Dreaming of Moshiach

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Living Biblically, for a Year

What if a modern-day American followed every single rule in the Bible as literally as possible. Not just the famous rules – the Ten Commandments and Love Thy Neighbor (though certainly those). But the hundreds of oft-ignored ones: don’t wear clothes of mixed fibers. Grow your beard. Stone adulterers.

A.J. Jacobs 39, who grew up in a very secular home ("I’m officially Jewish but I’m Jewish in the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant) put himself into "the mind-set and sandals" of his forefathers, "first, to find out if I was missing something — like a man who had never fallen in love or had never heard Beethoven — or if half of the world is deluded."

With the help of a spiritual advisory board of rabbis, priests and ministers and spending time with the Amish and Hassidic Jews, Jacobs tried to live every facet of his life based on strict interpretations of Scripture.

Jacobs spent the year carrying around a stapled list of the more than 700 rules and prohibitions identified in the Bible.

This led him to wear a white robe with sandals and herd sheep. "It's very good for the ego. Sheep live up to stereotype — they're sheepish. It was a good entry-level job for patriarchs. First they were shepherds, and then they led people out of Israel."

He struggled not to curse and asking strangers for permission to stone them for adultery. He says he able to cut down flat-screen TVs, cell phone, etc.

His biggest challenge? "That'd be no coveting, no lying, no gossiping. They're little sins, but they're killers. My year made me realize just how many of these sins I committed every day. And refraining from them for a year was really hard but completely transforming."

Biggest lesson? "Your behavior shapes your beliefs. If you act like a good person, you eventually become a better person. I wasn't allowed to gossip, so eventually I started to have fewer petty thoughts to gossip about. I had to help the less fortunate, so I started to become less self-absorbed.

Changes? "The experience changed me in big ways and small ways. There’s a lot about gratefulness in the Bible, and I would say I’m more thankful. I focus on the hundred little things that go right in a day, instead of the three or four things that go wrong. And I love the Sabbath. There’s something I really like about a forced day of rest."

"The Bible affected every single part of my life, it affected the way I walked, the way I dressed, the way I hugged my wife, the way I ate. The year was the most extreme makeover of my life."

"Religion provides structure, mooring, anchoring. Should you covet? No. Should you give 10 percent to the needy? Yes. It really structures your life."

"I like seeing my life as a series of responsibilities. It’s sort of, 'Ask not what the world can do for you, ask what you can do for the world.'

One rule he followed to the max: Be fruitful and multiply. During his year of living biblically, his wife, Julie, gave birth to twins, Zane and Lucas.

His next project? "I'm waiting for divine inspiration," Jacobs says.




והיה השם למלך על כל הארץ, ביום ההוא יהיה השם אחד - ושמו אחד ישתבח שמו לעד לנצח נצחים בכל העולמות Blessed is His name for eternity in all worlds אין עוד מלבדו