Friday, February 21, 2014

Theology 101

When I was about ten years old, I very distinctly recall asking the Rabbi of our local synagogue the following question:  "God created us, but who gave birth to God?"

The Rabbi stammered for five minutes, and quoted several lines from the Hebrew  prayer "Adon Olam" [translated as Master of the World] including, "God has been, is now and always will be."  Then he sent me off to my father.

I remember thinking that the answer was shoddy at best, and if the Rabbi had said to me, "Great question, I wish I had a full answer that would satisfy your intelligence and curiosity, but I don't.  God is, always has been, way before you or I were born.  And there are mysteries of the Universe that we cannot fully understand in our limited human capacity."  At least he would have been honest to me and to himself.

The Rabbi may as well have quoted Monty Python (Meaning of Life) to me:  "Oh Lord, you are so great.  And really really big...We're all very impressed down here."

Walking home from Gan yesterday, Raphaela and I had one of our more deep conversations:

RR:  Mommy, Hashem knows everything, right?
Me:  Yes.
RR:  And you know everything, right?
Me: (emphatically) No I do not, I know a lot of things, and at the moment I know more about the world than you do.  But I do not know everything and I am just as human as the rest, I will make mistakes and so will you.
RR:  Does Hashem take care of everyone or only Good People?
Me:  Hashem created all of us, and because we are all his children, he loves us all the time, even if we are not behaving nicely, and he takes care of all of us.
(I then reminded Raphaela that on Pessach we take away some of our wine to remember all the Egyptians who were killed, knowing that just because they enslaved us, they were also God's children and God loved them too.)
RR:  But Hashem punishes Bad People.
Me:  Life is not about reward and punishment, everything that happens to us is there to teach us something.  Good People will not always get great things, and Bad People will not always get terrible things.  Everything that happens to us is there to help us become better and kinder to each other.
RR:  But Hashem prefers it if we behave nicely, right?
Me:  Absolutely.

Loving this age...


Batya Medad said...

giving good answers is a gift not all have

Doc said...

Thank you, I try.
Shabbat Shalom Batya!

Commenter Abbi said...

Huh? How is your rabbi's answer all that different from the one you wanted. It didn't include the kind of acknowledgement of the incapacity of humans to really know Gd, but in the end, both answers boiled down to the same point: Gd has always existed and always will.

It sounds like your Rabbi just had the kind of faith where these questions aren't all the interesting to him and he answered in the simplest way possible.

Doc said...

Let's just say that as I child, I found his answer tentative and not at all inspiring, and he didn't really leave room for me to ask any questions, he was too busy pushing me out the door.