Out of the blue, he asked me why I didn’t know anything about Judaism? The question hit me like a sledgehammer. I had learned about world history. I had read Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Kant, Voltaire, Nietzsche, and Thoreau. I had studied the sciences, the arts, literature, and during my spiritual quest I had checked out books about Christianity, Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, and the like. But I knew absolutely nothing about Judaism. Ever since the reform rabbi’s phony explanation of the splitting of the sea, I had never thought to open a Jewish text. During my shrink period, I had read dozens of books about psychology, and I had studied enough Sigmund Freud to know that if you avoid something close to you, that’s a sure sign that you have a psychological block, a deep inner fear which paralyzes you from confronting your true self.
His question blew my mind. That very afternoon I bought a Bible and started to read: “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” When I read those words, my gaze shot up to the sky.
“Oh, no!” I thought. “God really exists, and I haven’t paid any attention to Him since my bar mitzvah.”
I kept turning pages as if I were reading the screenplay of an action adventure. First, God tells Avraham to go to the Land of Israel. Then He tells Moshe to free the Jews and take them to the Land of Israel. Over and over again, God tells the Jews that He is giving them the commandments of the Torah to do them in the Land of Israel. The Land of Israel, the Land of Israel, the Land of Israel, over and over again. At the time, I knew nothing about Eretz Yisrael. Sure, I had heard about the Yom Kippur War, but as a super-assimilated Jew, Israel was simply not a part of my weltanschauung. Yet according to the simple, straightforward reading of the Bible, it was clear that God wanted His People to live in the Land of Israel, and not in America. But wherever you went in Los Angeles, the place was filled with Jews. Either the Torah wasn’t true, I thought, or the Jews in LA shouldn’t be there.
Man, was I ever confused.
(To be continued)