My Good News column by Roger Mendelson from the UPJ Weekly News & Drash (23/24 August 2019)
There is a tree in our garden I call the Fairy Tree, and under it is a bench.
"If you sit quietly on the bench and close your eyes and think of the fairies, they MAY come … but you must be very, very quiet. They are tiny and they will look after you. If you believe in them, they will always help you."
The above is what I tell my four little granddaughters (aged 5 to 7) when they visit. I lead them up the hill to the Fairy Tree and they sit quietly and close their eyes. It is getting harder to convince them now that they are older, but they still want to believe. Why would they not?
The oldest confided quietly to me about a year ago: "I saw her", despite the fact that she is smart and in her heart knows that it probably isn’t true.
I think she caught sight of a dragonfly flapping its wings in the sun.
Belief which defies logic is in many cases something beautiful.
Did God part the Red Sea for Moses? Was it a natural event or did it not happen?
Why question this? We should glory in God parting the seas and saving the Jewish people.
Progressive Jews are the most rational, questioning, sceptical of religious people.
We emerged from the European Enlightenment, which was a seminal event in the history of mankind.
This led to the development of the western world into societies which respect individual rights, momentous improvements in medicine, science and engineering. It resulted in democracy and religious freedom.
Progressive Jews played active roles in all of this.
Questioning is in our DNA. It has allowed us to survive and prosper.
However, sometimes I feel that we have lost the magic which comes from just accepting the miracles around us.
Less people are dying from wars, disease or starvation than in the history of mankind. More people are getting educated, living longer and more healthily than ever before. The Jewish communities around the world face less risk than ever before, have greater rights and the largest Jewish community is in Israel, which is an economic and technological power-house, leading the world in so many areas.
Our history is replete with wonderful stories, many of which don’t stand up to scrutiny. Why waste mental energy in questioning them?
Think of yourself on a seat under the Fairy Tree and feel happy when you hear our stories.