Originally posted by Mixo
It's so easy to dismiss the beliefs of ancient Egypt, ancient Greece and Iron-Age Northern Europe as "Mythology" but the book of Genesis is just as naive and incredible. Why do so many christians undermine the credibility of christianity by defending that old tat when the gospels are all they need to base a sound religion on?
I really don’t think there’s any problem with mythology until we stop recognizing it as such. When we try to read mythology “literally,” we turn it into fantasy...
That’s where the naiveté comes in—and I don’t think those old story-tellers were necessarily as naive as we sometimes assume (although some of their listeners may have been, too). I think they perhaps knew what they were about when they created myths and stories and parables and allegories. I read once about a tribal storyteller, who prefaced his stories with a statement like: “I can’t say that it happened just this way. But I can say this story is true.” So what does “true” mean in that sense? Certainly not a factual recounting. Perhaps that the story illustrates some truths about the human condition. And our search for meaning in a universe that does not disclose meaning for us—so that we have to make our own....
One Shabbos afternoon, Reb Reuven called me into his study. He was sitting behind his desk and motioned me to take the chair across from him. A volume of the Zohar was lying open in front of him.
“Do you know what the Zohar is?” he asked.
“Of course,” I said. “It is a mystical commentary on Torah written by Moshe deLeon, a thirteenth century Spanish kabbalist who....”
“Nonsense!” he yelled at me, half rising out of his chair. “The Zohar isn’t just a commentary; it’s a Torah all by itself. It is a new Torah, a new telling of the last Torah. You do know what Torah is, don’t you?”
Suspecting that I didn’t, and afraid to invoke his wrath a second time, I waited silently, certain that he would answer his own question. I was not disappointed.
“Torah is story. God is story. Israel is story. You, my university-educated soon-to-be a liberal pain in the ass rabbi, are a story. We are all stories! We are all Torahs!...Listen, Rami,” Reuven said in a softer voice. “Torah starts with the word b’reisheet
,* ‘Once upon a time!’”
—Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Hasidic Tales
* Conventionally translated “in the beginning” or “with beginning.”