Thursday, October 10, 2013

“How I met Abraham’s mother”

Looking at the Torah and Judaism with liberated eyes #2
“How I met Abraham’s mother”

This month marks the publication of a superb new collection of essays on the weeky portion, called “Unscrolled.”  A project of that fabulous incubator of Jewish startups called Reboot (which brought us creative ventures like “Storahtelling” and “Hazon,” “Unscrolled” brings together 54 young Jewish artists, writers, screenwriters, actors, to take a fresh look at our ancient texts.  I’m really impressed with what I’ve seen thus far, including the entry for the portion describing Creation from two weeks ago, written by Josh Radnor of “How I Met Your Mother” TV fame.  You can find it here (and I’ve pasted it below).

It’s called “Revision,” and just as with the essay midrash on Abraham’s mom, it brings in far flung ideas from other cultures.  Not Greek myths, in this case, but the Hindu sacred text known as the Upanishads, and lots more.  I studied the Upanishads in college and could instinctively see the connection he is drawing.  He is reminding us that all faith traditions are seeking the same God, each looking through a slightly different prism.  If we are truly to embark on a quest of discerning the presence of the Sacred in our universe and our lives, which is the main purpose of reading and rereading the Torah in the first place, then we need to go beyond the wisdom of our own tradition and incorporate what is wise in the others.

As we learn from Abraham’s mother, Judaism has been doing this forever - even to the point of mining Greek mythology for stories of Zeus.

We shouldn’t be threatened by this.  We should be enthralled.  That’s why our music is so eclectic.  That’s why we explore authentically Jewish forms of Yoga here.  That’s why you hired a religious studies major who enjoys the Upanishads to be your rabbi.  This ever shrinking world is moving in the direction of “Unscrolled.”  We’re already there.

If you are interested in forming a reading group to discuss the essays in “Unscrolled,” let me know!

Radnor’s essay:
I believe in God. I try to feel the room before I blurt that out in conversation, but it’s a feature of my personality and a fact of my life. I’ve long wanted to do away with ideology and the punishing male trickster deity of my youth and get to the heart of the heart of the matter. Who is God? Who are we? What are we doing here? And how can we do it with a little more grace and guidance? Healing my broken perceptions of the divine, hitting the “install update” button and awakening to a new vision of God-that’s what this prayer is for me.

1          Lord, hear my prayer-
1          My mind is filled with falsehoods about You.  
2          Today let me rewrite.  
3          Give me the courage to delete the rotten first second third and hundredth drafts  
4          That deny You,  
5          That blame You, 
6          That slander You.  
7          It is time.
1          Guide me to write a different, better story.  
2          Teach me the true meaning of the garden, the snake, the apple, and the fall.  
3          Scrub from my mind the lazy oft-told tales of punishment, trickery, and abandonment. 4          Let me retire the ego’s clichés and distortions, O Lord, and bid farewell to the misconceived central character:  
5          the psychopathic, jealous trickster,  
6          the crude caricature of paternal retribution,  
7          the off-planet deity watching over us impassively, folded-armed, while we rot and writhe, our cries falling on deaf God ears.
1          I declare this vision of God to be false, and I ask that any remnants of this lie be erased from the crevices of my consciousness.
1          Let me learn anew. Let not the guilting of grandparents lead me to fear and reject the guidance of the other:  
2          The Sikh,  
3          The Sufi,  
4          The Shaman, 
5          The Hindu,  
6          The Buddhist,  
7          The Christian,  
8          The Gnostic,  
9          The Kabbalist.  
10        If it is wise and true  
11        -If it bears Your cosmic fingerprints and the quiet perfection of Your voice-  
12        I will listen.
1          Let me live with the compassion of Buddha and Quan Yin and Mother Mary,  
2          Let me write with the sacred clarity of Rumi and Hafiz, Wordsworth and Blake.
3          Teach me to surrender like Mohammed and pray like David,  
4          To be fiery like Rama and fierce like Jesus.
1          May I not fall into the deification of any man-for You alone are God-but may I let the example of their light guide my path.
1          When I am weeping like Arjuna on the inner battlefield, may beautiful blue Krishna-the divine charioteer-lift me up and remind me of the Truth:
1          I am That.  
2          Thou are That. All this is That.  
3          That alone Is and there is nothing else but That.
1          Let me remember the divine dance of the Mother-Father, always, lest I fall into the dog-eat-dog foolishness upon which so much cruelty and injustice is based.
1          (When the Father said, “Let there be light,” the Mother answered, “And there was light.”)
1          Erase the imprint of atheism from my mind, Lord.  
2          And while You’re at it, please remove: guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, comparison, competition, vanity, arrogance, and sloth.
1          Let the false prophets and holy bullies turn inward. 
2          May they recognize the battle is never outside themselves.  
3          For You do not exist in the world of opposites.
1          The madness of this world is our own.  
2          We created it, we perpetuated it.  
3          You do not endorse it.  
4          You are innocent.  
5          We have created You in our image.  
6          Forgive us.
1          How am I to know I am being heard?  
2          Because I am speaking to myself.
1          You and I are not separate.
1          Heal the wound in my psyche that stubbornly claims otherwise,  
2          For this is the ego’s well-constructed and persistent lie:  
3          You are alone you are alone you are alone.
1          Like a train schedule blaring on a loudspeaker, it is repeated. Over and over.  
2          Daring us to relent and believe that which is false.
1          The bite of that apple was terrible indeed.  
2          It convinced us we were not You.
1          Let me bear the weight of the responsibility for these errors of thought, speech, action, and perception as I learn to walk the razor’s edge of virtue.
1          May I always hear the steady vigilance and unending love of Your voice guiding me home.
1          All else falls away.  
2          Only that which is unchanging is True.
1          Thank You, Mother-Father God,  
2          for this new beginning.

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