A God of Death

A God of Death July 15, 2014

Dear Rabbi, When I read the traditional siddur (prayer book) I am appalled at the call for the restoration of the Temple and by extension the priesthood and its sacrificial cult. Why can’t we do away with this? Honestly I am far more comfortable with a mosque on the Temple Mount than a restored Temple and the stench of slaughtered animals.

I sympathize with you. And the fact that billions of humans continue to worship a God who needs something to die to prevent him (it is almost always “him”) from killing others (in this world or the next) suggests that this image of God is deeply rooted in the human psyche.

The notion that killing placates God speaks to the fear we humans have toward the uncertainty of life. Sacrificial religions are rooted in magic: If I do “x” on earth, God will do “y” in heaven. Mostly “y” is something I want: money, power, fame, death of my enemies, and/or forgiveness for my sins. We will never get rid of this God and his religions of death until we stop fearing life, and learn to cultivate tranquility in the midst of uncertainty and insecurity. As far as Jews go, it is time for us to start reading Koheleth on Shabbat rather than Leviticus.

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