9 God is Dead. Long live God!

9 God is Dead. Long live God! April 9, 2014

We Jews have many Gods. This is because we have many readings of our story. There are Jews who’s God is obsessed with Land, and who are themselves similarly obsessed. There are Jews who’s God is obsessed with women’s modesty, and who are themselves similarly obsessed. There are Jews who’s God is all about mitzvot/commandments, and so they, too, are all about keeping the mitzvot and commandments. There are many Gods worshipped by Jews. But for most Jews, all these Gods are dead, having been gassed by the Nazis and turned to ash in their crematoria.

A God incapable of preventing the genocidal eradication of his Chosen People is not a God worth having. And a God who could have prevented such horror and simply chose not to is a God worthy not of praise but condemnation. I’m not saying that Jewish liturgy has ceased to praise this God. It does. And that is one reason why fewer and fewer Jews bother with traditional prayer and worship.

The God of our liturgy, the God most Jews have abandoned, is the Creator God who chose the Jews as his special people, gave us his one true revelation, and settled us in the Promised Land. This all-mighty God who brings on evening and morning, who drowned almost all the living in a great flood, who tortured the ancient Egyptians, and who sanctioned genocide against the original inhabitants of the Land, and yet who couldn’t be bothered to save six million of his Chosen from the Nazis, is the Ata (You) our liturgy praises when we say Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheinu (Blessed are You Lord our God). No wonder most Jews find something else to do on Friday night than pray in shul (synagogue).

Some of us double down on the old Gods, blaming ourselves for our suffering, and seeking to keep his commandments all the more rigorously, but most of us turn to other Gods: nationalism or capitalism or secular humanism or materialism or scientism. Some of us turn to other religions, especially those schools of Buddhism that have no need of Gods. Some of us simply walk away from God without replacing it with anything else. And a few of us dare to imagine a new God.

This new God rising from the still smoldering psycho-spiritual ashes of Auschwitz, is universal rather than tribal, impersonal rather than a personality, imminent as well as transcendent, and mystical without being irrational. This God is closer to the God of Spinoza and Einstein, then to the God of our siddur (prayer book).

We Jews are a God–making people, and you can’t make a God without breaking a few idols. God is dead. Love live God!

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