A recent article by Jay Michaelson in Hadassah Magazine really spoke to me and I want to share some of it with you. Direct quotes from the article are in italics. I often hear from our members that they don’t believe in God and I answer with what Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi said: “I don’t believe in the same God you don’t believe in.” I don’t believe in the old man in the sky “rewarding the good and punishing the bad like a cosmic Santa Claus” .
Often when we talk about God, it is ‘testimony’ from proselytizers or fanatics who believe that God has told them to kill someone or a group of people. Or it is The Lord we are praying to in our prayer books. But when we don’t talk about God—“including our doubts, reservations and often secret inspirations and desires—we end up with an adolescent image of God that does not meet our real needs.” “Today, we need to come out, theologically… Adolescent theology is intellectually insulting. The Jewish tradition has spawned god concepts that are pantheist, Aristotelian, pagan, philosophical, mythic, erotic and, in the case of the Kabbalah, all of the above and more.
The Jewish theological bookshelf includes Abraham Joshua Heschel, Moses de Leon, Maimonides, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liady,
Emmanuel Levinas and, not least, the wave of feminist theologians who have only begun to interrogate the sexist assumptions of Jewish religion. To some, God does not exist—God is Existence itself. To others, is known in the forces of eros, or justice, or both.” So who is this God that we don’t believe in anyway? What if our God-Talk demanded the same depth, maturity and level of excellence as we do in our literature, theatre, sports, music? Yet we remain with our child-like images: “Spirituality and theology could be as intellectually and personally nourishing as the greatest of arts— but not if we refuse to engage with it on an adult level.
Religion is not about what happens after we die. It is about what happens when we live: how just we are, how kind and how we infuse our lives with a sense of gratitude and mystery.“ And it is dangerous to let the power of religion belong only to those who use it for political power. “If we fail to engage with our religious tradition around the dinner table and in our Jewish communities; if we fail to bring our full selves to that conversation, not closeting our life experiences, our doubts or our private hopes and fears, then we indeed abandon a great and powerful spiritual technology to that small sliver of believers who cling to dogma precisely because of the insecurity of fanaticism. And this betrayal hurts our minds, our souls and our political lives.”
Let’s begin to nourish ourselves with excellence and maturity in our God Talk.