I have officially published my 40th piece on this blog, and I feel that at this point, some reflection is necessary.
In the Tanakh, the number 40 signifies a generation or a complete cycle of time. Moses was on the mountain for 40 days before given the Torah and the Jews had to wander the desert for 40 years (one generational cycle), to allow enough time for communal reflection. Similarly, kings such as David and Solomon served for this same number of years, representing their stability and longevity as leaders. Furthermore, according to the Talmud, a fetus in its first 40 days is mere water and only after this period does it become “alive” in any way. Thus, I feel that as I post my 40th blog post, I should look back at this moment and reflect.
I started this blog approximately a year and a half ago, and in that time it has served a variety of purposes. I remember the day when I decided to start blogging: I was sitting in one of the computer labs at UCLA at the end of the summer, attempting to plan my classes for the upcoming school year. As with the majority of the times that I deal with technical details, my mind immediately wandered to more abstract and philosophical concepts. For the months leading up to this moment, I had been having a constant internal dialogue regarding the rationale for continuing to keep Halacha even though I no longer believed in the exclusive Objectivity of the Torah.
For years I had spent my days learning Talmud and mastering both the methodology and the intricate details of the Halachic system, but about two years ago, I started questioning the foundations of the system and suddenly it felt as if my devotion to this seemingly archaic system was all for nothing. I spent months trying to rationalize continued Halachic observance to myself, and I ultimately wanted to write down a coherent argument that I could consider every time I wanted stray from Jewish law. As I was writing down my thoughts, I considered that many friends, colleagues, and strangers may have gone through or will go through similar phases in their lives.
During this same time frame, the blogging world had a large effect on me when I was trying to deeply analyze my Jewish and theological beliefs. There were many blogs that I read “cover to cover” and even got in touch with some of the writers so I could better understand their thought process. Many of these blogs were written by people who went through similar paths of (for lack of a better term) disenchantment and were now struggling with similar issues. However, many of these bloggers seemed to have a deep rooted hatred of Judaism and wanted the world to know how horrible it was. I read about the stupidity, corruption, and fallacious beliefs that, according to these bloggers, represented the entirety of the Jewish community. While I agreed with many of their factual claims, I felt that they were not being completely fair in their judgement of Judaism (and religion in general).
With my simultaneous introduction to the blogging world, along with my attempt to rationalize my continued allegiance to Torah and the Jewish community – this blog was born.
In this light, my blog can be seen as an answer or a discussion that I felt was lacking in the Jewish public sphere. I felt as if too many people viewed Judaism as a binary: either it is all true and we must follow it to the best of our ability, or it is false and therefore it is an outdated, ancient thought process belonging in the distant past. Therefore, my goal in this blog was to wipe away as many assumptions and biases as possible and to try to critically analyze various aspects of Judaism with as much nuance as possible.
When starting this blog I had no idea how many readers I would get, and it was not a central concern of mine. I simply wanted to provide some preliminary thoughts for people that were going through similar journeys to my own. However, in the last year and a half this blog has become a major part of my identity. Friends who I hadn’t talked to in years called me up to discuss something that they had read on this blog. People that I had never met were messaging me to tell me how much they appreciated what I was saying, and it resulted in the creation of many new and valuable relationships. Now, hardly a day goes by where someone I see doesn’t use my blog as a starting point for conversation, discussion, or argument. On that note, if anyone who is reading this has any questions about any of my posts, or my thought process in general (whether I’v ever met you or not), I’m always happy when people reach out to me.
Each and every blog post offers a small snippet into my life and thought process. The topics are generally based on what I have been contemplating, discussing, or hearing about that week. Some weeks I feel the need to call out an injustice that I see in the Jewish community, while other weeks I feel the need to defend the Jewish (or broader religious) community from attacks. Still, other weeks I try and re-frame the importance or meaning of a certain aspect of Judaism, making sure that it is still relevant in our modern era. In this light, many of the posts that I have written reflect internal arguments that I have in my head about the importance of Judaism and religion in general. Many of these articles are only the tip of the iceberg regarding my thoughts on these important matters, and I implore anyone who has felt inspired, confused, or even attacked by my blog to send me a message and reach out.
The last aspect that I feel is worthwhile to dwell on is the name of this blog. As many of the readers may have guessed, “Who Knows One” is a Jewish song often sung as the conclusion of the Passover Seder. In this the song, the idea that God is one is continuously repeated at the end of each of the stanzas. However, for the purpose of this blog, I take this popular song, and rather than answer the question, I leave its question as a rhetorical one. The truth is that no one can ever know what the nature or oneness of God is, or even means. No one even truly knows if God’s existence is a true fact or an illusory belief. Therefore, I feel that having this rhetorical question remain at the very heart of my blog is exactly the message that I wanted to get across. While there are some questions that will always remain unanswered, it is our job – not only as Jews but as human beings – to try and better understand and search for meaning in the world around us.
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