What's new Meirke? How long haven't we seen each other? More than 25 years I believe?
Just because I don't call you doesn't mean I don't think of you. I just mentioned you to a friend I met on Facebook. I told him that you were "my good religious and my good rightist" while I was "your good atheist and your good leftist". I remember, in addition to the fruitful professional partnership, also the interesting conversations we had, during which it became clear to both of us that what brought us together far exceeded what separated us. But I haven't changed my mind:
- I do not define myself as a leftist but as a seeker of peace. (For example, I don't necessarily agree with the two-state, two-people solution).
- I do not define myself either as an atheist (= who denies the existence of God. Who am I to determine that there is or that there is no God?) but as an agnostic = a skeptic (I know and I admit that I don't know).
I'm going to tell you about all this, but before that, I would like to take stock of what I have been through in recent years.
I had a mental illness
My last job was at Motorola, a very reputable company and competitor of Tadiran. I stopped working after being hospitalized for two months in a closed ward at Geha, the psychiatric hospital adjacent to Bellinson, under the direction of the district psychiatrist and with the intervention of the police. I had gone mad, Meir.
The reaction of my bosses and colleagues was exemplary. They came to visit me in the hospital. They didn't want to fire me either. I must have been the one to tell them that I had been declared 80% disabled and really couldn't work anymore because of it. Even then they fired me (as stated with my consent) and activated disability insurance, which I didn't know I had. Thus, from 2005 to 2021 (year of my retirement) I received 70% of the salary that I had, which in addition to the invalidity pension that I received from Social Security, became in fact 100% of the salary that I had. Without working.
This year, as mentioned, I retired.
But I got through it even though it wasn't easy.
My health is much better now.
What I can tell you in a nutshell is that we have an excellent healthcare system in Israel when it comes to treating people with mental illness.
If you want to know more about the background of the disease, which I have actually suffered from since childhood, and what I mean when I say "I got away with it", you can read the letter below attached to Shir. Shir is one of the staff of the course I am currently attending at Tel Aviv University Medical School. In this course, medical students and people with mental illness discuss this issue and work to improve the situation of the mentally ill community. The course is called: "Who's Afraid of Mental Illness?".
Let's move on to another topic.
I remember our conversations and would like to share with you my thoughts on the following topic:
Does God Exist?
(I also wanted to tell you about the conflict with the Palestinians, but when I realized that my letter would be too long, I gave up on that idea. That will be for another time!)
What exactly is God?
Einstein was once asked if he believed in God. He replied: First tell me what you mean by God, and then I will tell you if I believe in him.
In philosophy, we say that existence depends on essence.
I will therefore try to take up the challenge that this great physicist throws at us, and I will give two definitions of God:
A) One, which in my opinion is that of many people, and in which I really do not believe. (Although I could be wrong. As mentioned, I'm skeptical)
B) One, in which I must necessarily believe by its very definition. (Even if it is far from complete: I don't know everything about myself, even less about the world, so who am I to know everything about God?)
A) The definition of God, which I do not believe.
The first to have dared to paint God was Michelangelo in his famous painting: The Creation of Man, where we see the finger of God. The image of God as it appears to many people is that of an old bearded man with a long beard, sitting in the firmament where there was nothing, and who one fine day decided to break his boredom and to create the world. Since he was all-powerful, he accomplished the task he had set for himself in just seven days! (The smart ones will ask: "If he really was all-powerful, why didn't he create the world with the wave of a magic wand, all at once and not in seven days, but let's move on!)" . I asked you one day: "And what has he been doing since?".
You answered me with your humor: "Maintenance!".
Tell me really, is it serious?!
This image of God is obtained from reading the book of Genesis. “And who wrote the book of Genesis? ", I ask ? “God!” the religious extremists respond. Him again !
My opinion on such an image of God:
In my opinion, the book of Genesis and with it the entire Torah were written by human beings. And they wrote it with great skill. But _ and it's not blasphemy to say it _ they wrote it down in the 7th and 6th centuries BC, and couldn't answer a question like "How was the universe created?" other than relying on the knowledge accumulated by science up to that time. That is to say:
The world is wonderfully organized. After all, he couldn't organize himself, and nothing is known about who organized him. Therefore, there must be a creature that created and organized it. Let us call this creature: "God".
Bravo for this scientific explanation of the 7th to 6th century BC! (And I'm not cynical, science had to start from somewhere!)
But the mistake that many people have made has been to assert that everything written in the Torah is the word of the living God, and from now on, whenever science will reveal things that will seem to contradict what is written in the Torah, then one of two things:
1) Or they will disqualify it as heresy, if only they can. Thus, for example, they rejected the findings of Darwin, the father of the theory of evolution. "The theory of evolution considers the process by which different species evolved over billions of years from a common ancestor, through natural selection.
2) When the findings of science unequivocally contradict what is written in the Torah, they will come up with delusional and contrived explanations that will convince no one but themselves, that "what seems to contradict our sacred Torah" is not a contradiction at all, but rather a proof that what was written in the Torah was indeed true. For example, if it is proven that the universe was created at least 5 billion years ago (and not about 5700 years ago), that much more than a day elapsed between the creation of the heaven and the creation of plants, between the creation of plants and the creation of animals, and between the animal creation and the human appearance on earth: "Yes, but one day, and one year, in the sense of the Torah, it is not a day as we understand it, etc."
3) Moreover, they elude this question: if you start from the hypothesis (= axiom, besides who told you that this axiom was true?) that if a thing (the world) is organized, then it must there has to be someone who created it (and that's God), so intellectual honesty demands that whatever question you ask about the world (who created it?), you also ask yourself on God! (And answer: there is a "super-God who created God". You see: you are not resolving the question, you are simply deferring it to the next stage. Of course they will answer me that no one created God because that and that.... So if so, why not just say the same about the world?
With this approach, they prevent science from advancing and understanding our world a little more every day.
B) God's definition, which I must believe by his very definition.
As I wrote to you on WhatsApp, there is a gematria that I like, and it is: God = Nature
E 1 + L 30 + H 5 + Y 10 + M 40 = 86 (ELHYM = God in Hebrew)
H5 + T9 + B2 + E70 = 86 (HTBE = Nature in Hebrew)
I think there are intelligent gematria and stupid gematria.
- A silly gematria is one where one takes two words that represent two concepts, whose sum of letters is equal, in order to supposedly "prove" a connection between these two concepts. It starts from the stupid, ridiculous and naive belief that Hebrew is the sacred language. So, if the calculation shows equality between the two words, then there is also a connection between the two concepts they represent.
I find such gematria silly because you can prove anything that way! Give me a little time, and I'll find you a gematria that "the fairest among men" = "Hitler."
Intelligent gematria, on the other hand, indicates an arithmetic equality between two words not to say that because the Hebrew language is sacred there is a connection between the two concepts, but as a mnemonic device to remember that there is a close link between the two concepts.
All this to tell you, Meir, that when scientists say "Nature" and intelligent religious people say "God", they both mean the same thing.
For me God is all nature with all its marvelous laws, which science manages to reveal a little more each day.
I don't ask myself questions like whether God has an existence distinct from that of the universe, and whether God existed before he created the world, because these are irrelevant questions and do not disturb my sleep.
On the other hand, I wonder how the world was created with its marvelous laws. And here again I answer: I don't understand, I don't know! But Meïr, when you say something like "I don't know!", that doesn't give anyone the right to say that the most naive answer that comes to mind is the right answer! At least I think so.
There are many aspects to God.
From now on I will write God and when I speak of His Name, it is in the sense in which I have defined it.
- God, creator of the universe. We have already talked about that. And I even leave open the question of whether the world was created at a given time or whether the world has always existed Einstein (him again!) once said: "I only know two infinite things: the universe and human stupidity", although as for the universe I am not quite sure! 😊 If Einstein wasn't sure about the finiteness or infinity of the universe, then I too can afford to be skeptical at this point.
- But there is another aspect to the laws that govern the universe. In addition to material laws, there are also spiritual laws.
What do I mean when I write "spiritual laws"? Who said there were spiritual laws in nature? Make this point, Meir: all religions, as well as atheistic philosophers, of all peoples and all times have the same universal values. These include: truth, justice, beauty, freedom and love of neighbor. There are those who say or have said that justice must be respected because Zeus demanded it, because that is what God commanded Moses, or because Jesus said that, but the commandments from these first principles are all the same.
And I'm not saying anything obvious here, far from it! There has certainly been no shortage of philosophers and political regimes throughout the ages who have espoused values different from these universal values. For example, according to the Nazis, “The superior race” was above values like freedom and justice. The fact is that all of these theories went bankrupt very quickly.
Personally, I say that just as God has physical laws, He has moral laws (spiritual, if you prefer). It's just a question of logic: a world where values such as justice, for example, are not respected, cannot exist in the long term. It is true that the stronger can unjustly control the weak for a limited time, but justice will always win in the end.
But the fact that justice (and the other values: truth, beauty, freedom, love of others...) always ends up winning does not mean that it always and systematically wins. There is no paradise on earth. There is a constant struggle between good and evil in all animals, between human beings in particular, and within each human being.
How should I behave if I accept this definition of God?
This is not at all a simple question in my opinion.
The following expression of Rabbi Nachman of Breslav speaks to me a lot:
"The whole world is a very narrow bridge and the main thing is not to be afraid at all."
With my words (Rabbi Yossi Patt from Ramat Gan 😊), I say that we must constantly maintain a fine balance between two opposing tendencies (good instinct and bad instinct), be aware of the anxiety this creates in us, and know how to control it. (And the main thing is not to be afraid at all)
You can read on my blog for example what I write about how to deal with anxiety when we are:
- Too lazy to do something (we don't feel like doing it)
- Too busy to do anything (we think we don't have time)
In the following post, I provide a method to solve such kind of problems, once and for all.
Such problems of delicate balance between these two opposing tendencies abound.
Some examples :
We want, and more than that, we even need to be respected, but not if (unconsciously of course) we invite people to respect us, we will get the opposite result. (They will despise us)
He who pursues honor, honor escapes him. (Words of the Wise)
- We like to laugh and like to be told we have a sense of humor _ and that's right. But if we try to tell a "joke" not because it makes us laugh but (again subconsciously) to be told we have a sense of humor, it will probably turn out to be a lame joke.
- When I do something, like writing this letter, I have an inner voice (Negative thoughts, bad instincts, whatever you call it) telling me: Don't spread your ideas for free, they will be stolen from you, what keeps me from doing it. But conversely, there is also another voice as well as my experience telling me that if I give myself without counting, I will ultimately be a winner.
I hope that nature (= God) is made so that:
- If I strive to do what is right in my opinion.
- If I know how to demand the maximum from myself, and at the same time forgive myself for all the mistakes I make along the way, big or small.
If I know how to demand the maximum from others, and at the same time forgive them all the mistakes they make along the way, big or small.
Then I will come out a winner in the end.
In this sense, and if God is defined as I have defined him:
I believe in divine providence and trust Him.
There are many other topics to talk about like:
- The commandments which concern the relations of man and God and those between man and nature.
- The attitude towards tradition
- Religious coercion
But it is impossible to cover everything in one letter.
Thank you for having the patience to read my letters to the end.
I wish you the best,