Q: I was raised a Southern Baptist but now consider myself to be mostly agnostic. Most of what I hear coming from religions flies in the face of science and logic. I have to agree with Einstein’s comment about rejecting a religion that required him to check his brain at the door. If the Judeo-Christian god does exist, as they preach, how can a just deity condemn me for lacking faith — which is something I cannot create? I could sign up and pretend to be deeply religious, but it would be a sham. I just don’t have that spark. How do the great thinkers reconcile this?
— Anonymous, via email
A- I would suggest you build from science to faith. That is what Einstein did. I was told that Gandhi once wrote Einstein, “Dear Einstein, What do you do?” To which Einstein replied, “Dear Gandhi, I trace the lines that flow from God.” He also said about the universe, “Could so great a symphony have no conductor?” Listen to the music of the universe, and you will soon see the conductor.
Q When I was young my grandfather would touch me inappropriately. I know, and always have known, that it was not my fault or because of anything I did. As I got older I assumed it was a sickness. I am now almost 50 years old and it is something that has affected me for many years. My question to you is how do I forgive him? I am a Catholic and I know in my heart that forgiving him would be the best thing for me. I think forgiveness would be good for him too. I have tried but I just can’t get over the anger and the hurt.
— Anonymous, via email
A Thank you for your courage in facing this horrible assault on your innocence. Believing that what your grandfather did to you is a sickness in no way exculpates him. He is guilty of the most horrific sin and crime. What you should do now about forgiving him depends completely upon what you need to do to move on and knit together the torn fabric of your life. I agree that forgiveness would be good for him. Therefore, it is your choice now. If you feel that carrying this heavy object of anger on your heart is hurting it, then let it go. Let him go and become stronger at your broken places. May God comfort and heal you. God bless you.
Q I was told that I am a member of the Tribe of Dan by a descendant of a Norwegian Viking. I am a descendant of Scottish Vikings. Is this a non-Jewish tribe of Israel? I know Dan is Jacob’s son by a handmaiden. The Tribe of Dan supposedly moved north and fought the Assyrian army. I assumed they kept going north, naming places after Dan. Through travel, I have seen Viking runes carved on a marble banister of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. What can I believe of this Tribe of Dan?
— Anonymous in Carolina, via email
A So let me get this straight. Your question is whether tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed warriors who could build things with tools are Jewish? The short answer is, no, the Vikings were not Jewish. But in fairness to your question, I must admit that I have heard this rumor before. It seems to rest on the word similarities between Denmark and Dan, but that’s it. As you know the biblical Tribe of Dan is descended from Bilah, the handmaiden of Jacob who along with Zilpah, his other handmaiden and his two wives, Rachel and Leah, gave birth to the 12 tribes. Dan and Naftali were the sons of Bilah.
Dan’s tribal inheritance was the land just north of the Philistines and just west of Benjamin’s land around Jerusalem. Sadly, Dan was one of the tribes conquered and dispersed by the Assyrian armies in 722 before the common era, leaving the tribes of Judah and Benjamin intact, but they were conquered by the much more benevolent Babylonians and returned to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem in 516 BCE. We have no idea what happened to the “10 lost tribes of Israel.” My belief is that they were wiped out or dispersed among the nations, to be lost forever, their connection to the Jewish people severed forever. The most credible rumor is that perhaps remnants from the tribe of Dan moved south to Ethiopia and perhaps played a role in creating the hybrid form of Ethiopian Judaism, but there is no way to be sure. So that’s it. The Vikings are not Jewish! I must admit however that the idea of a Norse God named Thor Goldberg is intriguing to me.