Sad afternoon. It was Mother's Day but Barb and I attended an open house to remember the death of Paul Raymond, a friend we met through our Temple.
Paul's life was memorialized by his wife Ellen Taussig in an hour long story telling. Weirdly, Ellen's oration explained something very important to me. How was Paul a Jew?
Paul, was born a Methodist, practiced as a Presbyterian Elder, and converted to Judaism as part of his life with Ellen. When we met, it seemed to me that Paul lived without religious conviction. I was blind. Paul lived a Jewish life even before becoming one of us. Judaism must have seemed normal to someone who grew up as a rebel in a Kansas farm town where liberalism and learning were equally irrelevant to most people's lives. Like Maya Angelou, from a young age, Paul had a drive to read and learn. His drive that was itself a form of rebellion, a rebellion familiar to every young Jew who has rebelled atg the Talmud by turning to science or law. Paul's rebellion grew to become a need, a need to learn as much as he could about history, a drive to support fairness by marching for civil rights and, later, working for voting rights.
When we first met Paul, his liberalism seemed contradictory. As a teacher in private schools, and founder of the Northwest School, Paul fought a quixotic battle .. the battle for private schools to share their excellence with all kids. Isn't this a contradiction? How can one work in a private school while serving the goals of Dr. King? While wanting all kids to have opportunities to learn, how can one teach in a school dependent on the wealthy? The Northwest School depends on the children of Seattle's wealthy for its very existence.
The NW School may well be a contradiction in a Christian sense. Would Jesus have been successful if he dined with Pilate on fine foods and taught ethics in a Roman School? St. Augustine would not have considered such a life as an act of charity. Look at the candidacy of John Edwards for President. Senator Edwards is truly devoted, I believe, to helping the poor. BUT Attorney Edward's good deeds are hurt by the millions of dollars this poverty lawyer made in class action suits . Would Jesus be Jesus without sacrifice? Listening to Ellen, I began to think more of Mr. Edwards.
In Judaism, a good deed justifies itself. We are taught to do good NOT in praise of the Deity, but because doing good is the law. In Judaism, the law exists just as the Deity exists. The law is real. The Law is the Torah and the Torah teaches good deeds, laws called Mitvot. The mitzvot exist eternally. There is no requirement for Jews to proclaim a belief in the Deity, but Jews must follow the Mitzvot. Judaism is built on the same natural law that Jefferson used as the foundation of the American system of laws. Jews hold the mitzvot to be innately true.
Christians often ask, WWJD? One reason I am NOT a Christian in that I suspect Jesus would give charity with the blessings of his religion. Isn't the essence of Christianity the self sacrifice to appease the Deity's ire for man's sins? Charity should not be adulterated by the Deity.Who do YOU admire more Medecin sans Fronteir (an organization founded by French Jews) or World Vision? Both do good but MSF does this good simply to help others!Bye Paul, we will miss you at Seder.
Based on a discussion from the HorsesAss.