Kedoshim: Getting Past The Notion That God Is Controlling (May 11, 2019)

God Is Not A Man
Many people, including me, have questions like this:
  • If God is so powerful and all knowing why does He need to control me?
  • If God is so universal why did He pick the Jews?
  • Why is the Jewish religion so obsessive-compulsive, judgmental and constraining?
Response – God cannot be represented by human perception because human perception is limited. As such we are dependent on artifacts. For Jews these artifacts are structured as follows.

  •  Peshat (פְּשָׁט) – literal
  • Remez (רֶמֶז) – hint
  • Derash (דְּרַשׁ) – inference
  • Sod (סוֹד) – secrets (e.g. Kabbalah) 

 There are limits to our ability to understand. The same word “Pardes” (orchard) refers to learning Torah & to totality of knowledge itself.

Legend has it that 4 men saw it all. 1 died; 1 went crazy; 1 became an apostate; 1 was left intact (in faith). 
Anthropomorphizing God does not work.
Claiming God as “ours” “yours” or “theirs” does not work.

God is God.

About Holiness

Holy means set apart.

You can be holy in the sacred (good) sense.

You can be profane such that you are set apart from civilization. (And there are levels of profanity – a hierarchy – think of  SRA/NXIVM/cults.)

God Versus What?

The entirety of the Torah portion this week is God telling the Jews NOT to worship idols.

The “standard,” before Torah, was witchcraft.
It may seem that the Bible is introducing a new moral code, and it is, but primarily the code involves AVOIDING the ways of the occult.

The Concept of “Chosen”

It is accurate to say that God chose Abraham as the bearer of monotheism. Abraham of course is the forefather of all the world’s major religions.

Later on down the road, God chose the Jews to receive Torah ONLY AFTER offering it to everyone else. 
The Jews were heavily steeped in the occult ways of the Egyptians. Every kind of immorality that they were doing, the Jews were doing. Except they spoke a unique language; dressed distinctly; kept their names. 
One could actually argue that God chose the Jews because of how incredibly stubborn and difficult we are.

In the Bible you see that the Jews are constantly complaining, rebelling, and sinning.
In the supplemental reading to this portion we see the Jews in later years having degraded themselves and each other fully. They knew it was wrong and they didn’t care. So the Holy Land vomits them out.
The commentary says that the Jews, having failed to sanctify God’s name in the land, will learn to do so OUTSIDE of it, and then be brought back.
This is the deeper objection of the Arabs to the modern state of Israel (Zionism) – it was secular Jews who took the land and not the religious ones.
Also on a deeper level Abraham’s son Ishmael is shamed by being exiled with his mother. As such there is a very deep soul wound there about the Jews.
For us to come back on religious grounds is one thing. For us to come back having rejected religion is totally offensive to the Muslim faith.
Keep in mind also that when Sarah died Abraham married Keturah, who some commentators say is actually Hagar, foremother of the Muslim people.
So there is a lot going on here when we talk about who is chosen to do what, but in Judaism the concept of being chosen has to do with rectification. In other words, you fucked up and now you have to come back and fix it.

God chose the one people who can’t seem to listen.
Reason Above Emotion
Just today I was reading in the portion that you’re not supposed to cut the edge of your beard, and I understood why religious Jewish men have beards, but yet many do not. Religious scholars made an exception, due to the nature of an electric shaver vs. a blade.
This is just an example of how we are instructed to use dat (reason) in approaching what the Torah tells us to do, as opposed to emotion, gut feel, etc. etc.
God Doesn’t Want Robots
If you grew up with a controlling/abusive parent or in a controlling/abusive environment, it is easy to think of God as a controlling parent.
I don’t think you should learn things in a memorizing way, learn them by going directly to what is most confusing/upsetting/perplexing and struggle with that. That is the POINT, and I don’t like the cultish outreach they do nowadays.

When the Bible tells us in Kedoshim to keep the Sabbath, to love the convert, to maintain correct weights and scales and show respect for the elderly – these are a system of rational controls that bring us closer to infinite spirituality.

 God Doesn’t Want Robots
When you talk about God, and all the “controls” God puts on our behavior, it is helpful to keep in mind that the the written Bible (along with the different religions) is only a stage of humanity. 
The next stage, in Messianic times, will be “the Bible that is on the heart,” and I do think we will either come to consciousness and worship Him or die.

By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own. Public domain.