Friday, September 14, 2012

What is God?

The light right now, just before autumn equinox, is pure gold - even orange by the time the sun sets each evening. Everything looks great in that light.

I don't remember how I first came across the book "What is God" by Etan Boritzer. It was a long time ago. What I remember, and am still struck by, is its eloquence, thoroughness, and precise articulation of the God I worship. That book still blows me away.

I used to always have on hand a dozen copies of the book in case I came across anyone who might be willing to forego their sophisticated standards of mature intellect long enough to read a "children's" book seriously. Over the years I'm sure I've paid a significant portion of Mr. Boritzer's royalties. It is a powerful book. Profound, clear, beautiful. Is it for children? It works for me and I'm 59. 

I've read many books on theology - really good ones, I should say. I love nuanced thinking and elaborately written texts. However nothing I've read before or since, even by the people recognized as the greatest of theologians, nails the idea of God like this book. It is spot on, no frills, just the facts, ma'am.

This morning, right on the brink of Rosh Hashana, I'm remembering one of the first community High Holy Days services I attended, back in the late 80s in San Francisco. Some friends invited me to join them at their Berkeley hills super hipster hippie style havurah celebration of Yom Kippur. Prior to that my only knowledge of the Jewish High Holy Days came directly from my father's interpretation which was (do I even need to say?) deeply skewed. By the time I reached my mid-30s, it was high time to do some research into the way other Jews observed the holiday.

The first thing I did on the morning of Yom Kippur was attend the children's service. One of my ongoing mantras is Start where you are. There is no point in rushing to the completion of anything, as it is the journey, not the destination where satisfaction can be found. I learned that the hard way, of course.

At that time, I was at square one with Judaism, hence I sat in the back of a room full of squirming children while the excellent teachers lead the kids through the Yom Kippur order of service, stopping whenever necessary to answer questions. The kids asked important questions that I would never have thought to ask my friends, let alone the hipster rabbi who conducted the services. By attending the kids' class, I was able to lay a clear foundation for the evolution of my personal theology around this holiday and my version of Judaism.

Out of the mouths of babes, as they say. In the case of the book, it is out of the mouth of someone who is purposely writing simply, for children.

And - well - for the likes of me.

Why do we adults always have to be so fancy, so sophisticated? What purpose does it serve? Good lord.

Happy Friday and Shalom.

At the fountain in the National Gallery sculpture garden yesterday.


Angela said...

I love children`s books, too. They are so wise and simple.
My long comment which I wrote a minute ago got lost, but I think this was my main sentence. I would like to read your book about God, too.

Carolina Linthead said...

I love this post! Also, the picture of the humble sparrow by the water made me weep for the beauty of it, God, the whole lot. Love you, my friend!

Reya Mellicker said...

Awww. Michael the book is available through Amazon for $7. Dana would love it too. I highly recommend it.