Wednesday, June 18, 2014

  • Wednesday, June 18, 2014
  • Elder of Ziyon
Leah Bieler, who we are told "has an M.A. in Talmud and Rabbinics from the Jewish Theological Seminary [and] teaches Talmud in Connecticut," writes in The Forward that praying to God for the safety of the three kidnapped teens is really a waste of time:

When my eldest daughter was three years old, she enjoyed a comfortable morning routine. After breakfast, if she dressed quickly, she was allowed to watch half an episode of “Sesame Street” before heading off to school. Like most three-year-olds, she enjoyed the predictability and sameness of quiet time with Elmo and Grover and Oscar the Grouch. Every morning, she was engrossed, dancing and singing along, blonde ringlets bouncing.

Then, one Monday morning, tragedy struck. Instead of “Sesame Street,” there was a new show on PBS. She was horrified. Tears streaming down her face, she looked up at me and with all earnestness asked, “Ima, why did HaShem have to change the TV schedule?”

The theology of a preschooler is very concrete. God made the world. Something in my world changed. Therefore the creator of the universe must have caused the switch. The end. If she had thought of it, she might even have concocted her own personal prayer.

“HaShem, please use your awesome power to put Sesame Street back on PBS from 8-9AM on weekdays. Blessed are you O Lord, part time network programmer.”
You got it: Beiler is comparing thousands of years of Jewish theology to the maturity level of a three year old.
Individual and communal prayer have in them the potential for tremendous power. Prayer can force us outside of ourselves, help create and maintain empathy, form community, heal wounded souls. It can redirect our thinking, bind us to the past, and allow us to make space for a connection with the divine.

All of these are holy purposes. But using prayer as a magic trick is a much dicier business. The moment I’m sure that my specific mode of praying will work miracles is bound to be short lived. I will, without fail, find myself disappointed in the end.

Wow! I guess all the theologians over the centuries of every religion must bow to the mighty logic of Bieler and stop wasting their time in prayer!

It is not the Jews who are praying for the safety of the boys who have the maturity level of a child. It is Bieler, who hasn't a clue despite her education of why Jews pray and what they expect to get out of it. Her conception of prayer is about as mature as the teenager who says "Look! God hasn't struck me with lightning when I ate a cheeseburger!"

Since she considers herself a religious person, I wonder if she actually looks at the contents of the daily prayers. Is asking God for sustenance and rain and to heal the sick just an excuse, a waste of time?

But Beiler's wisdom extends beyond this:
For now, as far as anyone can tell, the lion’s share of fault for the kidnapping falls on the kidnappers, the masterminds, and the nature of a society where these actions are seen as viable options.
Really? None of those people who are crying out to God in every Jewish community are aware of this piercing insight - they need an obnoxious know-it-all from JTA to tell them this!

The irony is that Beiler, who pretends to support prayer's supposed primary purpose of "forming community," has no problem writing an article that is meant to divide it, to belittle those who are crying out for the kids' safety.

Of course, The Forward is eager to publish such rubbish.

(h/t EBoZ)

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