Countdown -8: the 4th of Elul and Understanding

Today is the 4th of Elul, which is 8 days before I officially become a Jew.BlogElul 2015

So today’s theme is “understand.” And it occurs to me that this goes quite nicely with a request from Rafi: What are the rules of my blog? and something else I saw on Facebook today. That something is here:

Realization isn’t always the absence of confusion. Sometimes it’s the total acceptance and embracing of confusion. – Brad Warner

Understanding is also, sometimes, when you have to totally accept confusion. I do not pretend to be a straightforward, uncomplicated, linear person. I have contradictions, and I know I do. Some of those are centered around Israel and its politics, and also its political situation (the two are not the same). Some of those are centered around my views of Judaism and what it means to be a good Jew. Some of those are just contradictory because I’m a human being and humans are contradictory, go figure.

I don’t know everything about what it means to be a Jew who practices in the Reform manner. But here’s the thing: nobody does. Just like nobody knows everything about what it means to be a Jew, period, or an American, or a woman, or a gay man, or any other category you care to name. This goes along with yesterday’s theme of seeking. Sometimes we seek understanding and we don’t find it.

What the quote above is telling me is that it’s okay not to find it. The world is not a nice, linear, orderly place. There are a lot of weird things in our world – ever seen a duck-billed platypus? That, my friends, is weird. (It also tells me that God has a sense of humor, which has been a life-saving thing for me since I started down this path.)

So let’s start with this basic point: Sometimes there are things you don’t understand. Sometimes those are things you won’t understand, or can’t understand, or can never understand. For example, I can never understand God. My finite mind is not capable of understanding the Infinite, the Eternal. At a Shabbaton that I attended during our Intro classes, we talked about the infinite universe. We talked about how understanding – comprehension – really isn’t possible for us when we look at something that macrocosmic.

For me, today’s theme is more about letting go of the need to understand. I have been intensely frustrated trying to understand things that I cannot understand, and it’s caused me insane stress. Why do that to myself? Part of this process of preparation is to stop intellectualizing everything and just experience it sometimes.

I will address Rafi’s question in another post, but for this one I’m just going to leave you all these questions:

  1. What do you think you have to understand?
  2. Why do you think you have to understand it?
  3. What would life be like if you knew that you could never understand it? How would that change your life?
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