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Tradition Today: Finding the God particle

That is the way to find the true “God particle” – and it costs much less than 10 billion euros.

Starry sky
Photo by: Itamar Hassan
When the so-called “God particle” was found by scientists in Switzerland – at a cost of some 10 billion euros – there was great excitement, as if we were somehow closer to finding the meaning of the existence of the universe and proof of the existence of God. Of course, that particle has nothing to do with the essence of God. Indeed, there is no way science can prove or disprove God’s existence. The truth is that if we were to spend twice as much money it would still not be possible to come up with such a proof. Remember how when the Soviets sent men into space they proclaimed that they had not found God there and that therefore their atheistic doctrine was correct? It is reasonable to believe that there is a God, but it is not provable scientifically.

Rabbi Milton Steinberg once compared reasons for belief in God and reasons for saying there is no God. Given the dynamic universe in which we live – a creative universe conforming to set principles – he asks, “which interpretation is the more congruous: that it is an idiot’s tale in character, or that it is a progressive manifestation of Spirit? The plausibilities are heavily in favor of the latter,” he concludes. “Only it renders comprehensible the soul of man, invested with sanity, moral yearning, and sensitivity – a phenomenon which otherwise must remain an anomaly. Only it offers an accounting for the law-abiding quality of the cosmos.”

Perhaps the best reason for belief is that it is difficult to believe that human consciousness – mine or any other – is the highest form of intelligence that exists in this vast and unfathomable universe or that this awe-inspiring and endless expanse of existence has no meaning and no creator.

The classic texts of Judaism do not really attempt to prove God’s existence. Rather, Judaism’s regimen of prayers and blessings is intended to develop within us a sense of awe and wonder at the universe and at life itself and thus to remind each of us of the presence of God in the world. We see the light and bless God; we see the evening and mention God; we eat a piece of bread and ascribe it to God.

Rather than spending time looking for God or for proofs of God, we should search for the answer to the question, What does God want of me? The best answer that I know of was given by the prophet Micah (6:8): “What does the Lord require of you? Only to do justly and to love mercy and to walk modestly with your God.”

That is not so simple. It requires a lifetime of living, of daily decisions. Is this action just? Does this decision reflect true goodness and mercy? By my actions, by my words, by my deeds and my thoughts am I walking modestly together with God? As Lincoln said when asked if he thought God was on his side in the war, “The question is not if God is on my side, but if I am on God’s side.”

Our relations with others, with family, with friends, with strangers, with people we know and people we do not know, all require us to make choices. Sometimes we make the right ones and sometimes we make the wrong ones.

When we make the right ones, we find God – we let God in and we bring God’s will to life. We let God find us and we answer God’s call: Only to do justly and to love mercy and to walk modestly with your God.

That is the way to find the true “God particle” – and it costs much less than 10 billion euros.

The writer, former president of the International Rabbinical Assembly, is a two-time winner of the National Book Award. His latest book is
The Torah Revolution (Jewish Lights).


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