The Dynamic God You Already Love (But Didn’t Know You Could)

On June 1 at 7:30 pm, Sinai Temple hosts a lecture and discussion on Rabbi Brad Artson’s process theology.

Here’s the billing: “New scientific findings of the past century have changed our understanding of everything – the evolution of the cosmos and life, quantum weirdness and cosmic vastness. How do we bring what we know about the world to our love for god, torah, and the Jewish people? Let’s look at torah through fresh eyes – to meet again the god we already know and love.”

New scientific findings of the past century have changed our understanding of everything?

Hmm. How have they changed the way we relate to each other? The way we meet God’s demands upon us?

It seems to me that in the most important ways our lives are unchanged by scientific findings.

Science doesn’t help me when I lack purpose. Science doesn’t help me when there’s a girl I love but she cares not for me. Science doesn’t help my social standing when I go around saying obnoxious things. Science doesn’t comfort me when a friend dies.

Second. There’s nothing in the formal education of Rabbi Brad Artson and Rabbi David Wolpe that gives them expertise in science.

So why do rabbis without scientific expertise keep using science as an excuse to change the way we do our religion?

Third. Cosmic vastness. Why does that matter? If the universe is bigger or smaller than we thought, why does that have any significance on how we lead our lives and relate to God and His moral demands?

Four. What’s this nonsense about “our love for god, torah and the Jewish people?” How many Jews love god? A distinct minority. There’s very little “God talk” in Jewish life when compared to the religious life of other religions in America and other ethnic groups.

What’s with referring to God as “god”? The lower case “god” is not the God who created the universe and chose the Jews.

I find it revealing that this announcement capitalizes the “Jewish” people but not “God.” I suspect that many Conservative rabbis who have been influenced by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan believe more in capitalizing the “Jewish” people than in capitalizing “God.”

All this talk about “loving god” seems to be trying too hard. It’s something you say when your relationship is on the brink. “But that doesn’t change my feelings for you.” People who are confident don’t try too hard.

Precisely because “God” plays such a small role in non-Orthodox Judaism as currently practiced, these non-Orthodox intellectuals make a big deal of love for God. It’s like the work of the rabbis who wrote the Amidah prayer. It keeps repeating that God will resurrect the dead.

Why so much repetition on this point? Because the authors of the prayer were pretty shaky in their belief about resurrection of the dead. If they took that belief for granted, they wouldn’t need to keep repeating it in Judaism’s central prayer.

The Jewish Journal ad for this event reads: “How do we bring our modern perspective of the world to our love for God, Torah and the Jewish people?”

At least here Sinai Temple capitalizes “God.”

But what’s this about bringing a modern perspective to our love for God? Science doesn’t shed any light on God. God, by definition, is beyond science and beyond nature.

I understand bringing a modern perspective on Torah. There modern developments in our understanding of history, archeology and text are stimulating, but isn’t it more important to bring the Torah’s perspective to our modern world?

One thing I hate about non-Orthodox Judaism is when any ignoramus is invited into a public discussion about the Torah. What do I care about how ignorant people think or feel about any difficult text, let alone the holy Torah.

The deeper problem here is that non-Orthodox Judaism tends to expend far greater effort on judging the Torah by modernity than judging modernity by the Torah.

In the end, what are you going to live your moral and ritual life by? The latest scientific findings or the text that has commanded the Jewish people for more than 2500 years?

Then there’s this headline — “The Dynamic God You Already Love (But Didn’t Know You Could)”?

How many people — aside from non-Orthodox Jewish intellectuals — waste any time worrying about how they can love God?

The first part of the phrase says you already love God. Then there’s the stuff in the parentheses — “But Didn’t Know You Could.”

If you already love God, then the parenthetical remark makes no sense.

This brings me back to the first time I met the eloquent Rabbi David Wolpe.

It was around 1995. He spoke to the Sephardic Educational Center in Westwood about his new book on God — The Healer of Shattered Hearts.

During question time, I said that the Conservative movement had done more to remove God from Jewish life than any other Jewish movement. I listed names such as Mordecai Kaplan and Harold Schulweis. Rabbi Wolpe said that the removal of God from Jewish life was a problem that went far beyond the Conservative movement and that he wouldn’t let the discussion degenerate into lashon hara.

Lashon hara. That’s the Jewish perennial way of stopping a discussion.

During his book signing, I asked Rabbi Wolpe what he thought of the verses in the Torah condemning gay male sex. Rabbi Wolpe said that the authors of those verses were homophobic.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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