February 4, 2010

Jumble


Jumble is an interesting word. The dictionary says it means all mixed up or jumbled together, cluttered, a confused multitude of things. Well, I think my brain, and life for that matter, resemble that definition currently.

In the back of my mind I know that all these things must fit together somehow. But how? The issues of caring for the dying, the penniless and the unloved are forever pressing. It is interesting how some issues seem so consuming to me, while to others these things are just another item on the morning prayer list. Perhaps I just give these things too much of my energy.

There are bigger, more abstract thoughts that are mixed in with the challenging tasks at hand - questions that will not go away. Questions that are so huge in my mind that I can hardly put words to them, such as men v. woman...what does G-d really think of women, are they really second-class citizens? Are we required to mold ourselves to the model of the first century? Were the words of the apostle Paul meant for shaping our lives to first century culture, or are they just midrash, his opinion or good halachah?

Ah, I know...now I just crossed the line.

Further, I am confronted with a interesting and thought-provoking contrast. I have the privilege and unique opportunity to witness, from the inside, the differences and similarities of two believing communities. One, a Messianic synagogue with it's strict fundamentalism, and the other a rather flashy Christian assembly with a more tolerant mindset. Both are, to the best of their knowledge and ability, diligently following the commands of the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). However, one is earthy and the other is not-so-much. The comparison that comes to mind is the difference between whole grain bread and the lovely wheat bread - you know, the soft kind that the kids will eat. Both provide nutrition, but one is definitely an acquired taste. Strange analogy, I know.

Am I trying to discern which is the better way? Certainly not. But I'm seeing the benefits and disadvantages in each, that's for sure. Being a part of a very tight-knit group of believers can be a challenge, as is the case with my synagogue. Don't get me wrong, I believe that's where I belong, to be sure. It's not perfect by any stretch (not that anyone is expecting that, surely). Much more time is spent together in a synagogue community than in your mainstream Christian congregation, and when people spend a lot of time together, they tend to get to know each other very, very well. Maybe too well. Faults start to show, differences start to cause cracks and then questions start to come up...questions most wouldn't dare to verbalize. Questions about faith and love. Questions about priorities and truthfulness. Questions about the validity of halachah.

In sharp contrast, stepping into the setting of a strong-believing group of Christians is like stepping into a warm pool...aaaahhhh. No expectations, at least not on the surface. Welcoming acceptance and inclusion is the rule of the day. Loving, affirming words beckon and draw participants while the group worship experience binds them together. But the time spent together is limited and I see that people don't really get to know each other, not on a deep, personal level. And don't veer off the doctrine, don't ask questions...

Yeah, interesting contrast - most certainly a jumble. A jumble of thoughts and emotions, questions without answers and duty to be fulfilled. And personalities adding nuances to the jumble like little accents of color shot through a black and white optical illusion.

This, too, shall pass, but I'm afraid those insistent questions will remain.

5 comments:

SQUIRREL! said...

It is so sad to me that we can't have both. Our bh congregation is more like a family, with that comes the good and bad of family life. BUT as I try to teach my kidos, it more important to kind and loving and uplifting to family than anywhere else. Wish we could get that at schul since there really isn't anywhere else for us to go and follow God the way He intended.

Jedi-J said...

Having spent a year as the COG I can pretty much understand anyone...including other kinds of religions. I don't care who anyone prays to or even if they believe in god. I am always going to stand in the middle of all these people and view them as humans just like I am. I am not perfect by any means but I like to try and understand people as I wish they would me. Anyhow...as the COG I saw the 'ugly' side of getting too familiar with a large group of people. I liked when I was just a mere obscure member...trying to get back to that again and keep in constant contact with my close circle of friends. :)

Hendel D'bu said...

J, I can totally understand your feelings. Being COG had to be a demanding position. I, for one, am glad you served, my friend. You most certainly have my respect and friendship :-)

Hendel D'bu said...

And this valuable and interesting comment came from my letterboxing friend Kuku:

Being a Christian who has studied both the Hebrew Testament and the New Testament all her life, I can answer something on Paul and women being second class citizens.

The New Testament has the four gospels, which tell the story of Jesus, what he said and did, etc. Mostly, what Jesus is quoted as saying is absolutes: Love G-d with all your heart and love your neighbor. Love your enemies. Things like that.

Then, Paul, Mr. Fanatic, came along. He was fanatical about killing Christians, then was fanatical about being one. One of the things he did was to write letters to churches he had founded or visited, or sometimes when he hadn't even met them. (Romans is one of those and is more theory based than his other letters.)

He wrote to specific churches with specific problems and addressed them. If you wrote a letter to friend or a child with specific advice, would you want people to use them as general advice for 2000 years? Some of what you wrote might be profound for the ages but some might not.

What I understand about the church in Corinth is that it was a Jewish community that had become Christian. The tradition was for the men to sit in chairs and discuss and debate the scriptures and women were up in a balcony, watching and listening.

Jesus had come along and treated all peoples as equals, including women. So the women in the church of Corinth sat in a chairs opposite from their husbands, because they were to take part, now. But they didn't have the education or study to understand what was being discussed. So they yelled across the room to their husbands, asking what this and that meant. It was very disruptive.

Paul heard about this and wrote that women should stay silent in the worship and wait to ask their husbands later what the discussions meant.

This passage, of course, has been used as not ordaining women as pastors/ministers for many centuries. I belong to the Lutheran church and women have been ordained as pastors for about 60 years now. The associate pastor who just left my church is a woman. I attended Synagogue with a friend back in the 90's and the Rabbi was a woman.

Also, one thing to think about Paul: he never met Jesus and was not a follower until a year or two after Jesus' crucifixion. It was a very patriarchial society. Even though Jesus was seen as treating women as equals, you can see the patriarchial society taking over the early Christian church.

We always talk about the living word of G-d. G-d doesn't change in that His love is everlasting, but our societies, our specific problems and situations, our understanding of G-d and the world He created does.

Just one chapter earlier than the "women stay silent" chapter, is Paul's famous definition of G-d's love, 1 Corinthians 13

In it, Paul states, "For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known."

I feel we keep pursuing G-d and striving to understand and our understanding is only in part, so it sometimes changes through the ages. Even if we do not know fully, we are fully known. What a wonderful thought.

I hope I didn't bore you with all of this. I believe that we are created in G-d's image in that we are creative, as G-d is creative. And creative certainly describes you! Just imagine that you are honoring and worshipping G-d every time you carve a stamp!

Your friend,
Susan

Ari C'rona said...

Well, my friend, you certainly put all the jumble into a clear statement. You know I share your thoughts on all the various facets of our community.

May our Master grant us continued wisdom as we keep walking through it all.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kuku! I found them well worth reading. :o)