A GOD That Repents?

Why do I connect with a God that cries and changes? For me, if God is in captivity and exile with us and is redeemed along with us then there can be a real relationship. If God suffers along with all the oppressed victims of injustice then our liberations are bound up with one another and our experiences of immanence and alienation are intertwined.

If the capacity to do teshuva represents the pinnacle of the human condition then certainly repentance is a process in which we are to emulate God ("halakhta b'drakhav"). If the commandment to imitate the just ways of God were not to include self-improvement this mitzvah would be lacking as theology would be divorced from human actualization. God is an ideal for us only if we can actually emulate the divine ways. This image of God as One who grows, cries, and seeks liberation and unification motivates me ethically.

It is this understanding of God that has changed my life. One of the main reasons that God is rarely mentioned in Jewish social justice circles today is because our religious culture often retreats to abstractions rather than embracing theological models that are spiritually transformative and help to make us better. How many more Jews will we turn away from Judaism with irrelevant theology because it conforms to some medieval notion of logic?

Rav Kook taught that we are responsible for expanding, beautifying, and celebrating God's presence in this world. One way this is achieved is by seeking human healing and ensuring the progress of the human enterprise of creating a just and holy world.

We cannot abandon the possibility of human and societal progress so easily and God can serve as our reminder and motivation that a better future for the oppressed is to come.

Rav Zev Wolf of Zhitomir explained that we cannot reach God's unity until we recover our own. Elul is not just a time for self-help books and the Rav's "On Repentance" but also a time to look to the heavens and emulate dynamic growth and actualization as we work to heal a fractured world.

3/25/2012 4:00:00 AM
  • Jewish
  • Activism
  • History
  • Repentance
  • Sacred Texts
  • Social Justice
  • Theology
  • Judaism
  • Kabbalah
  • About
    Close Ad