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e G-d of abi
By Yosef Y. Jacobson
 

Every evening I turn my worries over to God. He's going to be up all night anyway.
-- Mary C. Crowley 

G-d loved the birds and invented trees. Man loved the birds and invented cages.
-- Jacques Deval  

Cast metal  

“Do not make yourselves gods out of cast metal (1),” the Torah instructs us in this week’s portion (Kedoshim).
 
How could an intelligent person believe that a piece of metal is god? We could perhaps appreciate how ancient pagan societies attributed divine qualities to powerful, transcendent forces of nature, like the Zodiac signs, the sun, the moon, various galaxies, the wind, etc. But why would a thoughtful human being believe god could be fashioned out of cast metal?  

Even if we can explain how in the ancient, pagan world such an idea could be entertained seriously, how does this Torah commandment apply to our lives today?  

I once encountered a beautiful interpretation to these words (2), which is profoundly relevant to the human psyche in all times. What this biblical verse – “Do not make yourselves gods out of cast metal” -- is telling us is not to construct a god of a lifestyle and a weltanschauung that has become like “cast metal,” cast and solidified in a fixed mold.
 
A natural human tendency is to worship that which we have become comfortable with. We worship our habits, patterns, attitudes, routines and inclinations simply because we have accustomed ourselves to them and they are part of our lives. People love that which does not surprise them; we want to enjoy a god that suits our philosophical and emotional paradigms and comfort zones. We tend to embrace the fixed, unchangeable and permanent molten god.
 
Comes the Torah and says: Do not turn your consolidated mold into your god. Do not turn your habits, natural patterns of thought, fears or addictions into a deity. Life is about challenge, growth and mystery. Never say, “This is the way I am; this is the way I do things, I cannot change.” Never think, “This is the world view I am comfortable with; any other way must be wrong.” Rather, you ought to muster the courage to challenge every instinct, temptation and convention; question every dogma, especially dogmas that speak in the name of open mindedness, and are embraced simply because you fall back on that which you have been taught again and again. Let your life not become enslaved to a particular pattern just because it has been that way for many years or decades. G-d, the real G-d, is not defined by any conventions; let your soul, too, not be confined by any external conventions. Experience the freedom of your creator.  

Judaism never articulated who G-d is and what G-d looks like. What it did teach us is that G-d ought never to be defined by any image we attribute to Him. In Jewish philosophy we never speak of what G-d is; only of what He is not: G-d is not an extension of my being or imagination (3).  

Thus, to be open to the G-d of the Hebrew Bible means to be open to never ending mystery, infinite grandeur, limitless sublimity; it is the profound readiness at every moment of life to open ourselves to transcendence.  

And that which remains of your ambitions and desires after you have faced all of your fears and challenged all of your defenses, that is where your will meets G-d’s will (4). At that point you become truly one with yourself, one with the inner core of reality.  

~~~~~~~  

Footnotes:
1) Leviticus 19:4.
2) Mei Hasheluach by Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner, Parshas Kedoshim, p. 118. The author was a brilliant and creative 19th century Chassidic thinker and master, and is known as the Rebbe of Ishbitz. He passed away in 1854.
3) This is a common theme in the writings of Maimonidies in his “Guide to the Perplexed.” See at length Likkutei Torah Parshas Pekudei and references noted there.
4) See at length Mei Hasheluach ibid.

Posted on May 9, 2007
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