Do you believe strongly in stuff? Great! Belief is terrific. Having convictions is a wonderful thing. We shouldn’t just float through life, never feeling passionate about what we do and what we believe in.
However, a little doubt, even self-doubt, can be a healthy thing. (In case you haven’t guessed, I’m going on a rant)
I live a certain lifestyle. I live this way because I believe it is the right way. Mostly, because I think it is the right way for me. I do not believe everyone else has to make the same choices as I do. I do not think people are wrong for choosing to live differently, for interpreting Torah differently, for being a different kind of Jew. I can even wonder, sometimes, if I am indeed making the right choices. I may question my own practices and change.
Recently, there has been a lot of Wall (as in Western) controversy. Who can pray there, and how? You can read all about it here. But whether you are For the Wall, Of the Wall or maybe just off the wall, a tiny bit of allowance for others mixed in with all those lovely convictions and beliefs can make this world a happier place to live.
Reading the various articles and comments on the topic, I was amazed at how people who claim to be God-fearing Jews could be so arrogant as to claim they know exactly what God wants: How He wants Judaism to be observed, how He wants us to pray and dress. Oh, the certainty! It must be lovely! All I know for sure is that I certainly don’t know enough to know for sure. And I can’t understand how anyone can be so arrogant, so smugly convinced of their own rightness, that there is no room left to see that, just maybe, theirs is not the only, or even the right, way to live.
Are we really so naïve as to think there is one “right” and everything else is “wrong?” And so superior to think that “my way” is right?
I will admit that sometimes, when I read something about long-ago cultic religions that eventually died out, a small piece of me says, “Ohmigod, what if that’s us? What if at the end we find out that we Jews have got it all wrong?”
Excuse me while I duck the incoming lightning bolt.
Yes, it’s just a tiny little piece, an itsy-bitsy flickering doubt that accompanies me as I keep kosher, observe Shabbat and go to the mikvah. But does it make me a worse Jew? I hope not. I hope it means that I have simply left a little room in my life for humility and respect for others. At the very least, it keeps me from arrogance.
About a week ago, I read this cutesy Facebook story, the kind I usually scroll past, but for some reason I clicked on it. It was a conversation between two twins in utero. One was talking about leaving one day, about meeting “Mother,” about life on the outside. The other was convinced that there was nothing other than this life. After all, no one ever came back from “out there” to tell them otherwise. They never met “Mother” and had no proof they could even exist outside the womb. It resonated with me because, in the end, we don’t know. We really just don’t know. We don’t talk to God, we don’t get celestial confirmation in the form of a booming voice telling us, “Hey there! You, over there! You are doing it right! Congrats!”
Yes, we pick a path, we believe it’s right, and we stick to it. But we shouldn’t stick to our beliefs and passions so strongly that it causes us to frenetically raze every other path in sight.