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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2017 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


March 10, 2017  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

Yes, God does believe in us

By RABBI GARSON HERZFELD Temple Beth Shalom, Winter Haven

Recently at a gathering, I heard a man proclaim “I know I believe in a higher power [God], but I need to learn that the higher power [God] believes in me.”

We have all experienced situations when our lives seem to spin out of control – times when our faith is tested. Sometimes we feel that solutions to problems are beyond our human capacity. There are moments when each of us must reach out in search of guidance and comfort from God, deity, a higher power … So the question, “Does God believe in me” is a valid consideration.

Christian thinking clearly states that God loves humankind. Robert Whalley, a retired Australian priest wrote: “… if God CAN believe in me, then that says something about how particularly and intimately the universe is ‘hitched up’ together.” He continues that the conception of a watchmaker out there winding it up (directing our lives) is quite different than viewing ourselves with the same sanctity and spirit as God – being cherished and of great value – the recipient of intimate love.

This Christian notion is derived from the Jewish idea of a personal God. That means that as humans, we have a relationship with God and vice versa. The Hebrew Bible contains numerous examples of encounters with a caring God who addresses humanity:

Deuteronomy 31:6 – “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Eternal your God, it is that does go with thee; God will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Isaiah 40:29-31 – “God gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Eternal will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Our prayers in the siddur are replete with portrayals of God caring about humanity in much the same way we care about God. Moreover, Judaism views God as a living and loving parent. God is not distant, but is present and engaged with human beings. Selections include the “Ahavat Olam” prayer: “Unending is Your love for Your people the House of Israel ...” The “Givurot” prayer proclaims: “Eternal is Your might, O God; all life is Your gift; great is Your power to save!” The “Modim Anachnu” prayer opens: “We gratefully acknowledge that You are our God and the God of our people, the God of all generations. You are the rock of our life, the Power the shields us in every age.” These are just a few examples.

Moreover, while God can be experienced, Judaism acknowledges that God cannot be fully understood because God is unlike human kind. We are limited to speak of God with adjectives or metaphorically. We anthropomorphize God. Yet, as human beings we are in a relationship with God – a relationship that is both give and take.

Abraham Joshua Heschel proposed that God actually is “in search of man.” God, deity, higher power –whatever term you use – is accessible. God is present, involved, intimate and concerned about human kind and what happens in the world. When everything around us seems bleak and our outlook on life dark and depressing, this notion can provide immense comfort and optimism.

So Jewish thought teaches that God does indeed believe in us and learning to accept this idea is certainly a worthwhile goal.

Rabbinically Speaking is published as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Tampa Rabbinical Association which assigns the column on a rotating basis.

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