Sunday, January 03, 2010

877. Obligation

Yesterday at services the rabbi posed the question of what God expects of us. Do we feel obligated to God? Do we even imagine God as an idea to which we can feel obligated? Potential converts, he noted, often ask if being Jewish requires belief in God. His answer: try it out for awhile and see if it fits. Being Jewish means wrestling with the idea, even if you conclude that you don't believe.

I thought of this last night when reading an interesting article about how more women than men believe in God, possibly because of a biological or cultural imperative to seek out community, to which ritual is often attached:

Why Do More Women Than Men Still Believe in God?

The article is subtitled "Especially considering how God treats them." I've been lucky; any marginalization I experienced (such as having a fake Bat Mitzvah because I went to an Orthodox Hebrew school) happened before I was aware of, or even cared about the concept. (And the savings bonds I got at my fake Bat Mitzvah paid for my first trip to Israel a few decades later, so I'm not complaining.) I do now, and did back then, even without being able to articulate it, feel that God makes some demands of me. I'm not sure what, why or how; I acknowledge that I might be conflating the imperative with an ethical or moral sense. Perhaps they're one and the same. (Not even all those angry atheist authors can say definitively.) A few years ago I was jogging in the park and suddenly recalled a commentary about our bodies being borrowed from God. We're given only one in this lifetime, and must return it when we're done, so it only makes sense to treat it with care. So, in a way, I'm obligated to God every time I exercise and attempt to keep God's creation in the best possible shape.

Is prayer the same kind of required borrowing? Perhaps; when I sing and become joyful, I'm keeping the soul that was lent to me in good shape, as well.


George said...

I love the way your posts always make me think about my own attitudes vis a vis religion and God.
For me, both the first of the ten commandments and the Rambam's first article of faith define that Judaism has an obligation to believe in God.

alto artist said...

Thank you, as always. I guess I can't fully embrace those sources, myself, without understanding the nature of what I'm believing in—trying to explain God, an impossible task. I want to know WHO is obligating me. Since I never will know (although will always believe in whatever it is!), I guess I'll always have these questions.