The year is 57 … uh, something-something. I’m one of the nation’s 2 million reform Jews who doesn’t actually know what year we’re celebrating, which sorta makes the whole thing a bit of a lark. Which explains why I’m in Starbucks, writing a book proposal.
Organized religion does this to me. Occasionally, it brings out the best. Mostly, it brings out the cynic. On my walk here, I passed dozens of my fellow Jews, dressed in suits and ties and shiny loafers, walking to the nearby synagogue. For the most part, they’re dressed in suits and ties and shiny loafers, walking to the nearby synagogue because, back in the day, their parents dressed in suits and ties and shiny loafers and walked to the nearby synagogue. Their grandparents dressed in suits and ties and shiny loafers and walked to the nearby synagogue. On and on and on and on …
With rare exception, it’s always the same deal. We sit in synagogue, paying attention every now and then, thinking about the upcoming Giants-Cowboys game, humming along with the familiar songs, counting the pages until the thing is over. We attend because guilt and tradition says we need to attend; we attend because it’s important to be part of the community because, well, it’s important to be part of the community. So what if we don’t believe in 70 percent of the Torah? So what is we know Noah’s Arc is nonsense and the bush didn’t burn and Moses almost certainly did not received a tablet from God? Our parents were here, our friends are here—so we’re here, too.
I know … I know—cynical blatherings from a wandering Jew. Maybe. The thing is, I’ve never been able to fully wander. I talk about completely giving up Judaism; about ignoring all the traditions and screaming, “To hell with all this!” And yet … I can’t entirely pull the trigger. There is something to the bond shared by Jews; something about the commonalities. It’s weird, because—really—I’m pretty certain God doesn’t exist, thereby making all the teachers utter nonsense.
But I’m here, in Starbucks, writing my book proposal …
… feeling quite guilty.