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This I Believe About God

http://http://www.last.fm/music/Garth+Brooks/_/Unanswered+Prayers

My Unanswered Prayer

God and I have always had a very personal relationship. So it seemed natural to me that when I was 18 years old and stepped onto the ice for my first hockey practice at Hamilton College I offered God a deal: “God, if you make me an all-American hockey player, then, I’ll become a rabbi.” As any witness to my Hamilton hockey career can attest, God categorically rejected that proposal.

Now, a half-century later, I think God must have laughed at my offer and said. “Miracles I can perform, didn’t I part the Red Sea? But, Steve, you are asking too much. No, I have given you just enough athletic talent so that if you work really hard, you may achieve some limited success but you will learn important lessons that will help you for the rest of your life. As far as becoming a rabbi goes, I now perceive that God’s response was: “Don’t do me any favors! But, if that is what you really want, and –again—if you really work hard, I’ll grant you a meaningful pulpit career, opportunities to travel beyond your dreams, and the privilege of making a difference at times in people’s lives.”

If I could have discerned these answers when I was 18, I might have thought the Almighty was rejecting me, but today I bow my head in gratitude for the many ways God has blessed me.

I find great wisdom in Garth Brooks’ song: Unanswered Prayers (Link above). It is about a youth who fervently prayed that the girl he loved more than life itself would return his love and marry him. It did not happen. Many years later, when he met that girl by chance at a football game, he realized that his life was much happier with the woman he did marry, than he would have been with his high school love. “Sometimes,” he concludes, “God’s greatest gift is unanswered prayers.”

God Is a Mystery

Even after all of my years of religious study, most of what God does remains a mystery to me. That sense of mystery and wonder move me to say: “There is a reason that we come to worship God and do not expect God to come and worship us.”

For many, though, questions they cannot answer about God squelch their belief. If there were a good God, they say, there could not have been a Holocaust. If there were a good God, there would be no hunger and poverty in the world, and there would be no floods, famines or natural disasters. If a good God were in control of the world, innocent children would not die. God would protect us from harm and disease.

In 1981, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote one of the most influential books ever about God: When Bad Things Happen to Good People. After the death of his son Aaron from a rare disease, progeria, that caused him to age prematurely and die at 14, Kushner decided he could no longer accept the idea of God who is both all good and all-powerful. And so he postulated that God’s goodness is infinite but that God’s power is not. There is, Kushner claimed, a realm of nature beyond God’s control. His book performed a great service by enabling many who once could not believe to believe once again.

Was Rabbi Kushner right? I am not sure.

But was he right? I am not sure. Rather than claim that God’s power is limited, I believe our knowledge is limited. We can understand some of what God does, but there is so much about God that we do not know and can never know.

Too often, though, we create God in our image instead of the other way around. We think our fine minds should apprehend everything there is to know about God. In our arrogance we think that if something happens that does not comport with our view of the way we believe God should act, then clearly there is no God.

We have all seen good people suffer. We have all watched helplessly while a righteous person writhed in pain or died young while a person with seemingly no regard for anything but his or her own selfish needs lived a long life in robust good health. There is much about God that we do not understand. And maybe there is nothing about God we can say backed by scientific proof!
Jewish thinking does not rest on a proof of God’s existence but on an assumption of God’s existence. That assumption proclaims itself in the very first words of the Torah: “In the beginning, God…

The Goal: A Better World

Why should we make that assumption? For me it comes down to one simple reason!
If we assume God exists and assume that God wants all of us to use our diverse talents to do good, then we shall create a better world for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. Though so much about God is way beyond my comprehension, this I believe with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my might!

32 thoughts on “This I Believe About God

  1. Rabbi Fuchs, a true Amen. I do believe in God and believe that God gave us the power and the strength to change the world. In this difficult time, where there seems so much divide, it the the blessing that God asked that we must fulfill right now. Get to know someone. Hold hands a bit longer. Talk, Raise up the fallen, help heal the sick. We are not required to heal the world, just one soul would make God happier.

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  2. Rabbi Fuchs, thank you for your wonderful views i have a view that will be of an experience that i had twenty three years ago.I have no education and write with a dictionary because of head injuries in a car accident that left me disabled for many years.My belief in the One G_d of Abraham Isaac and Jacob is because i have been in His glorious presence once in my life. when this happened the L_rd had already given me His wonderful loving help, when G_d intervenes it is of a great event a miracle.After eight years of poverty working part-time in a store with disabilities ,i was to work in a store in a high crime area. I worked the night shift only and the young marine had been beaten almost to death with a base ball bat, i replaced him.The children of the area would come in the store and beg me for food, i would cry when they left , and ask my boss if he would take money out of my pay check to pay for the food.I work for $4.00 an hour for eight years, never getting a raise.I prayed to my G_d of Jacob that loves His children more then anyone could ever possible understand.I started hauling trash and doing maintenance to get money for the children, before i could get business cards i had many companies offering to help me feed the homeless in our little town.I got a contract with no business cards to work on the B2 Bomber with a 5% fee for getting the contract to go for the homeless and needy.The first money $50,000 dollars was stolen by two of our members, we could do nothing because we had not been incorporated, there is evil people that will take food from little children, a blessing lost i shut down the program.This evil act broke my heart, the L-rd provided this blessing for His children, but we live in a world that can do un-imaginable evil.One righteous business man pledged one million dollars to help the program and many others made many pledges.I have ask people to send donations to Israel to help build the Eternal Third Temple in Jerusalem ,for the past twenty three years. I was given a vision by the L_rd and i am sure that my dedication to this holy mission to honor our One G_d of Jacob and His eternal priest-hood Israel the house of Jacob the Jewish is the beginning of a new age for all nations.We also do odd jobs to help feed the orphans of Israel, the Lev lalev Fund. My prayer is that others will help change our world and do good deeds, so that the L_rd can again dwell with His children on His holy mount in His house of prayer for all nations and peoples in the City of Righteous Jerusalem.

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  3. Thank you for this powerful piece Rabbi Stephen. Much food for thought and a re-assurance that we cannot comprehend all His mysterious ways. The least ee can do is to use our G.d-given talents to create a better legacy for all who follow on from us ..

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  4. Thank you, Susan!
    I had a troubling dream last night, and I thought of you and your writings. I was invited to speak at a synagogue, and I arrived early. But no one seemed to know who I was. And I was having trouble remembering the names of the rabbis when I saw them.
    How do I go about figuring it out?

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  5. Just what I needed to read! I love it when that happens! I’m sitting at the dr office waiting and this is what popped up on my reader first!
    I instantly thought Of my girl she’s been ill since the age of 2. Several times she’s almost died and I’ve always put my faith in God no matter what happens. I’ve been criticized for my beliefs which only makes my faith stronger! My heart goes out to parents that lose a child that thought never occurs to me but I know it happens! Does that make my faith greater no I don’t believe it does I believe just what you said so much about God is beyond my comprehension and my girl is now 21. Each time she is hospitalized I say to God here we go again Father I thank you for your grace!
    Maybe when I’m old I’ll look back on this and have some wisdom but for now I don’t claim to know a thing except I’m thankful for my girl! Being her mom has changed me in ways I cannot articulate-I wouldn’t have missed loving her for nothing!
    Have a super day! I love this share! 😄

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  6. I share this belief with you, Rabbi Fuchs, and thank you for expressing it so clearly.

    “Rather than claim that God’s power is limited, I believe our knowledge is limited. We can understand some of what God does, but there is so much about God that we do not know and can never know.”

    For me, this means that the only thing I can hope to understand is myself: what I do, what I find sacred, what fills me with awe and joy and love, what I think, feel, want, and fear. As a being who has been given the capacity for self-awareness, i.e. consciousness, I believe it is my responsibility to expand it as much as I can. Exploring the mystery of myself has expanded my awareness of, trust in, and connection with the Mystery that lives in others and pervades all of life; that is, in fact, responsible for my life and all of life. I will never fully understand that Mystery, but I can become more aware of, and grateful for, its movement in my life, and I can live with awe and reverence and gratitude for its participation in All That Is.

    Thank you for sharing your deep well of wisdom. It is a refreshing oasis in a desert of despair.

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  7. ” If we assume God exists and assume that God wants all of us to use our diverse talents to do good, then we shall create a better world for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. Though so much about God is way beyond my comprehension, this I believe with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my might!

    With this I agree !

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  8. Since I have been hanging out with you guys I have been pushed into trying to define my frequently nebulous concept of God. Where I have landed is that there was no “beginning” and there will be no “end”. God, we, and all the Universes are constantly evolving energy. It is that energy that is God. That means that God is us and we are God. It is our quest to connect with the God that exists within and around us. It is also up to us to stop blaming or thanking some mysterious external force for what happens or does not happen. “I am my own cause and my own effect” (Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope) We have a childlike need for a personified parental, usually paternal, figure on which to lean. Consider that, in poverty stricken areas, small local churches thrive. Could that be because of the lack of a father figure in many poor families. Anyway, as humans we have a need to visualize everything, including God. And, because of our colossal egos we give that vision human form. That is fine. I am a pragmatist. If it works, use it. But somehow I feel we can be closer to an understanding of God if we stop personifying It. Instead of focusing on a loving, spiritual relationship with an anthropomorphic God maybe we should make it our quest to have that relationship with everything with which we interact. (Of course we have to be on guard for the forces that seek to destroy us which…ahem…are also aspects of God.) Maybe finding God is actually doing right by ourselves, family, friends, community, animals and all the forces of Nature. My moment of feeling
    closest to God occurred a number of years ago as I stood at the edge of a Patagonian cliff watching a violent storm blow in over the Gulf of San Juan. The storm was awesome and frightening but I had no desire for it to stop or turn away. I lost myself in it’s power. Maybe that is how we should relate to God. (Note to Rabbi Fuchs…I have never jumped in on these conversations before. Comments are made by people more knowledgable that I. I hope you do not mind the intrusion.)

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  9. I want to share a understanding that I have about the One G_d of Abraham Isaac and Jacob. Even though I never had any meaningful education in school, because I have a hearing loss from early child-hood and was ask to leave school in the tenth grade. I am a very optimistic person and had success early in my twenties working for the Military in the tool and die trade. I could do mathematical equations in my head when others used calculators, I worked on programs to help the mental and physical challenged as a volunteer for the states. Today I have no pictures in my head and write with a dictionary & Thesaurus and feel very close to the L_rd, for when I need His help He gives it, we raise money to help feed the orphans of Israel, as well as helping the Rabbis bring the nations home to Israel. To be in the presence of G_d, is an experience that is life changing, after 24 years I am with our volunteers helping the nations learn the true path back to the One G_d of Jacob. Moses was eighty years old when he went back to Egypt, can any human being understand how an eighty year old man can face the most powerful leader in all the world with a speech problem and a promise of death if he returned. Moses change the entire world with his trip to Egypt, the L_rd gave His eternal priest-hood the house of Jacob the Torah G_d on earth. The G_d of Jacob is a eternal loving G_d of mercy, He created the world according to natural laws that we must live by. Therefore we have in the small time of our lives the opportunity to help change our world and complete G_d’s plan of a new world of peace and harmony, it is up to us.

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  10. I study Torah every day because once you have a real experience with the Creator you never again want to be away from His presence and long to be with Him again. The Torah says that the Creator greatest desire is to dwell again on earth with all the people of the nations. Yet the Abrahamic religions except Judaism reject the Divine Jewish prophecies of Isaiah chapters 60,61,66, Jeremiah 30:18, Ezekiel chapter XL ff., Hosea 4:4, Zekharia 2:3 Sota (47a), Zekharia 10:12, Malakhi the last of the prophets says according to Maimonides in his Iggeret Teiman the meaning of the verse thus: “that the messianic King shall appear after the Jewish people shall have rebuilt Jerusalem and the Temple, ” i.e. that the messiah will come to the already built- Temple. In peace the L_rd will allow the building of the Eternal Third Temple to stand forever, so that He again can dwell with all the people of the nations.

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  11. I know I responded last year but Ken Olen’s response came up in my inbox so I went to have a look. Something occurred to me about God’s gift of free will … that it was given to us, ‘but’ by so doing, He could only weep when He saw the choices we made. He had to stand by and allow us our free will … He couldn’t force us –

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  12. Yes, Susan and Kenneth, I believe in God’s gift of free will. (For more on this please read or re-read the chapter on Cain and Abel in “What’s in It for Me?”) I also believe God weeps when we humans make some of the abominable choices that we do.

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  13. Absolutely Rabbi, we do have the ability to be righteous, the L_rd says so. My great fear is knowing that we are now at the precipice. Not long ago a Rabbi wrote a article about the Creators tears shaped as pearls, when I was reading the article I understood part of the meaning of the vision that I received in my home in the middle of the day. I say pearls coming down on golden ropes, now I believe the Creator was crying His eternal priest-hood still has not been accepted by the nations. I feel in my heart in our days as evil nations and others continue to boycott Israel, that maybe we are now living in a end time spiritual war that will change the way all peoples and nations will live forever and they will know G_d.

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  14. Kenneth, we can only—each in our own way—try our best to do God’s will as we understand it, as long as we are not hurting other, and pray that God will meet us at the point where our efforts give out.

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  15. Thank you Rabbi, When my One G_d of Jacob gave me a vision of the building of His house for all nations and peoples, and told me to Honor His Eternal Priest-hood the house of Jacob the Jewish people, I was trembling in great fear. To this day I can still feel the pain of one of our members my boss at the time, when I told him of the vision and ask him to send money to Israel the tears started falling he was crying. He told me of his friend that died in Jerusalem, together they served in Israel in the British Army his friend died when a bomb exploded. With tears in his eyes he gave a donation, this man help me come back to my profession in tool and die work, to me a miracle. I suffered brain damage in a car accident and could only work part-time in a convenient store for many years. The doctors told my dear wife I would die, then they told her I would never work again and would need care. But the L_rd my G_d of Jacob decides how we serve Him, I will never understand why the L_rd chose me to do what I do full time now, Helping Israel and His orphans. My morning prayer is to Honor the One G_d of Jacob and His eternal priest-hood along with the many request we get to help others that are sick. I am seventy years old and sure with-out any doubts that I am a child of the G_d of Abraham Isaac and Jacob and He is with me, helping me serve Him to the best of my limited ability.

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  16. After all these years i am now starting to be able to write with-out a dictionary & thesaurus a little, i still need help. I only wish to say if the people of the nations could feel the love i have for Israel, it would change our world and we would be living in a paradise. This love my wife and i have for Israel comes from the L_rd, the vision the L_rd G_d of Jacob gave me revealed the great eternal love that the Creator has for all His children and creation. This knowledge changes a person forever, and every member of Israel the Jewish people become a part of you, Moses was given this knowledge and the love he had for Israel gave this old man the strength to bring Israel out of Egypt, a miracle. Rabbi Fuchs you are a gift from the Creator and the nations one day will show you how much they do love you, as a priest for the One G_d of Jacob.

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