Rosh Hashanah is in four days, and you know what that means. There are going to be a lot of people sitting in synagogues asking themselves the question, "Why am I here?"
Many people seem to think that they have to keep their doubts a secret from the rabbi. I suppose that people think that I would be offended if I knew that they don't believe in God, that they don't think that prayer does anything, or that they don't see the point of all the rituals we go through at this time of year.
The truth is, I am not offended. I have doubts, too. From the perspective of Jewish tradition, having doubts is not a sin. In fact, it actually may be a requirement.
Consider this brief test.
In numeric order, rate the following statements according to how strongly you experience them to be true in your life:
A. ___ There is so much I have to do.
B. ___ The entropy of isolated systems never decreases.
C. ___ I love the members of my immediate family.
D. ___ Erik Satie's Gnossiennes No. 1 is beautiful.
E. ___ Stealing is wrong.
F. ___ Objects accelerate at a rate equal to the net force applied divided by the object's mass.
Of course, I am not suggesting that statements B and F are not true. Of course they are. They are examples of the kinds of truths that we can discover through logic and the direct evidence of our senses.
However, these are not the only kinds of truths. There are days when A is more true for me than anything else on this list. Thankfully, there are also times when C is my greatest truth. I am grateful to live in a world in which almost everyone agrees that E is true, even if they don't always adjust their behavior to it.
If I were falling from the top of a tall building, there is nothing that would be more important to me than F.
Rosh Hashanah is about things that are true for everyone, even if we rarely reflect on them. It is true that we have been given life in this world, despite the fact that we never asked for it and did nothing beforehand to deserve it. It is true that our life is fragile, imperfect, and in need of repair. It is true that the deepest fulfillment we achieve in life comes from experiences in which we connect to something beyond ourselves. It is true that we are more than bodies taking up room; human life matters.
You don't have to believe in a God who is a big daddy in the sky listening to our prayers and passing judgment on our actions. I do not. I do, however, have faith that I am here for a reason and that part of that reason is to discover truths of all sort, to live a life of justice and compassion, and to appreciate all I can in life that is true and beautiful (such as item D, above). I certainly have moments of doubt, but I believe myself to be at my best when I acknowledge these things to be true.
This is what Rosh Hashanah is for. It is our once-a-year moment to pay attention to the fact that there is a world that we did not create, that there is a task for us in life that is not complete, and to listen to the wake-up call to start paying attention to the truest truths of our lives.
That's why you are here.
Other Posts on This Topic:
Shanah Tovah Umtukah!
The Difference Between God and Religion