I wrote an article about Yom Kippur two years ago, and have made everyone I know reread it every year since. But a lot has changed since then, so I thought it was time to write another one. Or at least one that addresses some of those changes. Maybe think of this as like a “where is she now” sort of thing, except instead of being some former contestant on a home makeover show, I am just slightly older and much less wise.
Feel free to read the first one though, it’s still pretty good. (http://www.cpsradar.com/2016/10/12/reflections-on-yom-kippur/)
Two years ago, I wrote the word “G-d” with a dash, instead of just “God,” and then invited people to ask me about it. Some did, and I recently looked back in my emails to find out what I was thinking. Here’s an excerpt:
“…Jews (and possibly other religions as well, though I can’t speak for them) are very cautious to not glorify God’s name because we don’t want it to seem like idolatry, or like we are worshipping the name instead of what it stands for. This can be seen in the many different names God is called in hebrew, such as “Hashem” “Adonai” “El” “Shechina” and so on. Because of this, many disagree with the use of a dash, because they feel as if I am glorifying the name too much. I have very complicated feelings about G-d, but what I do believe is that there is not a being looking over us, that it has more to do with the universe and connections between humans. I use the dash to signify that sense of mystery and ambiguity that I feel when I think and talk about G-d.
You may notice that even in this email did I contradict myself and was not consistent with my use of the dash, and that ties into how I feel that G-d and one’s thoughts about G-d are personal things that shift and change. I don’t think anyone, myself included, should get to tell me how to spell God.”
Some bold words for a 15 year old! Regardless, at the time, I don’t think I called my beliefs at the time a belief in god. I was not sure if it, you know, “counted.” I am more sure now. I’ve been doing some reading and thinking, and quite a lot of praying. I know now that the way I experience God doesn’t have to be limited to how others do. Some might say there is strength in believing in something without proof. And this very well may be true. But in my own life I feel the opposite. I feel weak, that I am too small and too scared to exist in a world without a God. God, for me, defined as “the collective potential of the human imagination,” the force of the universe, and everything in it, if you will.
Not everyone would agree with this definition. And that’s fantastic! Some might say they believe in the universe too, but would never call her god. Some might object to my use of the pronoun “her” right there. Some might not have even noticed it… But I digress. God can be a very personal subject, and I while am not trying to convince anyone of the right way to think, or to believe, I do find that talking about God with others is a great way to expand my views. I actually stole that “collective potential” thing from a Rabbi friend of mine.
Another Rabbi I know, Rabbi David, (good company, rabbis are) defines his belief as a belief in people, but clarifies that he does not believe in “a supernatural divine entity” like I do. Rabbi David wrote in an essay titled “A Contemplation… for those who do not define their belief as a belief in God” that he uses the various names of God in Judaism (the previously mentioned “Hashem,” “Adonai,” “El,” “Yah,” “Shechina,” etc) to describe the “feelings of awe engendered by the contemplation of the infinite and of the infinitesimal, the feelings we experience as we meditate upon and interact with the cosmos, with people, with art, and with history which is yet ours to make or to end.” What a fantastic quote! “History which is yet ours to make or to end.” I love it. And I hope you love it too, or at least think about it a little.
Anyways, it’s possible you haven’t figured out why I’m writing this yet, if not to share my deeply personal thoughts and feelings with as many people as possible. (Actually, if you know me, you’ve probably assumed that’s exactly what I’m doing.) What I want to impart on you, dear reader, is this: A lot can change in two years, especially if those two years are in high school. Whether it’s what color you dye your hair, how you feel about Rihanna, or whether or not you pray in the morning, what feels certain about who you are right now is exactly that, true right now, in this moment. But it may not be true forever. Lean into that change! Pay attention to when and where it comes from, and be an active participant. If the changes scare you, try to pinpoint why.
One really concrete way for me to see some of these changes play out in myself is to write them down. I haven’t always been very sure of my faith in God, and I didn’t know if my friends were thinking about religion in this way, so I haven’t talked about my spirituality in a serious way with almost anyone. But I can see how my understanding of faith has changed overtime because I wrote about it. And maybe in a few years I’ll read this article, disagree with everything in it, and write a part three!
Until then, keep reading my other articles, (not a shameless plug, a genuine plea) write your own, (or find a journal or something) and talk to your friends about the things that matter to you. Maybe that’s God, maybe that’s Rihanna, or maybe for you, they’re one and the same.
If you are interested in reading more thoughts from a rabbi who doesn’t believe in god, please let me know. Stuff is fascinating.
There is a lot of wonderful religious/spiritual poetry out there. ‘Morning Poem’ by Mary Oliver is one of my favorites: http://www.michaelppowers.com/wisdom/morningpoem.html