By Rabbi Howard Siegel
Source: Houston Chronicle
In every generation the same question is asked: Where is God? Seldom is there a satisfying answer. We celebrate a birth by proclaiming God’s divine presence, a wedding by crediting God with a “match made in heaven” (even though reportedly 50% fail!), and we comfort mourners with the notion their beloved has been returned to his/her divine maker. So, is God “here” or “there” or “everywhere”? The simple answer is “yes” to all three. Still, I’m left asking, “Where is God” now?
The Torah portion Ekev begins with Moses teaching the Israelites, “And if you do obey these rules and observe them carefully, then the Lord our God will maintain faithfully for you the covenant that God made an oath with our ancestors.” (Deut. 7:12)
Rabbi Art Green, in his book Seek My Face, Speak My Name, wrote: “It is we who make this covenant. . . .It is in this sense that we continue to speak of Sinai as covenant. It is we who at Sinai declare our undying devotion to the universal ever-flowing and yet unchanging One. . . .Covenant is our willingness to be a channel, to serve as a conduit of God’s presence to those with whom we live.”
Though some may argue to the contrary, we are not God! However, as one fashioned in the “image of God”, we possess the ability to perform Godly actions and to bring Godliness into a world increasingly devoid of moral conscience. We can be a “conduit of God’s presence”, exemplars to others. As a Jew, I can be inspired to work for a better world by working for change through peaceful non-violence in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi. As a Jew, I can be roused to work on behalf of the homeless and hungry through the actions of Mother Theresa. As a Jew, I can learn to “pray with my feet” through the examples of Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel. These are all instances of God’s presence.
As a child, God was there with me every Shabbat morning when my grandfather took my hand and walked with me to shule (synagogue). God was present in the home of the late Cantor Joseph Frankel of Seattle when he invited my friends and me into his home to learn with him on Saturday afternoons. Rabbi Menahem Mendl of Kotzk (commonly referred to as the “Kotzker Rebbe”) when told by a student “God is everywhere” replied, “No, God is only where you let Him/Her in.” It is acts of loving-kindness that open the door.
“Where Is God?” In the words of Heschel, “God is waiting on every road that leads from intention to action, from desire to satisfaction.”
Rabbi Howard Siegel is Director of the Jewish Information Center (JIC) of Houston. The views expressed in this post are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the JIC or Interfaith Houston.