Sunday, April 7, 2013

Do you worship Me?

I continue with the policy that states even half-formed thoughts and incomplete essays may be aired out. 

Years ago, when I first stepped upon the path of becoming more religiously observant, I had a near-subconscious message I was carrying to G-d: I know Your truth, I accept Your truth, I live by Your truth and make the necessary sacrifices... and You, in return, give me peace, happiness and a clearly defined road for the rest of my life. 

Need I say that it does not work this way?

Not long ago I listened to a lecture by a rabbi who said something which rang very true with me. He said, "when a person first begins the path of religious observance, G-d helps him. He gets encouragement. He gets unexpected support from places he didn't even dream of... but a little later down the road, G-d begins to test him. He asks: do you worship Me, or do you worship My religious community? 

And there I hung my head in shame. Because, yes, at the beginning of my road the religious community seemed very very appealing (and in many ways it still is), and I very much wanted to fit in with it and leave behind any problems of our wider society such as promiscuity, divorce, late singleness, etc. In a way it worked. I got married when I was 22 and had my children at 23 and 25; I now live in a (mostly) religious settlement, fit in as an integral part of it, have people over for dinner/lunch/occasional visits, host play dates, cook meals for women who had recently given birth, and compare tips on how to tie tichels. 

But I also realize now that fitting in with a community is not all, perhaps not even most; that religious communities, especially small ones, may, and do, have their own flaws, such as hipocrisy, gossip, holier-than-thou attitudes, and what I call "womb whispers" ("Is she pregnant? She must be pregnant. What, she still isn't pregnant? Isn't it about time she was? Do you know if she has a problem? Should we pray for her?") (my answer to all of the above would be, it's a private matter unless one of the directly concerned personally confided in you)... however...

... a community/congregation/branch of faith is not G-d and should not be viewed as such. Marriage, children, family, education, work, projects, a way of life, all of these are important things... but not something to worship. 

There were times when I grew very bitter. I said to G-d, "I know what You offer is true, but sometimes I wish I had never found out. I wish I could just have gone on with my life the way it suited me." I did not really mean it then, and I don't think so now, but what I did grow to realize is this: I need to distinguish between what G-d commands, and what society dictates (just a recent example: G-d asks for a chametz-free house before Pesach. Society expects clean windows and newly painted walls. Therefore, the burden is social expectations, not a harsh and demanding G-d). 

And this question still rings in my ears: do you worship Me, or do you worship those who follow Me? 

Do you worship an idea? A dream? An ambition? A person/group of people? A famous teaching? Are you driven by greed, lust, selfishness, pride? 

Do you worship anything but Me?


Anonymous said...

I agree with this post. In Chassidic communities, there tends to be rabbi worship which I do not approve of. This is why I am not Chabad because I do not worship the rebbe and do not believe he is messiah or the reincarnation of G-D. You are correct about being careful not to worship communities and to also be aware that communities are not without flaws.

Tammy said...

Very well said, and definitely something to think about.

Chava said...

Oh this hits a tone with me today. I was more taken with the idea of the modest head covering Christians than what was actually going on with it.

I love womb whisperers, great term :D

I don't want to chunk the baby out with the bath water so to speak so I just quit listening to people and read my Bible.

People always say "I have a personal relationship with G-D" but in the end it is more important than the group you run with.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the most "hitting the nail on the head" post I've ever read. Thank you.2

Kate said...

Sorry I can't speak to the religious aspects of your post but what I particularly enjoyed was:

'Womb whisperers'!! I love that!! Tooo funny... and I get SO tired of being asked why I don't have a 2nd child yet (Answer=well I did conceive TWO other children if you must know, and miscarried both), or when I'm going to try for another (Answer=Started trying 2 years ago, finished trying 8 months ago!), or just to give it another try (Answer= please experience 2 miscarriages THEN you will be able to give me advice). Etc. etc. etc...... in American culture general family planning questions are appropriate to ask, HOWEVER the distinction should be made that one should only ask with the intention of being *supportive of the family's decisions and plans NO matter what they are*. If people have ideas or an agenda about what may happen, should happen, could happen, or needs to happen, then they need to keep it to themselves!! :)

Katy M. said...

This is soooo true. Especially the part about clean windows and painted walls as societal expectations. I think we are all guilty of following after man more than God at times.

Jenny in the Mitten said...

Thank you. This is all too true of today's culture. I pray that I will have the guidance from G-d to understand where HE needs me to be in HIS world.

Once Again, Thank You So Much!

Mrs. Anna T said...

Thank you all for your replies, ladies.

Kate, I'm so sorry for what you must be going through. I can very well relate (though I have had, thank G-d, no miscarriages).

Another question to be asked is how many people fell out with G-d because of what other people said/did.

Anonymous said...

Great thoughts! There are many who are bitter towards religious communities, and are now far from G-d because they have rejected all of it, so to speak.

Others have left the organized religion part, but are hanging on to the G-d relationship.

I totally understand this. Religious leaders and members tend to add so many extra requirements to what should be a fairly simple, straightforward life with G-d. How did the Ten Commandments turn into the Thousands Commandments?

I rarely comment, but I enjoy your blog. Great picture of the goat! Made me laugh.

Marie Claire

Kelsye Cassell said...

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. This is something that I have been struggling with also lately. It is really encouraging to see that it's not only me that has this but that there is also a way to get past it too!!

Anonymous said...

As always, you give me much to think about. Too many worship "other gods", be it celebrities, money, fame, control of others, or even mind-altering substances.

Once again, thank you for a thoughtful, thought-provoking post.


Megan said...

Great post. We have the same problem in my Christian community. You say it so well, thank you for the reminder to keep my focus on God.

Miriam said...


miten tärkeä aihe ja miten hyvä kirjoitus! Kiitos!
Shabbat Shalom!

Mrs. Anna T said...

Miriam, kiitos!

Mrs. Parunak said...

Wow. Amen!!! There is so much truth in this post.