Thursday, March 17, 2011

Got Faith?

I was five, and sitting at the arts and crafts table at my afterschool program.  We were making “G-d’s Eyes,” weaving scrap yarn around two crossed popsicle sticks.  “This traditional Central American craft was placed on an altar so G-d could ‘watch over’ people,” our instructor said.  “This is stupid,  I thought, “G-d doesn’t have eyes,” and refused to participate.    Only later would I learn about Judaism’s Thirteen Principles of Faith, one of which states that G-d has no body – nor even the image or shape of a body.

As I grew I also learned that faith was seen as naïve; that truly intellectual people were skeptical and critical of wholehearted belief in a Higher Power.  Faith was to be shunned in polite society, like yawns or hiccups.  But I also noticed that these non-believers didn’t seem very happy.  But maybe happiness, too, was naïve?
The book of Genesis details the faith of the first Jew – Abraham.  Those around him believed in idols of all sorts, but he maintained that there was only one intangible and invisible G-d.    It was this contrariness in the face of public opinion that led people to call him Ha-Ivri, the one on the other side, from which we get the word Ivrim – Jews.  On some level faith requires us to have the courage to stand on the other side – whether that’s idolatry or logic’s disdainful dismissal of faith.
Why do people have trouble believing?  Some earnestly want to believe, and are searching for G-d.  They may have doubts.  But doubts, too, are a sign that they are entertaining the idea.  Others are afraid to believe, because consistency would require them to act on these beliefs.

Logic and reason try to convince us that only that which can be measured or quantified is real.  But as anyone who’s ever filled out a survey of happiness and satisfaction can attest, there is much in life that defies quantification.   We simply don’t have the right measuring instruments.  Can ticking boxes really capture the gestalt of a person’s emotional state?  Can G-d be measured with a ruler?

And yet, the scientific perfection of the universe is so striking that physicists are busy searching for The Force that Interacts with Every Particle and Holds All Matter Together.  Although the scientific name for this is Higgs Boson, others – half honestly, half humorously- dub it “the G-d Particle.”  Of course, they’re going about their search for the G-d Particle scientifically, using their version of the ruler -- the Large Hadron Collider. 
But we don’t need CERN to help us find G-d.  We need to stop the hubbub of the world, disconnect from our obsession with concrete thinking, and listen to the innate voice within that whispers to us of G-d’s existence.  Thanks to Abraham blazing the path, we’ve all inherited the gene for true, deep faith.

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