God and Me

Emily Goldberg
May 15, 2014
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The ageless idea that God dwells among Jewish unity and tradition has become insufficient for me. Living in a generation where being a white Jewish female no longer makes the uniqueness cut, I crave creativity and authenticity similarly to how colleges view their applicants. As this crucial time in contemporary Judaism presents increasing rates of intermarriage and decreasing theism, I begin to question if referring to Judaism as a mere religion and God as a distant spiritual entity is enough for me.

I remember vividly sitting in my Jewish day school’s sixth grade Torah classroom, deciphering different plagues and ancient characters that made the great Exodus so famous. My teacher, a secular Israeli, passionately referred to us a slaves, and the heart-hardening God of the Israelites as “Adonai Eloheinu,” or “our God” who took us out of Egypt. We constantly learned about our God that led thousands of Israelites with pillars of fire, destructed evil cities, and arranged for marine life to consume prophets, and yet were also expected to engage in personal prayer daily. As a preteen, I was expected to admire a distant heroic God of a greater collective as well as cultivate my own personal relationship with this unseen authority. Finding the juxtaposition between the distant and the intimate, the God of the collective Jewish People and the God of me, was a painstaking challenge before I recognized the beauty of it all.

Creativity is the tool to which I cling when finding my place in an ever-evolving Judaism. It is the skill Judaism offers me with outstretched arms beneath its rigid texts, the ancient traditions and straightforward theology. Most importantly, however, creativity is the outlet through which I learned how to place myself in both my historical Jewish narrative and my relationship with God.

I took baby steps at first. Praying in English, writing God letters sealed in envelopes, engaging in conversation while walking my dog. My spiritual practices expanded, as did my insatiable hunger to stand out among the millions of Israelites whose history became mine: meditating in synagogues, clapping my hands soulfully in Baptist churches, and praying alongside the homeless at soup kitchens. I exchanged my labels with questions, my judgments with vulnerability, and my frustration with passion. I experimented with my faith as fluidly as one would with the filters of their pictures Instagram, choosing a different outlook on God each day in order to make my Judaism somewhat more unique.

It was through my ability to step outside the lines and limits of religion to discover the faith I carry so proudly today. Without creativity in my practice, I would not have run unexpectedly into the humbling creativity of my God.

The Talmud describes God’s intentions of creating each of us differently, complete with a distinct presence and an untradeable purpose in the world.

“To proclaim the greatness of The Holy One, Blessed be He: for if a man strikes many coins from one mold, they all resemble one another, but The Supreme King of Kings, The Holy One, Blessed be He, fashioned every man in the stamp of the first man, and yet not one of them resembles his fellow” (Babylonian Talmud: Seder Nezikin).

Like coins, we were designed to look somewhat connected, but inside God bestowed uniqueness upon each of us; God creatively molded us into a collective, yet recognized our respective potentials to shine like glistening copper. Our coin copy appearances bring out our humanness; our ability to create and inspire difference and change reflects not only our uniqueness, but also God’s creativity in us.

While I have come to appreciate the unchanging texts and timeless rituals that shape my community without even leaving our bookshelves, I have decided that my God will no longer be a passive, booming, and omnipresent spirit in the sky. That is and will never be enough. Creativity in my faith allows my relationship with God to vacillate between a collective journey with the Jewish people and a personal friendship. Creativity showed me that I can place myself in my people’s larger narrative as well as in my relationship with God—all in one moment. Most importantly, creativity in my seeking led to unmatched beauty of faith as I see it. The God who led us out of Egypt leads my ever-experimental and creative Jewish identity. My God is a god of second, third, and ten thousand chances. My God is a god of great love and perception, for God carefully takes the seemingly carbon-copy coins of humanity and ignites the uniqueness shining within each one. Sounds like the ultimate jackpot to me.

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Emily Goldberg is a freshman at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She loves sharing her perspective on faith and religion, especially with her own growing Jewish community. She began recording her own ideas in her blog, “A Leap of Faith.” In the future, she hopes to pursue interfaith studies, social action, theology, and writing. This past summer she joined a life-long community of Jewish thinkers and leaders, The Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel. This year, she pursued her passion for spiritual leadership through her rabbinic internship at Romemu [www.romemu.org], her pastoral internship at St. Patrick's Cathedral and her job as a counselor at Camp Ramah Darom in Georgia. She hopes to lead a liberal and innovative Jewish community of her own someday, one where others can be inspired to pursue coexistence and positive change.

1 Comment

  1. I too believe that each of us is unique and that we must take our own journey to learn the Torah, understand who we are, and live our lives in the most meaningful way. To make this easier I have created a Torah Summary & Analysis site at http://www.jsummary.com Please let me know if you find it interesting!

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