Saturday, April 26, 2014

Define God

היום אחד עשר יום שהם שבוע אחד וארבעה ימים בעמר
Today is eleven days, which is one week and four days of the omer
נצח שבגבורה
A day of perseverance in a week of strength

There is a saying attributed to Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, "When I pray, I speak to God. When I study Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible) God speaks to me." As someone who does both regularly, I am often asked about my relationship to God. My standard answer is, "Define God."

My reality is that I don't know how to define God. I like to say that God lives in the unknown. Lately, thanks to Rabbi Bradley Artson, I'm thinking that God lives in the connections we have--connections with others, with the planet, with ourselves.

I have been studying Torah regularly for more than 15 years, cycling through the same five books in one way or another. Each year I find not just new teachings, but sections of text I feel like I haven't seen before. That is the "magic" of any sacred writing, and why those texts written in ancient times still speak to people today. I am not so concerned about who authored those writings--some say God, some say people who were God-inspired, some say a combination of deep philosophers with some really good storytellers. I'm in the latter camp, but will respect others' beliefs as long as they respect mine. What's more important than the "who" of the books is the "what" that they have to offer. The teachings I receive from the words of the Torah through the myriad of lenses set out by commentators throughout the ages help me navigate the relationships that make up my life.
That is my version of God speaking to me.

In prayer, through song or words, I seek release from my overactive, wondering mind. The melodies cycle through not just my head but run through my being. I often stand, swaying, dancing in my place with the rhythms. The biblical Hebrew with the tunes from another time and place touch the seed within--the part of my DNA that connects me with my ancient tribe. Reading the liturgical psalms and poems, I get to enter that timeless stream where the past, present and future are one. Those words written so long ago engage me with thoughts of compassion, thankfulness, fullness, and peace. They serve as a reminder that while we may be walking on the edge with stability in question, taking a moment to breathe, letting go of extraneous thoughts can bring in the balance we need.
That is my version of speaking to God.

No comments: