28 Kislev 5782 / Thursday, December 02, 2021 | Torah Reading: Mikeitz
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The Litmus Test    

The Litmus Test

It wasn’t easy for a London-born-and-raised yuppie to chuck out her ‘liberal’ mindset and actually understand that Hashem really does care what we do down here...


Every so often, we get challenged with an issue that forces us to define what we really believe, and why. I’ve had a few of those ‘key’ issues in my journey to try to be more consistent in my Judaism. For example, how old is the world? 16 billion years old, as the scientific community is continually telling us, or the 5771 years that the Torah says it is?

If you’re leaning towards saying 16 billion years old, understand that you are actually then negating the most fundamental principle in Torah: that it’s not just a nice collection of stories and moral lessons; it is the word of Hashem Himself.
So on the one hand, we have (dodgy) carbon dating, (biased) scientists and (even dodgier and still completely unproved) theories of evolution telling us that the world is 16 billion years old; that it gradually evolved over billions of years and that you and I started off life in some primeval swamp.
Then, we have the word of G-d Himself, saying that He made the world in six days, rested on the seventh, and that the world is actually 5771 years old. Who are you going to go with?
I had real difficulties with this litmus test – and failed it repeatedly – until I read a book called the ‘Science of G-d’ by Gerald Schroeder, that provided me with a very neat ‘out’ In that book, Dr Schroeder used the relativity of time to show that one ‘G-d day’ could very well have been a billion human years. But once the first human being showed up, namely, Adam, G-d days and human days fell into sync.
Like I said, it’s a neat out. But as time has gone on, it’s come to trouble me more than a bit. What, Hashem couldn’t do it in six ‘human’ days? What, human scientists are so infallible that they couldn’t possibly have the whole dating thing completely wrong, and the world really is only 5771 years old?
I think of all those Jews from the time of Plato on who were repeatedly taunted with the ‘scientific proof’ that the universe had always existed, and would always exist – that there was no ex nihilo ‘creation’. That was accepted ‘scientific thinking’ – until Einstein came along. And even Einstein himself didn’t believe his own calculations proving that the world had to have had a starting point. So it was left to some other scientist to come along a few years’ later and formally suggest the ‘Big Bang’ Theory.
What did those millions and millions Jews think, over the centuries, when confronted with all this scientific ‘proof’ that the Torah appeared to be wrong? What would they say now, that the Torah’s description of creation has basically been accepted, even in the most ‘anti-religion’ scientific circles?
So that’s one litmus test. Another one was university. When I was growing up, it was almost a law that a Jewish teenager had to go to university. Period. We were the first generation where a university degree wasn’t just for an elite few, but the ‘only’ way to get into the work force and earn any sort of respectable living.
So I went to university. And I saw first hand all the terrible things there that went completely against how I would want to raise my children. All the casual social interaction, flirting and ‘relationships’; all the drinking, drug taking and smoking; all the terribly un-modest clothing; the bars, pubs and clubs; and last but not least, the exposure to so very many half-baked ideas (and the professors expounding them) that were completely contrary to Torah principles.
I watched all the nice kippa boys hang out with the non-Jewish girls, trying to be cool. Going to pubs on Thursday night, then to shul Friday night (if they still had enough of a connection to it. Many didn’t bother after a while.)
I saw girlfriends go through one torturous, poisonous, terrible relationship after another – all with ‘frum’ people – just to get dumped once the ‘m’ word started to cross their lips.
In short, I saw a world where ‘frum’ people thought that they were doing their kids the biggest favour and setting them up for life, when often, they were doing them the biggest possible disfavour.
I feel like I left university like a person fleeing Sodom – and that was even before I really made sincere teshuva. It took me years and years and years to really understand just how bad the whole experience had been, from a religious perspective.
But now I have that understanding, there is no way I’d want to send my girls to university. Rather, I’m encouraging them to get married as young as possible, and then decide on what to do for a living together with their spouse. So that was litmus test number 2.
Litmus test number 3 has been the whole issue of gay rights. When I first arrived in Israel, I had a ‘live and let live’ attitude. I was considered quite outspoken and ‘backwards’ in London, because I never actively condoned ‘gay rights’, but when all the hoohaa occurred over the first gay parade in Jerusalem after we’d got to Israel, I couldn’t quite understand what all the fuss was about.
Ok, it was stupid, lewd behaviour. But just don’t go and see it! Now that I’ve been here a bit longer, and thank G-d, Hashem has clarified a few issues for me, I understand that a public display of ‘anti-Torah’ behaviour in the streets of Jerusalem is dangerous for all of us.
I didn’t make up the Torah – Hashem did. If He says that He hates lewd behaviour, and our rabbis clearly make the link between gay parades and rockets falling on Eretz Yisrael, I, for one, believe them.
But initially, it wasn’t easy to chuck out my ‘liberal’ mindset and actually understand that Hashem really does care what we do down here. He really does care about us keeping His commandments, or at least, trying to. He really does care about us listening to what our rabbis tell us, and giving them the due respect that they deserve as Hashem’s ‘messengers’.
He wants consistency; He wants me to be a believing jew in every area of my life, and not just the areas that are comfortable or easy for me. What? Hashem really cares if I cover my hair? Yup. He really cares about whether a Jewish woman goes to the mikva every month? Yup. He really cares if I don’t give at least 10% of my net income to charity, believe that the world is really 16 billion years old, and send my kids to university? Yup, yup and yup again. He cares about every single detail in the Torah.
And striving to be a person who also cares about fulfilling every single detail of the Torah – albeit that I’m nowhere near that at the moment – is the biggest litmus test of all.

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