"Don't tell God how big your storm is; tell your storm how big your God is."

I believe in God.

Monday, September 7, 2009

This Stands Out

I know that I have a fairly unusual relatoinship with my God. It is not a relationship without a long-standing Jewish tradition behind it; Judaism is all about bringing God into our everyday lives through the practice of mitzvot, and that is what I do. Still, I know that for most people, seeing God and talking to God and feeling God touching their faces remains a pipe dream.

Many friends of mine--not all, but many--know about my relationship with my God. People have questions; I don't mind answering them. Most people are respectful of my beliefs, even if they disagree with me, and I have had many interesting, soul-searching conversations.

Last night, however, I had a conversation that may forever stand out in my mind.

I was sitting on a bench in the school's Gardens of Israel with a sophomore friend whom I will call "Leeann". I have been trying to catch up with all my friends before I leave, and "Leeann" and I hadn't really talked since we got back to school. We were talking about my Jewish commitment (she doesn't believe in God and is fairly skeptical of my experiences), and she asked if I would ever consider moving to Israel. That is a complicated question for me; I told her the truth, that I hadn't really before this summer, but then God came and told me that I should go this Fall, should spend a year there after college, and that maybe that wouldn't be the end of it.

I went on to explain that I go where God tells me to, that God led me to my current school and hadn't yet told me where to go next, but that was OK because I didn't need to know yet. I continued, telling her that God tends to put me somewhere and step back, and no matter how much I cry out to God, my God stays...not hidden, just inactive. I told "Leeann" that to the best of my knowledge, my God stays inactive because She knows I do a darn good job on my own, that ultimately I must figure out my own life and take care of myself, and besides, She likes to be impressed by me.

Finally, "Leeann" looked at me in shock and said, "So you're just following God. What about you?"

I didn't really answer the question. I gave a couple of qualifications: anything I think God tells me is my human interpretation, so I don't think I'll ever "hear" God telling me to do something I don't want to do; if I really didn't want to do what God told me to do, then I wouldn't; etc. But in truth, there is more to it than that. My soul is part of God; I only feel complete when I leave this world to join with that greater God. Therefore, where God tells me to go is by definition what I want for myself.

Yes, "Leeann", yes. I am "just" following God, and in the process I am finding myself.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


[Informational Sidenote: The shofar is a hollowed-out ram's horn, blown every morning in services from the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul through Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, at the beginning of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. It works a bit like a cross between a brass instrument and a woodwind, but not really.Some people can blow it; I am not one of them.]

I had just finished leading our school community in morning Shacharit. Feeling pretty confident, I picked up the shofar and turned to face the congregation. "Is there anybody who wants to blow the shofar?" (Silence.) "Can anybody in here blow the shofar?" (More silence.) "All right," I said, "Wish me luck."

I pursed my lips, picked up the shofar, and blew. The shofar made a noise similar to that of a wheezing frog. I tried again, and made the same sound. I gave it two more tries as everyone stood solemnly, trying not to laugh.

Finally, the teacher supervising said, "I heard it."

I responded, "So did I. I move we go to class before I explode." And then everybody laughed.

I can do lots of different things in the synagogue. I can lead morning services for weekdays, Shabbat, and Holidays. I can lead Kabbalat Shabbat and Friday night evening services. I can lead the Torah service for weekdays and Shabbat. I know how to read Torah, and I can gabbai. But I cannot blow the shofar.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Very Loaded Question

I have gotten very into reading philosophy to teach my mind what my soul already knows so that I can know that I know it, and I am currently reading a book by Neil Gillman entitled "The Way Into Encountering God in Judaism." The book is so profound that my reading is by necessity very sporadic: sometimes I'll read ten pages of stuff I can easily digest, and other times I'll hit something that I need to chew over for days. The Very Loaded Question is in the second category.

And here it is:

The following three statements are individually accepted almost all the time by almost all Jews.

1. God is righteous.
2. God is omnipotent.
3. The victim sof the Holocaust (or you can replace this with Cancer patients, which changes the entire tone of the question) were blameless.

The three statements simply cannot all exist together. Which one do you drop?

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I am a bipolar, Jewish young adult (had my Hebrew birthday, the one I count, and turned 23 this past January) who also suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. I love life and I live for my best friends: they are my purpose and my reason for trying so hard. I remain passionately devoted to those I love; I will not let my disorders make me totally self-centered. I like to read, write, and sew. My Rabbinical school plans did not work out, and I am now hoping to go into the field of Early Childhood Education. Please note: I am currently maintaining only Carried in His Hands. Enjoy!