The concept of God is a tricky thing. I do not equate God and religion. I see religion as divisive and often hypocritical. I think God on the other hand, can be a unifying idea when separated from organized religion. When you have children, you think more about what God means if for no other reason than your kids begin to ask you what God is. I tell my sons when they ask, God is an energy that comprises and connects all things. God surrounds us; we breathe in God. We, and everything else, is God.
I’ve always found God in nature. If I am still in the quiet of the woods or a field, I can feel God pulse around me, smell God in the air, and hear God in the movement of a blade of grass in the wind. But I must be very still. This is, of course, an ever-increasing challenge in our world of sound bites, instant access, and over-scheduling (which is why I love Shabbat, but that’s for a different blog post).
In my past interactions with religion, God has always been depicted as the old bearded white guy up in the sky. God acts like us humans and if the impulse is there, he may sometimes grant our wishes or chose to condemn us to live in misery. We are told if we are good, then God may reward our prayers. I’ve always felt this meant God must be mean and petty because few prayers are ever answered. And, look at all of the horrific things that happen in the world. Plus, whoever said God was a he. I could never reconcile this idea of God being just and kind with what happens in society.
So when a rabbi at my Intro to Judaism class started talking about God and the 10 commandments my mind wandered a little. But then the rabbi said something like, “when Reform Jews say God, we are not talking about an old man, we are talking about energy, a force that surrounds each of us,” my brain snapped into focus. The rabbi had just voiced my vision of God. I always smile when I think of God as a “force,” it conjures images of lightsabers and a flying X-wing.
A fellow NPE who discovered they too had Jewish parentage asked, “How is it possible to have faith in a just God and accept the horrors that God allows to unfold?” To me by defining God as having the possibility of being “just” you’ve set parameters of what God is. If you believe God is an energy all around and within us, you cannot anthropomorphize God — it’s impossible for God to be just or not. Humans make tragedy, not God. I don’t think God cares if humans suffer because again that anthropomorphizes God. I believe we must look within ourselves and others to find divinity and unfortunately evil.
God is revealed to Moses as “YHWY” which is from the verb to be in all consonants and therefore impossible to pronounce. I love the fact that it’s unpronounceable. The idea of God shouldn’t be something you can utter. But truly the beauty of the word is in its meaning: was — is — will be. So God is everything that was, is, and will be. My sentiments exactly.
Perhaps, I wondered, is Reform Judaism a religion I could feel joy in practicing. Was this a set of philosophies and rituals I could support and find comfort in? Could this be my tribe I’ve been so desperately seeking since I was a young child? I decided my presence in the Intro to Judaism class might just be about more than learning about my newly discovered heritage.