Living the Questions

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke

Currently I’m in a program of studies exploring Judaism and Jewish-Christian relations. Basically, we ask questions. Here are ONLY SOME examples from the first semester:

  1. Where is God in Auschwitz?
  2. Is my faith credible in the presence of the burning children?
  3. How must it affect Jews if Christians are not broken by the Shoah?
  4. Where would Jesus have been during the Holocaust?
  5. Is there an equivalent idea in Christianity to Rebbe Nachman’s saying: “No heart is as whole as a broken heart?”
  6. What is theological anthropology?
  7. Is the Way of the Cross through Majdanek justified?
  8. If I don’t turn my back to the horror of the Shoah, then what can I pray?
  9. Is there a sense in which we are aiding in the disclosure of God’s word through our engagement with the text?
  10. Do Jews care about religious freedom?
  11. Would an Orthodox Jew ever serve as an ambassador for religious freedom?
  12. What are the respective motivations for Jews and Christians dialoguing?
  13. Who counts as a “Jewish thinker”?
  14. Can someone who didn’t pass Judaism on to successive generations be considered a Jewish philosopher?
  15. What is the Talmudic project?
  16. To what extent is rabbinic storytelling a fitting way to “do theology”?
  17. Why do some call Jewish survival for survival’s sake a holy duty?
  18. Can the value of life only be grasped in juxtaposition with the value of the commandments?
  19. Why is there an end to prophecy?
  20. Is there a risk of an idolatry of human life?
  21. Is the primacy of life seen as something that is commanded in itself or is life so valued because it is the condition for fulfilling the commandments?
  22. Why the commandment “Thou shalt not kill?” instead of a positive formulation to revere life?
  23. Why were there any Jews following Jesus in the first place?
  24. Can transgressions bring any benefit?
  25. Will there always be a remnant?
  26. How does excommunication work in Judaism without a formal authority?
  27. When Spinoza was excommunicated, were Jews mimicking Catholics here or did Catholics devise excommunication and banishing of heretics from Judaism?
  28. From where does the idea of public and private domain derive in Judaism?
  29. Do Christians have as much contempt for the body as Jews often allege?
  30. Does determining when life begins bring clarity as to when natural death occurs?
  31. What is wrong with saying, “I only did what the law [in this sense, the commandments] told me to do”?
  32. What does such a sin [of David with Bathsheba] committed by a biblical figure of such stature reveal?
  33. Do Christians grasp the “metaphysical otherness” of Jews?
  34. Can Christians legitimately accept Jews remaining Jews?
  35. Why would Jews work on non-Jewish issues that other people can tackle?
  36. Did the Maccabees read The Gorgias?
  37. In addition to the sense of being one people, what are some other ways Jews understood their Jewishness prior to the invention of the concept of ethnicity?
  38. What does the longing and interest of non-Jews to glean something of Jewish life and culture reveal about the existential situation of people today? 
  39. To what extent are Orthodox Jews ‘gatekeepers’ of Jewish legitimacy?
  40. Can religious Jews tolerate a pluralistic Judaism within Israel?
  41. What would Yeshayahu Leibowitz say about the Palestinian flags hanging throughout Mea She’arim?
  42. Are there any other armies besides the IDF that integrate persons with Down syndrome?
  43. How do we learn and practice reverence toward others through each encounter?
  44. Does the face of the other really remind me of God?
  45. How are Emmanuel Levinas’s reflections on the value of the face-to-face relation evaluated by Jews who insist on the absolute non-corporeality of God?
  46. Can Jews’ “halakhic performance”, which Joseph Soloveichik says is the essence and individuating factor of Judaism, be respected in Catholic theology as a basis for Jewish particularity that continues to be meaningful – and even – still covenantal?
  47. What might we say to Soloveichik who thinks it’s only possible to speak of “a cultural Judeo-Christian tradition” but “utterly absurd” to speak of brotherhood between the Jewish and Christian faiths, theologically speaking, without acquiescing “that Christianity has superseded Judaism”?

Published by Amanda Achtman

What matters to me is living in truth, taking responsibility, creating value & cultivating community.

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