As we prepare for Yom Kippur and the end of another Jewish New Year season, I was reminded of last year’s High Holiday sermons on “Our Torah” from the perspective of Humanistic Judaism. If you don’t mind experiencing them a year later, I offer them for your enjoyment/contemplation (audio courtesy of the Kol Hadash Podcast).
“Torah” can mean law, teaching, scripture, wisdom. We find inspiration and insight both in and beyond the traditional sources. What is our Torah? What belongs in our ark?
“Myth” – Rosh Hashana Evening Creation, Noah and the Flood, the Tower of Babel, Abraham, Moses – these are our mythical origins. If they are not factually true, should we ignore them? Are they still relevant?
“History” – Rosh Hashana Morning
The traditional Torah is an origin story for the Hebrew people. Archaeology and historical study have created a new narrative, more complex and uncertain but also more interesting and humanistic. Do we have the courage to face the implications of the real history of our people?
“Ethics” – Yom Kippur Evening
The Torah knows nothing of feminism, science of mind, democracy, freedom of conscience or multiculturalism. If we define our own values throughout our lives, why bother exploring what our ancestors considered ethical?
“Literature” – Yom Kippur Morning
Great literature speaks to the human condition. Great Jewish characters – from David to the god Yahveh to Tevye – express what it can mean to be part of the Jewish people, and to be human. Our Torah is the literary creativity of our people, both before and since the Bible.
“Roots” – Yom Kippur Memorial
No person, and no people, springs from the dust of the ground, without heritage or inheritance. The wise know to evaluate the treasures of the past, and to celebrate what is most valuable.