness - because they are good for children - good for families - good for the world. 

All forces FOR GOOD strike me as being FROM G-D - part of G-D'S way.  That's just how I see it - how I have COME TO SEE IT - and I LOVE SEEING IT THAT WAY!  It's positive - and it's comforting - and it's very, very acceptable to me.

If you are a non-believer, perhaps you can go with these kinds of beliefs, too.  And if you can - really - it's good enough.  You will get a great deal out of traditional Judaism with just that much belief. 

And for those of you who can go further - who can believe that G-d created the world in six days and literally gave the Commandments - the whole entire written Torah - AND the Oral Torah (Talmud) - to Moses at Mt. Sinai - LITERALLY - I say, that's great! - Go for it! - Believe and then do the deeds that are connected with that belief.  I think that's swell!  But I can't do that. 

And for those who have trouble with even the kinds of beliefs that I describe above - who are firmly Agnostic or even Aetheists - Ok - there's a place for you, too, in Judaism.  You really do NOT have to be a believer to practice Judaism. 

There's room for all of us in the Jewish tent - world.

And one thing that is surely true of Judaism - "The more you do it, the more you get it."  Yes - and that also means, the more you do it - and study it - and talk about it - and practice it - and learn about it - the more inclined you are to open your mind, just a "hair" at a time - to some form of belief that is workable for you. 

There was an older man in the Orthodox synagogue I attended - Morris - who was not only NOT a believer, he was an out and outright COMMUNIST.  He was absolutely DEDICATED to Communisim - And we're talking in the 1990's - not the 1940's.  But Morris came to the synagogue regularly on Shabbos because his wife, Molly, whom he adored - liked to come - liked to practice - and was strictly observant.  But Morris himself was so turned off by the ideas in the service, that he didn't care to come INSIDE and be part of the service.  So he would sit quietly, patiently, in the hallway, OUTSIDE the sanctuary - often reading his Communist Newspaper - while she attended services inside. 

BUT - when they needed a tenth man to make the Minyan (required for the full prayer service) GUESS WHO GLADLY WENT IN AND PERFORMED THAT TASK? - Yup - Morris.  And he did that regularly - because this little shul often had a hard time coming up with a Minyan every Shabbat. 

Several years later, Molly died quite suddenly.  And Morris was absolutely grief stricken, of course.  And he slipped in many ways - became older and lame and needed caregivers to help him.  But guess where you could find him, every Shabbat, even without Molly.  Yup - in the shul - IN THE SANCTUARY - MAKING UP THE MINYAN.  He was needed and, ultimately, his participation as the Tenth Man, had meaning for him. 

Something to think about, eh?....

(And you might want to check out Paddy Cheyevsky's play, The Tenth Man.  It's WONDERFUL.  And of course there's an Atheist - or was it a Communst? - in the regular congregation.  Seems that's part of Jewish TRADITION, too! - no less....)

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SHALOM! WELCOME! (HOME)  |  SPONSOR A KEHILLAH AD!  |  OUR MISSION - OUR PLAN  |  NON-DENOMINATIONAL?  |  THE DEVALUATION OF JUDAISM  |  SHOP KEHILLAH! BOUTIQUE  |  18 REASONS WHY IT'S GREAT TO BE JEWISH  |  18 WAYS TO DEEPEN YOUR JUDAISM  |  THE ONE JEWISH RITUAL FOR YOUR FAMILY...  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT SHABBAT?  |  ADD A BIT OF SHABBAT TO YOUR LIFE - FRIDAY NIGHT  |  ADD A BIT OF SHABBAT TO YOUR LIFE - SATURDAY  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT SYNAGOGUE?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT READING HEBREW?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT KEEPING KOSHER?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT JEWISH PRAYER?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT ISRAEL?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT MARRYING JEWISH?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT ORGANIZED RELIGION?  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT "ANCIENT"...  |  WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT PRESERVING JUDAISM?  |  NOT A BELIEVER?  |  THINGS YOU LOVE ABOUT BEING JEWISH  |  YOUR OBJECTIONS - THINGS YOU HATE!  |  ARE YOU A SINGLE PARENT?  |  ARE YOU CREATIVE?  |  ARE YOU "MIXED?"  |  SMALL PLEASURES...  |  GOOD STORIES  |  THE "WOMAN" ISSUE  |  OUR BOLD RADICAL PROPOSAL...  |  ADVERTISE TO EDUCATE!  |  OUR PRO-JUDAISM AD CAMPAIGN  |  KEHILLAH RADIO & TV  |  THE MOST IMPORTANT THING FOR JUDAISM...  |  JEW VS. JEW  |  PASSOVER - ONE THING YOU CAN DO...  |  Shrek on Judaism!  |  Mel Brooks - On Being a Jew  |  Kirk Douglas: Why Be Jewish?  |  Rabbi Harold Kushner  |  Joe McCain on The Jews & Israel  |  American Presidents and The Jews  |  KEHILLAH is dedicated to...  |  LINKS TO Jewish Organizations, Charities & Websites  |  CONVERSION TO JUDAISM  |  GILLIE'S RECIPES  |  JEWISH HUMOR  |  NY TIMES: BRING BACK SHABBAT! PERSONAL STORY...  |  DO YOU HAVE INSOMNIA?  |  Contact Information  |  YOUR FEEDBACK PLEASE!  |  TO HELP SUPPORT KEHILLAH

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