Posts Tagged 'Belief'

Drawing Us Near: Korbanot and BBQ

What do you believe in? Can you articulate a statement of faith?

This is the central question of This I Believe. It is an international organization engaging people in writing and sharing essays describing the core values that guide their daily lives. Over 125,000 of these essays, written by people from all walks of life, have been archived on their website, heard on public radio, chronicled through their books, and featured in weekly podcasts. The project is based on the popular 1950s radio series of the same name hosted by Edward R. Murrow. I would encourage anyone to read or listen to these gems.

While I have really enjoyed most of them, one of my favorites is by Jason Sheehan. While people always swing for the fences when they share their creed, he went much closer to home. It makes me cry every time I listen to it. He really gets me in the gut. In short he writes about his belief in barbecue. To him barbeque is, “soul food and comfort food and health food, as a cuisine of both solace and celebration.” But his belief is not small or trivial. He goes on to say:

I believe that barbecue drives culture, not the other way around. Some of the first blows struck for equality and civil rights in the Deep South were made not in the courtrooms or schools or on buses, but in the barbecue shacks. There were dining rooms, backyards and roadhouse juke joints in the South that were integrated long before any other public places.

Barbecue - Wikipedia

I was thinking about this idea of barbecue driving culture this week as we start the book of Vayikra in which we outline many elements of the sacrifices of the Tabernacle. Sheehan says:

When I’m feeling good, I want barbecue. And when I’m feeling bad, I just want barbecue more. I believe in barbecue in all its regional derivations, in its ethnic translations, in forms that range from white-tablecloth presentations of cunningly sauced costillas, to Chinese take-out spareribs that stain your fingers red, to the most authentic product of the tarpaper rib shacks of the Deep South. 

There are many expressions of barbeque. Similarly, in the Mishna in Zevachim teaches that there were six reasons to offer a sacrifice:

  • (1) for the sake of the sacrifice for which it was consecrated
  • (2) for the sake of the offerer
  • (3) for the sake of the Divine Name
  • (4) for the sake of the altar fires
  • (5) for the sake of an aroma
  • (6) for the sake of pleasing God, and a sin-offering and a guilt-offering for the sake of sin.

The Hebrew word קרבן (korban), usually translated as “sacrifice” or “offering,” comes from a root meaning to draw near. Other peoples of the ancient Near East made sacrifices to propitiate their gods; the startling shift in ancient Israelite tradition was that sacrifices were understood not as a way of “paying God off,” but as a mode of drawing-near to God.

The ancient sacrifices were, like Sheehan’s vision of barbeque, a way to get close and draw near.

Sheehan’s faith is compelling because it is so visceral. He closes his piece by writing:

I believe — I know — there is no such thing as too much barbecue. Good, bad or in-between, old-fashioned pit-smoked or high-tech and modern; it doesn’t matter. Existing without gimmickry, without the infernal swindles and capering of so much of contemporary cuisine, barbecue is truth; it is history and home, and the only thing I don’t believe is that I’ll ever get enough.

While it can be hard to relate to the sacrificial world of the Tabernacle and then the Temple, as we see in Vayikra, I want to channel Sheehan’s excitement for barbeque. It really draws me near.

7 Years of Emunah: Reflections on Faith and Fidelity

While her secular birthday was on September 2nd, Emunah’s Hebrew birthday is today. It is crazy to realize that today she is 7 years old. It is also crazy for me to pause to recognize that I have been writing this blog for 7 years. This blog started with her birth and I has grown along with her for the years. Every year around this time I reflect on Emunah, the name, person, and concept. I feel blessed to have them Emunah in my life.

As I have quoted before Martin Buber writes:

This ‘existential’ characteristic of Emunah is not sufficiently expressed in the translation ‘faith’, although the verb often does mean to believe (to believe someone, to believe a thing). It must further be noticed that the conception includes the two aspects of a reciprocity of permanence: the active, ‘fidelity’, and the receptive, ’trust’. If we wish to do justice to the intention of the spirit of the language which is so expressed, then we ought not to understand ’trust’ merely in a psychical sense, as we do not with ’fidelity’. The soul is as fundamentally concerned in the one as in the other, but is decisive for both that the disposition of the soul should become an attitude of life. Both, fidelity and trust, exist in the actual realm of relationship between two persons. Only in the full actuality of such a relationship can one be both loyal and trusting. (Two Types of Faith 28-29)

This year I take pause to thing about what it might mean to falter in one’s Emunah. The paradigm of this in the Talmud is the life of Elisha ben Abuyah a rabbi born in Jerusalem sometime before 70 CE who adopted a worldview considered heretical by his community. So why did he lose his Emunah? We learn in the Talmud:

‘How did this happen to him? He [Elisha] once saw a man climb to the top of a palm-tree on the Sabbath, take the mother-bird with the young, and descend in safety. At the termination of the Sabbath he saw a man climb to the top of a palm-tree and take the young but let the mother bird go free, and as he descended a snake bit him and he died. Elisha exclaimed, ‘It is written, “Send away the mother bird, but the young you may take for yourself; that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days (Deuteronomy 22:7).” Where is the well-being of this man, and where is the prolonging of his days!’ He was unaware how Rabbi Akiva explained it, ‘That it may be well with you in the World [to Come] which is wholly good,’ And that you may prolong your days’ in the world which is unending. ( Hagigah 15b)

The Talmud depicts that Elisha lost his faith when he saw injustice in the world. As we see in Ki Tetzei, this week’s Torah portion, there is supposed to be a reward of life for sending away the mother bird before taking her eggs. In comparison Rabbi Akiva kept his faith because of his belief in a world to come where the perceived God’s injustice would be made right. In either of their cases it is about having or not having faith or belief. What about Buber’s idea of having fidelity and relationship?

It is said, “Mr Goldfarb goes to synagogue to be in relationship with God. I go to synagogue to be in relationship with Mr. Goldfarb”. It is interesting the Talmud does not say that Elisa did not believe Rabbi Akiva, but that he was unaware of his teaching. Is the assumption that if he was aware Elisha would have believed Rabbi Akiva? Maybe if Elisha was aware of Rabbi Akiva’s teaching he would have known that the system works for someone in his community and he would have stayed in relationship with Rabbi Akiva and his community.

Seven years later while Emunah my daughter might be a struggle times, my relationship with her is steadfast and unshakable, even if my relationship with faith is often a still struggle. Regardless I am still in dynamic relationship with my Emunah and look forward its development for many years to come.

 

 


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