Question for Guest Voices Series 1, from Ketzirah: RamBam, Rabbi Moses ben Maimomedes created his 13 Principles of Judaism in the late 12th or early 13th Century CE. For the Orthodox, these are the defining principles of Jewish faith. For those of us not Orthodox it opens a question. What do you believe and how does it relate to traditional Judaism? Write your Principles of Faith, no more than 13 concepts, that define Judaism as you understand it. You can respond directly to RamBam’s 13 Principles point-for-point, or use this as a jumping off point like I did.
Interestingly enough, although I reject most of Rambam’s 13 principles, what I do agree with on some level is his notion of unity. That’s the heart of my own principles of life, although I have come to them intellectually as well as intuitively. From this I conclude much like Hillel, they not doing what is hateful to others allows us to discover our ethics. Being sensitive to the harm caused by ourselves and others allows us to be better people. This is a result of living in a world that’s interconnected. When we deny that connection, either intellectually, emotionally or spirituality we shut ourselves off. I believe at this point that we become most likely to cause great harm to the other beings in the world. I don’t believe this requires some external authority to conclude, but something we can recognize as mature adults.
On the other hand, I do recognize these core principles of Classic Judaism and how Rambam must assert that to argue its values, but I have a tough time asserting faith in most of these statements beyond being cultural contexts. My own cultural context comes out of the value of using the scientific method as a tool for evaluating the the world as well as its own limitations. I approach the Torah and many of its principles as mythology in a positive sense of it, as stories Jews tell each other as a way to understand the past and future, even if we come to our own conclusions otherwise or at Mordechai Kaplan might put it, folk ways.
For example, the principle I disagree most strongly is the “incorporeality of God.” I’m not sure what that means in the present day. For me, God as a metaphor refers to the interconnection of all things, not some body-less being out there in the world, separate and transcendent. In a sense for me, God has a body through all beings.
Along these lines, I will argue some principles of my own, however I would call them my principles of spiritual practice, since most people equate the word faith these days either as unquestioned belief or as parts of religious system, neither which would I claim as completely as Rambam does.
I affirm the principle of the belief in the natural processes of the world as far as we currently best understand them, not supernatural ones. If a supernatural being such as a God can exist, I have no idea how we would confirm him/her/it objectively or come to a consensus on with such diverse values.
I affirm my belief in humanism, the notion that humans experience the world in human terms through notions of reason, justice and ethics, not in terms of the supernatural or religious dogma. This is not to argue other beings do not deserve their own value, but that as humans, this is the perspective where we come from.
I affirm a value of spirituality based on the various wholes we observe in the world, not simply by reducing them to one ideal or another. I also assert the value of communicating through myth, metaphor, art, music, etc. I observe the importance humans hold in storytelling to share our values as well as its limitations when stories get in the way sometimes of observing reality, whatever that might be from moment to moment with other beings.
I affirm spirituality as in terms of being aware of all wholes within all levels. I mean Spirit as the interconnection of all beings, not as beings without some corporeal aspect. I refer to spirits plurally, often as ways of speaking metaphorically of phenomena not otherwise easily expressed such as “gestalt.”
I affirm the value of my relationship with the Earth and its many beings, from the smallest we can observe up to the largest to outside this planet into the Whole, recognizing I am both embodied and embedded in the current moment.
I affirm in speaking of metaphors about the Divine both Feminine, Masculine, both or neither that give insight, even if they are not meant to be literally true, but mythically.
I affirm the value of exploring the world to expand my consciousness to encourage others as well as to learn, love, rest and play for their own sakes. I will practice ways in which I can further myself in that direction.
I affirm the principle of the Messiah or the Messianic age as Jewish hope for the future and our abilities as humans to improve on our lot in life, but not necessarily a literal, historic event.
In addition, I wish to be tolerant of others to explore their lives that confirm these principles to recognize the diversity of all peoples and beings in their own ways.
These I would argue as some core principles of my practice or spirituality. The process of coming to these principles shows the value of being able to communicate our thoughts to others, therefore clarifying them to ourselves in kind.
Aron Gamman practices an earth-based Jewish spirituality, significantly influenced by Jewish religious naturalism and humanistic perspectives. Music significantly influences him both through singing and drumming. He regularly meditates as well.