At 13 years old, I did not have a Bar Mitzvah. I did, however, have lots of questions.
Growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, I attended “Sunday School” in a classical Reform Jewish congregation but had no Jewish classmates in my public school classes. It was not uncommon for evangelical Christian friends to tell me that Jews (and other non-Protestants) were going to hell if we did not accept Jesus as our “savior”. I met with the rabbi around age 13 with very troubled with questions: Does God exist? Does God favor some people and not others or really have only one message for all people everywhere? To my disappointment, the rabbi’s answers did not satisfy my teenage mind.
My journey to faith in a God as creator and life force is in part framed by those childhood experiences, but also shaped by my experience as a physician and through life experiences. Maturing from teenage “black and white” to an adult perspective has helped me appreciate the “shades of grey” and recognize some mysteries that cannot be answered.
Medical training and practice taught me about the amazing complexity and resiliency of the body as well as life’s fragility and mystery. Medicine has brought me into the lives of people from all walks of life and reinforced the unity of the human experience in our aspirations and sufferings. I choose to find God in the mystery of the animating spirit of life – as it ebbs and flows in ways we do not understand.
In studying history, enjoying the arts, and traveling to many parts of the world, I have come to appreciate the amazing beauty of the natural world and the dignity and aspirations of all people that cannot possibly be explained by one creation story, one religious dogma about life after death, or one ideology that my God (or my nation) is the best. Earth is not the center of the universe, but most religions started with this assumption. I choose to believe instead that all people everywhere seek meaning and comfort and holiness in their lives and each religion is a culturally and historically-based effort to answer those questions.
Judaism has some customs and rules that do not bring me closer to God or holiness. But many elements of Judaism resonate with me, starting with the emphasis in the unity of humanity. We are all created in God’s image and responsible to each other and to make this world a better place. I believe God exists in that place of wonder, striving for holiness, but with humility to know there is so much we do not understand.
David Weinrib is a TBE member since 1995. He and Liz Wahls met in college and have shared life’s journey together ever since. David works at Carolinas Medical Center as an infectious disease physician.