From a Perspective of Years

A correspondent asked how I dealt with more profound theological issues when I left Christianity for Judaism....

I will try to answer as honestly as possible. In truth, it is likely that my recollections are somewhat colored by the passage of time and the growth of my own religious perspective over the intervening decades. In any case, you are correct, there are not many who can look at both sides, and none who can look at both equally --or if they did, they would not be worth listening to. This is a task we each take upon ourselves. 
 
My choice to leave Christianity was certainly not one of textual arguments, of proof texts and scholarly evidence. Rather it was one of some deeper awareness, a conciousness not unlike that of self. There were two parts to this consciousness, by which I would ultimately measure my experience of truth, and are still pivotal. 
1. God is One. 
2. What we do in the world is important 
 
These were simply non-negotiable, in my heart, and, I think, in my mind. Perhaps it could have been expressed differently, that there is a purpose for the world, and that God is the source of that purpose (though I am not sure I would have been able to articulate it that way at the time.) 
 
I became a Christian initally because I was at a very low point in life, very depressed, lonely, confused about who and why I was. When a friend offered me a path, possibility of being loved, of God caring about me, it was a great relief. I wanted to believe it was true. I wanted to trust those who purveyed that "truth". It made me feel better, happier. I wanted to love God. I wanted a relationship with Him. I thought that if I went this path it would give me that. It was very much a religious experience. I equated the good feeling with being true, being touched by God. It was being part of a community, sharing common beliefs.... and I would certainly have affirmed my belief in Jesus at that point.

But it seems that the deeper conciousness would eventually give voice to questions that I could not answer within that belief system: I wanted to run away from the questions at first. After all, in a religion where faith is paramount, where one accepts without reason, doubt is a serious sin, in and of itself. But the questions would NOT go away: 
 
If God is One, then why are you praying to anyone or anything else? One is not two. One is not three. How is God both God and human? 

Who am I really praying to? (and to a lesser extent how Satan could be enough of a god to challenge God) 
 
I was also at dis-ease with the emphasis on getting to Heaven, with the ease at which we could assume that someone would be consigned to eternal damnation, and at the same time how little we were concerned about the meaningfulness of our actions here in this world (except for how they would reflect on us as "witnesses of the Lord.") 
 
It seems that more and more, I was feeling cracks at the edges and that deeper conciousness appears to have been the hammer that was causing them. 
 
And then there was the Yom Kippur war. I cannot explain how deeply and viscerally it affected me. Not because I cared of the politics so much as some part of me felt the injury. It is not something I can explain, though it was sort of like my soul had somehow become entwined with the collective Jewish soul, and we all hurt. 
 
Finally there was the contribution of a "Jewish believer" whom I asked for help in dealing with these doubts. He told me to go witness the Gospel to others, and that would strengthen my own faith. Truth and honesty, especially toward God, Whom I understood to be Truth (with a capital T) were too important to engage in what seemed to me to be a dishonest act.  

There came a point where I could not at one time accept the Unity of God and the concept of a Trinity. 
 
I felt if God would consign me to eternal damnation for loving Him as honestly as possible, that I would choose to make that sacrifice. And when I made it, I assure you, I still felt it to be a real possibility. The cracks became a chasm, it became obvious that I would need to choose the side on which I would stand. On one hand I knew that Christianity would say that abandoning Jesus was consigning myself to Hell. On the other was that I knew I loved God and could not ever be truly happy if I was not honest toward Him, or even worse,, if I was betraying Him. Honesty and fidelity toward God simply won out. I reached a point where I said that I would choose Hell over a dishonest or betraying relationship. I felt if God would consign me to eternal damnation for loving Him as honestly as possible, that I would choose to make that sacrifice. And when I made it, I assure you, I still felt it to be a real possibility. 
 
However, after I made the choice... though it was really over a period of time before things truly settled and I was able to become settled on the choice, the inner turmoil ceased, the conflict, the sense of betrayal... it quieted, and what was left was an honest love of God. At that point I really did not have a clear religious path. In truth that did not come until I eventually became an observant Jew. It was only then that the second voice, of purpose in the world began to take a form that was in true consonance with a greater comprehension what what the Shema meant. 
 
I can tell you that even this journey was not without its challenges, and I found at one point that I was honestly questioning how much conviction I had about Torah itself. There was a big difference in this questioning though. I turned to a knowledgeable rabbi, and rather than the questions being seen as a sin, they were understood to be a springboard for another level of spritual maturity, discarding misconceptions, and finding a much more profound relationship with God. The point is not so much the result, but rather that even now, an honest relationship with God is the most important thing in my life. From it ALL other things in life grow. My marriage, my relationship with children, other people, the world. 
 
I think that this is something that every individual has to come to terms with for him- or herself. I can't possibly tell you or anyone else how you perceive that relationship. What I can tell you is that beyond teaching that God is our King and our Father, Judaism teaches that we also have a quality of relationship with Him as a husband and wife. Fidelity is paramount.  

I could tell you in a lot of ways why NOW I can so clearly understand that Jesus could not be God, and why it would simply be impossible for me to even conceive of it anymore. There are prooftexts, there's the fact that Malchus (the eligibility for kingship) flows through the biological father, etc. etc. ... but those are not why it is really impossible to accept this. Rather it is because my concept of God is no longer at all what it was as a Christian. At that point God was "up there" and we were "down here" and the Devil was wherever he damned well pleased.  

Ultimately it really means that we can never truly "know" God except by how He interacts with us. All life is a choice. All good is a choosing that brings us to a closer and more honest relationship with Him. Now I better understand what that deeper awareness of God's One-ness was all about, why it was so real.... because ultimately there is only God. He is the only independent reality, and we are but the words He speaks, as it were. All creation is. There is no "up there", for God has no place, no time. He is not ultimately wise or strong or good, because these are constructs that are only meaningful within the created world. They are all sourced in God, but cannot apply to Him. Kadosh. Holy. Ultimately it really means that we can never truly "know" God except by how He interacts with us. All life is a choice. All good is a choosing that brings us to a closer and more honest relationship with Him.  

We are not separate from Him because it is He Who gives us our existence, our life, our conciousness. It is a blessing when one is given the gift of being concious of that level of their own existience. It becomes an inexhorable need to return the love. As a Jew, that means connecting as the Torah (including that which was orally transmitted) teaches. There is a world more that could be said, but would not really be meaningful to one who stood outside of the Jewish people. It is not what they would teach in Hebrew school, suffice it to say. 
 
I hope I have given some insights. At the very least, I assure, you, I have done my utmost to give you an honest answer. 
 
Be well. 
Shoshana 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


9.11. 2001

email: mailto:shoshana@zakar.com