In the always confusing and violent world that we live in, it can often be difficult to reconcile our faith with trauma and acts of violence. It is not always to easy to devote the time to work on our religion, our Jewish identity and understanding. So, why do we continue to choose Judaism? Mayim Bialik answers that question in her 2003 article, “Why I am a Jew…:”
“A dear secular Jewish friend recently asked me why I believe any of this stuff. Why anyone should believe in their particularist[sic], exclusionary view of a world so often chaotic and sad. We had started by talking about kosher laws. She, an ardent vegetarian, scoffed when I mentioned that laws of kashrut imbue humanity into our food and our bodies, that the laws are ancient and infused with mystical content. What rings true about the laws is that they makes[sic] me infuse my life with wonder and awe. Judaism elevates mundane experiences and makes them holy. It gives me an identity that I both create and join. It is collective and individual.
It gives me a calendar that has events that have been celebrated thousands of times. It is the link to a past that was almost exterminated. The dying words of millions, they[sic] holy Shema, is the first sentence I ever uttered.
I have devoted so much of my life to the study and practice of Judaism’s ethical, legal, and moral system that I can now see patterns of my faults and those of our People and the world at large.
I have learned that it is not introspection and growth that leads to existential exhaustion, but rather stagnation that pulls one’s soul into despair.
I find that structure is a very positive force for me. Having rules. Having discipline. Our system is unpopular in today’s culture of instant gratification and lack of respect for tradition, religiosity, and modesty.
Judaism is not all supposed to “make sense…” It is a struggle to believe in this life, in this social era, in these times. It is not supposed to be easy.
My rabbi says that every religion stands on the street corner and says, “Hey! We’ve got the answers!” That’s attractive. Judaism stands there and says, “We’ve got the questions, but no answers.”
Do I think Judaism is “better” than other religions? No way. But it makes sense to me and it brings joy to my life. I see people trying to make the world a better place and those poeple[sic] are more often than not people with discipline and a sense of religious morality. The more I study and grow, the more I find myself not gossiping, not hurting other people, and understanding the power of compassion.
I can still be myself through all of this. I know that Judaism guarantees me the freedom to question G-d and to struggle. It’s not supposed to be easy and make sense. It’s life. There is tension. And that’s ok.
Every religion has ways of interpreting the universe. Science has its own way. For me, religion is an ancient explanation of scientific phenomena. I don’t necessarily believe that G-d wanted us to be confused and therefore scripted an ambiguous Torah in order to hide from us; I do, however believe, that just as we can’t touch the ends of the universe, we can’t “know G-d.” I appreciate skepticism but have yet to meet someone who found my view of theology in conflict with science, human nature, or reality. I have worked to understand the historical context of Judaism and the religions it helped to birth. I hope to tackle all religions, but I have started closest to home. And it feels right.”
-Mayim Bialik, May 2003