Tag Archives: maturity

God grew up

This morning, a Quora person responded to an answer I’d given about God. I have to give some background, now.

The original question was posted by someone who is probably Muslim, from their name. They were distressed about atheists not showing respect for God, or for other people’s beliefs about God. My response to that question was:

My God is strong enough to take the mockery from people who don’t believe. I really find it tiring when so many of my fellow theists get bent out of shape by people who don’t believe.

Why is it such a big deal to you? Do you think God can’t take it? Why do you feel you have to defend God? Do you really think God needs defending? Is your God that weak?

I don’t know about you, but my God can take criticism and even denial or rejection just fine, because my God doesn’t need to worry about what people think. My God doesn’t need me to attack people for not believing. God’s far more mature than that.

I got a few good responses. Then, this morning, I got the first jerkheaded one:

WTF? What god are you talking about? You’re Jewish but you don’t believe in the incredibly sensitive, nasty, vindictive god of Abraham?

*sigh* Adonai spare me from the literalists.

See, this is the thing. The literalist mindset (“the way it is written is exactly the way it was then AND STILL IS NOW”) is prevalent among two groups, as far as I can see:

1. Rabid atheists, like Dawkins and those who follow him

2. Rabid fundamentalists, like the Haredim at the Kotel

Neither of these groups gets that there are layers and levels of meaning in the Torah (or, indeed, in any holy book – I’m sure there are also levels and layers of meaning in the Qu’ran and the Christian Bible). They want to read the words as if the words are all there are. I get this mindset. I used to have this mindset – and I’ll admit that in many places I still have it, about many things. Breaking a habit of forty years is hard to do.

But let’s look just at the text of the Torah for a few minutes here, okay? Because I think the key is my comment that God is more mature than the literalists give him credit for (because they are still looking at him in his early years).

God punishes Adam and Eve rather severely. This is like a young parent who overreacts when their too-young-to-understand child does something that irritates the parent.

God punishes the world rather severely in the Flood. This is like a young parent who’s gotten used to being severe.

But then, God’s going to punish Sodom, right? And Abraham calls him on it. Abraham says “Hold up, Adonai. What if I find a few people in Sodom who aren’t sinful? Don’t you have to take them into account? Are you going to punish them, too?”

And God listens. And instead of zotting Sodom with a big lightning bolt, he backs down. (Genesis 18:16-33)

This indicates an increasing maturation on the part of God, doesn’t it?

The fact of the matter is that the Torah is, in many ways, accounts of a young God. It is an early God. It is a God of petty ambitions and jealousy.

That’s not the God I experience. That’s not the God who’s sent me spiritual helicopters. The God I believe in doesn’t care whether people believe in him – he believes in us.

So the only conclusion I can come to is that God grew up.

The fact that the literalists have not is not a reflection on God. It’s a reflection on them.

Maybe someday they’ll grow up too. Until then, all I can do is be patient and wait.

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For We Were Strangers in Mitzrayim

11 Tamuz 5774

Trigger warning: This is about the boys who were killed in Israel and then in Palestine just recently, whose deaths have caused such a furor that Hamas and Israel are exchanging massive firepower at each other right now.

I don’t quite know what to say. I’ve hesitated to write anything for more than a week, for various reasons.

We were strangers in Mitzrayim. This is a hell of a way to demonstrate that we remember that. Actually, it’s about the farthest thing from a demonstration of remembering it – it’s demonstrating that we are forgetting it.

What we are seeing is former victims now becoming bullies. This happens a lot with children. The bullied kid gets big enough that he begins to bully.

By the way, I don’t care who started it. Neither should you. That isn’t the point. The point is that children were killed, mostly by adults, because some people decided it was okay to throw their weight around and bully someone weaker.

I think it’s horrifying. I think it’s horrifying that Hamas operatives felt it was okay to harm children. I think it’s equally horrifying that Jewish extremists then felt it was okay to retaliate against children. Nobody’s hands are clean in this situation. Nobody gets to say “but they started it.” That’s a childish excuse and it doesn’t hold water even on the playground or in the sandbox. It certainly should not hold water in an international conflict.

As far as I know, none of the boys involved were part of any political movements in Israel or in Palestine. None of them were soldiers (most of them weren’t old enough). None of them signed up to be sacrificial victims. And none of them deserved what happened to them.

The Israeli boys were killed by adults. The Palestinian boy was killed by a gang of teenagers, from what I understand, and his cousin was severely beaten by three Israeli police officers (who were also adults).

Why? I cannot come up with a good reason why. It’s the playground bully written large. It’s the fight for control of the sandbox. It’s senseless. And the reasons given by either side are also senseless (and often very childish).

As a new member of the Tribe (almost) I also didn’t know if I had any right to write about this. I’m not a Jew, yet. I’m only Jew-ish. I’ve never been to Israel. I’ve never been in the thick of this situation. But I’m taking on not just the Jewish belief system but the entire tribe, right? So I’m going to go with “I have a right and a responsibility to write about this because I will be a Jew, and soon, and this is part of what I’m accepting as the burden of being Jewish.”

Moving on.

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. So why do we keep on doing it? Why is it that we keep on trading bomb for bomb and life for life? What is wrong with us? Are we so married to our ideologies and our territoriality that we aren’t willing to see the people on the other side of the firing line as human beings? Do we not remember how it was in Egypt and in Babylon? Do we not remember what it was like being second- or third-class citizens? We talk about it every year on Pesach to keep the memory fresh. Has everyone already forgotten for the year? Do we only remember it during the spring?

There has to be a solution that provides both for Palestine and for Israel. There has to be a two-state solution, where we respect boundaries and borders and stop insisting that everyone else should stay out of our sandbox. I don’t think that what’s going on right now in Gaza and in Tel Aviv is what G-d wanted of his children (and what drives me the most crazy about this? It’s just a continuation of sibling rivalry – Isaac and Ishmael – bickering over whose idea of G-d is going to be more important). This is insanity, folks.

None of those boys should have died. And none of them should have been “avenged.” And the people who carried out the revenge killing and beating are equally guilty and should be held equally responsible for what they did as the Hamas terrorists should be for what they did to the three Israeli teenagers.

Because this? Is not the act of a nation that shows mercy to the stranger. Not at all.

I can’t say it’s not what I signed up for. But I am going to say that it’s not what I was hoping to see in the people I’ve chosen to join. Because we can be better than this, and we should be better than this. And if that knowledge doesn’t frame our discussions and our negotiations, even in blog posts, then we’re no better than the Egyptians that enslaved us.

For we were strangers in Mitzrayim, and we are admonished over and over again in Torah to remember that, and to be gentle to the stranger. Now the Palestinians are the strangers, and we really ought to be better than this.

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