My understanding of God mirrors that of the first century rabbi Saul of Tarsus: God is that “in which we live, and move, and have our being,” (Acts 18:28). It may be odd to quote Rabbi Saul, better known as St. Paul, in a book on Judaism, but on this point he is spot on. I am a panentheist (pan/all en/is in theos/God). I believe that God, if the word is to have value for me at all, is Ultimate Reality, the source and substance of all that was, is, or can be.
I won’t pretend that the authors of Torah felt the same, but I can turn the text is a way that allows me to draw my theology out of it. Some would call this eisegesis, and in so doing deny the validity of my efforts to turn Torah to my way of thinking. Eisegesis is the act of reading my own insights into Torah rather than culling new insights from Torah (exegesis). Guilty as charged. If eisegesis disqualifies me from reading of Torah in your mind, you should stop reading this book immediately. I, however, subscribe to a different view.
For me one person’s exegesis is another person’s eisegesis, and vice versa. I think we all use Torah and other sacred texts as mirrors, seeing ourselves in them and then pretending that we were there all along. The difference between what I am doing with Torah and what the ancient rabbis or the medieval Kabbalists did, is that I don’t pretend to be doing anything but eisegesis.
If this is so, why do I bother reading my opinions back into Torah? Why not just state my opinions and abandon Torah all together? The answer is simple: the moment I abandon Torah is the moment I cease to be a Jew, something I simply refuse to do. Turning Torah is the primary way I connect with, affirm, and live out my Jewish identity. Yes, I also keep kosher and observe the Sabbath in my way, but it is Torah Turning that gives depth and meaning to my being a Jew. Jews are storytellers, and this is how I continue to tell the story.
In part two of this book, the part that deals with Torah specifically, you will get a sense of how I turn those passages of Torah I take to be central to my understanding of Judaism and my life as a Jew. For know, however, I want to turn the key names of God found in Torah as a way of exploring my understanding of God. We will begin with Elohim.