How do we talk about God when so many of us have such conflicted, confused and challenging concepts or relationships of/with God?
As a community about to jump into major community-wide conversations about God, Congregation Or Ami necessarily will face this conundrum.
When at Yom Kippur Kol Nidre services Rabbi Julia Weisz, Cantor Doug Cotler and I deliver a collaborative, multimedia sermon about God, we will strive to speak openly about what we know and what we do not know, what we believe and what we do not believe.
Similarly, every parent, teacher, adult, child, Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, believer and non-believer will be invited to struggle with their beliefs about God. Openly. Honestly. Aloud.
In Dr. Sherry Blumberg’s Teaching about God and Spirituality, we face the challenge head on. As you read on, try to read yourself into the role of the “teacher.” How does this text speak to you?
What if the teacher is unsure of his or her own conception or feelings about God? Can an atheist or agnostic Jew teach about God? A person who is going to teach about God needs to have examined his or her own belief, and tested it in the light of Jewish criteria, namely, metaphors, concepts, and views of God found in texts or expressed by Jews throughout the ages. For example, a person questioning why bad things happen to good people could examine, among other things, views on the concept of free will, the Book of Job (the biblical classic text on theodicy), or the responses of Holocaust survivors to that horrifying experience.
Perhaps thinking about the agnostic or the atheist teacher raises the deeper question of whether or not a doubter or a non-believer can or should teach about God. The best teacher to teach about God is one who has a deep religious faith, and yet doubts, questions, and struggles with his/her understanding of God. This person exemplifies the Jewish seeker, one who is actively engaged in a relationship with God. Therefore, I would rather choose the agnostic teacher who can honestly search with the students, than the confirmed atheist, or even a person with a conception of God that doesn’t allow for any disagreement or flexibility.
Jewish seekers seek understanding, meaning and connection. Jewish belief may be religious, spiritual or even intellectual. The best part is the conversation.
An Invitation to Talk God
Are you intrigued by discussions about God? Are you interesting in exploring different Jewish concepts of God and of Jewish spirituality?
- Join our Jewish Spiritual Seeker Facebook group to participate in our discussions about God, Spirituality and Holiness.
- Learn with Rabbis Paul Kipnes and Julia Weisz in an adult study on “God, Belief and Disbelief” which will explore up to 18 different Jewish conceptions of God. This adult portion of our Mishpacha Family Learning program welcomes all adult (families with children can enroll in the full program, instead of our Kesher Learning program). Sundays, twice monthly, beginning at 9:00 am. For more information, contact Nancy Acord at Congregation Or Ami (firstname.lastname@example.org or 818-880-4880).
- Read my musings about God.