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January 2014 | Shevat 5774
Rabbi, I Don't Believe In God? Is That Okay?
Jewish Spiritual Journey

A parent of a Kesher student asked me how to tell his children that he does not believe in God.  He was worried his children would react poorly to this admission, and that it would put a damper on their own search for spirituality.  A p


I knew this man had a wonderful neshama, a deeply spiritual soul, so I asked what kind of God he did not believe in. As I suspected, he admitted that he did not believe God could be all-knowing and all-powerful. In essence, he did not believe in God as described in the Torah and prayer book.  "I do believe in a powerful spiritual presence in the world," he confessed, "but that's not Judaism's idea of God, right?!?"


(I fret that we have problem of definitions.  The word "God" is so baggage-laden that most of us have difficulty figuring out what we mean when we speak about God.)  


I confessed to him: I am not sure I believe in the God he described.  And yet, I believe deeply in God.


All Relationships Evolve - Including Ours with God 

I believe in the same one God who cared for the Israelites in Biblical times.  However, I do not relate to God in the same manner as they did.  Perhaps this change in the relationship with God can be compared to a child's relationship with a parent.   Just as the role and the perception of the parent changes as a child grows up, so too do the Jewish perception of and the role we assign to God.


When our children were infants, Michelle and I provided them with those things they needed to survive: food, shelter, clothing and love.  Their very survival was in our hands.  To our children, we were all-knowing, all-good and all-powerful beings.  As the children grow up, they slowly became more independent.  As Rachel, Daniel and Noah entered their teenage and later years, they continue to take ever increasing amounts of responsibility for themselves and their lives.  They will cease to view me as the all-knowing, all-powerful provider.  But I will still be their father, a caring source of strength in their lives. 


We are All Teenagers, Exploring our Beliefs in Realtime

We Jews are positioned as "teenagers" with regards to our relationship with our God.  We claim more responsibility for ourselves and conceive of a more constricted role for God.  


So I confess too.  God represents less of the all-powerful deity for me as I move to a notion of God who is the Source of Goodness Who does care.  


I find myself continually turning back to one reality: That we Jews haven't had enough practice with God-talk and we lack a rich vocabulary as adults to rethink how what we call "spiritual" might truly be about the Holy One. 


Continuing the Conversation

Take a look at the article on the top left. Part of our continuing exploration of spirituality, belief and non-belief, and God. 


What do YOU believe about spirituality, holiness and the Holy One? Email me to join in the conversation.

Let's make this a conversation.  Forward this to your friends or family. Email me with your thoughts at rabbipaul@orami.orgNext time we see each other, let me know you read this and share with me what you think.

Rabbi Paul Kipnes
Congregation Or Ami