The "Dorothy effect"

Sitting in Shool on Yom Kippur and following the service leads to some inevitable questions, like “why am I here?” As the superlatives about God are repeated again and again and paeans to his praise are heaped one upon another, I start to think of the “Dorothy effect.”
Remember in “The Wizard of Oz,” when after their long search, Dorothy, the scarecrow, the lion and the tin man arrive at the great Wizard’s door, and at first he refuses to see them. Then finally, because of their persistence, he does, and at first they are frightened by the huge display of his face, appearing on the screen before them, like “Big Brother” in George Orwell’s “1984.” But, then the Wizard is exposed hiding behind a screen, manipulating his “magical” effects, and all is revealed. In fact the Wizard is not powerful at all, he’s just a simple magician, trying to inflate his image.
I think this about “our” Jewish God. Now that we know how the world works to a large extent through the power of science, the power of God is concomitantly diminished. Also, God has been declared the salvation of the Jewish people many times, but in the Holocaust he failed to make an appearance while millions of innocent Jews suffered and died. Of course, I reject absolutely the religious explanation that this suffering and death was because the Jews had forsaken his commandments. On the contrary, it was the other way round, because God failed to help his people Israel, including the believers, in their time of need, so why then should we continue to have faith in him.
Then the mystery is, why, if I believe this, am I in shool and why do I fast? One of my friends tells me that “Judaism is the glue that holds the Jews together.” If that is true, then how can I reject it? Yet, I don’t really believe that, rather it was the experience of the Jewish people through history that kept us together. Since Western societies ceased to be predominantly religious and stopped overtly persecuting us, and then the secular Jewish movement of Zionism became predominant among Jews (before WWII Zionists were a small minority), as a consequence for me it is Israel that is now the “glue” that keeps us together.
In the Diaspora, the rate of assimilation and inter-marriage is so high that most communities are already disappearing (see for example northern England). It is likely that none of my family in England will be Jewish in one more generation. Yet, here in Israel, I have a grandson who was barmitzvah and who I hope will carry on the traditions of our people. In that respect, religion and ethnicity are so intertwined that they cannot be separated.
So, I remain ambivalent, and that’s why I’m sitting in shool again on Yom Kippur, and fasting in remembrance of our lost generations, who were killed because they were Jews, not believers.


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