Is Judaism Dead?
In looking at recent studies which reveal the increasing number of young people who lack a spiritual and/or religious connection to Judaism, as well as the aging membership and diminishing size of many synagogues and Temples, many people might believe this to be true!
However, as history has shown, we should never count the Jewish people out!
When things look darkest, the most important thing we can do is increase the “light!”
Encouraging all of us to shine our light, so that together we can dispel the darkness of ignorance, waste, violence, and hate that is damaging our world and our lives.
Judaism’s Modern Day Relevance to the World and Us All
The place where the Jewish and Universal come together, where religion and science are compatible, and where everyone is a precious part of our shared destiny.
An Interview with Bruce David
Bruce David is a Jewish artist/educator who heads up Light of the Nations, a non-profit Jewish educational outreach organization. David started this organization in response to the outcry of Jews of all ages and denominations, desperately searching for a way to reach people, especially the next generation of Jews, and keep them connected with their Jewish identity. Light of the Nations programs are specifically designed to address this situation, using art, music, and other methods of experiential programming, to share the universal and applicable values of Judaism, while making Judaism relevant to people living contemporary lifestyles.
This “wholistic” approach will speak to young people and others who have difficulty understanding and identifying with religion in general. It will provide all people a foundation and path for growing together towards realizing a better future.
The following is an interview with Bruce David in which he answers the toughest life questions while providing a sensible, consistent and coherent “step by step” guide to understanding and appreciating imperative teachings relating to Judaism. By presenting this information in an engaging and contemporary way that people can relate to, David hopes to provide others with an opportunity to recognize the significance and value of Judaism to themselves, as well as to all life, and to incorporate this wisdom into their personal life philosophy.
Note: Right upfront I would like to say that I wrote these interview questions myself because I wanted to ask the toughest questions, those that I believe need answering, and that this is the best way to get directly to the issues that need to be addressed.
Right now, especially among young people, there is an extremely high degree of cynicism and skepticism relating to the subject of God. This is accompanied by a defensive, mostly negative and apathetic attitude towards religion and religious practice in general.
Facing such indifference, and even outright hostility, and facing a social environment where most people are rush/rush busy, and not even interested in hearing what others might have to say, why is what is being shared here worthy of their time and attention?
Cynics might consider this to be a “soul-lisitation,” but I prefer to view it as sharing a reality of our existence that is not always fully understood or appreciated.
Because people’s lives, and the health of our world, are in the balance, and how what is being shared here can positively benefit people’s lives and our planet right now, I can only hope that the desire for finding truth and meaning to their lives, will motivate people to at least check this out and see if what is being shared here is straightforward in addressing any questions and concerns they might have.
So, no beating around the bush. Let’s get to it! Is there a God, Creator, Supreme Being or Powerful Force influencing our world and lives?
No matter what name you give it, or how you choose to address the definitive “It,” most people, including scientists, agnostics and religious and/or spiritual people of all faiths, believe that there is an incredible Force infusing, and perpetually influencing, the existence of our world and universe.
If there is, or was, such a Powerful Force, does It still exist, and is It still actively engaged in our world and lives?
Based on the complexity and interwoven interconnectedness of energy that permeates everything we know of, and the beyond astronomical odds of everything continuously functioning together in synchronization just the way it does to allow for life as we know it to exist, this Amazing Force continues to be an elaborate part of, with an invested interest in, our world and the universal life process.
How can people look at all the “bad” things going on in the world and believe that there is a God?
That’s one way of looking at it, although it is a very limited way. Because actually, it is when people look at all the incredible things happening with our planet that they can come to understand the existence of just such a remarkable Entity!
Because humans as a species abuse our bodies, environment and other gifts, and people suffer; or because in this intricately complex humongous energy network that composes and maintains our universe, every microscopic function is not 100% precise; or the results don’t meet their individual criteria for perfection; some people actually get angry and/or upset with God for not fixing and making everything exactly right, or, at least, as they think it should be.
Why do people insist on an inaccurate “all-or-none” proposition and demand that the “Source of Life” be “perfect”? Why does this Entity have to be “all” everything?
Does God have to be all powerful in every way, all the time, in every situation, for us to be able to appreciate and be thankful for the more than generous opportunities we have had imparted on us as a result of the spectacular energy allotment influenced by this Force in creating our world and universe?
Should the Essence of life be held personally responsible for the actions of every human, and all aspects of life? Should parents be held responsible for everything that their children do?
That brings up an interesting point. Is this God Entity just a force of nature or does it have intelligence?
As individuals develop an understanding of the magnitude of complex designs involved in the life growth process, and the mechanics of their operating as an elaborate system of more than remarkable coincidences, this LifeSource takes on the characteristics of an Intelligent Entity, influencing our lives and everything else we know of throughout existence.
With this recognition comes the comprehension that this Being is the ultimate “awesome” when it comes to the talents of being a: Gardener, Artist, Designer, Architect, Scientist, Engineer, Doctor, Landscaper, Naturalist, Biologist, Parent, Teacher, Musician, Poet, Builder, Spiritual Guide, Educator, (you name it), and …Creator…and Sustainer of all that is.
Why should people pray or try to communicate with and learn more about this God Force?
As part of our own life growth process, as people mature, we become more knowledgeable of the circumstances relating to our reality. The more we learn, the more we come to realize the magnitude of this LifeSource and It’s impact on our lives. Many people, seeking to advance in their understandings pertaining to their existence and purpose in life, attempt to communicate with and/or learn more about this Entity that they view as responsible for their being, and place, within the universal scheme of creation.
Does it really matter if we recognize that there is “Something” smarter than us out there?
I believe so. First, because it is significant to be able to make sense of the events that got us here! Secondly, it provides us with a logical reason to understanding life’s mysterious rhyme;
and thirdly, because it is our best hope for coming together and creating a healthier, saner, safer world for us and all our children.
Are prayer “services” necessary?
When the balance of nature is distressed, it impacts the planetary body in often extreme and adverse ways.
It is the same with our bodies. Our environment influences our balance, and fast, stressed and hectically warped out energies happening all around us, pulling us in many different directions at the same time, makes it hard for us to find our center.
We have to accept some degree of responsibility for wherever, whenever and however we end up in the places and spaces that we do. If we want to be part of a loving, caring, sharing environment, where we can feel relaxed and enjoy in celebrating our lives, we should find people and other life forms with similar understandings; knowing that the best, healthiest way for us to grow involves our interacting with life elements which are conducive to growth.
Some religions teach that life is just an illusion. If this is so, what difference does it make as to how we choose to live our lives?
I saw in the news not so long ago, where at a sci-fi conference, someone prestigious put forth the proposition that in many ways humans are very similar to holograms. Recently, I saw where a number of major physicists said the same thing.
And with what we know scientifically, it makes some sort of sense.
But so what if we are a kind of living hologram?
Holograms still require an Inventor, Designer, and Maker. And in this particular case, to manifest something at this level of space and time for what we are experiencing, the Creator is an extremely intelligent and powerful Force.
To find meaning to our existence then requires a leap of faith. We have to believe that this Creator ultimately wants things to work out for the best, for good, for the well-being of us all.
This is risky business, unless we examine the interaction this Entity appears to have had, and is still having, with the life forms on this planet. It is here where we find a pattern of instructions for life achieving its fullest potential through healthy life growth, blooming and bearing good fruit.
“Good fruit” in this case would refer to contributing positively to the health and well-being of our world and our existence, to the betterment of the whole.
So, even if we are holograms, with whatever limited intelligence we have, it still makes sense to alleviate the stresses and pains to our personal being’s physical, psychological and emotional profile, and strive to create a healthy, happy environment for all of us to grow.
The option is intensely bizarre craziness, violence and destruction. We see it happening all around us, and it isn’t pretty.
If we are going to be holograms, let’s do so as beings of light … and love.
While universally love/life oriented, those who choose to follow the “wholisitic” aspects of the Jewish teachings recognize the validity of the Jewish path as a way to advance in our life growth process and achieve a more consciously aware and enlightened version of our self.
What is the Jewish Wholistic Philosophy?
It is relatively the same as the universal truths of all enlightened beings. This includes the knowledge that everyone shares equally in our extraordinary life connection, leading to our understanding that each of us is a unique and valuable part of the whole, and as such, is worthy of respect.
This philosophy also adheres to the belief that, even as our understanding of Judaism teaches, there are many valid paths to attaining enlightenment. So, while we choose Judaism to help provide the basic foundation for our spiritual and physical growth, we sincerely encourage everyone to fulfill their potential by whatever means enables them to achieve a state of conscious awareness and mindfulness that recognizes and respects our connection with all life, and leads them to grow together in a harmonious and healthy fashion that reflects the awe and love that is at the heart of all true religion.
What are some of the specific things people should like about Judaism?
Judaism is a universal religion - Judaism recognizes that there are many paths to consciously (spiritually) connecting with our LifeSource and doesn’t require others to be Jewish in order to attain enlightenment.
Even the greatest of the Jewish leaders were fallible humans who made mistakes – This lets us know that we don’t need to be perfect, and that we are not always going to make the best choices, but even so, we can still attain a more enlightened level of our existence.
Jewish Foundation – While all people are similarly carbon based life forms, Judaism serves to provide structured guidance and valuable instructions to assist people in their growth.
Justice - Judaism established a justice system based on truth and doing what is best for all life. Where in other cultures of the time, power determined who would wield authority, in Judaism, even the King was responsible to the people; and the orphans, poor and widows had rights that they were not receiving anywhere else.
Women’s Rights - Women held positions of esteem in Judaism before they even had basic rights anywhere else. Jewish women have been Prophetesses, Judges, Prime Ministers, Leaders, and Heroines throughout Jewish history.
Environment - Judaism was in the forefront of teaching concern for the well-being of people, animals, the environment (the earth, land, water, trees, etc,) and other life forms.
Education - Judaism established an education system where people of every class and rank were given an opportunity to learn.
Sabbath and Festivals – We all need time for our physical bodies to recharge, and it is the same with our life connection. By providing at least one day a week to take the time necessary to focus on the well-being of our life essence, these times also remind us that we should not be slaves to others or our lives.
Freedom and Liberty – Throughout history, accounts of the Jewish journey emphasize the value and importance of people being free.
Health Care - Judaism introduced the ideas of health care for all people (not just the rich and powerful) and respect for the elderly.
Revelation – Basically every other religion starts with one person saying God personally spoke or interacted with them. This is a very difficult thing to prove. In Judaism, millions of people became aware of the Divine Presence at the same time while at Mt. Sinai. At the very least, it appears that the overwhelming majority of this large group of people adapted their lives and accepted an entirely new Jewish life style as a result of this experience.
The Shema prayer - This creed prayer of Judaism teaches us of the necessity of including “love” in our connection with all the many aspects of the “One Source” of all life.
God – Through good times, and challenging times, the Divine Presence has revealed a personal connection and involvement with the fate and destiny of the Jewish people and all life.
All this sounds good and makes sense, but is there any actual proof of a biblical God?
“Proof” is a difficult term because we are currently so limited both by our restricted human capabilities and incomplete knowledge of existence, as well as our inadequate view and perception in the ways we observe life. However, it does appear that from what we perceive to be true, that there are significant happenings, that have been accepted historically as having occurred, which would validate the existence of a “God.” These same “facts” also demonstrate that this Entity has taken an active role in attempting to communicate with and provide instructions to humans which would assist them in their growth.
To begin, I suggest we look at the source writings that much of Jewish understanding is based on. The Torah (Old Testament/Bible) is a document that has received credibility from Christians, Muslims and Jews. Some people view these words as given directly by God, others believe that it was composed possibly by Moses and/or other inspired individuals; while still others believe that it is a compilation of myths and fables. However it came about, the important thing is to look at what it is sharing and decide if the mystical, prophetic aspect of it provides us with any historical accuracy.
In asking for “proof,” The Torah (Deut. 28:45) itself teaches that what it shares “will be a sign and a proof to you and your children forever.”
Here’s one example:
Starting with Deuteronomy 4:26, even before the Jewish people entered the land of what is now referred to as “Israel,” they were cautioned that their transgressions would cause them to “perish from the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”
(I, personally, find this modernly relevant, believing that if people don’t do something about our transgressions against our planet, by behaving in healthier love/life oriented ways, including cleaning up our mess, and taking better care of the Earth, many will perish from the land.)
Again, even before arriving in Israel, God warned of a time when the Jews would be forced out of the land (Deut. 28:63) “You will be torn up from the land you are about to occupy.”
And what would happen next? The Torah (Deuteronomy 28:64) informs us - “God will scatter you among the nations, from one end of the Earth to the other. There you will serve idolaters who worship gods of wood and stone, unknown to you and your fathers. Among those nations you will feel insecure.”
The Torah’s Author provides additional information (Deut. 4:27) relating to the fact that the Jewish people would be a nation that is small in size. “God will them scatter you among the nations, and only a small number will remain among the nations to which God will lead you.”
But also reassures them (4:31): “God your Lord is a merciful Power, and will not abandon you or destroy you.
While in exile, the Torah (Deut 28:37) states that the Jews would be persecuted and treated harshly. This has been continuously demonstrated to be true throughout the history of the Jewish people. “You will be revulsion, a byword and a proverb among the nations where God will lead you.”
Everyone acknowledges that the Torah was written before the late 1940’s, when the Jewish people once again returned to their land and became a nation. Yet the way it happened also borders on the miraculous, when a vanquished people, decimated by the Holocaust and without a military, overcame the armies of five large countries trying to destroy them, and returned to their land. Additionally, something like this had never happened before to any other nation, when a people who had lost their country, came back to reclaim it.
But Deut. 30:1-5 let us know in advance that this is the way it would happen: “There among the nations where I have banished you, you will reflect on the situation. You will the return to God your Lord. God will then bring back your remnants and have mercy upon you. God your Lord will once again gather you from among the nations where you were scattered. Even if your diaspora is at the ends of the heavens, God will gather you and take you back. God will then bring you to the land that your ancestors occupied, and you too will occupy it.”
So, the “facts,” as I perceive them, is that the Jewish people were told even before arriving in the land; that they would be driven out of the land, scattered among the nations, persecuted, would be a small nation, and would eventually return to the land of their ancestors. All true!
Besides being few in number, the Jewish people were also told that they would be a “great” nation. As God said to Abram … “I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you great. You shall become a blessing. I will bless those who bless you I will curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis, 12:2-3)
(Israel returning to the land also had precedent when God said to Jacob (Genesis, 28:14)… All the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. I am with you. I will protect you wherever you go and bring you back to this soil. I will not turn aside from you until I have fully kept this promise to you.)
So, although a tiny people, less than ¼ - ½ of 1 % of the world’s population, is Israel a great nation?
Look at the news headlines! Everyone is so concerned, and makes such a fuss over, this one small area of land. It draws more attention than any other real estate anywhere.
But also when trying to decide if Israel is a great nation, look at what Israel contributes to the world in all the major fields, including science, medicine, technology, environment, etc. Besides having won an extremely disproportionate amount of Nobel prizes based on their miniscule percentage of the world’s population, Jews have been a major force in the development of computers, cell phones, voice mail and camera phones, as well as many Windows operating systems and Google. Their technology has contributed positively to innovations in aerospace, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and energy. Per capita, Israel has more high-tech start-ups than any other nation on earth, and ranks second, behind the US, in the number of companies listed on the Nasdaq.
Judaism has always been big on education. This also dates back to the Torah (Deut:4:32) – “You might inquire about times long past, going back to the time God created man on Earth, exploring one end of the heavens to the other. See if anything like this has ever happened, or if such a thing like this has ever been heard of.” As far as we know, the answer is “no!” Something like this has never occurred before.
Yet, to me, one of the greatest proofs of a biblical heritage is that this one small parcel of land, from among every other place on Earth, has become the “heart” of our world, the place where all civilizations, cultures and religions come together.
Does all this have any modern day relevance?
So much of the escalating fighting around the world comes from imaginary boundary lines, and the “progressive” politics of egotistical leaders who are possessed by an unharnessed desire to collect theirs, and so many others, share of the wealth.
Then there are situations like the fighting over Jerusalem. And why? Because so many peoples want it as their own personal “spiritual” place.
What irony! People are willing to fight, kill, and die because they want to “name and control” a piece of land, or building (temple/mosque/church) as their own exclusive place to pray, to have a space to religiously connect with a holy, loving God, one who is “everywhere,” and who cares about all life.
Instead of exhibiting such wasted and destructive behavior over an individual piece of ground and building, if this is what they truly want, people like this should first try to make their own home and every place a Jerusalem of sorts, a spiritual, life growth oriented environment, a loving, sacred place for all people to come together and rejoice in the miracles and wonders of our lives. This is, after all, the true essence of what Jerusalem should actually be about.
Have you always been Jewish?
I have not always appreciated or understood the Jewish approach, and in earlier years strayed far from it as I studied many other religions and paths. Even today I believe that so many people totally misinterpret and misrepresent its teachings as I see them, yet for me, this is the avenue that has opened the door and allowed me to achieve my current understanding of spiritual fulfillment, one that fulfills the universal love/life aspects of my higher self. Because of this, I feel it is important to share these same teachings in the best ways I can in order to help others who may be able to learn from them.
What do you consider to be the essence of the message of early Jews?
That there is a Knowledgeable, Powerful Entity that cares about life, and has a purpose for all of us; and that we should appreciate and enjoy our special gift of life, while taking care of the rest of this amazing life of which we are all a part of.
Judaism also teaches that “Something,” far beyond anything I can comprehend, is manipulating what is going on in the larger scale for us all, has taken a peculiar interest in the Jewish people, and given us the opportunity to join together as partners to help create and maintain a healthy love, life growth environment for us all.
This being the case, how would you summarize the Jewish Life Purpose?
Being a “Light of the Nations” – To live our lives as a reflection of light and love to all
peoples, and to bring the lights of truth, justice, love and understanding to dispel the darkness of ignorance, violence and hate.
Doing “Tikkun Olam” - To actively contribute in a positive way to the wholeness, healing and repair of our world.
Being “B'Tzelem Elohim” – By being created in the image of God, to be partners with the Creator and LifeGiver in caring for the well-being and health of our garden world and its many life forms.
Pursuing “Shalom” - The Jewish goal to strive for peace and wholeness for us all is reflected in our mission to strive for the time when GodSpace will be a “House of Prayer for all peoples.”
What do you hope to accomplish by doing this?
My ultimate purpose is to provide a sensible, consistent and coherent “step by step” guide to understanding and appreciating imperative teachings relating to Judaism. By presenting this information in an engaging and contemporary way that people can relate too, I hope to provide others with an opportunity to recognize the significance and value of Judaism to themselves, as well as to all life, and to incorporate this wisdom into their personal life philosophy.
Viewed in proper perspective, Judaism offers a path for all peoples to come together and create a healthier, safer, happier homeworld for us all.
Any final thoughts?
I believe that Judaism teaches that there is a GodForce, an incredibly amazing, intellectually superior, super powerful Entity that is involved with, and strongly influencing, the existence of our universe … and us.
Judaism teaches that all life is precious, and that we all have been given this miraculous gift of life, and the opportunity to exist in human forms, and to share in this wonderful, life growth oriented world.
Jews, like myself, recognize the tremendous value to our lives of choosing to follow a spiritual life path, one that meets our universal and physical needs, on our journey to enlightenment.
Judaism encourages us to grow in the understanding of having our own amazingly skilled personal entity, to celebrate and enjoy our remarkable gifts of life… and for all the time we have, to live and take pleasure in our lives in these bodies… while striving to do so in ways that are beneficial, and the least harmful, to other people and life forms on our planet.
Our vision is one of peace and harmony for all life – the wolf will live with the lamb (the strong and gentle together) and “Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.”
This is only the tip of the iceberg as to what I really have to say, but I hope it will suffice for now. May we all grow together and achieve enlightenment through encouraging and nurturing each other in our attempts to become the best, most enlightened, advanced life forms we can be, and may we all soon share in a time of “shalom”, wholeness, where we can enjoy our lives and share our gifts in peace.