Standing Up To God, Humbly

In the movie, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” God comes out of the sky and growls at the prostrate knights: “Oh, don’t grovel — one thing I can’t stand is people groveling.”

Well, Monty Python may be British, but their God sounds Jewish. When God first speaks to the prophet Ezekiel, the call begins: “Stand on your feet that I may speak to you (2:1).” In Jewish prayer, we bend for a blessing, but we say God’s name once we have returned to an upright position. Falling to one’s knees or on one’s face is very rare, restricted to the High Holidays.

Judaism has elements of submission. We are not God, and remain conscious of the vast gulf between ourselves and the Eternal. Yet we are shutafim, partners, and invested with the agency and dignity of being God’s messengers in this world. So when we approach the Divine in prayer or study or meditation, it is in recognition of the nobility of being human and the privilege of partnership. As the Psalmist says, God has made us “little less than angels, and clothed us in glory and majesty” [Ps. 8:5]. Be humanly humble — don’t grovel.

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.