You Shall Pursue

August 1, 2013

Will We Need Torah in Olam HaBa?

Filed under: D'var Torah — Tags: , , — marleyweiner @ 2:27 pm

Some of my most interesting moral quandaries start as arguments on the internet. About a week and a half ago, I was discussing the Torah on a feminist website that I frequent. The woman I was talking with was not of a Jewish background, and was asking sincerely whether it is possible to redeem the patriarchal source material in the Bible, and whether or not it is in everyone’s best interest to just shed “Abrahamic religion” all together. Naturally, I think that there is much in Torah that can be redeemed and much that is life affirming. Mostly, because I believe that Torah is an accurate reflection of how we as a people are able to struggle toward the Divine and the just in an imperfect, shattered world. But this leads me to a hypothetical; if the world were not imperfect and shattered, if the vision of the prophets was fulfilled and people came to treat each other with dignity and mutual regard, what place would our deeply flawed scripture have in that world?

Our Torah paints a picture of humanity that is reflective of how it is now: flawed, sometimes misogynistic, often classist, violent, and xenophobic. And yet, even within the confines of humanity’s flaws, our patriarchs, prophets, kings (notice how many are men) struggle to define and refine a vision of a society that is just and equitable. There is beauty in standing up and saying that we as people can and must do better. That our ancestors did not use their flaws as an excuse to drop out of the work, and neither should we. That is a profound and radical statement.

But the ultimate goal is a world in which so much that the Bible takes for granted is unthinkable. Already, notions of purchasing your wife, owning slaves, are shocking to modern audiences. At what point do we transition from the Bible presenting a vision of a redeemed world within a flawed context to just presenting humanity’s flaws? In other words, if our world were indeed free of racism, xenophobia, classism, sexism, homophobia, etc. what would the place of scripture be?

I can’t imagine the Bible as purely an exercise in literature, divorced of its Divine demands. At the same time, I am aware that I disavow other works in the Western cannon that I do not consider holy because the morals within them disturb me. I don’t think we are at a place where we do not need scripture as a guide book for religious Christians, Muslims, and Jews. But what if, some day, we get to a point where our relationship with God no longer matches the path set forth in scripture? What does that look like?

I’m not sure of the answers for this. And I’m not sure what it says about my relationship with scripture today, and where I hope to see it evolve. But the questions have been bothering me, and I wanted to raise them.

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