*a thanks to Family Guy for the reminder a few hours before reading this, that Jesus was a practicing Jew.
Click the link for more detail on what the work actually is, but let me just say...it's one of those books that made me feel like an idiot. Seriously...it took me 2 minutes just to find the first section I wanted to explore. I read 3 pages of the introduction and was ready to accept defeat...but the book put forth a concept that drew me in. Maimonides asserts that certain concepts of faith were simply not fit for the masses and that even to those who were able to handle them, they should only be taught late in the Jewish tradition. That thought landed oddly on my equality-drenched American psyche. My gut reaction was that the concept was simply wrong and archaic, and I with my open, modern mind would continue reading despite the ancient ignorance...but then I thought of my study of jiu jitsu. There was a moment last year where another student and I were working a technique for his belt exam. I played the part of throwing dummy. He'd been studying 4 years, I, 2. Our instructor saw us from across the gym, walked up and said to him "Stop. You don't have enough control to keep from hurting her and she doesn't have enough understanding to protect herself."
This work is definitely one of those situations. It is specifically geared toward deciphering the mysteries of God and it tackles them forthright...is the "hand of God" an actual hand? Was the universe actually created out of nothing? Can God actually be described and if so, how should it be done? These are questions that have split churches and synagogues and, on the surface, seem to be elementary to divine belief...yet this books takes them on as advanced topics.
I couldn't help but marvel at the disagreement over creation out of nothing and how neatly a discussion within a faith community mirrored the one had today so publicly between Christian and Atheist/Agonistic groups today.
I sometimes wonder if we're not laying the foundation of our faith on the spiritual equivalent of differential equations, encouraging people to feign certainty about things they simply cannot genuinely understand and waiting to teach basic addition (personal, internal things like love and self-sacrifice that Jesus plainly laid out as the core true religion in his teachings) until believers have been practicing for years. Creation comes on the first page of the Bible but seeing as the Bible isn't based on progressing difficulty, I wonder if beginning at the beginning isn't a bit confusing.
The pastor this morning brought up a profound point about Jesus that I think Christians miss while people who don't believe in the divinity of Jesus understand perfectly. The man made ground-breaking social strides. As I was reminded this morning, he was revolutionary in that he treated women and children as humans, wholly worthy of his love and attention as any adult male in a society where they were simply background players. We miss these simple, amazing, transformative and obvious things about Jesus' walk while getting caught up in mysteries few of us are likely to ever understand...and I think this is an active choice.
I have a DVD set dedicated to one submission in jiu jitsu...just one. The triangle. That's 3 DVDs on one technique. I could come home tomorrow and spend 4 hours watching them. I could then sign on to a couple of forums and debate the effectiveness of the techniques. After that, I could start blogging about my experiences learning a submission that I'm physically well suited for. I would leave the experience with no sore muscles, no burned and bleeding shins, no torn ligaments, not one drop of sweat spent...and I would feel accomplished for having accomplished nothing.
Or...I could go and suffer the pain and frustration of cleaning up my sloppy, ineffective, easily defended triangle. Application, even of simple things, is usually painful.
I'm going to keep reading...slowly. Many of the mysteries of God that the book addresses really are light years beyond my understanding. I felt my chest burn as I was reading and knew that I was taking a look at God that I had never even considered before. It scares me a little...and not in the ways that intellectual pursuits of Christianity have before. I don't worry that I will begin to replace an understanding of God with a knowledge of him...it scares me in a way that is exciting and intimidating and possibly the closest to true Fear of the Lord that I have ever gotten.