God. Oh my God. What in God’s name am I doing? God bless you.
It’s interesting. For most of us, we use God’s name in our every day vernacular (OMG, anyone?), without even noticing it. I’ve never really examined my relationship with God, other than rejecting the old man in the sky with a beard, or the the vengeful, angry, jealous God I learned of as a child. Even the word “God” is a really charged word and has an almost negative connotation for me. It never really occurred to me to cultivate a relationship with God, although as I have become more aware and mindful in and of my life, I’ve become more aware and mindful of a force larger than myself – something I think of as universal energy, a field I can plug into, be a vessel for, bring through me in order to be a vehicle for serving and doing good in this often broken world.
When I decided to come to Israel for the year, I held the intention that this would be a year of growth, professionally and more importantly, personally. A soul evolution, a raising of vibration, a time to connect more fully to myself and step into my purpose. And funnily enough, it never once occurred to me that the G-word would be a part of the equation. God wasn’t even a consideration.
Now I’m learning at a beit midrash, or house of study, where I essentially spend 8 hours a day with Orthodox faculty, talking about Judaism, and really, God. Sometimes God is mentioned explicitly and sometimes implicitly, but it is clear that God has a place here. Throughout various classes and practices that I have been through thanks to my amazing educators program, I’ve really had to evaluate and think about my relationship (or non-relationship) with and to God. And I’ve decided I really want to have one – a personal relationship, a personal connection – with God. If you remember my experience with hitbodedut here, I have started experimenting with conversation with God. And it feels good. It’s nice to ask for help, to surrender to something greater than myself, to not have to carry everything myself, and to rest my troubles on someone else, even though I’m not even sure what or how I think of this “someone” else.
At this point, maybe it doesn’t even matter who God is to me, how I relate to…him/her/it (although if I’m honest, the God I talk to feels more like masculine energy to me, a father figure). I think part of what’s so significant for me is that I am connecting, surrendering, letting God and the universe do their thing, without getting so caught up in the details or needing to control everything. Since coming to Israel, I notice myself saying things like baruch hashem (thank god) or b’ezrat hashem (with god’s help). It’s part of the vernacular here (in Jerusalem, at least), something that’s just assumed is a part of one’s life, imbedding God in to the language of society.
I was taking a cab one time back to my apartment and the cab driver asked how I was doing. I wasn’t in the best of head spaces that day, and I said as much. He told me to look for God, to connect with God, that God was everywhere and in everything. This reminds me of a peer teaching lesson I did on personal development using Abraham’s journey as an archetype for our own individual journey. Umberto Cassuto, a commentator on the Torah, said about Abraham, the father of Judaism (and Islam): it’s not that Abraham was picked to be “the one”, that God only spoke to him. God speaks to us all the time, and in a variety of ways. It’s just that Abraham was able to hear God, and trust in God, and that’s what made him so special. Much like it is said about Moses and the burning bush; it’s not the the bush burned only for Moses, it’s that Moses was the only one who was aware and conscious enough to see it and engage it. While I’m by no means Orthodox, nor do I plan on becoming observant, I see the value and the lessons our long and rich tradition provides us.
My blessing is that we all have the perception and bravery of Abraham and the level of consciousness of Moses, so that we may also be able to hear, feel and follow the presence of God in our lives.