God has not generally played a major role in my Jewish practice. In fact, there was a three-month period, during my last year of university, where I was a decided "atheist." For many of my peers, Judaism was an intellectual exercise, and looking at it from an intellectual point of view, I could not find a way to believe in God.
Despite this, my Jewish practice was important to me. I continued to keep kosher, I continued to keep Shabbat (in fact, for the first time in my life, I actually worked diligently for the other six days of the week), I continued to attend services, and I continued, as best I could, to treat people the way I wanted to be treated. Maimonides' 13 articles of faith notwithstanding, I was a pretty "good" Jew.
In the months following graduation, I came back to struggling with my belief, having days where I believed in God and days where I didn’t. But, with the help of some good teachers at Jerusalem’s Conservative Yeshiva, I changed my tune. Belief in God, it seems, is simple. All I have to do is define God in such a way that I can believe. Doubting God merely meant that I hadn’t found way to think of a God in which I could believe.
Over the years, my definition of God has changed, and continually changes. But for now, this is my God:
My God gave the Jews the Torah as our moral code. While I believe that humans put those words to paper, I believe that each word is the word of God.
That said, God gave us the Torah in terms meant for human understanding, and God knows that as human understanding changes over the years, so to will our understanding of the Torah.
When God says that all people are created in the image of God, God means that all people must treat one another, as well as themselves, with respect.
My God does not believe that violence is an appropriate way to achieve God’s will.
My God does not have a gender.
My God does not want to see women absent from the public sphere - not by removing their pictures, not by forcing them out of the way of men, and not by silencing their voices.
My God tries to inspire people to do good in this world, but cannot prevent evil.
My God helps me to appreciate the positive in my life, whether it is my health, the fact that I do not go hungry, or the loving relationships of friends and family that surround me.
My God helps me recognize what I want to change in my life, and when I pray to God, I force myself to say out loud the changes that I want to see.
My God will not directly reward or punish me, or anyone else, for following or transgressing God’s laws, but I believe that I am better person when I follow them nevertheless.
My God does not have to be the God of my friends or my family, whether they are Jewish or not.
My God evolves as I evolve.
Arie Hasit is an educator at Ramah Programs in Israel and is beginning the Israeli bet midrash program at the Schechter institute. The views expressed in this article are the author's alone.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now