Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How is Forgiveness Possible?

9/8/2010—tonight is the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. (Jewish days begin at sunset). It is also the first day of the Days of Awe, the period of ten days of intense introspection in which Jews consider their lives and commit themselves to repentance (teshuvah). It is a time when something genuinely new is possible.

This is the first year in which I have totally cut myself off from the Jewish tradition. It finally seemed to me that the tradition did not make sense without a connection with the living God of Israel. That is also why I did not move to the various forms of humanistic or cultural Judaism. Judaism is a religion, not just a set of customs.

I had hoped to find something that is connected to ultimate reality without the dead material of Jewish and Christian life. Tonight it feels that this will not be possible. I definitely miss the community I felt at my old synagogue.

But maybe that is just nostalgia. The deeper problem is twofold. First, renewal is communal, not just personal. If the point is to get beyond one’s self, that cannot happen on one’s own. A community is needed.

Second, if there is no God, how is real forgiveness possible? We can try to forgive each other, but human forgiveness is not ultimate. I’m pretty sure there is no God of the sort the Bible speaks of. Nevertheless, forgiveness happens all the same. Does that mean that God exists? Or does it mean that reality is like the Bible says even though there is no being independent of it? The question is always the same: how can the promises of the Bible be true without a God?

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