WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME walks an important line between fundamentalism and fairy tale and fills an important niche in Torah commentary. Fundamentalist perspectives on Scripture abound and so do commentaries denigrating Scripture as unscientific and unhistorical.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME cares nothing about science because the Bible is not a science book. It cares little about history as well. The premise of the book is that its stories were carefully selected for what they can teach us about living more meaningful lives and becoming better people.
Torah presents to the world a deity unlike any others that people worshipped. In the pagan world into which Torah emerged gods and goddesses were force that people worshipped because they presumed these deities had power. The only purpose of worship was to bribe these gods with offerings so that they would not use that power to hurt or to induce the deity to use their power to help those who worshipped them. Ethics, morals and human interaction were of no concern to these gods.
God in the Torah is entirely different. Of course we only worship one God and our God is invisible. But as crucial as these differences are they are NOT the most important.
The most important difference is the agenda of Torah’s God. From the story of Creation on God’s desire is that human beings – we creatures who are in charge of and responsible for the quality of life on earth – use our power to create a just, caring ad compassionate society. All of our religious behavior as Jews – Holy Days, festivals, and life cycle celebrations – is designed to inspire us to work toward God’s ultimate goal.
There is no overstating the importance of this difference. Yes, there are sacrifices in the Bible, but their purpose is to inspire ethical and moral behavior not assuage God’s anger. Over and over again the prophets particularly those of the eighth pre-Christian century, Amos Hosea Isaiah and Micah, instruct the people of Judah and Israel that sacrificial observance unaccompanied by ethical and moral behavior is an abomination.
How desperately we need that message today! Our religious observances only have meaning in so far as they inspire us to care for those less fortunate than we are, to seek housing for the homeless and food for the hungry. In Jewish thought there is no place for an innocent bystander in the face of poverty and injustice. This is the Torah’s timeless message . That is the message I hope my book will help its readers make their own.