Joel Smith
A Jew who thinks for himself

Concepts of God 2

Somewhere in the Talmud the question is raised…”Why do we say here “the Gd of Abraham, the Gd of Isaac, and the Gd of Jacob? Why not simply say the Gd of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?” The answer given is, we realize that Gd is not the same to everyone, and certainly not in different generations.

Gd  is experienced by men of different generations like men of different generations view a meandering river, one that changes in time not only according to the geomorphology, but perhaps to what happens on its banks (maybe there are buildings on it now). Sons look at the same river their grandfather looked at years ago; it’s still flowing; they call it by the same name, but… though they immerse themselves in what is said to be the same river, they’re not (and then again, they are).

Gd may not be what people say, having an accepted verbal definition, but is what It is; it is, it seems to me,  process.  And this comports with Gd acting in history. It is what it is, all our efforts to convince (and our ignorance) notwithstanding – but evidence is there.If you want to address It, you don’t even know where to look.  It is not simply this, or that. It defies articulation; It is “too well camouflaged”, too vague. Still you are likely to believe what you’ve been told as a young person about God –  that Gd knows when you’ve lied, for instance – or (for some) that Jesus is God, or the son of. And after all… really, who knows?

You may imagine that Gd is fixed and eternal, and that that means He is “perfect”.  You may imagine that Gd is perfect Love, or that He’s Omniscient, whatever – you may think you know who or what He is, broadly speaking – but consider…. Anything that can be defined is by definition not something else. A concept defines in part by ruling out certain things in order that it may be understood as exactly this, not this or that. So if you believe that Gd is love… how do you account for hate? Defined means contrasted to or limited by a context or gestalt (whereas, as we all know…Gd IS the context or gestalt), hence, It cannot be defined, She cannot be excluded. To define or deliniate or differentiate is to draw a boundary around, and so exclude thereby that what is not the object or Subject in order to “deal with it”.  No one can determine what is and what is not that which we call Gd.

If you have some thing, you want to have it have a name, it needs a handle if you’re going to use it in speech or thought. It is understandable that people need to have a name if they’re going to communicate among themselves about this experience, this intuition, or the fear, or faith they have. Whoever heard of a god without a name? (and yet, He is called by some  ha Shem  (or in Hebrew, the Name) – will someone please tell me what that’s all about?) Naming something or someone is the beginning of making it an idol. Idols have names.

I say your definition of Gd is too small.  I say appreciating the enormity of Gd is the beginning of wisdom, and I say wisdom is the end game. I say Torah is invaluable, but nowhere near the end. I say try to “know Him in all His ways”.

About the Author
Born and raised in Chicago, 1938. Both my parents Jewish. Bar mitzvahed, and supposedly Conservative. U. of Ill. B.A. then 2 years in the army, then to the U of Montana, M.A., M.F.A. Taught, drove a cab in Chicago, spent some years in CA. Was mentored by Noah ben Shea in a Religious Studies program at International College. Traveled internationally. Spent 1975 and 6 in Israel. Painted (I'm an artist). Held 15 jobs (including teaching English in several countries). Managed to buy 3 acres of country in north Florida where I live today doing things that please me.
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