God

Knowing The Plan

This week is my 33rd blog post. Tomorrow is also the 33rd day of the Omer (the count from Passover to Shavuot) which marks the holiday of Lag Baomer.

The coincidence did not escape me.
I’m a connections kind of person. A deeper meaning kind of gal.
I grew up with the concept of Hashgacha Pratis (literally translated to divine providence,) which means that nothing is coincidental or accidental, everything happens for a reason. Every moment, every leaf, and every wrong turn has its purpose and place in the grand scheme of things.
That concept has always given me so much comfort, and more than that, it gives life an air of optimism and mystery.
Life is full of mystery. Honestly, every moment is a mystery, we never know what the next moment will bring.
I like to be in control. I avoid depending on people as much as possible, I like to get things done on my own, I like being the master of my own destiny.
So you can see how allowing G-d to be in control can be a little difficult for me.
Remembering that ultimately, I have no control over what happens in my life is something I constantly struggle with.
But at the same time, I have this deep, deep understanding that G-d really is always in control.
Hence, the connections.
When the subway takes too long at a stop, or I randomly choose a different route to walk, or something happens which forces me to do something I wasn’t planning on doing – that’s when I know G-d is in control.
I know that there is a reason my life is taking this path. It is not random or accidental.
But a moment later…when the reason behind what happened is not revealed to me, my spirits begin to plummet.
See, I’m happy for G-d to move around the pieces in a way that I don’t understand. But when even afterward I still don’t get to see the full picture, I feel a little cheated. When I think the signs that I am seeing are so clear, but then everything they were pointing to falls apart, and I realize how little I know, and how little what I think actually matters to the plan.
See, when I realized that it was the 33rd day of the omer when I would be writing my 33rd blog post, my brain went scrambling for reasons, connections.
I came up with a few.
The 49 days of the omer are meant to be a time of working on oneself, going through the various good attributes we have, and sharpening them.
For 33 weeks, I have been working hard at writing blog posts, each week focusing on something else in my life and my personality. It has forced me to look at myself honestly, and open up.
On the 33rd day of the omer, we have been looking at our attributes for 33 days already. We have been refining ourselves, trying harder, taking notice of what can be done better.
There was no specific reason I chose to begin writing weekly blog posts 33 weeks ago, I had no idea that it would line up this way. Which means – there’s got to be a connection, right?
It’s a little bit far-fetched, I know.
Pretty much everyone I know would chalk this up to a very random coincidence because honestly, it doesn’t really matter.
But it gives me joy to connect the dots. To see the reasoning behind things. To feel like I am part of a plan, to perhaps see the faint outlines of G-ds pen.
Maybe I’m too uptight. Maybe I need to let go a little bit, to learn how to depend on others, and most of all, to learn how to depend on G-d. Maybe to survive through life, one just has to be laid back, and not try so hard to understand everything that happens around us.
But that doesn’t feel right to me. It doesn’t seem like the way I want to live. I’d rather continue to thank G-d when the little things go right, and notice Him in every part of my day, than to loosen up and forget that He’s there.
It’s a difficult balance to find. Like with everything in life, there are pros and cons to every path we take.
There is one thing I know for sure – everything happens for a reason. Everything is connected, and everything has a purpose. The dots are there. But for whatever reason, G-d has chosen to not show me which dots connect to which. He has chosen to not reveal the why’s behind each choice He makes, which has made for some very anger filled prayers on my part.
It’s nice when we get it, but it’s not important for us to get it. The important part for me is to realize that there is a reason – and that’s all.
I will never stop hoping that G-d reveals His plan a little more, that He’ll let me peek, that one day soon He’ll let me understand why I take those wrong turns.
But until then, I will do my very best to unclench my fists a little bit, to trust that He can handle it, that He has heard my prayers and that despite the fact that things seem very scattered at the moment, He has a way of changing things in a moment.

I will continue to pray that my prayers be answered, and I look forward to knowing that they already have been.

I’ll just be over here taking deep breaths and eating chocolate.

 

Blog Post: 33/52


Featured Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

What Do I Know?

There are things I know
and so much I don’t.
I don’t know
why people kill people
or if we should have guns
I don’t know
how humans survive
the human condition.
I don’t know
why illness is prevalent
why hate is so strong
why people suffer.

I do know
that I believe in a G-d.
that there is a higher power,
I have heard Him say yes,
and I have heard Him say no.

I know that I want my children to
grow up with that knowledge,
for it makes one humble.

I know that we are more
powerful
and more
powerless
than we believe.
I know that humans are only people.
There are humans that are more learned,
more skilled,
more educated.
None of them have more power.
None of them can prove
that my G-d does not exist.

I don’t know
what tomorrow will bring
I do know
what yesterday gave
I don’t know
what I don’t know
and each day
I learn
That I know
Almost
Nothing
At
All.
Blog Post: 23/52

Featured Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Behind the Prayer

This poem is a journey through Shmoneh Esrei, the Amidah, in my daily morning prayer. It’s about connection, it’s about distraction, it’s about trying. Open up your siddur – follow along.

Three steps backward,
Three steps forward.
the same G-d that Avraham spoke to,
Yitzchak, Yaakov:
He’s listening to me.

Bend, bow, straighten,
May the winds blow
and the rains fall,
and the crops grow.
 __
May the ones we’ve loved,
yet unwillingly lost,
be returned.
 __
Can G-d really return them?
Will he?
There is an itch on my ankle.
 
You are holy,
Your name is holy,
Bless me with an ounce
of the wisdom You hold.
 —
Closed fist,
repentance
I am sorry for not being
the person I could be.
 
Heal us,
Heal me,
Heal the parts
that we don’t know

need healing.

I say these words every morning
Is He listening this time?
Can He hear me?
Did I say this paragraph yet?
Did I skip a page?
My lips know the words
better than my mind does.
 
Hear me G-d,
listen to my prayer
Thank you, G-d, for every gift,
every blessing,
every right side up.
Allow me to strip myself of limits
Let me smile more
Let my dreams come true
May I find the man
Whom I will walk this lifetime with,
May we recognize each other.
Please, G-d, listen closer.
Let this life be one of happiness.
 
Bow, straighten.
Thank you for waking us up today,
For the miracles,
the big ones,
the small ones,

The ones we don’t see.

Please, G-d, let there be peace.
Please, G-d, let there be peace.
How many times can I say it,
How many times does it take,

for it to get to His throne?
 —

Three steps backward,
Bow to the left,
to the right,

forward.

 —

Blog Post: 18/52


Is G-d Crying Too?

Dear G-d,

I’m trying to reach out. I’m trying to force past the stone wall that is inside my heart. I’m trying to reach my soul, the soul that has been weeping for days.
I’ve been weeping for days.
Just a few days ago, you took a soul from this earth, a loved soul, a soul that was accomplishing beautiful things.
I did not know him.
But his illness made an incredible impact on me.
G-d, I know you remember. For the weeks that he was sick, I was gaining strength in my spirituality. I was becoming a better person. I was more focused. I tried to think positively, something that does not come naturally to me. I tried things I’d never done before in Judaism. I started a small Chassidus study group with friends, something I’d wanted to do for a long time.
His illness, and the hope I felt that I could create some change, pushed me to do so many things. Good things. Things that felt right.
And I was so sure. Like so many, I was sure that I was making a difference. I felt the words I said in my siddur, in my tehillem, my actions, I felt them go straight to the sea of prayers filled with the prayers from everyone else. I saw the sea rising, turning the situation in our favor.
There was not a single doubt in my mind that he would pull through.
Because I trusted. I trusted you, G-d. I trusted that you would look upon your children, your precious, sweet children, and recognize what was happening. You’d see how something that is known for producing so much evil, the internet, had produced so much good. You’d see how thousands were committing to being more connected to their Judaism, people were taking steps forward, and in this process, G-d, people were falling in love with you.
For the first time in months.
For the first time in years.
For the first time, ever.
But then…you broke that trust.
You refused to allow us to witness a miracle.
I won’t speak for others.
I’ll speak only for myself.
But G-d, I have never, in my life, felt this type of anger towards you.
Perhaps it’s because I am lucky. I have never been faced with such a hidden revelation.
A human life is likened to an entire world, and I have never seen that so clearly. He was one man, one man that united an entire world, one man that is being mourned by strangers.
Wouldn’t it have been easy, G-d?
Aren’t you all-powerful?
Aren’t you the one who chooses which way our lives go?
Couldn’t you have given us this?
If our reality was different, G-d, I would not be angry.
The words in my siddur would not be tasting like sawdust.
Going the extra mile in my Judaism would not feel like a marathon.
Yet you chose the reality.
You chose this reality.
Yet…
If everything I have ever learned is true, G-d, I know you are weeping too.
I know the punches we throw mean nothing and everything to you at the same time.
I know that for each one of our hearts that break, your heart comes apart a little more.
I know that the pain we feel is your pain too.
And as I open my siddur, against my will, and as I pray to you and praise you, against my will, my soul bursts through. And I know that this is why my soul lives inside of me.
Because when doing anything for you is against my will, my soul has no choice in the matter. My soul clings to you, desires you, lives for you.
We don’t know the bigger plan, and that truth fills me with agonizing pain.
You know the bigger plan, yet something tells me that even with that knowledge, you are filled with agonizing pain as well.
You are covered in wounds from our hot tears. From the shards of our broken hearts.
Because as we cry, you gently hold us in your hands, ignoring your pain so that you can be there for ours.
When we drift off to sleep, that is when you weep, filled with a misery that can only come from the knowledge that to get us to the greatest good, you must put us through the greatest pain.
I am furious with you, G-d.
Yet I pity you.
And as I cry and search for the comforting embrace, I offer you my shoulder.
Because I know that this is not something anyone wanted. Not us. Not our souls.

Not even you.


Blog Post: 9/52

Feature Photo by Cherry Laithang on Unsplash

The Day the Angels Spoke Up

It was just another day in heaven, and a collection of angels had joined G-d in the human production wing for their day’s work. G-d was carefully putting together the day’s newest soul to join the world and laying down the final touches that the soul would now need during its time on earth.
The angels worked quickly and silently, passing G-d each tool and gift He required.
“Can you pass me the Free Choice from that shelf?”
The angels responded with a deep silence.
None of them made any move towards the shelves.
G-d looked up, His displeasure clear on His expression, “is something wrong?”
The angels all looked uneasily at each other. Finally, one, who had a reputation for bravery in the face of holier beings, cleared her throat and stepped forward.
“My Majesty, forgive me for being so out of line, but we have been watching earth and we can’t help but weep at what we see. Would it be so terrible to remove Free Choice from the human species? They are constantly making the wrong choices. The world is falling apart at the seams,” she looked around at her fellow angels for support “and we remember, we were there when you sewed each stitch so carefully.”
G-d turned His face away, and when He looked back, the angels were shocked to see tears falling from their King, who usually reserved His tears for when He was in His most hidden chambers.
The angels eyed each other, suddenly awkward and uncomfortable.
“I’m so sorry, that was so uncalled for,” stammered the angel who had spoken up, now seriously considering disappearing.
“No,” G-d spoke finally, a voice heavy with emotion “you speak the truth.”
The angels let out the collective breath they had been holding, though still unsure of what to do.
They hovered quietly, waiting to see what G-d’s next instructions would be.
“I know that you find yourself disappointed with the human kind.” He started slowly.
They all nodded, slightly ashamed. They all remembered each tireless fight between the angels and G-d, always born out of this sensitive topic. G-d always took the side of His people.
With a sigh, G-d opened the door to the human production wing, and the angels knew He wanted them to follow. They swept along the halls, following their King to the other side of heaven, where the Earth Observation wing was.
As the door slid open, the angels inside gaped at who stood in the door. G-d rarely stepped foot inside this wing, being that He was all-knowing and all-seeing and did not require the extra assistance that the angels needed.
They immediately moved out of the way, allowing access to all of the controls. G-d waited until all the angels had gathered.
Angels in the middle of other ethereal tasks noticed the commotion as they moved past, and gathered at the edges of the wing as well.
“I will allow a short break in our tasks because I feel that this is of utmost importance to discuss before we can carry on,” G-d announced.
Curious, the angel’s inched closer.
“I have been alerted to the fact that there is some dislike for the continued use of Free Choice for the human species.”
The angels that had just been pushing to get closer cringed and moved back. They looked around accusingly, trying to spot the angel that had sprung the leak.
“Everyone in this universe is my creation. Including all of you. It would do you well to complete each of your tasks and leave earth and it’s people to Me. But, because you have been discussing this amongst yourselves, I find that I cannot go about creating more humans before I clear this up.”
With that, G-d turned to the controls and began moving things around. The angels watched, nervously, as scenes unfolded before them.
Quickly, scene after scene unfolded of members of the human species, men, women, and children, making choices with their Free Choice privilege.
They watched as a father sat in his New York office, making the decision to sacrifice a promotion to be able to spend more time with his family. They watched as a child, three dollars held tightly in her chubby fist, made the choice between a new toy and charity, gifting the three dollars to a homeless man on the street.
They watched a mother gently discipline her child, despite how easy it would be to give in to his whims.
They watched as humans of all kinds across the earth continuously made the right choices, and as each time, that small part of the world was lit up with a joy and light so deep and warm, the angels could feel it all the way back up in heaven.
After a few minutes, G-d turned back to the angels, who stood, all smiling, much more relaxed. A chorus of “we are so sorry, of course, You’re right.” came from the crowd.
One voice stood out.
“Excuse me,”
The angels all stared at the angel who dared to differ.
“May I?”
The angel strode forward, her fellow angels recognizing her as the one who had spoken up in the first place.
They all eyed G-d, unsure of His reaction. He moved back, allowing her access to the controls.
She moved some things around and suddenly the room was filled with horrible images of mass murder, greed, and human cruelty.
The angels gasped, cowering.
“How can this be ignored?” the angel turned to her friends “We were only shown the images of the humans making the right choices – but what about when they make the wrong decisions? How can we allow them to destroy the gift they have been given? They are mindless idiots, making foolish, cruel decisions!”
“Stop!” roared G-d.
The angels stared at G-d, begging for an explanation. An answer. He only responded with deep, broken sobs.
Through His tears, G-d maneuvered the scenes again and the angels watched as two scenes unfolded before them.
They were the same scenes, but it was immediately obvious to the angels that in one scene, the human had Free Choice, and in the other, he did not.
In the scene lacking Free Choice, the human did not spend time wondering what to do. He did not even eye the wrong choice, or give it a moments thought. He efficiently and painlessly did the right thing and quickly moved on. Sparks flew, and the world warmed slightly from the good deed.
The angels sighed in contentment as they watched. What a beautiful, safe world it would be when Free Choice was no longer an option.
The room full of angels moved their attention to the scene with the human gifted with Free Choice. They watched as the human sat, making the decision. He made lists, and wandered far, seeking the counsel of others. Tears were shed, and a deep pain was felt in the midst of the indecision. The struggle seemed to be tearing the human apart.
“See!” cried out the courageous angel “Look at the pain of the human, a pain that would not exist without Free Choice.”
“Quiet!” roared G-d, anger flashing in His eyes.
The angels watched, breath held, as the human contemplated, and thought, and grew as he made the decision.
Finally, the human made the right choice.
The observation room exploded with applause, great big smiles spreading across the angels.
They watched as the world was engulfed in a spiritual fire that reached all four corners of the world, embracing all of mankind and refining the earth as a whole.
The room was silent again, for even the once courageous angel felt foolish now.
The difference between the two scenes was laughable.
G-d looked closely at each angel “Do you see now?”
They all nodded, quite humbled.
“There will be pain. There will be hurt. They will make the wrong choices. I created them – I knew that they would mess up.” Each angel felt as if G-d was speaking to them alone as He looked around the room “But how can we have a world in which no true decisions must be made? I can create a world as holy and pure as I want, but as soon as I wrote humankind into the script, I gave them the power to create a world that is holier and more beautiful than I ever could do alone. Yes, the path is filled with blood and tears. It hurts terribly each time they choose evil over good.”
Some of the more sensitive angels began to cry.
“Remember,” G-d said gently “they are doing the work that none of us could do. And as painful as it is for us, the pain for them is double. They are bringing the world to its ultimate completion.”
The angels wiped their tears, thoroughly chastised and humbled.
“Now, back to work!” G-d instructed, sending angels flying back to their stations.
As they filed back into the human production wing, the angels dared not speak. G-d took His place again at the table.
“Now, let us try this again. Can I have the Free Choice?”
The angels all clamored to be the one to pass it over. After much ado, it finally made its way to G-d.
He smiled kindly and placed it inside the soul.
He then gently wrapped the soul in its protective garments that would keep it intact for its tumultuous journey on earth. He placed it carefully in the arms of the angel handpicked to accompany the soul.
G-d leaned forward, and lay a soft kiss on the soul and whispered:
“My pure, darling soul…make the right choices.”

Blog Post: 5/52


Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

This year, I pray for G-d.

Dear G-d,

5,778 years ago You gently handcrafted each being, each blade of grass, each solitary piece of sand.
I know time means nothing for You. For You, space is as wide as it is small. I know that You have The Master Plan. But surely, even You could not have foreseen it getting…this bad.
Everywhere I look, there is destruction – if not of physical buildings than of people, families, values.
Those who are desperately desiring peace cannot get through to the protesters, the protesters cannot understand why there are people who seem to be passively allowing the world to crumble around them.
There is so much pain, so much hatred, so much of the ability for us to forgive has been lost.
Costs of basic necessities have skyrocketed, religions are mocked and looked down upon. The rushing oceans are thick with pieces of our lives we forget to be grateful for, beautiful animals are becoming extinct. The world quakes in fear of the next disaster, the next time mankind will strike out against their own.
Hurricanes ravage small islands, earthquakes split the very land we walk on.
It’s as if even the depths of the earth are crying out “enough! Enough!”
Our nation seems to be in shreds, never before so divided, never before so wary of each other.
It is a terrifying world to grow up in.
Yet when I shared this sentiment with a friend, who can always be relied on to see the glass half full, she shook her head.
She disagreed.
She said, “Look how far we’ve come!”
She said, “We have been dealt many unfair cards, yet we persevere as a people.”
G-d, this Rosh Hashonah, greeting You in synagogue will be an exhausted people. Your children are broken. Many have lost loved ones. Many have lost homes. Many are battling wars in their bodies and in their minds.
All are searching. All are searching for You.
You, G-d, who 5,778 years ago, handcrafted each one of us.
You, G-d, who lovingly wrote each word of The Master Plan.
Look upon us G-d, and see Your people. See how we still stand before you. See how we have not let the ravaging waters steal our faith, even when there was every reason to let go.
G-d, You came to us, You were in the fields. Have you not wept each day? Have You not tenderly looked at us, moved by our convictions, touched by our dedication?
As You leave the field, pockets filled with tear-stained prayers, as You climb upon your throne again, allow Yourself to be rid of whatever is holding You back.
Look down upon the earth You promised to never destroy, and stay true to that promise.
We are the people who You so desired.
We have given our all, we have scratched the bottom of the barrel.
We are here, G-d.
And doesn’t that just say enough?
With deep prayers for a better tomorrow,
Sincerely,
Yours.
Blog Post: 2/52

Featured Image: Photo by Jack Hamilton on Unsplash

When It’s Not Okay

After a weekend of really bad news, there have been a thousand and one thoughts flying through my head.

Many of them are about how G-d is just really really cruel sometimes, and that I’m not so cool with that.

There has been a lot of uncertainty in the country right now. I don’t care to join the conversation about politics because I have yet to see a conversation of that sort that leads to anything positive.

But there’s no denying that everyone is in a time of upheaval, confusion, a universal unsettledness.

There’s this poem I wrote months ago. I haven’t shared it. I don’t know why.

Maybe, because it was waiting for now.

Maybe, because when I wrote it, I somehow knew there would a time that it would be more important. More applicable.

I haven’t blogged in a long time. Politics have taken up everything, and by not wanting to talk about them, my inspiration for posts dried up. I had plenty to say, but nothing to share.

So here. Here is my poem. It came from the depths of my heart. I share it now, tear-stained but hopeful. May it reach your souls, embrace you, lift up your spirit and your heart.

This poem is because everything is hard. But everything is also beautiful.

To My Creator:

Are You there?

I don’t mean “Do You exist?”

I know that You exist,

I tried to believe that You didn’t once

but my soul taught me otherwise.

I know now that You exist –

You were there when I was born.

Are You there?

I ask that because I have a long list,

A bucket full of prayers

and I need You to focus.

Are You there?

May I begin by asking

that You remind me that

Believing in You

Does not mean that life is without

Stubbed toes

And mumbled curses

Bad days

And cold showers.

Believing in You

means believing those things have purpose.

Let me keep remembering that.

I pray that You give me the gift

Of being able to leave my comfort zone

without asking “Do I look okay?”

Give me the gift of walking out

Head held high

Letting the world take me as I am.

I pray that You grant me the ability

to change this earth,

To have Your words speak through my fingers,

To warm souls and mend hearts.

I pray that You allow me the joy of a soul-mate,

That I recognize when he is standing in front of me,

That You orchestrate circumstances 

To let us build a future

Without the pain it can involve.

I pray that You let my mind keep growing,

Let my heart keep caring,

Let my eyes still glance around 

Searching for someone who needs help.

I pray that You lift my head up when it begins to fall,

That You hold my hand when I’m ready to bolt,

That You continue to allow me life’s simple joys,

Like chocolate chip cookies,

and a sunflower picked fresh from the ground.

Allow me to write stories and poetry,

and let them all mean something,

except when they don’t need to mean anything

but comfort.

Let each of my actions hold purpose,

Let me not waste minutes and hours and days.

Let the depths of my hearts wants,

Like blessings to fall upon all those around me,

Be overwhelmingly plentiful.

Most of all,

Tomorrow,

When these prayers are not answered,

The way that I seek for them to be,

Allow me to come back,

And keep praying,

With open eyes,

and an open heart,

And the same sure belief,

that You are there.

 

How Do I Return?

I’ve never met an Elul that I did not regret.

Elul is the month that leads up to the High Holidays, and it serves as a chance to re-connect before greeting G-d in the synagogue.

As I cook, and dress, and prep for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashonah, my heart always feels heavy with guilt. Yet again, I let an entire month meant for returning slip by.

I’ve learned my entire life that the entire month is an auspicious time, that G-d is closer than He ever is, that if there was any a time to connect, it was now.
Yet, even when I would go to school every day, the wires just didn’t connect. I didn’t get it. It was hard to visualize G-d being closer when there was no tangible proof of it.
This Elul, I wanted to do it differently. I wanted to be able to feel accomplished when I got to Rosh Hashonah. This year, I’ll really repent. This year, I’ll take advantage of G-ds closeness.
But it’s hard.
It’s really hard.
I’ve been keeping an Elul diary, and I’m not seeing the point.
How can I repent for sins that I keep repeatedly doing?
Elul is not for the weak of heart, and my heart is far from strong.
I’ve been taught, and taught repeatedly, that Elul is not about taking out your book of wrongdoings and crying over them, begging for forgiveness. It’s about returning to who your soul is. Ridding yourselves of the outward anger, confusion, desires, and coming back home.
But, I’m so very human, and G-d does not make this come easy in any way.
My soul is still very much sending mixed signals. I’m not always sure what my soul actually wants and what makes it happy. I have a hard time following things by the book, and if that’s what my soul is searching for, than I’m not sure how we ended up together.
I keep trying to work on small goals, but even those are so out of reach. I beg G-d for guidance, I beg Him for assistance, and all I get in return is my own two hands and my beating heart.
I have to do this on my own, otherwise it won’t be true.
I thought my Elul would be full of meaningful soul-searching, developing a new deep love for all things Judaism, a month that would glide me towards an even more beautiful month of holidays.
But I was shocked back to real life by the real dirty hard work of it. The painful discoveries. The struggle of facing yourself.
My goal in this moment is to not regret Elul. To not have an important and deeply valuable gift slip through my fingers once more. It may hurt, it may feel like I’m not doing much at all at some points. Perhaps I won’t be. Maybe some days I’ll make great strides, moving fast in my ideal direction. But it’s not about how much I get done this month. It’s not about being the perfect Jew, or coming out with no flaws, or empty of tears.
What I’m learning this Elul is that it’s about the struggle and the work, and thinking about what makes Elul important. It’s about recognizing that G-d is close, even if I don’t feel it. It’s about not wanting to regret Elul, and doing something about it. Even if that something is tiny, and small, and only takes up moments of my day.
My Elul is certainly not on the levels of others. I’m sure that others feel a tangible feeling in the air, I’m sure that others devote extra time to pray and take on big new commitments.
For now, my Elul is starting with waking up and being aware of where I stand, and whom I stand in front of. It’s about not letting the days pass by without thought.
It’s not about the enormous gestures that I can make if those gestures won’t last.
It’s about the little things, even if that’s just taking a moment in each day to remember that G-d is close, and that He is listening.

A Social Experiment: Is My G-d Your G-d?

It’s been almost one entire year since I took to the streets of Brooklyn to ask one question.

If you’re an avid reader of this blog, or have spent any sort of time with me, you know that people are not my strong point. I’m a joke when it comes to small talk and I’d rather sit in an empty field than go to a party. But, despite the extents I go to avoid them, I love people. I love observing them, understanding them, writing about them. My alter ego would be able to instantly connect with every person I meet, but the real me prefers to write stories about them in my head.

Therefore, when I got the idea to ask strangers one question to get the answer to a burning question in my own mind, I knew it would take a lot of climbing out of my comfort zones.

But I did it.

I tossed around the finished product, got really close to it being published somewhere, had that thrown back in my face and therefore pushed it to a far corner for a while. It felt like a failure because it couldn’t be published. The more I thought about it, the more I belittled it and myself for assuming this would bring anything great to the world.

But one thing that has always been a burning passion in my heart and mind is the idea that we are all in essence the same. No matter what our outward appearances say, or what history tells us, we all come back to the same core, and I wish that I could bring that fact to more ears and eyes. Yes, this social experiment is the tiniest iota of what that realization would mean. But how can I pretend it means nothing?

If this social experiment that I did on one hot summer day in NY with my friend Nechama helps one person recognize that we are all the same inside, and makes them a kinder, more forgiving human, than it has accomplished something.

Now that I have given the introduction a longer introduction, please take a few more minutes to look at and think about the following:

Is My G-d Your G-d?

One late night I was thinking far too deeply, as I do, and I began to ponder the image of G-d. I don’t mean idols, or any sort of thing like that. I found myself thinking about how I automatically view G-d in my head. My brain had absentmindedly painted a picture of what G-d meant to me. I was suddenly terribly curious.  I always find myself  fascinated by what other people think and the way their brains work. Naturally, I wanted to go on a quest to find out how others translated G-d in their heads.

So I did.

One hot summer day, I took to the streets of Crown Heights in Brooklyn, NY,  with my friend Nechama Kotlarsky (a fabulous photographer) and stopped people of all ages on the street to ask them one simple question:

When I say the word G-d, what comes to mind?

The results were pretty fascinating.

The first reaction to the question was a raw answer. Given another few seconds, people began to express what I was so curious about. The way their brains translated something they knew at the core.

I learnt something special on my quest of curiosity. I didn’t quite know what I was searching for when I started, but at the end I realized what was so awesome about us Jewish folk.

We all have our own brains and imaginations, and everywhere you look; you see it being used for incredible, wonderful things. Our creativity is powerful and creates magic. The way we view our G-d differs when we use our imagination, but at the end of the day? We do all have one G-d. Sure, on the outside we all seem different, because of the way we translate it in our heads, our actions and our dress. But look into the innermost part of a Jew, and you find that deep down, under all our differences, we all do have the same G-d.

The results below, pictured and non-pictured (It was a hot day, most people refused a photograph) show humans that are different from each other; but watch, and feel what I felt on my journey through the streets:

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“The One and only Creator who created the world”

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“Is there one word? Creator, All-Mighty, heaven and earth..”

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“The creator of the Jewish people.”

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“He is the Creator. He is very holy, I feel awe when I think of Him.”

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“I used to see G-d as a flaming Aleph, but then my four year old nephew made me rethink it when he reminded me that G-d is everything. So, my answer is everything”

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“It’s hard for me to put one image to it. He created everything”

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“There isn’t one image. He is everything”

 

Non-Pictured:

“A flame. A Creator”

“Creator, ruler of all things”

“The all powerful Creator”

“A great light, warming everything, being the pulse behind everything”

“Soul, clouds, heaven, spiritual air, unseen sparks. But at the same time, an angel like King”

“G-d is something really great, above everything and at the same time within everything in this world”

“A grandfather with kind eyes, and the sky”

“An all knowing force, that keeps the world running in ways that even we cannot comprehend”

My image?

I can see the whole world in my mind’s eye. Surrounding it and within it is a vapor, encompassing everything. The only thing is that my G-d’s got googly eyes.

My walk through the minds of strangers was captivating. It was a terribly hot day. Those who live in or have visited NYC in the summer months know what I’m talking about.  Anyone who was outside was in a rush to reach air conditioning. The conversations were quick, short and to the point. I worked on how quick I could explain my entire mission before they ignored me and kept walking. So many people had no interest in aiding a young girl on a hot day with a seemingly purposeless mission. They didn’t know that I had a mountain (small hill?) of data, and that they would be part of something bigger. It was just another lesson I learnt that day – how often do I fold myself into the city life, ignoring those around me? How often do I think that all I see is what there is, and that my actions don’t have lasting effects? The first few people that ignored me or refused to take part kicked my self-esteem to the the ground. Each time, I had to take a deep breath, get up my bravado again and remind myself of my goal.

I wanted to do this. It was my chance to prove to myself that I could get answers to my questions if I put effort into it. I could have lived life with this question niggling in the back of my head occasionally. That is more in line with the way I live – grand schemes planned in my head, and that’s where they stay. This time though I knew I could do it. So despite the heat and my crushed ego, I pressed forward. If only to prove to myself that I can do things that I put my mind to. Then, of course, there was the question. What did G-d mean to everyone else? I was so curious. For weeks, it took up my thoughts. I’d ask the question to friends and family, trying to find the pattern. I felt like it was important. It could teach me something. It could teach others something.

As a girl with dreams living in a frum world, for years I felt as if real imagination was too foreign a concept to bring to the table. Most things in Torah are non-negotiable, and the fact that we all imagine G-d in different ways always struck me as strange. Almost wrong. Shouldn’t we all imagine G-d the way we are taught? He doesn’t have an image, we are His image, and anything else is not quite right. As I grew, I realized how faulty my thinking was. G-d created all of us, and while doing that, He threw in all these things that made us unique and different. Especially the way our brains work. Imagination was the secret ingredient that He gave in order that the world be decorated, beautiful and continuously advanced. When I realized that I had an image of G-d in my head, I knew that the rest of the world had one too. Then I wondered how it balances out with our lives as religious Jew’s. I knew there had to be a home base, somewhere that we could all come back to when our imaginations went a little too far.

I wasn’t disappointed.

I was awed by how many people vehemently said  that He is the Creator, when that is such an argued concept in the world these days. But no matter what, the one thing they were most sure about was that He created everything and that He was the life source behind it all. When they began to think about it, they said different things. When they put their own thoughts and imagination to work, the differences that make the world beautiful began to show its colors. But no matter what, at the core of each one, we all whole-heartedly believed in who He is at His essence. Our Creator.