There is always more to learn
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(Numbers 1:1 – 4:20)
25th May 2017 | 29 Iyar, 5777
At our conference this week, we had a panel with myself, a Moslem cleric and a Catholic talking about the spiritual truths that are common to all religions. Something came up that I wanted to share.
Someone in the audience asked about the Torah and the Koran saying that both contain deeply troubling (to him at least) passages. Execution of ‘sinners’, war against idol worshippers etc. He asked how a book could supposedly be the word of God and yet contain ideas like this. Fair enough question.
Myself and the Moslem cleric gave a few answers. I wanted to share one line of thinking that I suggested.
We begin the book of Bamidbar this week, literally ‘in the desert’. The Rabbis explain metaphorically. Anyone who wishes to become wise must make himself like a desert. And this was my response…..I said that if everything in the Torah made perfect sense to me the moment I read it, I would be very disappointed. Moreover, I would be certain that it was not written by God. Because surely God is so much wiser than I am and if my little mind could fathom the depths of a book immediately, then it cannot be that God wrote it! I’m certain that God has way more to say than what I can quickly comprehend.
I am happy, therefore, to see myself a desert. Barren. Empty of wisdom. And allow myself to be filled up instead. The more I think I know, the less space I leave to learn. The more I realise I don’t know, the more I listen and have room to grow.
I find it arrogant, nowadays, to judge something as ‘wrong’ or ‘incorrect’. I can say that I don’t like something; I can say that I disagree; I can say that it seems wrong or doesn’t make sense to me at this point in my learning. But to say it is absolutely wrong is a place that I don’t go so often. Because there is a massive assumption within such a statement; the assumption being that I am understanding this to its fullest degree.
I prefer to feel that I have more to learn. And then to keep doing so.
This is a desert. Empty, barren. But that is its greatness – because pour even a small amount of water on it and just watch how it sprouts to life.