Some people can be fully nourished from a bible study, singing worship songs, or just being around fellow believers. When your identity is interfaith, it’s not always that simple.
After several disappointing experiences with Christians, I found myself hungry for connection with the Jewish community again: a group that is more concerned about asking the right questions than having the right answers.
When I started grad school at Colorado State, and happened upon a flyer advertising weekly Shabbat dinners at the campus Jewish Student Center, I decided to give it a try — knowing full well that people might not want me there once they discovered who I really was.
Thankfully, that fear was all in my head. I became friends with the director and his wife, who hosted a weekly Torah Study in their home that I was invited to attend. The meetings have been disbanded for a little while now that they’ve had a baby, but they were awesome while they lasted. I don’t think I ever attended a Christian bible study in which certain Hebrew words were parsed with dictionaries and commentaries; where the concept of Midrash, or creative invention of unknown details (like what Sarah might have thought when Abraham took their son to sacrifice him) is explored and encouraged.
I found that when I wanted certainty about something, Christian bible studies were useful for that. But if I didn’t understand a particular passage and wanted hermeneutical insight, complete with the parsing of Hebrew words and wisdom from rabbinic scholars, I turned to my Jewish friends and their weekly Torah group.
But won’t learning other viewpoints of Scripture only make me confused?
Not necessarily; Judaism and Christianity share a path in history. The two religions share Scripture and God the Father. Judaism, most importantly, is the religion of Jesus and his disciples – therefore it makes sense to study it the way they, and other first-century Jews, would have understood it, with people who belong to that same faith.
To me it seems wiser to study more than one interpretation than to settle on the one that satisfies our biases. If you never feel uncomfortable in a bible study, maybe you aren’t going deep enough.
I know that reading the Bible nourishes my faith, but sometimes it feels like an exercise in drudgery. Read in different contexts, it comes alive as something refreshing and new.