In college, I used to dance atop a bar at a place called BAR. Liberated, in that liminal stage of American development lovingly referred to as the college experience, I was free. It was a time of intense passion and intense creativity for me. Today, I am a rabbi, and I no longer dance atop bars. I am settled, stable, some might say, established in my Los Angeles community, but of late, I find myself longing for my college days.
As I am a rabbi, the dichotomy naturally reminds me of God. The Torah presents myriad images of the Divine, but I would like to highlight two, which have each taken hold in the Jewish psyche, animating our faith in different ways.
Beginning at the beginning, we find that the Torah’s first description of God is as the Creator, shaper of nature, existing outside of it. No thinker did more for us to concretize this image of God than Maimonides, associating God the Creator with Aristotle’s unmoved mover. For Maimonides, the prime characteristic of the Divine is that God is unchanging, change being fundamentally antithetical to God, who is perfect, essentially complete and therefore thoroughly without need for change. God is settled, and always has been.
On the other hand, when YHVH introduces Herself to Moshe at the burning bush, the single attribute He uses as a descriptor is change. Eheyeh asher Eheyeh, declares YHVH, “I will be what I will be.” Who is God? God is Becoming. To be godlike then, is to be unsettled, a being that is ever becoming.
When I think of bridging the gap in these two images of the ideal (as, we are instructed as Jews to be God-like), I think of my children. They are beings ever-becoming, but their flourishing depends on the stability, the unchangingness that I provide them. They are the painting. I am the canvas. So too with all of us; we must find settings in which we can be grounded, taking a stand, claiming who we are in a given place and time. But, we must also find contexts in which we can be beings ever becoming. Doing so is the essence of being alive and being godlike.
Who are you today? Who are you becoming?email print