|Growing a beard was part of AJ's living the Bible project.|
So AJ decides to live the Bible as literally as possible. The book is quite funny in many parts, but also it's "serious" in that AJ, an agnostic who grew up in a secular Jewish family, comes to discover some appreciable aspects of living the Bible. Frequently he gives a spiritual report and declares "I'm still agnostic but..." and will talk about how something - prayer or giving to charity or realizing discipline is important for his child - makes him feel better.
Anyway, I still have over half the book to read, but I thought I'd share one scenario. On Day 80 AJ is at a family gathering. Most of the family is not religious, however, one aunt is an Orthodox Jew. Her name is Kate. So AJ's grandfather asks about the strangest rule AJ has to follow.
"I mentally scan my list of Five Most Perplexing Rules. I choose one at random. 'Probably the one about how if you're in a fistfight, and the wife of your opponent grabs your private parts, you must cut off her hand.'"
Kate hears this and her face falls. Maybe she didn't realize her beloved Torah had such a strange command. But there it is in Deuteronomy 25:11-12.
11 If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, 12 you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.
The next day AJ gets a phone call from Kate. She'd talked to her rabbi who said, yes, it was in the Torah,
"But...it's supposed to represent something broader: Do not embarrass others. The wife here is embarrassing her husband by assuming he needs help. And the wife is embarrassing the husband's opponent by, well, grabbing his privates. Plus, adds Kate, you didn't actually chop off the wife's hand. That's metaphorical. The woman was required only to pay a fine."
AJ admits this sounds more rational interpreted this way, but questions why didn't the Bible just come out and say not to embarrass others? "Why the mysterious code?"
He asked his Jewish advisers and the best answer he received was from Rabbi Noah Weinberg: "Life is a jigsaw puzzle, he told me. The joy and challenge of life -- and the Bible -- is figuring things out. 'If a jigsaw puzzle came numbered, you'd return it to the store.' Same with life."
I've heard people say before that part of the joy of life and the goodness of God is that He left things for us to discover. Wouldn't life be different and less satisfying if everything were already figured out? If there were no mountains to climb on the hunt for that thrilling view from the top, no waterfalls to discover hidden on a trail, no medicinal or scientific or oceanic discoveries to make? No gems to dig for, no birds to watch and learn their habits - how that mothering instinct is present. Isn't it fun to watch young children discover their toes or noses or ears? Isn't it exciting to go to the zoo or circus or even Walmart and see a little one's face light up as he discovers new things? On a related note, I've heard people say heaven will still be full of discoveries. Not sure how they deduced that, but it makes sense to me that God would want to see the pleasure on our faces when we discover wondrous things He has created. Maybe He has new things for us to discover throughout eternity. Who knows?
By the way AJ said this explanation wasn't totally satisfying, but did somewhat and vowed to keep on learning.
What do you think of the rabbi's explanation about God not spelling out the rules and the whole jigsaw puzzle bit? Do you think it's gift from God that we are able to discover or do you wish things were discovered already as they could be beneficial to humanity? How would you interpret the Deuteronomy passage above? Thoughts or questions?
quotes from pg. 111-112