I am tutoring 11 year old twins in all things Jewish & working with them to prepare for their bar mitzvah. They’ve asked me all those tough questions that you’re never told how to answer, even when it’s you who is doing the asking. For example: Does God exist? Who is God? What is God? And more, I’m sure you can imagine.  I think the most difficult thing for them, at their age, is the unknown. They want proof. I found myself searching for answers, not only to their questions, but to those I never bothered to ask – because I believed what I was taught in Hebrew School and then tried to never think about it again.

In the last month or so, I’ve participated in a class about different Jewish philosophies of God. While none seemed to fit just right, for me, one philosophy stuck out from the rest – and not in the positive. The idea is that if God is everywhere, truly – in the materials that make up the computer I’m typing on, the calcium in my bones, the platelets in my blood, the lenses of my glasses, the fibers in the tissues on my desk, the dust under my bed…and everywhere in between – than there is no Self; that we are all God.

While the idea that we are all part of the divine is somewhat tempting at first, I found myself getting angry. No Self? This philosophizing Rabbi must not have met Me! I have an extremely well developed Sense of Self.  I thought: “No Self? Fuck you, no Self.”  I have worked so hard to get out of the hole of Self doubt, Self pity and Self-destructive behavior that my younger Self created in my late teens & early twenties. In 6 years, I’ve almost entirely re-discovered my true, productive, protective & persevering Self. Except I’ve been struggling with Faith. And when I start the search to re-discover Faith, I find myself in a dilemma – a struggle between God and Self. Wouldn’t it be easier to pass over this certain philosophy and find another?  Surely. But this is the one that has given me the most grief.  And raised more questions. And at times, I feel more lost than found. And yet, still more found than lost. But something is still missing. If there is no Self, then Who Am I?

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  • a ray of HaShem, This truth is concealed from you in order to have an apparent Creation. When you have unconcealed this you will be a Tzaddik to whom all is revealed. But in order to get there (you’re actually already there but it is concealed – if it wasn’t already the Truth it could change and therefore could not be the Truth, so you have to get rid of what you haven’t got so you can know who you are) this apparent you will have to work on your apparent self until you have eradicated your self and have become your Self, your G-dly Soul which you truly already are. tell that to the 11 year old and their eyes will glaze over and they’ll likely stop asking such questions whose answers are supra rational.

  • Heh, that’s called Pantheism, which was pretty popular in the 17th and 18th centuries among a highly educated elite. Just consider, it was right after a period of religious turmoil, in which people’s concepts of the earth and nature were shattered to tiny bits and a religious war had shaken Europe for three decades. Pantheism was used as an answer to the burning question whether God, assuming He existed, had abandoned his creation.
    Can Pantheism be applied in Judaism? I dare say no. Jewish scripture knows an anthropomorphic god, one that acts, cares, guides, saves, but also punishes. God is given the features of a parent in that regard. But as little as a parent is in everything their kids are and do, as little can the god of Judaism actually be everything while mastering Creation. Some kids are more under their parents’ influence, others less, and others again reject them all together.

    So, based on my experience in rather matter-of-factual religious education, if you get asked if God exists, return the question individualised. “Does God exist to you?” You might get surprising answers. They’ll likely lead you to a conversation about what people believe and what they know and why people want to believe. Then compare what God means to you and them and to people throughout Jewish history.

  • Deep stuff. I believe we are incapable of knowing what god is, but isn’t it so Jewish of us to debate it ad nauseum?