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03/13/2019 12:24:50 PM

Mar13

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about belief in God. Yesterday, a teenager I was teaching asked me if I believed in God. She does. And, recently, another child very respectfully asked how he could say the words of our prayers when they assume a belief in God that he’s not sure he has. Baruch ata Adonai, Elohainu melech ha’olam, Blessed are you Adonai, our God, Ruler of the universe, it’s the start of every blessing. Is it reasonable to say it if you don’t believe in God?

Firstly, I want to say that I love that our children are grappling with this issue as are many of our adults. Jews are supposed to question, not just accept things.

So, how do I answer these questions? I always begin by saying that I’m sharing my thoughts. Yes they’re based on Jewish study, but still, they’re just my thoughts. I tell them the expression “Two Jews, three opinions.” Judaism isn’t just about set answers, we’re meant to grapple with things.

Often when people say they don’t believe in God, their idea of God is the “old man” in Heaven looking down on us, answering our prayers and pulling strings for us. I don’t believe in an intervening God either. And yet, often I experience, or hear about others’ experiences where there seem to be coincidences that can’t be explained. My explanation is that we’re all interconnected in some way that we don’t yet understand. And that there is some sort of force beyond us. And I call that force God.

So why do I find our prayers so meaningful when I don’t believe in an intervening God? I’m aware that many of these prayers are ancient and they help me feel part of a long line of Jews. This connection to our past also struck home when I recently had genetic testing and found I had a gene that predated the destruction of the first Temple!

Another way I give our prayers meaning is by looking at their themes. The blessings, to me, are about gratitude for what we have: bread, wine, vegetables and fruits, freedom, life, our blessings go on and on! There’s been many studies outlining the health benefits of gratitude. How wise our ancestors were! We have various prayers asking for peace: Sim Shalom, Shalom Rav, Oseh Shalom. That’s easy. The Mi Chamocha reminds me of the joy we felt when we were truly free and safe from slavery. It reminds me of the importance of freedom and helping others achieve it. V’Shamru makes me think of how wise our ancestors were in understanding the importance of not working all the time.

I also find that the beauty of the music transports me. Prayer is so much more than finding meaning in the words. It’s why so many of our prayers are sung. Music moves us.

So, I want to thank our children, for raising such important issues. What are your thoughts about God?

At our recent LunchNLearn, one of our congregants quoted Einstein. I’ll end with a few quotes from Einstein:

A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty - it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude… (Albert Einstein)

I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings. (Albert Einstein)

 

 

Thu, July 18 2019 15 Tammuz 5779