Why do so many people “become religious” in their later years?
Everyone laughed at Uncle Manny when, out of the blue, he began attending synagogue regularly instead of only on the High Holidays. The family was sure he’d begun “to lose it,” kind of like my Aunt Rosalind, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was a regular synagogue go-er. Now that I’m at about the same age as Uncle Manny when he “got religion,” I’m beginning to understand his transformation.
All of us have asked ourselves at one time or another whether there is a God. And, if there is, what is He/She/It like? ( From here on I use the generic pronoun, “He.” I’m too old to be PC.) Many of my friends tell me they are atheists or agnostics and explain that they can not comprehend why an almighty God would have allowed the Holocaust to happen. I can certainly understand their doubt and disbelief. As long as one maintains an anthropomorphic notion of God, an all-powerful one, then His allowing the Holocaust to happen is inexcusable and eliminates Him as an acceptable deity. But what if God is actually beyond all imagination and understanding; beyond our best intellectual efforts to grasp His essence?
While walking along the beach in Haifa recently, I watched and paid close attention to all the different people strolling past me. I’m sure I passed dozens of children, adults and elderly folks. No two were alike. Sure there were family resemblances here and there, but no two people were identical to one another. I’m sure that experience would have been the same had I been walking the streets of crowded New York City. I found myself wondering why it is so rare to find two people, other than identical twins, who really look alike. I certainly have met people who bore striking resemblances to a friend or family member, but never were they an exact replica.
I let loose my imagination and my memory of what I’d learned as a child in Hebrew school and remembered that it is written in the Hebrew bible that we are all created “in God’s image.” Okay. But my recent “survey” of beach strollers, as well as my seventy seven years of experience on this earth, suggest that IF indeed there is an almost infinite number of different people in the world, ALL of whom were created in God’s image, then God must have an infinite number of identities and thus be infinite. And if God is truly infinite, can we ever expect to comprehend Him? I’ve decided that I, for one, can not.
And so, after my walks along the beach and my own personal experiences over the years, I have concluded that — for me — God is infinite and beyond my comprehension. Will I begin attending synagogue like my Uncle Manny and Aunt Rosalind?