Two Faces of God
Harold M. Schulweis
There is chutzpah in
attending to the Achilles heel of faith that has led so many to hubble and
desperately reach out for crutches. Who are we to deal with one of the
perennial problems of theology when so many before us have stumbled?
I do not regard this
effort as audacity, but as part of the tradition that recognizes the sanctity
of the question. We cannot bury the difficult questions, for fear that dealing
with them will weaken our belief system. We cannot continue to evade or
postpone the questions or drown them with ritual orthopraxy.
I take courage in my
hands, and hear the counsel of my mother, who in Yiddish once said, "Fun a kashe ken men nisht
I believe that we must
resurrect the prematurely buried questions of our youth and wrestle with them.
For in the course of such wrestling with the angel, we will discover our own
religious vitality and a deeper meaning in our life.
The root problem we will
be dealing with is called theodicy, a term invented by Leibniz in the 17th
century which he took from the Greek, "theos," and "dike," the
justice of God. In Jewish thinking, this theodicy is called "tzidduk ha-din,” the justification
of God in the face of evil.
The problem is
inescapable, pervasive. It comes early and stays late with us. It hovers over our
understanding of prayer, miracles, sin, redemption. It is, in short, a profound
root problem with many branches.
Raymond, at age eight,
wrote this letter: "Dear God, I prayed a whole week. I got left back.
Thanks. Raymond." Raymond in his young anger is questioning the efficacy
of prayer – does it work? – and the goodness of God – would it hurt him to have given him a passing
Susie prayed for a
Cabbage Patch doll. She didn't get it. She asked her Sunday School teacher
whether God hears prayers and answers them. The teacher assured her that God
does hear and answer. Susie asks, "Why then didn't God answer my
prayers?" The teacher, well trained in such matters answered "God did
answer. He said ‘no’." The answer may have postponed further questions.
But the answer did Susie no favor.
Religious answers have
an afterlife of their own. Years later, when Susie mother was hospitalized with
a serious illness, Susie prayed, but her mother died. What is she to think? Did
God say "no"? Was it because Susie was not good, or because her
mother was not good or her father was not good? This kind of theology gives
rise to anger and frustration. Did God say no to those who prayed in Auschwitz? in Hiroshima? in Bosnia? "God said
'no'" is too facile an answer. And it did not consider Susie's theological
When I was an adolescent
I read a novel by Nathaniel West called Miss Lonely Hearts which included a
letter to “Miss LonelyHearts”:
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts,
I am 16 years old now
and don't know what to do and would appreciate it if you could tell me what to
do. When I was a little girl it was not so bad because I got used to the kids
on the block making fun of me but now I would like to have boyfriends like the
other girls and go out of Saturday nights but no boy will take me because I was
born without a nose, although I am a good dancer and have a nice shape and my
father buys me pretty clothes. I sit and look at myself all day and cry. I have
a big hole in the middle of my face that scares people, even myself so I can't blame
the boys for not wanting to take me out. My mother loves me but she cries
terribly when she looks at me. What did I do to deserve such a terribly bad
fate? Even if I did do some bad things, I didn't do any before I was a year old
and I was born this way. I asked papa and he says he doesn't know but that
maybe I was being punished for his sins. I don't believe that because he is a
very nice man. Ought I commit suicide?
It is not a question for
Ann Landers or Abigail Van Buren. It is a theological question - religious
Of course the question
"Why me?" is not like other factual questions: "Why is the sky blue? Why does metal
expand when heated?" "Why me?" is not so much a call for
cognition, as it is a cry for recognition. "Why" means "woe,"
and to the cry of "woe" what is required is not a good theological
answer, but a compassionate response. What is called for is the presence of a
caring friend, the comfort of a supportive arm, the consolation of an embrace.
But we are not off the
hook with emotional response. More than psychology is called for. There is a
crisis of faith. "Why me?" expresses a crisis of faith, a challenge
that shakes the foundation of conventional belief. The question "Why
me?" presupposes a theology: the universe of design in which whatever
happens – for good or for bad – is a result of divine judgment. If you
scratched the itch, "Why" means "who" and "what for.” We are raised to believe that things just
don't happen. There are reasons. Am I being punished? Is this accident,
sickness, death a reward or punishment? The "Why me?" question is
especially severe for monotheism. For when we recite the Sh’ma that ends with
echad, it means reality is one – that nothing and no one else can explain
tragedy. There is no power greater than God to blame. When you say there is One
God, it means there is no primordial force, no diabolical other, no Satan, no
demon, no other God but God to ultimately explain our predicament.
A positive note.
The question "Why
me?" has Jewish resonance in the Unetaneh
Tokef, the major prayer of the High Holy Days. "On New Year's day the
decree is inscribed and on the Day of Atonement is it sealed. How many shall
pass away and how many shall be born; who shall live and who shall die; who shall
attain the measure of man's days and who shall not attain it; who shall perish
by fire and who by water; who by sword and who by beast, who by hunger and who
by thirst, who by earthquake and who by plague, who by strangling and who by
stoning, (who shall have rest and who shall go wandering, who shall be tranquil
and who shall be disturbed, who shall be at ease and who shall be afflicted,
who shall become poor and who shall wax rich, who shall be brought low and who
shall be exalted?) But repentance, prayer and righteousness avert the severe
It has disturbed
thoughtful men and women, and not a few of them have come to me with a sense of
frustration and protest and resentment. This letter I received from Martha
before the Day of Atonement:
Until this morning I have spent the High Holidays, if not in
the spirit of fear and trembling before a God of justice, then at least in the
sure knowledge that it is appropriate to review my actions of the past year, to
give real thought to my failures and to resolve to be a better person and a
better citizen. Until this morning I
knew the central liturgy of the holiday well, but before this year I had
approached it in an abstract, intellectual manner. This year I could not do so.
Several months ago, I had surgery for cancer and I felt very keenly as I
approached these days that, in a real sense, my fate for the coming year has
been written if not in a book of judgment then in my own body. I look forward
to health, but I may not be granted it. As I read, the questions of the service
were familiar. 'How many shall pass away and how many shall be born; who shall
live and who shall die?' But the response – "repentance, prayer and
righteousness avert the severe decree" – for the first time carried a
terrifying implication. It seemed to me as I read this that my own liturgy was
binding my fate to my behavior, that my illness, seen in this light have been
the result of some terrible unknown transgression, and that the ultimate
punishment for failure to discover and correct it could be my death.
I do not believe this – not with my head nor with my heart.
Nevertheless, as a committed Jew who takes language very seriously and believes
in community prayer, I would be forced to repeat the central cornerstone over
and over should I attend services for Yom Kippur. It seems today that my choice
is a terrible one: to flagellate myself emotionally by joining my congregation,
or to spare my feelings is isolating myself from my family, my friends, my
community. It is a choice I never believed I would have to make.
I know there must be others in our congregation who sit
suffering silently, as I did today, who wish to join Jews around the world at
this time but find the price too high to pay. I do not write expecting an easy
answer; Holocaust literature has taught me that there may be no answer at all.
I write instead because I must, because to muffle my sadness and my anger will
destroy something in the commitment that I have worked so hard to build. I
write with pain hoping that from the expression of my dilemma will grow some
insight, some way to cope.
With respect & affection,
How do I respond to her
letter? Do I think that her cancer is linked to her behavior? Do I trace her
suffering to sin? She is asking about the way religion deals with reality. Do I
believe that the pain and the terror and death are manifestations of God? It is
a prayer that gives me much difficulty. Common moral sense convinces me that
there are misfortunes that befell Martha that have no bearing whatsoever upon
the character or conduct of the afflicted.
More personally, I
recall one of the early funerals that I officiated when I first came to Oakland. They brought in a
small casket no larger than a crib. Within it was the body of a deceased child.
Is this God's will, His judgment? Did I believe that there was any sinfulness
in this child or in her family, that there was any guilt or blame to explain
this tragedy? Did God judge her? What does God have to do with her illness and
the torment of this child's parents? The question haunts me. It is a root
question having many forms.
Do I believe that 1.5
million Jewish children died in the Holocaust because of some punishment or
reward? Do I explain Hiroshima as God's will? How does
God fit in the explanation of the devastation wrought by natural evils:
earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, hurricanes? Are these "acts of God"
as the lawyers call it?
How does your view of
God fit into your understanding of reality? Let's go back to the sources: the
Bible and the Prayer Book. While a sacred literature of our people insists that
God is one, it is curious that more than one name of divinity used. In the
Bible and liturgy, two names of God are used. One is Elohim, which is translated as “God,” the other one is Adonai, which is translated as “Lord.” Every
benediction incorporates both. Baruch ata
Adonoi Elohenu. And in the prayer that we recite twice daily both of those
names appear as one; Shma Israel Adonoi Elohenu Adonoi Echad.
At the end of the Yom Kippur service, there is the concluding sentence which is
repeated seven times in a crescendo out loud, "Adonai hu Elohim" - the Lord is God.
Why two names for one
To me it suggests that
there are two faces to God, two dimensions to divinity which are one and yet
distinct. Both dimensions portray reality – religious reality.
E L O H I M
We note that the first
time we come across the term "Elohim
- God" is in the opening chapter of Genesis. There the word Elohim is used exclusively. Elohim refers to the God of creation,
the God of nature, the God of natural laws: the God who is the reality
principle of the world that explains the way things are, not the way things
ought to be. But the God of the laws of physical gravitation, not the laws of
The distinction reminds
me of an incident at the Oakland airport, when a mother
sending her child off on an airplane for a visit to her grandmother stood
beside me as I was about to board the same plane. She had somehow discovered
that I was a rabbi, and was assured that nothing tragic would befall the plane
since I was a clergyman on the same plane with her daughter. I did not disabuse
her of her new found joy, but I am convinced that she was holding on to a
dubious theology. Why? Because when the 707 goes down, you look for the black
box – not the ledger that tests the moral character of the passengers aboard. A
ledger of the virtues and vices of the passenger list will not explain or
justify the success or failure of the flight. Why not? The laws of gravitation
are indifferent to the character of saint or sinner and those laws are the
creation of Elohim. That is a reality
principle in the tradition that is frequently ignored, but I want to take a
moment so that we understand what that reality principle means. It is important
to understand Jewish prayer and Jewish response to evil.
Judaism is not wishful
thinking, it is not magic, not fantasy. It is real. To believe in God, a real
God, is to believe in reality. I offer you a Talmudic discussion found in the
Talmud (Avodah Zarah 54b) in which the fairness and character of the world is
being discussed. The rabbis in the Mishnah and Talmud are being challenged by
the philosophers in Rome. They ask, "If
your God has no desire for idolatry, why doesn't He abolish it?" In other
words, why doesn't God intervene? The answer they give is that people worship
sun, moon, stars, planets, etc. But all these are needed in the world. Should
God destroy the universe on account of fools who make these into idols? Nature
pursues its own course. The rabbis respond, "Suppose a man stole a measure
of wheat, and went and sowed it in the ground. It would surely be right that
the wheat should not grow, but the world pursues its natural course." The
rabbis go on to give another illustration: "Suppose a man has intercourse with his
neighbor's wife. It would surely be right that she should not conceive, but the
world pursues its natural course." The world pursues its own natural
course means that nature is not a court of justice!
DNA is not moral judgment –
DIN. Nature itself neither validates nor
proscribes thievery or adultery. That is a mature, realistic view of reality.
That is consonant with Talmudic tradition which tells you that you can't pray
for anything you want. Prayer must follow limits of reality. Prayer is not
rubbing Aladdin's lamp. So, the Talmud, in Berachoth, declares: "If after
conception I pray that the embryo in my wife's womb should be a male, that is
considered Tefillat Shav – a vain, foolish prayer. Hatzoek L'shavar Harei Zu Tefillat Shav – you can't pray about something that has
If you look back, you
become like Lot's wife: a pillar of
salt. History is irreversible. You can't pray the dead spring to life. You
can't pray that the amputated should spring limbs. You can pray for courage,
for prosthetic limbs – that is within parameters of our control. But you can't
pray against reality and the source of that reality, Elohim. This aspect of nature which is beyond human control belongs
to God as Elohim.
So from this perspective
of Elohim, while every event has a
cause, not every cause is morally intentioned. Every event leads to a
consequence. Earthquake, fire, deformity, cancer may be explained in terms of
natural causes and natural consequences, but not in terms of rewards and
punishment for behavior. Martha's DNA, or her inherited genes
or chromosomes, are neither morally praiseworthy not blameworthy. The child
born of addictive parents, for example, suffers as a consequence of substance
abuse by its parents, but those consequences are not divine judgments. Causes
and consequences are not curses nor cures.
When consequences are
taken to be divine punishments, when causes are taken to be divine intentions,
when natural events are taken to be divine designs, we open a door to a
conflict of faith that, I am suggesting, can be avoided. Let me illustrate the
nature of that conflict. If the AIDS victim is a child and it is interpreted as
a divine judgment, we are naturally going to protest the judgment. Let me illustrate
this from the Midrash: In the book of Exodus we read that the iniquity of the
parents will be visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
In the rabbinic Midrash, Moses argues that it is not just to conduct the world
in this fashion, to visit the iniquity of the parents upon the children. He
argues on the basis of history. Moses says to God, "Terach was an evil man
but he produced Abraham, a moral figure. Achaz was a wicked king but he
produced a noble king in Hezekiah. Amon was a wicked king but he produced
Yosheahu who was a good king." The response that God gives to Moses'
objection are fascinating. He says, in Deuteronomy 24:16, "The father shall not be put to death for
Why do guilt,
accusation, blame seem to follow every tragedy? In part because of a naive,
primitive presupposition: every event is judgment. When I suffer heart attack
or my child is affected with a congenital defect or my wife is hurt in an
automobile accident, or my family is caught in fire, storm, earthquake it is a
judgment of God, "an act of God.” It fills me with guilt or blame. It turns me
either into a masochist blaming myself for every misfortune, or into an angry
atheist, shaking my fist against the Heavens.
God is dead.
A cause is not a curse,
and a consequence is not a judgment. AIDS, for example, is a consequence of
acts, but consequence is not a
punishment. This is part of the reality principle which the rabbis explain with
the phrase, "nature pursues its own course," which belongs to the
character of God as Elohim. Yehuda
Halevi (11th century), who distinguished the God of the philosopher as the God
of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, writes: "Elohim
governs and manages the universe without any change in His nature, without
feelings of sympathy with one or anger against another." Elohim guides the world neutrally ad according
to the axiom of the prophet Zephaniah (4:12). "He will do not
good, and neither will He do evil."
Don't stop listening.
Please don't leave me here.
Let me caution you that
I have not completed describing the whole of divinity. When I speak to you of Elohim, I only speak to you of one half
of divinity, one face of divinity, but it is an important half. There is the
world of accidents and events which confront us whose cause may be traced to
the God of creation. Over these we have no control. As the rabbis put it,
"We are born by dint of force and we die by dint of force." No one
asked us when to be born, to whom to be born, with what to be born and no one
asks us when, where and how to die. Knowing this I must understand that the
things which happen to me over which I have no control are not things about
which I can ask, "What did I do to deserve this?" Nature pursues its
own course. Theology should not pour the salt of blame on open wounds of
What did I read / say /
eulogize at the funeral of that small child that I referred to earlier? I
opened the Bible to the section in which King David (II Samuel) discovers that
his child is dead: "He then arose
from the earth, washed, anointed himself, changed his apparel, came into the
house of the Lord and worshipped, came to his own house and when he required
his servants set bread before him and he did eat. When the servants wondered
what he was doing saying, 'You fasted and wept while the child was alive but
now when the child is dead you rise and eat bread' David answered with the
wisdom of acceptance. 'While the child was yet alive I fasted and wept, for I
said, ‘who knows whether the Lord will not be gracious to me that the child may
live but now that he is dead wherefore shall I fast? Can I bring him back
again? I shall go to him but he will not return to me.'"
Nature pursues its own
course and there are times to acknowledge the futility of fasting, weeping,
praying to change nature's natural course.
Acceptance is a part of
spiritual wisdom. It is not defeat but a wisdom that accepts nature without
neurotic, masochist guilt, blame, and shame as if what happened was the result
of a judgment of her inadequacy, of her sinfulness.
A D O N A I
But acceptance does not
exhaust the human response to events, nor does Elohim exhaust the full
character of divinity. There are times when acceptance is in order and there
are times when acceptance is premature, poor psychology and poor theology.
Here enters Adonai!
If Elohim is the term first encountered in the creation of the
universe (Genesis chapter 1) – Adonai Lord is first encountered when
the human being enters the picture as active participant; (Chapter 2) – when God created earth and heaven there was no
shrub of the field, no grasses that sprouted because, "The Lord God
Adonai-Elohim had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till
the soil" (Genesis chapter 2). When man enters the picture, Adonai the Lord of humanity is
discovered. Genesis 4:26, "Men began to call upon the name of the
Lord" (Adonai) only with the
birth of Enosh (“humanity”), the son of Seth. We pray Adonai over that which we can change, over that which we can make a
difference. In prayers of petition we don't pray, “ Baurch Elohim.” You need
both Elohim and Adonai because you need to know the world as it is, the world of
Genesis I, and the world as it ought to be, the world of Adonai, the world of the ideal. But real and ideal, Elohim and
Adonai are complementary. "Ought" without "is" tends toward
reliance upon fantasy and human passivity; "is" without
"ought" tends toward a pantheism that deifies the status quo and is
oblivious to the reality of transformation.
There are times when one
turns one's face to Elohim but to Adonai – not to the God of creation but
to the Lord of transformation. At Martha's bedside I do not lie to her, I do
not contradict the doctor's prognosis. Judaism
is not Pollyanna-ism. I open her up to spiritual reality. I go back to
Ecclesiastes Rabbah 5:6, to the frightened and dying congregant. It is based on
a description in the Bible (II Kings: Chapter 20) depicting a confrontation
between King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah. "When the king was ill the
prophet Isaiah was summoned by God to the king's bedside. Isaiah the prophet,
son of Amoz, approached the king and told him, 'Set thy house in order for thou
shalt die and not live.' The king is angered and responded, 'Son of Amoz,
finish your prophecy and go, for I have this tradition from the house of my
ancestor that even if a sharp sword rests upon a man's neck he should not
desist from prayer.' With that, Hezekiah turned his face from Isaiah to the
wall and prayed to the Lord."
A rabbinic comment on
Hezekiah's response elaborates the king's rebuke of the prophet. "The king
said in effect, 'it is customary that a person when visiting the sick should
say, 'May mercy be shown upon you from heaven'. When the physician he tells the
sick 'Eat this and do not eat that, drink this and do not drink that.' Even
when he sees him near death he does not say to him 'Set thy house in order'
because this might upset him. You however tell me, 'Set thy house in order for
thou shalt die and not live.' I pay no attention to what you say nor will I
listen to your advice. I hold on to nothing else than what my ancestors
said." In the Bible, Isaiah, the very prophet who prophesied Hezekiah's
imminent death, is chosen by God to tell the king that the Lord has heard his
prayer, seen his tears, and has added fifteen years to his life. Hezekiah
triumphed over Isaiah's doomsday prophecy.
Notice that the response
of King Hezekiah was not the response of King David. In the instance of David,
the child was no longer alive. The religious wisdom left to him was that of
acceptance. David rent his garments, mourned his loss, recited his acceptance,
"The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away." This is the world that
pursues its own natural course.
But Hezekiah, while
dangerously ill, was not yet dead. There were options left to him and it was
right for him not to cave in to Isaiah's judgment.
When is acceptance in
order, when is transformation in order (e.g. whether or not the use of heroic
measures with the terminally ill)? Whether
pulling the plug means to extend life or prolong death, we’re involved in the
deep choice of acceptance or transformation, Elohim or Adonai.
said the poet "is the ability to act when it is necessary on the basis of
incomplete information." The prognosis of physician is not the last word.
There are transformative curative powers of Adonai
which exist within him and between him and the world. Like acceptance, hope and
trust are forms of reality and of wisdom. The Talmud states that forty-nine out
of fifty doors of understanding were opened to Moses. When someone asked how
Moses could continue without the fiftieth door, it was answered, "Seeing
that it was closed to him, Moses substituted faith." Wisdom balances
acceptance and transformation.
"Hope must never
die too far ahead of the patient." In Greek, the mythology of Pandora's
Box, hope, comes from the box of curses. Not so in the Jewish tradition. There is a
wonderful life affirmation that is filtered down into Jewish folk stories. You
may remember the story of the poor man who was gathering sticks of wood in the
forests, packing them in a torn sack, throwing the sack over his bony shoulders
and then stumbling. The sticks scattered to the earth. Frustrated the poor man
cried to God, "Send me the angel of death and take me from this earth for
I am sick and full of sorrow." His prayer was promptly answered and before
him appears the angel of death asking "Did you call for me?"
"Yes. Yes,” stammered the frail man. "Listen - angel - could you help
me gather up these sticks?"
E L O H I M & A D O N O I
We need both. Sally
needs both Elohim and Adonoi, both acceptance and
transformation to confront her tragedy. Acceptance acknowledges our limitation
and frees us from affects of guilt. Cancer is real, but it is not punishment.
Cancer is real, but it does not signal guilt. Cancer is real, but it does not
mean that this is the last or only word. Sally's cancer is fault free. It is
not a sentence of Adonoi, it is the
consequence of Elohim – the God of
nature, the ground of Being. Talmud Sabbath 55b, "There is death without
sin and suffering without iniquity."
When I sit with Martha,
I would dearly love to wave a magic wand to heal her with faith. But Elohim – reality
principle – stops me from the lure of theurgy. Maimonides, in one of his rulings,
wrote “One who recites a spell over a wound or recites a verse in Torah to cure
the sick or places on an infant to induce it to sleep repudiates the Torah. For
they use the words to cure the body wherein they are only medicine for the
soul.” This is consonant with the
Talmudic dictum that it is prohibited to live in a place where there is no
The Elohim factor, the reality principle, keeps faith and prayer from
theurgy and magic. Magic is not concerned with the reality or morality of the
petition. Magic is concerned only with getting the end. When Susie, of the
Cabbage Patch Doll, asked if she can pray for anything, she should have been
told she cannot. When she asks whether she can pray for an "A,” she should
be introduced to the distinction between prayer and magic. To pray for an
"A" is to pray for a result, is granting the prize independent of the
moral meaning of the end or the reality means to achieve it. She must be
informed that the meaning of study is not the getting of the "A," but
the mastery of the subject. If the end is the "A,” cheating on the exam
may be justified. What can Susie rightly and realistically pray for? For the
patience to study, for the understanding as to why she is studying. If I would
put it boldly, prayer that is not magical always appeals to the petitioner and
her community to do something about the petition. To pray for peace without
doing anything about it is like praying for health while resting on the couch
eating a hot pastrami sandwich.
The Adonai principle of ideality needs to be rooted in the soil of
In a private meeting,
Martha asked “what meaning in my life" remained for her. For her as a
young mother, all meaning was tied to raising up her children and family.
"Meaning for me,” she asserted, "is in raising my children to be
strong, to help them learn how to cope with the abrasiveness of live to teach
them to face the challenge of adversity.” Now that her death is imminent, meaning
for her had disappeared.
It is here that we spoke
about Adonai, the capacity of men and
women to accept the "given" and to transform it. “You, Martha want to
teach children character and how to live. Your children, Martha, know how sick
you are. In your sickness, you teach them lessons they will cherish the rest of
their lives. Sick and suffering you teach them how to love, how to cling to
faith, living you teach and dying you also teach." A rabbinic legend
concludes the righteous are informed of the day of their death, so that they
may hand the crown to their children.
Please note I am not
saying to Martha that the meaning of her sickness is that it offers her this
teaching role to her children. In a desperate search for meaning, people seek
to justify suffering: e.g., poverty
leads to charity, sickness to research. Let a child be born mute and deaf and
blind and you have Helen Keller. This has it wrong. That we can make something
noble or meaningful out of tragedy does not explain the cause or justify the
I didn't lose my child
in order to become compassionate. God didn't test me in order to sensitize me.
The Holocaust did not happen so that Israel should be created. But
the creation of Israel is the godly response
to genocide, not the cause of the Shoah. We experience godliness – the Adonoi dimension – when we transform
"what is" into what "ought to be.” I direct Sally to the second part of the
prayer – Tshuvah, Tefillah, Tzedakah. Inner
transformation, prayer and acts of kindness refer to the powers of Adonai, even
in extreme conditions.
Elohim is not the last word. What can I do after the tragedy to
regain my dignity? There is always something to be done! That is I have seen
after tragedy I can volunteer my services to those afflicted. I can help wipe
away the tears of the widow and orphans and help raise the fallen. Even after
my death, my organs can be willed during my life to open the eyes of the blind
and give new heart to the crippled. That is the Adonai response to death. In life, with life, to gain "organic
immortality.” Salvage out of the
catastrophe some measure of meaning.
When I declared the
oneness of God, “the Lord our God is one,” both real and ideal are one. Adonai is found in our human capacity to
change, repair, mend, transcend, transform. In Judaism, everything that is
created there is the need for transformation. That is the core of tikkun olam.
"The mustard seed needs to be sweetened, the lupine needs to be soaked in
water, the wheat needs to be ground and the human being needs to be
This transaction between
Elohim and Adonai, between the given and transformal, is expressed in the
breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine. In Tanchuma (Tazria 19:5)
Tinnus Rufus challenges Rabbi Akiba sheaves of wheat or loaves of challah, not
to deprecate God but to find God's expression in the transaction between the
given: the soil, sun, water, seed and that which is transformed by human effort
– to tell the soil, plant, seed, water,
harvest, grind and bless the bread. The motzi blessing is not over sheaves. The
kiddush is not over wine.
There is a time to
accept, and a time to reject, a time for waiting and a time for dancing, a time
for speaking and a time for keeping silence, a time for fighting and a time for
seeking peace. Both God and Lord are reflected in me! Need both for harmony,
balance, wholeness, integrity. In me are Elohim
WISDOM & HOPE
I am created in the
image of Divinity. That is in the image of Elohim
and the image of Adonoi. In me are
energies, powers that are given to me, my DNA, my libido; my drives are
morally neutral. They are neither rewards or punishments. In me is the image of
capacities to transcend, to overcome, to repair, to transform, to create
"a second nature.” If Elohim in me is “Id” and libido, Adonoi in me is Ego and Superego.
Hope turns me towards
the power to transform, to draw upon the curative forces that enable me to
conquer despair and cynicism and surrender. In the words of J. B. Soloveitchik:
"We have real capacities. We are created in God's image and in the image
of the Lord. In Elohim and Adonoi - we know that we are our own
redeemers, our own creators, our own messiahs to rescue ourselves from the
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