My fifth book, Who Created God? And Other Essays, compiled and edited by Susan Marie Shuman, is just off the press and available at AMAZON.comhttps://tinyurl.com/y9tawrln.
The subject is one I have pondered my entire life.
The title emanates from an incident that occurred back in 1968 at the very beginning of my rabbinical studies. As the years have gone by, I have questioned what God is and what God is not with increasing intensity.
As a first-year student at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles campus, I conducted Friday night worship at the Flora Terrace Convalescent Home on Pico Boulevard. I led Shabbat Eve worship and then visited patients in their rooms. I earned $10.00 for each visit.
Considering my preparation and the time I spent at Flora Terrace each week, I might have earned $2.00 and hour. I did not care. I would have paid them for the experience
One Friday night, not long after I began leading worship there, the attendant greeted me with, “Rabbi, you have a new congregant. Rabbi Rosenfeld, an 85- year-old Orthodox rabbi is with us, and he will a end your service.”
“What?!” I thought to myself. “An Orthodox rabbi is coming to my service! Many Orthodox rabbis hold Reform Judaism in disdain. What will he think? How will he react?”
These thoughts played on my mind during the service. Rabbi Rosenfeld sat there, alert but impassive. There was a large black kipah on his head and the Union Prayer Bookfrom which we prayed sat tightly shut in his hands the whole time.
After the service I made my rounds and approached his room with trepidation.
He was most gracious. He said the service was nice (I breathed a deep sigh of relief), and he suggested that when I make a blessing like the Kiddushover the wine or the motzi over the challah, I should have everyone join me.
The he told me a story.
“I am 85-years-old,” he said, “and I have been studying Torah my whole life. And yet I still feel like I am at the beginning of my studies.”
“How is that?” I asked.
“When I was six-years-old, my teacher handed me a Chumash (text of the Five books of the Torah in book form) and said, ‘Read!’
So I read (in Hebrew) the first words of the Torah, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’
Then, I looked up and asked, ‘If in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, so who created God?’
And WHAM! I got such a slap across the face that I still feel it, so I always feel I am at the beginning of my studies.”
In studying Torah, “Who created God?” is as appropriate a question as, “What was the (unnamed, and nowhere does it say ‘apple’) fruit that led to Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden?”
In traditional Jewish life, one who has strayed from religious observance but returns to the fold is considered one who, “hozer b’tshuvah, one who returns in repentance.” Literally translated the phrase means, “one who returns with answers.”
The late renowned Rabbi Harold Schulweis taught he felt greater admiration for one “sheh hozer b’she’elah, one who returns with questions.”
Questions are the lifeblood of learning.
In the study of Torah, no questions should be out of bounds, so, “Who created God?”
I pray I never stop asking the question.
I would love to see you at the book launch for Who Created God? And Other Essays. It will take place at the pot luck supper ($10.00) of Sanibel Congregational UCC, 2050 Periwinkle Way on Thursday, April 12 at 5:30 PM. Please call the church office at (239) 472-0497 to make reservations.