This week, I started a course of learning with Rabbi Evon Yakar of the Adventure Rabbi program, with a goal of deepening my understanding of who I am and what I believe in a context of interfaith connection.
We began with the concept of chosenness, considering sources in Judaism, Christianity and Islam – looking for common themes and common departures. Of course, our conversation began with Abraham and his role as the first human in recorded history to throw down the notion of worshipping idols and deduce that there must be one supreme creator of this incredible world.
It takes a lot to be that person questioning the status quo, Rabbi Evon noted. Sure does. (I should know – my whole life is built on doing things differently!) And with Abraham it began at the age of 3, as he watched the sun rise and set and the moon rise and set and realized that anything that could disappear could not be worthy of worship.
There is brilliance in innocence. Small children and babies do not judge. They love simply and purely and expansively. They don’t notice the wart on your nose or whether you’re fat or thin, and they respond instinctively when someone is kind to them (with love!) or unkind (with rejection and fear!).
We lose the brilliance as we lose the innocence. And we start to see the world through a filter. We unlearn instinct, and adopt the path of a follower. We question ourselves because others do things differently. We doubt what is true and take up what is false. We lose our way just as society teaches us we are gaining wisdom.
Rabbi Evon asserted that questioning is the foundation of Judaism. I counter, shouldn’t questioning be the foundation of Life?
As we looked at the different versions of the same story throughout three faith traditions, two thoughts occurred:
1. The story survives, therefore the people survives. Wow, the power of storytelling to transcend generations and individual thought. The stories that survive are the stories that reign.
2. What disappears in the course of the story of Abraham through three traditions is the questioning. While we all share a common ancestor, a foundational person in the history of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, in time, the right and demand of questioning, of turning things over, of scrutinizing and feeling the power and the import of asking questions and not just taking the status quo as doctrine, vanishes.
What are we left with, then?
Isn’t all religion an effort to control the masses, to organize community, to ensure the survival of a certain way of thinking?
And isn’t all religion at the same time beauty and inspiration and a path for clear living? Aren’t we, by being religious in any way, trying to muster some meaning out of the mundane?
There is brilliance in innocence. No baby or small child would reject a person because they believed differently or had different skin color or pronounced things with a different inflection.
Brilliance in the innocence. “Through our own recovered innocence, we discern the innocence of our neighbors.” – Henry David Thoreau