Monday, March 12, 2012

Newsday Faith Column

I was recently interviewed for Newsday's "Asking the Clergy" column. The question was "It is said that God created us in the his own image. If so, was his image male because he created Adam first? Or, female, because he saved the best for last, Eve? Both images are mentioned in Scriptures. He is God, the Father in passages like Isaiah 64:8 and Jeremiah 3:4. But God also is described as mother or acting as would a mother. These are examples in Genesis 1:27 and Hosea 13:8." The column appeared on Saturday, March 10th. What follows is my response.

I think the Jewish perspective is that God is neither man nor woman. Trying to define God in human terms leads to problems because God is only subject to divine definitions.

Maimonides said that we can only talk about what God is not, not what God is. The scriptural references to God as a man are poetic license. People can imagine God however they choose to imagine God. To really, truly understand God, you must realize that God is neither man nor woman. God is not human.

The beauty of the Hebrew language is that there are many different names for God. Some are feminine. Some are masculine. But all are just scratching at the surface. The beauty of the English language, on the other hand, is that you can refer to God using gender neutral terms.

The Hebrew approach is "Let's get every name under the sun in there." The lesson I take from that is choose the name that speaks to you at that moment. My favorite name for God is HaMakom, which literally means "the place." I think it is beautiful because God is where you find God, and what your needs are directing you to call God.

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