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Saturday, June 19, 2010

God revisited

I must confess, in one area I failed as a mother, yet, this failure in a very strange way feels a lot like success.

How could that be, you are asking?

It started with a Korean movie, chosen by... yes, you guessed it. That girl of mine. My Son is a depressing story about a 39 yr-old convict who gets a day out of prison after 15 years to go see his son whom he hasn't seen since the boy was 3. In any case, there is one scene at the beginning of the movie in which the convict sits in the prison's chapel talking to the chaplain, and the chaplain, trying to sooth the convict's frustration about the short time he got to see his son, says that one day is not as short as it seems, and that even God was able to create the world, the light and human beings in one day. As soon as he says it, the convict rises from the bench and shoots back, "it took him 6 days, and he took a day off because he was tired. I told you I read the bible three times cover to cover. What's wrong with you?"

I don't know what made me stop and turn to my daughter and say, "yeah, that's why we have Shabbat."

To my total surprise I found out that she didn't know that. She also didn't know much about the story of the creation, like what happened each day or that man was created before woman (in the second version, only). Her ignorance was a real surprise to me. We've been living in the same house for almost 14 yrs and I had just found out that my daughter knew close to nothing about the bible, and most of what she knew was attributed to the movie Year one with Jack Black. Oh, please, hide me somewhere.

This is the part where I see my failure. I raised a child who has very little knowledge of early Judaic literature, mythology, customs, laws, world view, and history. She doesn't know the intricacies of the Canaanites kingdoms, the betrayals, the incest, the curses, the mass murders, the miracles, the crazed prophets, the wars, the disasters, victories, intrigue and fatal mistakes of all those mentioned in the Book. There is so much she doesn't know and will have to learn about to be a well-rounded person, and more importantly, a person who can fully relate to me, since part of my language, imagery, and culture comes from that Book, which I studied cover to cover, inside and out, during my school years and later as an adult. But learning the (Jewish) bible and the various interpretations that accompany it, is not the only thing she still has to learn. There is so much more out there for her learn, and learning the (Jewish) bible is definitely not the most important thing, in my opinion.

And this is where success enters the picture.

Many people become quasi religious/observant when they have kids. Suddenly they start visiting the synagogue or church, feel compelled to celebrate their kids' bar mitzvah when they're Jewish, or baptize them when they are not, and then, horror of all horrors, send them to Sunday school, where they learn to read biblical Hebrew and make holiday decorations.

When my daughter was born I decided that I was not going to expose her to the quintessential abuser, God of the Jews. I was going to spare her this trauma and not tell her anything about Him until she was old enough to understand the true meaning of religion. And so she grew up oblivious to what generations of children had to endure from very early age. Even I, growing up in a secular kibbutz where people ate lobster and hunted wild boar, developed the fear of God in my early childhood. Although my parents were not religious and the first time I visited a synagogue I was in eighth grade, just hearing the stories and seeing the pictures was enough to scare the beJesus out of me. I mean, a small child does not have the tools to process the removal of Adam and Eve from Eden, or the murder of Abel, or the fate Lot's wife. God's omnipotence and omnipresence is absolutely terrifying and no child is immune to God's voyeurism. Every grown up is so powerful already, so you can imagine how God can come across when you are five years old.

So I shielded my daughter from God. And I am happy to say that I succeed. Now she has no fear of being punished by God, or sent to hell or just having apprehension that she is being observed by an invisible male entity, when she really wishes not to be observed, like when she is taking a shower, for example. (In general, I think that only after a female's first visit to a male gynecologist should she be introduced to the concept of God. Anytime before that would be very damaging.)

Then, before I knew it, I was vindicated.

On Sunday I went to a Thai Buddhist temple where I mentioned to the head monk how I wanted to spare my daughter the fear of God, so I never taught her about Him. The head monk did not flinch at my brazen disregard for the One. He smiled and said that the important thing is knowing good and bad, not learning about god. Then, he asked me to wait, exited the temple and went to the monks' living quarters. He came back a few minutes later with a small book entitled No Religion by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, and gave it to me. To summarize the premise of this little book, here is what it says: "When there is truly no religion we will live in genuine love, harmony, and peace."

Too bad monks are not allowed to be hugged by women.