When we have belief, when we have courage, when we struggle with a difficult past and with big questions, we can remake our world. We can look to our past as individuals, as families, and as members of that broad, undefinable thing that is the Jewish people, and do something crucial.
We can combat despair, using all those who came before as inspiration and as warning.
This, too, is Judaism beyond God. Our humanism defines our values, to be sure, but everyone is from somewhere. Most of us are Americans; most of us are Jews. As Americans, we are heirs to some of the British past, and some of the past of our countries of origin. As Jews, we are heirs to the whole history of the Jewish people; we may emphasize the good, downplay the bad, and view our Jewish inheritance with a tremendous amount of skepticism, but the Jewish past and its cultural products are ours.
All of this—the mix of traditions and literature and thought and experiences and food and art—makes up our Judaism. Each of us is different, and each of our experiences of Judaism are different, too. Our Judaism is no one thing, but we are all engaged in the same conversation.
When we see the poor suffering, we can say, “that’s not my Judaism,” and we can find an example—not a justification, but an example—in the ethical views of the prophet Amos, even as we reject his threats of doom to the nations. When we feel helpless, we can remember that Jews for centuries celebrated hope in the everyday things: we might not say the traditional blessing, but there’s nothing stopping us from appreciating the amazing thing that is the modern agricultural system, and remembering the hard work of those who receive too little for the hard work they do in providing our food.