A man down on his luck came to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s study one day. He was particularly depressed this morning because his wife and children left him, he lost his job, and he was out of money as somebody mugged him shortly before he arrived at the Rabbi’s door. “Rabbi, with all that’s happened to me, I have to say that I honestly can’t believe in a God that would allow all this to occur.” With compassion the Rabbi, who deeply believed in the Creator, told the man, “My dear friend, the God you don’t believe in, I also don’t believe in.”
It’s very easy to dismiss a God that resembles the anthropomorphic Deity as just a character in the Bible. The God of the Bible is cruel. This God gets vitriolic, is vindictive and is very violent. It’s true, the God portrayed in the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible reads like a very powerful but acutely unstable super being with exaggerated human emotions. Believing in the Biblical God is almost like having someone with Borderline Personality as your Higher Power.
In one of the Bible’s most famous books, the Book of Job, God actually makes a bet with Satan that Job, truly devoted to God, would remain faithful despite all the tragedies that Satan would arrange for him. In the face of losing his home, his children, and his livelihood, Job indeed proves devout but it is the end of the book that leaves the reader wondering if this is a God in which one can ever question, let alone believe.
A God that seems to purposely manipulate and control the universe, who is personally invested in each of our lives, and who has time for everybody and their prayers seems difficult to accept. A God that would let bad things happen to good people and vise versa is a concept that is hard to swallow. Because of this, many reject that there is a God at all and turn their back on any engagement with spiritual endeavors and thereby miss out on the benefits of living a life enriched with the pursuit of enlightenment.
The story of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak illustrates that many of us reject God based on a misunderstanding of the Biblical portrayal of God or a child’s perception of the Creator. Many people say that they are spiritual and not religious. But, perhaps more people would believe in God if they knew that there is more than one way to think about God. For some the word ‘God’ itself is a turnoff. In these cases, it’s been suggested that the Universe, and the force that created it and keeps it expanding, can be a stand in for the Divine. This depersonalization of God resonates with the transcendent and distant aspect of the God of Kabbalah.
In the end, one may choose to see the practice of Kabbalah not as a way of knowing God but rather as a practice for getting to know and refining the soul or the self. For most who fully embrace the age of information and technology and who perceive that their communities encompass the entire world, as much as it pains this clergy-person, the idea of finding spirituality in small and localized congregations seems not to be as enticing nor practical for the emerging generations. God is in technology if God is everywhere and whether one is comfortable with God or not, it is a basic component of being human, that we seek the transcendent, whether you call it God or something else.