I read the podcast entitled “Opening up Windows” in which Krista Tippett is in Jerusalem interviewing the Orthodox Rabbi David Hartman. Rabbi Hartman shares with us 80 years of his philosophy. He was raised what he says is “very Jewish.” His interview made a lot of sense to me in some very deep regards. Rabbi Hartman talks about his youth in where he says “I was a nice religious boy until I started to read.” He goes on to talk about moving away from conventional Orthodoxy because he was not satisfied with the answers. I found that to be a very profound statement and it is no wonder he is one that creates some controversy. It is the questioning of one’s faith that I find refreshing. He was able to do something that I feel very few people are able to do and walk away satisfied and that is to redefine God for what he believes makes the most sense to him and the world we live in. While that may be a great contradiction to what it means to be faithful the Rabbi tells us that he has “no desire to leave the faith. I have a desire to make it better.” He seems to do that. His view of the world is not typical for what I am used to hearing from religious leaders. He even addressed my feelings when he speaks of the young man who comes to him and tells him that he is an atheist. The one thing Rabbi Hartman asked was what changed? His criterion for being human is: are you acting any different with your non-belief than when you were a believer? That fits me perfectly. I feel that even without a god in my life, I am still a kind, caring, trustworthy person. It was nice to hear some acceptance from someone who is so deeply rooted in spirituality. Some of the things that stuck me in his interview were also his views on where the Jews are today. He speaks of their strengths while at the same time he acknowledges their difficulties. He mentions the Jews wanting to be loved. He wants to understand why the world hates them. He mentions that they live with a deep fear. Those are some fantastic points. In some of that talk is where I find myself disagreeing with the Rabbi. The one thing he never does mention is that Israel makes mistakes. He only mentions the faults of other nations and religions. He speaks of the anger that the Palestinians cause him. He fails to look at his own nation more critically. I think that is something that he and I will differ on. What the Rabbi does to redeem himself to me is when he mentions wanting to just sit down and engage in some meaningful dialogue. That Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike should be able to talk, iron out their differences and I feel that would be a great plan. That is the one thing I feel we are lacking in the entire world. We as different nations with different major belief systems fail to understand even a small bit of what it is like to see the world through the eyes of another. I think we lack the compassion for those we do not understand. Rabbi Hartman really made me stop and think about how I look at those with different belief systems. Often I am quite hard on them for having beliefs that I do not. That sort of intolerance is the problem. I need to be more compassionate with those I do not see eye to eye with. Instead of instantly getting into a debate, slow down and try meaningful dialogue. I may learn something if I just stop and listen.
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