If God made everything then who made God? That is the question Ava used to ask us when she was younger and I have to admit it is a pretty good question. The question is really unanswerable. If there was an easy answer then wouldn’t we be able to answer such questions like why are there wars? Why do some live in poverty? Why is there disease and death? Divorce? Destruction like tornadoes and hurricanes? Which came first the chicken or the egg?
Today is Rosh Hashanah. That marks the Jewish new year. It is one of the two holiest days on the calendar along with next week’s Yom Kippur. I am Jewish. Not RELIGIOUS – but Jewish. I always say I am the least Jewish Jew you ever will meet – but what does that mean? I don’t practice a Kosher diet. I don’t go to temple on Shabbat. We don’t say prayers at home. Heck, I’m not even religious enough to write God as G-d as some would. I am neither defined by my religion nor oblivious to it. Does the fact that I am not active in these ways make me less Jewish than others? My “religiousness” is manifest through my own beliefs. My “Jewishness” is defined by tradition not prayer. Does that make me less of a Jew? If God made everything then who made God? My faith is defined by my belief in God but that belief is not dependent on the intellectual knowledge of where that God came from. I just accept the fact that he (she) is there to guide me through life – the triumphs and the turbulence. The fact that I accept this without knowing nor caring about the creation of God proves the depth of my Judaism more than any prayer recital can.
I love the traditions of Judaism. I love spending holidays with family. I love the Torah ceremony. I love the songs, the games and the stories. When I go to temple I rarely say the prayers. I like to sit in temple and reflect. I look around, deep in thought and think about life, family, friends with a deep appreciation of all that I am so fortunate to have. More often than not I can look around the sanctuary and see the congregation – families in our community – that we are so fortunate to call our friends.
Another thing to look forward to on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is the Rabbi’s sermon. Since these are the two biggest crowds of the year at Temple you just know the Rabbi will deliver something special. It’s kind of like his Super Bowl I suppose – and this year our Rabbi did not disappoint.
His sermon – and I won’t do it justice on the pages of this blog – spoke about journeys. How in the bible God commands Abraham to take the journey to sacrifice his son Isaac which Abraham does without question. Even in the face of uncertainty Abraham’s unwavering faith in God – his absolute belief – guides him on that journey. His unquestionable faith in God leads him to take the journey even though the outcome is uncertain and from what he knows so far would indicate its not an outcome he would be pleased with. If God made everything then who made God? Abraham took the journey without ever thinking about who created God or where God came from. He took the journey because he believed regardless of the intellectual proof of his (her) creation.
He then spoke to all of us about the members of the congregation that journey through uncertainty every single day. Those of us in chemotherapy, going through divorce, loss of a job, economic uncertainty, death of a loved one. As I always say – everyone has shit to deal with. He marveled at our collective ability to stay positive. To live for the bright moments while grinding through the uncertainty God has put before us. Rabbi Sagal’s sermon was emotional and powerful. Not too shabby for a Jets fan!
If God made everything then who made god? If God made everything did God make Cancer? Did he (she) give it to me? Why? Those questions are unanswerable. They are not even questions I have ever asked. God may have given me Cancer and if he (she) did I am sure he (she) had a very good reason for it. After all, he (she) is God right? Maybe God gave me Cancer because I don’t say the prayers. Maybe it’s because I celebrate my religion in an untraditional way and my faith needed to be tested. Maybe God gave me Cancer to help me realize the wonderful life that I have. To stand up and notice how fortunate I am to have family, friends and community. Maybe God gave me Cancer to teach my kids how to be brave – to fight – to thrive and survive when the chips are stacked against you. Or maybe God gave me Cancer because I am strong. Strong enough to fight for every last day. Strong enough to fight a disease that others might not be strong enough to fight. Whatever the reason it is faith that will cure me. Faith in my doctors, faith in my medicine, faith in my acupuncture and my herbs. Faith in the fact that God has led me toward an uncertain path and will lead me out of it as well. Whether or not I emerge from the uncertainty and the outcome is something I am pleased with is truly in God’s hands – much the same as it was for Abraham.
For the first day of the (Jewish) year it was quite remarkable. I can’t imagine what the rest of the year has in store for me but I am excited as heck to find out! If God made everything then who made God? I don’t particularly care. I only care that God knows that I believe he (she) is leading me on this journey for a reason. My job is to figure out why I am on the journey not to figure out why God is there to create the journey in the first place.
*** Rabbi Sagal is truly a unique man. I have come to appreciate his teaching, his writing and his wit over the past nine months since my diagnosis. If you are interested in learning or reading more about him you can find him at www.theboxingrabbi.com ***