Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud


God : The Biography

Maimonides once explained that we can only know God by what God is not: God is not limited. God has no end and no beginning. God has no corporeal form and therefore no gender (which is why I use only gender-neutral language to refer to God).

However, we also have certain positivist beliefs about God. God is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing, which leads us into a variety of dilemmas about why bad things happen to good people (for which I most appreciate Rabbi Harold Kushner’s answer in When Bad Things Happen to Good People).

God is indivisible, one unity, though God has different qualities or attributes, such as mercy, kindness, truth, forgiveness, graciousness, etc. (Exodus 34:6-7). We are to emulate God’s qualities in the world: as God is gracious, so are we to be gracious to others; as God shows kindness, so too are we to show kindness to others.

God works through history. The continued existence of the State of Israel is modern evidence of God’s hand, even as the experience of the Holocaust reminds us that humanity can collectively fail God’s expectations of us. (As a famous Holocaust survivor once quipped, do not ask where God was in the Holocaust, ask where man was.) God has a special relationship with the Jewish People, but maintains a love for and relationship with all God’s children, not just the Jews.

God is beyond our comprehension, which is why there are so many different Jewish understandings of God, and each only captures an infinitesimal aspect of who God is.

To the scientist, the complexities and elegance of life are evidence of God as the Creator. To the humanist, God is the Judge and Ultimate Moral Arbiter, therefore there are some moral absolutes, for example that murder, stealing, and unequal laws for stranger and neighbor, rich and poor are wrong. To the mystic, God is the Source for All, caring for human beings on a small and grand scale, intimately involved in our lives as the source of all abundance, strength, and support, and concerned for the fate of the world, working behind the scenes if no longer in front of it. Every act we do can bring God’s blessings further in to the world or push them away from the world.

What is great about Jewish theology is that there are many different ways of thinking about, relating to, and connecting to God: God as transcendent Creative Force; God as immanent companion; God as Pedagogue, leading humanity to self-actualization.

As Jews, we can praise God, we can be angry with God. We do not even technically have to believe in God to be considered Jewish. However, according to Hasidic teaching, we are not supposed to ignore God.

What does God mean to you?



Advertisement
Comments read comments(1)
post a comment
free2believe

posted July 21, 2006 at 12:00 pm


Rabbi Grossman, Thank you for taking time to reach out and offer guidance. If I may offer my answer to your closing question… It seems to me a rather dangerous path to look to G-d as a “parent figure”, a “father figure” for the reason that He is not. He is our Maker. The danger manifests itself when one puts parental expectations on One Who is not a parent. To put expectations that do not fit into a scenario is to invite disillusionment and chink away at belief. G-d is here to support us, to mourn with us and to share our joy. G-d = Love. He is not an errand boy of whom we make demands nor a parent on whom we heap expectations. We are not here to judge G-d and we have no reason to do so. If we have no expectations then we cannot lose faith. The key word is gratitude. No matter how bad things get, I am grateful to G-d for His presence and to be able to feel Him and thank Him. What else matters?



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

The Task Is Never Finished
It has been heartwarming to read the warm responses to Rabbi Waxman's post asking Beliefnet to reconsider its decision to cancel Virtual Talmud. Virtual Talmud offered an alternative model for internet communications: civil discourse pursued in postings over a time frame of days (rather than moments

posted 12:31:46pm Apr. 03, 2008 | read full post »

Some Parting Reflections
Well, loyal readers, all good things must come to an end and we’ve been informed that this particular experiment in blogging as a forum for creating wide-ranging discussion on topics of interest to contemporary Jews has run its course. Maybe it’s that blogging doesn’t lend itself so well to t

posted 1:00:29pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

Obama's Lesson and The Jewish Community
There are few times in this blog’s history when I have felt that Rabbi Grossman was one hundred percent correct in her criticisms of my ideas. However, a few weeks ago she called me out for citing a few crack websites on Barak Obama’s advisors. She was right. I never should have cited those web

posted 12:09:08pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

The Future of Race Relations
As a post-baby boomer, it is interesting to me to see how much of today’s conversation about racial relations is still rooted in the 1960s experience and rhetoric of the civil rights struggle, and the disenchantment that followed. Many in the black and Jewish communities look to this period either

posted 4:04:41pm Mar. 25, 2008 | read full post »

Wright and Wrong of Race and Jews
Years ago, as a rabbinical student, I was one of a group of rabbinical students who visited an African American seminary in Atlanta. My fellow rabbinical students and I expected an uplifting weekend of interfaith sharing like we had experienced in visits to other (largely white) seminaries. We were

posted 12:50:11pm Mar. 24, 2008 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.