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December 6, 2019 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Friday, October 25, 12:00-1:00
Last week we examined Chapters 12 and 13 Rabbi Sacks’s To Heal a Fractured World. The chapters took on some big issues regarding the relationship between religion and morality. Sacks concedes that “there’s nothing inherently ‘religious’ about the moral sense: 1) you don’t have to be religious to be good; 2) you don’t need revelation to tell you what is good; and 3) to be moral, you have to do what is right, not because God commanded you to. We focused on Sacks’s distinction between passive optimism (“the world is changing for the better”) and active hope (“together we can make the world better”). According to Sacks, God empowers us to be His partners in the work of healing a fractured world. He argues that faith is a “great counterforce to self-interest and short-term gain.”
We considered Sacks’s claim the “The religious imagination is the most fundamental way of organizing our thoughts about the universe and our place within it.” Focusing on the word “imagination,” some of us agreed that the concept of God is a human construct that helps us cope. In Judaism, our monotheistic belief stands in contrast to those cultures that posit the world is governed by blind fate. Judaism offers a principled rejection of this tragic worldview that fate is inexorable and replaces it with hope (choosing life over death).
We concluded our discussion by considering Sacks’s claim that the concepts of repentance and forgiveness rescue us from taking a tragic worldview. We are, according to Sacks, a penitential culture. We assume responsibility for our wrongdoing rather than assigning blame to others or to circumstance. Penitence turns suffering into a new impetus to do good. Jewish resilience stems from resistance to the blame culture by making us responsible for changing the world. We accomplish this by reframing our perceptions, by taking charge of our cognitive processes. Instead of resorting to a passive “learned helplessness” in the face of what we deem as inevitable, we are encouraged to see things differently and to do what we can to change the world.
This week we’ll share any final thoughts on Chapters 12 and 13 (Carol Cohen has some issues she’d like to discuss), and then move on Chapters 14 and 15, “The Faith of God” and “Redeeming Evil.”
Our informal discussion group meets every Friday from 12-1, in the CBI Library (or the Social Hall if our group is too large). All are welcome to join us, regardless of their level of expertise or attendance at previous Friday study group sessions. Copies of Rabbi Sacks’s book are available at a variety of internet outlets. If you have questions, please contact Jay Jacoby at email@example.com.
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