A posted a while ago about an invitation I received from Danny Pearl’s parents to contribute to a volume of thoughts about Judaism/Jewishness in the wake of his murder called ‘I AM JEWISH: PERSONAL REFLECTIONS INSPIRED BY THE LAST WORDS OF DANIEL PEARL.’ I asked for some guidance from you all about what to say. Thanks for your many thoughts – they were of great help.
I know I said I wasn’t going to be posting any more ‘religion’ stuff, particularly because it gets so many people irrate, but here is my short entry to the book:
Jews are not a tribe but an amalgamation of tribes around a single premise: that human beings have a role. Judaism dared to make human beings responsible for this realm. Instead of depending upon the gods for food and protection, we decided to enact God, ourselves, and to depend on one another.
So, out of the death cults of Mitzrayim came a repudiation of idolatry, and a way of living that celebrated life itself. To say “l’chaim” was new, revolutionary, even naughty. It overturned sacred truths in favor of sacred living.
We are not passive recipients of law and truth, but active creators of ethical systems and models for the Divine. We are not believers, or even doubters, but wrestlers. Israel, more than a nation-state, is this very confrontation with the Divine. The wrestling is our continuity.
It’s important to me that those who, throughout history, have attacked the Jews on the basis of blood not be allowed to redefine our indescribable process or our eternally evolving civilization. We are attacked for our refusal to accept the boundaries, yet sometimes we incorporate these very attacks into our thinking and beliefs.
It was Pharaoh who first used the term Am Yisrael in Torah, fearing a people who might replicate like bugs and not support him in a war. It was the Spanish of the Inquisition who invented the notion of Jewish blood, looking for a new reason to murder those who had converted to Catholicism. It was Hitler, via Jung, who spread the idea of a Jewish “genetic memory,” capable of instilling an uncooperative nature in even those with partial Jewish ancestry. And it was Danny Pearl’s killers who defined his Judaism as a sin of birth.
I refuse these definitions.
Yes, our parents pass our Judaism on to us, but not through their race, blood, or genes—it is through their teaching, their love, and their spirit. Judaism is not bestowed; it is enacted. Judaism is not a boundary; it is the force that breaks boundaries.
And Judaism is the refusal to let anyone tell us otherwise.