Religion, a complicated word. According to Merriam-Webster, religion is defined as "a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices." This definition, as a dictionary definition should be, is incredibly clear cut. However, religion has not presented itself as simplicity in my life.
I have been integrated into varying degrees of religion. I learned the Hebrew alphabet at the same time as the English alphabet and was taught the stories and history behind Judaism. I was not taught, though, the spirituality of Judaism. Yes, I was told to believe, but never learned how.
What I have come to realize is that the belief cannot be taught; it can develop, and it can be argued that the act of believing can be achieved along with any other goal. I have not yet achieved this goal at 19.
I was raised in a Jewish community, but not in a religious community. I find this very confusing since I always associated religion with being religious. Boca Raton very much fit the stereotypical "Jew" community, but that does not encompass the religious community.
My family celebrated all of the holidays, with one of my households being more observant than the other. Although I was always told that you should just "do what you can" to keep the religion, both sides of my family could have done more. You can always do more, it is just a matter of choice.
What I am sure that I believe in is the communal aspect of religion. I cannot speak for other faiths, but I can say that meeting another Jew automatically sparks conversation. Especially based on our history, I truly believe sticking together is imperative. There is also "Jewish geography," which tightens our world. I believe that Jewish people should be aware of our past, and realize if we sit around and do nothing, history will repeat itself.
I also am an incredible advocate for the Jewish state of Israel. While there is some controversy surrounding this (a conversation for another day), I am sure that I believe the Jewish people have a right to call Israel our home, and we must act against anyone who threatens it.
When you dive a little bit deeper, though, things get complicated. Since the Jewish culture stems from our history, origins come into play. Our origins, however, are based off of this immense trust in a power that cannot be seen. There are many who are incredibly content with this mystical figure, but it was never a concept I could grasp.
If you were to ask me a few years ago if I believed in the power of prayer, I would have said no. I also would have told you that I think the days of fasting are ridiculous, and we do not need to keep reliving the past that no one alive today witnessed. I also would have told you that being cut off from the world on Shabbat can become dangerous and people need to constantly remain aware.
If you ask me now, my responses have slightly changed. Regarding the power of prayer, I really do not know. I have never met anyone who was completely certain that prayer has an impact. I also see the validity in the argument that the impact of the prayer itself is irrelevant, as believing can be equally impactful. The days we fast, I now understand. I do not necessarily participate, but I understand due to Jewish history.
So, do I believe? It depends on what you are referring to. I believe in the right for Jewish people to exist and have a land to call ours, and I believe that we must never let history repeat itself. I also believe in the community aspect of the religion, and how important it is for us to come together as a people to defend ourselves when no one else will. When it comes to the source of all of this, our higher power, I am unsure.
Being only 19, I have plenty of time to figure it out. I go back and forth, and sometimes I like to hope that there is a higher power present. I do not think there is anything "up there," watching over everyone at all times. There are many points where I wish I could believe that, but I do not think it will ever be something that resonates with me.
The point is, I am confused. The uncertainty sticks, and I wish I could just easily resolve it. If I told myself I truly believed, though, I would be lying to myself. So, I focus on the things I am sure I believe in this moment and allow myself the wiggle room to learn, develop, and alter my beliefs if need be.