Joel Smith
A Jew who thinks for himself

Notes regarding Gd.

It seems to me that when all is said and done, we are (as Mathew Arnold says in “Dover Beach”) we are living here where “ignorant armies clash by night”. Gd, for reasons beyond our ken, stays out of it – Gd, the Creator, who  set it all in motion, so complex, so wonderfully conceived in the ever growing complexity, intelligence (notwithstanding entropy) light years beyond even our comprehension… what to do with our intuition? what to call It…?   Call It Tao or call It God, call It Jehovah, the Elan Vital… or “Don’t Call It Anything”. It is beyond our comprehension, the alpha and the omega, etc. It may be that Gd wants nothing more to do with humans, period. (but maybe He’ll watch). So I don’t know, but it could be.

In my humble opinion…not only may Gd’s ways be unknowable, there is some question as to Gd’s will – if He has one. Is He…(you should pardon the expression) conscious? lol yes? no?  If He is, is He  a) amoral and apparently capricious? or b) does He care if we humans are moral? For what reason? Why? Does He have something special in mind for us at the end? Does anyone know? (Oh, you know…?). How seriously, how sincerely should one give one’s mind over to the exclusive Torah, the prophets in particular? Should one yoke one’self to the call of a higher order..? Torah/talmud …is it enough? In my humble opinion…it is not enough

I  would like to think that Gd is aware, and does care – (and a lot of people say they believe He is – and does – and that He is “acting out” in history….but that is anybody’s guess). I would like to think that justice followed – and that that’s because Gd “believed” that humankind would “do good”, hoped it would live by the following laws…saw to it that people could be good – and in time would be good…(after all, He gave the Israelites the Torah) and that that’s where we (humanity) that’s where we’re at.). Or…

B) Does God  (assuming He exists) want something from us?  Does He want to see how polite and kind, etc. we are, our personal good behavior? A push for what’s called morality?  . Or is it that It may be that Gd, having set it all in motion , is simply letting it unfurl. Washed Her hands of it…letting it unfold. He set it in motion, like a new watch, and is letting it tick. In other words, while Gd may have stepped into human affairs on rare occasions in the past, as far as we know, now, Gd has been scrupulously honest when it comes to His creations – “Let all my creatures be absorbed by their will to live” – unless, of course, you consider the Invisible Hand – unfolding, the way it came down, I’m asking whether or not  Hashem  has been watching us, whether he cares about us, and what about morality?

That we are here is miracle enough  It is only necessary to try to explain it if a) you like explaining. Whether you can accept a conscious creator being behind it all or not,  you’re obliged to live here, to be here now (if only you could….). Whether we “recognize God” or say “No” (or even doubt it) It’s going to be here when you are not

But if you are one of those belonging to no synagogue, temple or group, so you are quite alone in a spiritual sense. What do you do or say when trying to communicate with Gd? Maybe you are praying for “Please give me a sign.” Does He, She or It really want us to be good..? Or is He merely The Observer now. Gd may figure He’s given us prehensile thumbs…let’s see what these creatures can do, and observe the dramas, the comedies, the lies, the passion masquerading as love, etc.etc. going on between them on planet Earth. In other words, even if Gd exists…it may be entirely in our hands.  Deists think that that’s the case.  Maybe He is just observing.  Monotheists, people of the Book, claim not only does God exist, but ((it’s been made clear in Torah) He has shown that He interferes on rare occasions – or He used to, anyhow. He is active in the fate of humankind. But this person, let’s say he (or she) is a Jew, if he isn’t aligned with those who go to schul, or the temple, what’s he to do or think?

Let’s be honest: we don’t know anything about haShem.  Our religious literature tells us He spoke to a few of our forefathers, ending with Moses or in a way, the prophets – but we haven’t heard from Him since ( He seemed to us to be noticeably absent at Auschwitz, but then our ways are not His ways). And those words He is reported to have spoken to Moses… …I realize this article of faith is the bottom line as far as our collective religion is concerned. That Gd was “personally involved” with the creation and afterwards, and gave us the Ten Commandments.I internalize it, I do not reject it, I can live with uncertainty; I search, consider and reconsider. I seek the heart of the matter, what’s it all about. I ask myself about Gd Itself – there’s the concept, and then there’s the numinous, the Creator, who or which  manifests Itself daily in all our lives. She is immanent and transcendent both, at the same time. And timeless. Gd challenges us (if we’re interested) to know Him, or Her, or It. What are we to think if Gd permits evil to exist? Isn’t Gd the symbol and source of truth and justice? The Hindus have it that Gd is not only the Creator, but is the Preserver, and…the Destroyer (in order to “clear the deck” for the next generation). What does an observant Jew think about that..? What does a Jew have to say when confronted by…some would say an apparently impotent Gd, or uninvolved Gd when anti-semitism has meant terrible things to the children of Israel. Why? why? Does Gd really have “what it takes” to mete out justice? Does He care? With the holocaust in mind, does He care that people separate dairy from meat dishes..? Really..?

I don’t know the answers, but I do believe – strongly – that Gd wishes us to think for ourselves. I am all for rabbis – but you too can think, and should. Judaism must mature.  Jews living today are the inheritors o Jacob’s children, etc. -it is our religion, and for that to happen, that takes all of us thinking, feeling and caring (and discussing) – yes, as a community – about what’s what. It is the religion of Jews  here and now – maybe unsettled and maybe in flux, but I believe if Judaism is not to become a fossil, if it is not to be merely “the finger pointing to the moon”…we must insist that it is OUR religion (the OUR being the religion of Jews living today).

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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