After resisting for years the song of the sirens, I reluctantly took the plunge on facebook yesterday. Isolation from distant friends and family “de la vielle Europe” got the better of me. I longed for the bond, although virtual and cyberspaced. As I duly filled out my on-line profile, I stumbled on the “What is your religion?” question. I usually give two responses to that rather inquisitive and unattainable query – both equally true and agnostically defensible:
“Not,” which, in its absolute vacuity, is existentially correct. As my son Noah cleverly stated from an awfully tender age: “My mother is Jewish, and my father is Not.” That is as blunt and precise as the obscure definition of a black hole in the vacuum of space. The very state of utter nothingness, which does indeed represent rather accurately the full extent of my deepest religious beliefs.
More specifically, I sometimes allude to the two original tribes of the People of the Book, the tribe of Moses, the best known of the tribes of Israel, and the other, less known tribe of which I am a member, the tribe of his far less celebrated brother; Oz Moses. That is indeed what I may be, when push on an agnostic membrane comes to the osmotic shove of god’s particles, and what may be most chemically correct interpretation of my scarcely devout nature: “Jewish through Oz Moses.”
How best to define my Jewishness? … Perhaps simply by stating that it is my Jewishness and conceivably not any other, certainly not any Jewishness that could be defined or even explained in terms of faith, orthodoxy or religiousness. Perhaps simply through affection and sympathy for a people that was once, in a defining moment of history, far above wrong and beyond right, and often stayed on the most ethical and principled side of human conduct. This Jewishness is not the Jewishness of most Jews, but it is the one I share with some.
I am a man of faith in Man. (And when I say “Man,” of course I embrace all women). I am a man of faith in love and in intelligence, not in any god or dogma. Faith in education, literature, philosophy, science, art and laughter. Faith in possibilities, uncertainties and oddities.
Although reassuring in the face of terrifying metaphysical unknowns, blind and unconditional faith in any dogma is a renouncement of the use of our capacities of reasoning, creativity and inventiveness, keystones to the unicity of our human nature. It is both an intellectual idleness and an unfortunate fanatical attribute, deeply anchored in the human psyche, which can, under various conditions, produce either saints or monsters.