God and Gendered Language

God and Gendered Language September 4, 2014

Dear Rabbi,

I have a very difficult time with explicitly masculine names for God. I particularly balk at Adonai, Lord, which to me is the epitome of male privilege and power over women and maybe over nonJews as well. How do you make peace with Adonai?

I don’t. While I confess to falling into habitual use of Adonai when I am not paying attention, when I am paying attention I substitute HaMakom (the Place) instead. Here’s why: first I like what it means: God as the Place in which all reality rises and falls; second, I like that it is an ancient rabbinic name of God and not a contemporary one; and third, it has the same number of syllables as Adonai so that it can be inserted into the liturgy without having to change the melodies I find so comforting. I also substitute ruach (breath) for melech (king) for the same reasons.

When I recite the Kiddush (prayer over wine) for example I say Baruch Ata HaMakom Eloheinu ruach haolam borei pri hagafen: Blessed are You, field of all reality and breath of all life Who blesses me with the opportunity to realize my place as Your Place, my breath as Your Breath with the sharing of this wine.

[Yes I know ata is the masculine form of “you.” If you have an easy fix for this, let me know.]

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