Sunday, December 6, 2009

Literally or figuratively?!

So I took a little gander at the English translation of the Torah portion our daughter was assigned to learn and sing in front of the congregation (in Hebrew) to become a Bat Mitzvah.  *GASP*  How are we going to simply gloss over the literal meaning of some of these completely inappropriate and outdated concepts?!  For example, kidnapping, rape, justifiable murder by pelting with stones, marrying your dead husband's brother to insure the family name is carried on, stoning your own son to death because he is rebellious & disobedient, and cutting off the hand of the woman who grabs a man's private parts to break up a fight between her husband and his brother.  Oh sure, there are some great messages in this particular section of the Bible.  One exceptionally timeless message is that "finder's" is not "keeper's"; you should always try to return something you've found that does not belong to you.  After all, I am by no means an expert in religion or the Torah.  This section of the Bible contains 74 of the 613 laws or "mitzvot" G-d commanded to us.  I certainly do not understand them all, or what they should mean to me and my family.  However, I do know that our daughter is expected to learn to sing the Hebrew text of these 74 laws dictated in this portion of the Old Testament as it is written in the Torah.  I have conflicted feelings about burdening her with some of the inappropriate information it contains.  Does that make me a hypocrite?  I don't know.  I do know that there is a lot to be learned from the positive messages that this parsha contains though, so I suppose we'll try to put our focus on that.  I wonder how other parents have handled some of the age inappropriate texts their children have been challenged with.  This past Shabbat a set of twins tackled parashat Vayishlach for their Bar and Bat Mitzvot, which contains a powerful story of rape and revenge; I appreciated that our Rabbi said straight up that it is difficult, challenging, and sad to have to revisit such a tragic story year in and year out, but that we do it and hopefully learn from it.  Please feel free to comment here and share your experiences so that our family and others can learn too.
Here's a summary of the story: 
and here's a detailed translation:


Corey J Feldman said...

That is a hard issue. I consider myself pretty spiritual but not religious as I have a hard time with literal interpretations of religion. I just don't believe the human mind can really grasp the divine. My kids are bit young for in depth philosophical conversations but I try and teach both religion and critical thinking, they can exist in the same mind.

ZeidmanZoo said...

It sounds like we have that spiritual side in common... I love your perspective on not being able to grasp the divine as it relates to understanding the Bible. I also believe strongly in teaching the religion along with the critical thinking, and scientific perspective. I guess that's part of why it will be difficult to explain to her why she has to work so hard to sing some of these completely absurd, antiquated, and seemingly incomprehensible commandments, other than the 'tradition' argument! :) Of course, if it gives us a chance to search for more meaning in our spiritual journey, then I suppose it will all be worth it! Thanks for your thoughts Corey!