Do you ever find yourself reading the Torah and thinking to yourself, “That’s not the God I believe in!?” If so, then you should know that the Biblical God – the rewarding/punishing, supernatural God that exists apart from Creation – is not the sum total of Jewish theology.
If you are interested in a decidedly different Jewish God concept, check out this wonderful article in the current issue of Parabola Magazine by one of my favorite rabbis, David Cooper. Rabbi Cooper is one of the world’s greatest teachers of Jewish contemplative practice and is particularly adept at teaching Jewish mysticism to laypeople in an eminently accessible but non-trivializing way.
Here’s what he has to say about the traditional Biblical belief system:
Belief in the biblical God has benefited many people with great comfort, good deeds, charity, loving-kindness, ethics, compassion, devotion, and so forth. It has also led to inquisitions, wars, intolerance, hypocrisy, triumphalism, witch hunts, terrorism, and holocausts. We must be circumspect when engaging any belief systems, especially concerning thoughts that are rooted in fear, greed, self-aggrandizement, and any other identities that tend to lock us in a sense of separation and isolation.
In the article, he offers the Jewish mystical concept of the Ein Sof (“Infinite” or “Boundless”) as an alternative to the problems of the traditional Jewish dualistic God concept. If this sounds like your cup of tea (or even if it doesn’t) you should read Rabbi Cooper’s article.
Speaking, personally, Kabbalistic theology – and in particular the conception of Ein Sof – gave me my first meaningful entry into Jewish belief and spirituality. Rabbi Cooper’s article offers a great introduction this powerful stream of Jewish thought that is fast becoming a hallmark of the new Jewish spirituality. (BTW: if you DO find this article to be your cup of tea, I recommend moving on to his book, “God is a Verb.”)