From My Readings: The Basic Beliefs of Judaism, by Leonard Epstein – Asking G-d Questions

2 Tamuz 5774

Continuing on with Epstein’s second-chapter questions, in this one he asks us to “Make a list of questions you would ask [G-d] if you could.”

This one is a toughie for me, as it feels presumptuous. It feels like I’m challenging G-d or something. There’s also all those questions I already asked G-d, which I now have some answers to, thanks to Kushner and other authors. I can accept, for example, that G-d did not have control over my father dying, or over a horrific event like the Holocaust. Because of the way He set up the world so that we could have humans in the first place, he had no control over what those humans did with their free will.

But what would I ask G-d today, if I could?

What does one ask G-d? Epstein’s prompt seems geared towards “if you could get an answer,” because anyone can ask G-d questions without getting an answer to them – people do that all the time. So, going on the assumption that I could actually get answers, I would ask G-d these questions…

1. Is my father safe? Is he happy? 

For me, this will always be the most important question. My father was the most important person in my life for a long, long time. He was my cheerleader and my counselor. When I had questions I couldn’t get answers to any other way, my father would at least try to help me understand. He accepted me when I came out and I truly believe he’d accept my conversion if he were alive today.

The way he died scarred me – not just that he died, but how he died, and when he died.

It is really important to me – more than I have words for – that he is safe and happy now. I miss my father so much, and I resent that he’s gone, even now.

2. If I have a yiddishe neshama, why wasn’t I born into a Jewish family?

While I know that the family I grew up in made me the person I am today – including my Yiddishkeit – the fact remains that it feels strange, being a Jew-ish person with a Gentile history, past, and memory. I feel a little cheated – as I’m sure all gerim probably do – of not having memories of Shabbats and Chanukkahs and Pesachs and High Holy Days, instead of the memories I have of Christmases and Easters and long Sunday Masses. I wonder what it would have been like to grow up knowing how to speak and write in Hebrew, instead of the vestigial Latin that I learned while singing Mozart Masses for my father’s choir. What would it be like to have memories of Chankkah songs and Hebrew prayers, instead of Christmas carols and Latin Masses? What would it be like to have memories of sitting shiva for my father, instead of the chaotic grief that never really went away? What about a Bar Mitzvah, instead of a First Communion? What would that have been like?

So why did G-d put me in a Gentile family, if I am supposed to be a Jew? What was the purpose behind that?

3. How do I know that it’s You speaking and not just my imagination?

I have nothing if not an active imagination. Sometimes it worries me that I might be simply making all this up. And yet, I can’t quite push away the feeling in my gut that there is Something out there – what better to label that Something than “G-d”?

This is harder than it looks, asking questions of G-d. Some of the ones I’ve thought of, I’ve also shied away from sharing here, either because they’re too personal or because they feel like asking a genie in a bottle for a wish, or a deck of Tarot cards for a prediction about my future. And I’m not into treating G-d as a genie or a fortuneteller. That seems worse than presumptuous; it seems downright disrespectful. So I am not going to ask them anywhere except in my own heart, and maybe not even then.

What questions would you ask G-d, if you could?

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