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Faith in Faith 

07/28/2022 10:13:16 AM

Jul28

For most liberal Jews in America at least, we do not experience today or the days surrounding it as different.  Truth be told, for most Israeli Jews as well, the intermediate days between the 17th of Tammuz (the day of the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem in 70 CE) and the 9th of Av (the memorial of the subsequent destruction of the ancient Temple), are just Monday or Wednesday or… And I am not necessarily advocating for liberal Jews to start fasting on these two bookend days, but it isn’t un-useful to consider them as an invitation to turn inwards a bit, nonetheless.  Off in the very much not so distant future (end of August) is the onset of the month of Elul, and after that, Rosh Hashanah.  This can be a time to begin the reflection that IS necessary for experiencing the potential impact that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur can have upon us.  If we open the door…throughout this period (between “now” and “then,” I am going to share with you tidbits of ideas, not overwhelming, just enough to get your thoughts or your prayers or perhaps your journaling going, as we look ahead.  This week I start with the notion of Ne’emanut.

Ne-emanut translates as “faithfulness,” however don’t let that turn you away.  It’s a Hebrew word from the root letters that spell the most common word spoken religiously (and not so religiously) by a giant segment of the world – “Amen.”  When we say, “Amen,” we are essentially saying, “Yeah,” or “I agree,” or “I’m with her/him/they.”  But ne’emanut is deeper than any kind of spoken affirmation, it is an act of proximity, a recognition that we are tied deeply, one to (at least) certain others (if not all others), and the depth of that connection demands certain loyalties not easily abridged.  And if abridged, not at all easily repaired.  Meir Buzaglo, an Israeli scholar, writes in her book Safah Le’Neemanim: Mahshavot al Masoret (Book of Loyalties: Thoughts on Tradition):

Ne’emanut isn’t the result from faith, and faith is not simply an additional, redundant form of ne’emanut.  These two exist in a complex, tangled, wondrous relationship – the relationship between approaching Judaism as a faith and approaching Judaism as the identity of an ethnic group.  The placid calm that the relativist puts upon us falls away, replaced by dialogue and attentive, inward self-accounting, which no one who values and respects their Judaism can do without. 

Now this may sound like its delivered with quite a bit of judgment, but maybe that’s OK.  While religious zealotry does continue to rage without kindness, compassion, or integrity, the prophetic voices of our “Faith(s)” reverberate beyond the cacophony of charlatans that abound.  The prophetic voices of Ne’emanut do call us to account, and they properly should.  We need the reminders to overcome the pressures to cut ties with our traditions, or to double and triple not them, such that we can see nothing but.  What does it look like when we allow our faith in our faith (our neemanut) to have a vote, not a veto?  What does it look like when we commit to allowing it to conduct our spiritual lives?  What does it mean when we keep faith as an act that determines our actions, but not necessarily our beliefs? 

At worst, we might just find we are nicer to be around.  At best, who knows? We might find that we change a moment, an experience, an action that changes the world?  (even if just for now?). And feel our “Jewishness” in ways that matter and make a difference.

Wed, August 17 2022 20 Av 5782