They think I’ve forgotten
To them, I don’t pray as much as I used to. To them, I don’t sing religious songs as often as I used to. They don’t see my head in the Bible as much and don’t see me immersed in the Hebrew of Genesis as I used to be. They remember the days of my fasting, my appearing devout. Where are the conversations about God and his nature? Where are the testimonies about His goodness? To them, now I’m something else.
Now I focus too much on what is seen as politics, courts, and the police, on the Seven Laws. I seem to push away religious services and dwell on anarchists/voluntaryists, injustices, wars, and some aspects of history. I’m not listening to the bible teachings or to as many rabbis as I used to listen to. Instead, I’m watching policecrime.com and thinking about debt and slavery, about how money is created and what it has done to our society.
They think I’ve forgotten God. They may not say it. They may say that they can see I still accept the existence of God. But they see my life seemingly absent of what is commonly seen as “worship” and thus the declaration of God seems gone from my actions.
Let’s be honest. It is easy for anyone to make that mistake when they compare what I was to what I am. Even after leaving christianity, I was still much into what I see as the religious decorations. I would make sure to fast, to read the psalms, to pray intensely and regularly. My wife used to complain how, when I regularly took up the Bible to study it indepth, I didn’t smile. My face looked serious and I focused so intensely on reading and re-reading its pages using 5 books and different online resources to get a general idea of what the Hebrew was saying. I would still set apart the seventh day, Saturday, aside to do this and other worthwhile exercises. To compare who I was then to what I do now, many would think the same thing, that I’ve forgotten God.
But I haven’t.
But so much of my world has changed. And yet it remains the same.
It’s true. I don’t spend as much time reading the Jewish Bible. And I know, some may mark me down for that. I don’t see the seventh day as a day that I’m obligated to set apart and I don’t treat it as such. I don’t try to make sure that I leave work before sunset on Friday evening and make sure the next 24 hours are “sanctified”. There’s a reason for this.
I don’t make much ado about prayer. That’s not to say that I don’t pray. I think it is beneficial and quite important. Anyone with any sense will know that it’s important to show gratitude to the One who gives and ask the Sustainer of all for help. I think it’s important that my son learn such gratitude. But it isn’t as apparent as it used to be. I haven’t fasted for years. And there’s a reason for this.
Where it comes to what is termed as the “religious” aspects of my life, the volume seems to have been turned down. Although there are still some rabbinic teachings that I listen to, that time has been reduced for me to see what is happening in the “justice” system around the world. And there is a reason for this.
I guess my life can be summed down to this:
“Doing justice and judgement are more preferable to God than sacrifice.”
You may recognise that as coming from the book of Proverbs, chapter 21 I think.
Where I used to focus on the Jewish Bible more, I spend a lot more time reading about, studying, thinking about, and writing about the Seven Commandments that are for Gentiles. Of course I still read the written Torah at times, I focus a lot more on my responsibilities and obligations, reading and rereading them, reading the different works that have been published regarding them, referencing the parts of the Talmud that talk about them with commentaries.
But along with taking my fundamental obligations more seriously comes letting go or releasing such a tight grip of practices that are not part of that fundamental responsibility. If there is a message that God repeats a lot of times in the Jewish Bible, it is that He just wants people to do what He says or commands. Within the Seven Commandments, prayer, fasting, worship services, all that decoration is not commanded.
That takes some people aback. Due to our twisted culture, when people come from a religious background, a lot of emphasis is placed on the externals. Religious people are known for their praying, their singing, the special days, their religious congregations and gatherings to muster and uplift that religious fervour. Even people who consider themselves irreligious view religious people (normally associated with christianity, even if they aren’t) as people who focus on these external deeds. It’s like a slap in the face, that sharp shock, when they look at the Seven Commandments and see such things missing. Some people, seeing the lack of religiosity, feel the need to flower it up, decorate with external practices of their own taken from Judaism to make it appear fuller. And that is their own choice.
I see the Seven Commandments as quite full in themselves. I see them as just doing what God commands, which is what he wants fundamentally from us. It should be known that these Seven Commandments are in fact broad precepts that take commitment and study to understand, and by understanding the expanse and depth of these law people can help furnish a foundation for a better world both external to themselves and within themselves.
When I look at the early recounting of these laws, I see the first one is Justice (or the prohibition against Injustice). I don’t think that is coincidence or random happenstance. Especially when I look at the world around me and see the amount of injustice in the world. I can see why it needs to be a core principle to any person. In fact, if there is one law that is trampled down the most, it is Justice. The desecration and violation of God’s law … there is no country that is free from its violation. I don’t know of a police force that doesn’t have its fair share of protected injustice. The societal failure with regards to Justice, our responsibility to God, grabs my interest because it is about us doing what he commands.
Because my views are centred around what he commanded, as opposed to what I want to do towards him, that is going to mean a shift a way from what I was. Because prayer and worship, although beneficial, is not of central importance in relation to what God has commanded, my focus is not going to be on them. In fact, I think the greatest way to worship God is to do what he commands. So that is my focus.
So I haven’t forgotten God. I’ve changed my approach because I’m more intensely focused on what He commands. My concern for the keeping of the Seven Commandments is about Him and the responsibility He has given us. It’s not going to conform with what people nowadays see as religious or spiritual. And I don’t mind too much. Obedience is more important to me than appearances. That’s not to say I ignore the rest of the stuff. The simple fact is that my priorities have changed.