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Look Mom, it's God

04/06/2015 08:27:00 AM

Apr6

Look Mom, it's God
by Rabbi Edward Feinstein

As I wheeled my shopping cart down the aisle of the local market on my weekly grocery run, a three-year old riding in his mother's cart came up the other side. He was one of the students in the Nursery School, and when he recognized me, his mouth dropped open, he pointed and shouted, "Mom, look, it's God!"

My young friend's comment is very instructive. We imagine God in the image of those who teach us about God. And we perceive the world of religion in the image of those institutions that introduce us to spirituality, ritual, and faith. When our rabbis and teachers are distant and cold, when the rites are forbidding and strange, so too the religious life we acquire -- emptied of life, emptied of spirit, remote, removed, and alien. But when teachers become friends and ritual becomes poetry, then a different sense of the sacred prevails.

What is the greatest triumph of Valley Beth Shalom these many years? Not its magnificent buildings, nor its remarkably creative programs, not even the energy and devotion of its members and staff. The unique achievement of this congregation is the God it has given its children. Through all the programs, and all the teaching, we present our children with a God who demands uncompromising intellectual honesty and devoted moral commitment, a God who welcomes argument and criticism, a God who cherishes human goodness and energizes acts of compassion, a God who offers support and comfort in times of pain, a God who shares the sweetness of our simchas. This is a God who enjoys a good argument, a God unafraid of the wanderings of the human imagination. Our God celebrates the achievements of the human mind and spirit, and depends upon us to re-make the world in the image of the Almighty.

Twenty five years ago I came here as a teenager, a USY'er, and first stood in the presence of this God. For me, this was a personal turning point; it gave me the power and the permission to question, to search, to challenge within the Jewish tradition and ultimately, it opened the way to a career in the rabbinate. I am grateful today to serve the congregation as one of its rabbis. And I am profoundly grateful to those whose generosity and efforts have allowed my children to grow up here -- in a place where God expects them to think critically, to care passionately, to hug lovingly, to sing loudly, and to throw candy at every happy occasion.

Shana tova. May this be a year of health, happiness, and learning for us all.


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