I grew up secular, American first, Jewish by birth. No one in my circle of family or friends talked about G-d. Life as I knew it was about work, food, intellect. My family includes medical directors, college deans, lawyers, judges, scientists and accountants. But we were in it alone, pushing forward as feeble humans. Or so it seemed.
Yet in the darker, lonlier moments of childhood, somehow I knew to use my voice to cry out for help: I’m here, and I need You. Please help.
I realized then, and know now, that there is some greater power out there, or within me, that is pure love and goodness — even if the humans in my life aren’t. There is a power beyond what I can see and understand.
My sweet and loving mother says that she believes there is no G-d, because of the painful things she has experienced. Yes, the pain persists on a personal and global level. Yet I continue to reach out, to reconnect, to that unwounded, infallible love that is within me and beyond me.
It’s something that can, perhaps, be explained away by the intellect. The words we assign to anything in life are inherently finite. How do we use our brain and language to define, process, and understand something that is Infinite?
But still, when others proclaim G-d doesn’t exist, I understand them. It’s only a word, after all, a simple combination of letters.
In fact, in Hebrew, there are many ways to refer to G-d, and some of the letter combinations aren’t actually pronounceable. So we prefer to use the term Hashem, which means “the name.”
The word “dog,” for example, represents this animal I adore, but it’s not the actual animal. If I use different words to describe my schnauzer-mix Diego, it doesn’t affect his existence. It doesn’t really matter what I call him. Only that I care for him, feed him, love him. Yes, I can see Diego with my eyes, I can feel his fur with my fingers. So I know he’s there.
But the truth is, if I sit quietly and clear the clutter and chatter of my mind, I know that Hashem is really here, too. I am breathing, my heart is beating, for now. I can feel my chest rise and fall. That breath is life, it is love, and can’t be denied.
The past few years I’ve been publishing a journal for Jewish women. We write about parts of ourselves and the world that need repair. We dig deep, get vulnerable, share some of life’s most painful experiences, and bring G-d into our writing and our artwork.
We aren’t afraid to talk about the life force that keeps us going. Even when things feel utterly painful, from the death of a child in a car accident to a Nazi officer killing a sister, these women choose to still seek the light. The pain didn’t break them.
When I lost a baby 10 years ago, the pain didn’t break me, either. But there are still moments when I feel pain so deeply that it’s indescribable, and I sometimes forget to call out to Hashem.
During my career as a writer, I have worked for Jewish organizations that do good work, yet G-d is rarely if ever mentioned. I was told by one coworker that we may be a Jewish organization, but that’s just culture. We aren’t allowed to share or discuss anything overtly religious, she said.
When I interviewed with a Catholic organization that does similar work, however, they told me that each morning the employees gather (now virtually) with prayer and introspection, a sharing of positivity and uplifting messages.
This dichotomy is confusing, but after generations of punishment for believing in G-d and practicing our religion, I think some Jewish people feel an inherent fear as well as a persistence of intergenerational pain.
So as a Jewish woman, why do I feel tasked with the mission of bringing down the light and love of G-d, when so many, including those closest to me, proclaim He’s not really there or shouldn’t be discussed?
Because I value truth and authenticity. And if I don’t speak up for goodness and light, our enemies will certainly step forward in darkness. A basic look at history confirms this.
There are no atheists in a foxhole, as the saying goes. In other words, when things feel desperate, and intellect can no longer save us, we go beyond what we know. We go to what we feel. And that is the Love of a Creator.
When you’re hurting, as I know many people are, especially now — why not set aside preconceived notions.
It starts with a simple breath. Maybe a few words uttered:
I’m here. And I need You. Please help.