What is God – Part 2: Is God a Person?

What is God – Part 2: Is God a Person?
for Part 1 go to: http://www.sholomchicago.org/blog/what-is-god-part-1/

For me, God is a metaphor, a symbol I use to try to grasp a transcendent mystery. I live in a world of constant ambiguity, and I can never be certain that my experiences of the holy are real or mere sentimentality. I use the notion of God to anchor my spiritual experiences and allow me to act as if they were real. Yet, certitude is never available.

But no less than Abraham Joshua Heschel disagrees. In a wonderful essay, “Symbolism and Jewish Faith,” Rabbi Heschel argues that Jews should want more than just a symbol, that they shouldn’t be satisfied with the uncertainty I feel. “The soul of the religious man lives in the depth of certainty. This is what God wants me to do. Where that certainty is dead, the most powerful symbolism will be futile.”

He goes on to say “Let us never forget: If God is a symbol, He is a fiction. But if God is real, then He is able to express his will unambiguously. Symbols are makeshifts, necessary to those who cannot express themselves unambiguously. . . . Harsh and bitter are the problems which religion comes to solve: ignorance, evil, malice, power, agony, and despair. These problems cannot be solved through generalities, through philosophical symbols. Our problem is this: Do we believe what we confess? Do we mean what we say? We do not suffer symbolically; we suffer literally, truly, deeply; symbolic remedies are quackery. The will of God is either real or a delusion.”

Some entries into our liturgy echo Rabbi Heschel. Mediation Number 35 in the Gates of Prayer says, “The description of God as a Person is indispensable for everyone who like myself means by ‘God” not a principle. . . and not an idea. . . but who rather means by ‘God,’ as I do, Him who – whatever else He may be – enters in a direct relation with us in creative, revealing, and redeeming acts, and thus makes it possible for us to enter into a direct relation with Him. . . . The concept of personal being is indeed completely incapable of declaring what God’s essential being is, but it is both permitted and necessary to say that God is also a Person.”

I am sure that many, many Temple congregants strive for this certainty that Heschel exalts. Obviously, if I agreed with these sentiments, my contributions to the Temple Blog would end here. Whither those of us for whom such certainties are elusive? We will turn to that in the next posting.

What does Astronaut Gordon Cooper have to do with Temple Sholom? Thursday in Temple Sholom History

Found a curious bit of info in the 1963 D’var from the first week of June. This small article (no more than 50 words) is titled L’envoi – Rabbi Binstock and Fredrick A. Eisenberg have signed it.

It’s a dedication that reads:

We close our past year of wonderful temple activities with the exciting outer space achievement of Astronaut Gordon Cooper still filling our minds and hearts with great pride and anticipation for the future. We cannot say “farewell” without expressing the hope that our achievements in inner space within our minds and hearts and souls through the ever increasing and inspiring thrust of Judaism will fill us with the same joy and anticipation – and above all PEACE.

Wednesday’s “Jewish Joke of the Day” – The Island

A cruise liner goes down in the Pacific and Benny is the only survivor. He manages to swim to an uninhabited island.
Many years later, when a search party finally comes to rescue him, they see that he has constructed TWO synagogues on his tiny island.

The captain notices and asks.. “hmm…Why TWO synagogues?”.

Benny points to the nearest one and replies, “Well, that’s the one I go to every Saturday. …And the other one – Oy.. that place! I wouldn’t go to that place if you paid me!”

WANTED: Music Lovers; Your Voices; You — to join us!

Sure I’m a musician, and yep I’m biased, but I can’t imagine anything more rewarding, more fulfilling, more spiritually uplifting and more fun than “making” music together. Most of my greatest memories are of singing or playing with friends who are dearest to my heart. Joining in the grandeur and mystery of human voices raised in song is truly one of the Devine’s most humbling gifts. But we need you! Cantor Katzman, Shir Shalom’s choristers and I have great plans for Temple Sholom’s music world, but none of it can happen without you. Plain and simple, we want to draft you!! We know that with nearly 1,000 families in our congregation that there are scores of talented individuals currently singing in the shower; or in the car along with the radio; or whistling happy tunes. Regardless of the category into which you fit, we want you to help us to grow our music program.

On account of it’s June – LGBT Pride!

For me this is one of the most exciting times in the LGBT Community because June is Pride Month. Beginning June 1, the LGBT community will contemplate our accomplishments over the past year and look to the next year and think about what are our next steps we need to take towards taking a seat at the table of equality; we are going to cast a sharp and at times a critical eye at ourselves as individuals and as community as well as compare ourselves to the ally community. Pride Month is not all about contemplation because the LGBT community loves having fun and Pride provides an opportunity for us to celebrate with our families, friends, allies, business and spiritual associates the positive changes that have occurred in the community over the past year. All the above, is just run up to biggest celebration party, the Pride Parade.

Are you a kosher culture vulture?

While Temple Sholom takes a Summer break from our Adult Ed and Religious School,
Saturday morning Minyan and Spirituality groups as well as our busy affiliates sponsor events year round. www.sholomchicago.org

But while we have longer days and warmer temps, let’s explore the greater Chicago Jewish experiences.

Check out some of the Jewish themed events happening now…

Mel Brooks documentary on PBS: Retrospective on his career.


The Pianist of Willesden Lane: Royal George Theatre, memoir of Lisa Yura as portrayed by her daughter.


The Invasion of Skokie: Mayer Kaplan JCC 5050 W. Dempster, Skokie. Drama explores the Nazi petition to march in Skokie in 1978


Shalom Chicago: Chicago History Museum, Clark Street at North Avenue*


Chicago Jewish Festival: June 10 Niles*


*family friendly

Support A Moratorium on Fracking in Illinois

Many of you may have heard about fracking but not be aware of what it is and the controversy surrounding this method of drilling for natural gas and oil. Fracking or hydraulic fracturing is the process of drilling for natural gas or oil using a large volume of water mixed with chemicals and sand. This is injected with high pressure into underground rock to force out the natural gas and oil.

Love Pasta & Goat Cheese? – Meatless Monday from Temple Sholom

When I decided to really limit the amount of meat that I ate I worried that I would struggle to find recipes that I liked and were filling. It seemed like all of my favorite recipes contained meat and that every new recipe I pinned on Pinterest was meat based. My sister has been a vegetarian for the past year, and to hear her talk being a vegetarian meant there were essentially three things you could eat: a garden salad, baked potatoes, and spaghetti. It’s worth noting that my sister has always been a ridiculously picky eater. Once when we were little kids she went through a long phase where she would only eat spaghetti (angel hair only) and meatballs. When I thought about it I realized that the fact that her diet narrowed to salads and baked potatoes actually had nothing to do with her being a vegetarian.
I knew that I really wanted to reduce the amount of meat I ate. It has been a goal of mine for a while, and the more I learn about the impact the meat industry has on the environment and the realities of factory farming the more important that goal becomes. I decided the easiest way to build a meatless recipe collection was to focus on what meat-free foods I knew I liked and searched for recipes that included them. I was surprised when I went through my cookbooks, recipes I’d saved online, and ones that were clipped up on my refrigerator how many meatless recipes I’d already highlighted as favorites. That definitely made going meatless more often a little easier.
There are few things I love more in the food world than pasta (of any kind) and goat cheese. So when I stumbled across a recipe that included both, could be completed in less than 30 minutes and only had two steps I knew I had to try it.

Pasta Salad with Goat Cheese and Arugula
Source: MarthaStewart.com
• Prep Time 10 minutes
• Total Time 25 minutes
• Yield Serves 4
• Coarse salt and ground pepper
• 3/4 pound gemelli or other short pasta
• 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
• 3/4 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese (3 ounces)
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
• 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
• 1 bunch arugula (8 ounces), torn
• 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Drain pasta and rinse under cold water. In a large bowl, toss pasta with beans and goat cheese.
2. Make dressing: In a bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, and mustard and season with salt and pepper. (To store, refrigerate pasta mixture and dressing separately, up to 1 day.) To serve, toss pasta mixture with dressing, arugula, and onion.

A Sweet Story

So, I am teaching on my new book at a local temple in Miami and someone comes up to share with me a Temple Sholom of Chicago story. Back in 1999, she was a new college graduate, singing in the Lyric Opera of Chicago and doing some work with Second City. She was alone in Chicago. She lived a few blocks away from Temple Sholom. Rosh Hashanah was approaching and she felt so lonely for her home back in Miami. She was an advertisement for practically free membership for twenty-somethings at Temple Sholom and she decided to check out Friday night services. While hazy on the details she remembers feeling an overriding wave of welcome and friendship from the moment she walked into the building.

Almost fifteen years later she still smiles as she remembers the warmth. She only stayed in Chicago a couple of years, but the friendliness of Temple Sholom of Chicago made all the difference.

I thought the congregation should know!

Temple Sholom History: Mayfair Day! May 1, 1963

Do you want to be THE MAYFAIR LADY?
50 years ago, Temple Sholom celebrated a MayFair, which sounds like a blast. The hall was dressed for May Day, “Fete Du Muguet”, with “a bower of beautiful shops”. The idea was to transport you to the continent of Europe – reminiscent of “Paree so Gay” or the eternal city with “authentic Italian décor and music”. There was everything imaginable for sale and every hour a special prize was awarded to one lucky attendant. Sitter service was available for “Trained tots”.

Happy May! If you get the right coupons, maybe you too could be The MAYFAIR LADY!
One thing I wonder about – there are many references to “The Little Theatre” – where was that at the Temple? – I’ll have to do more research.
Does anyone have any more info on this event ? It sounds as though it was amazing! Maybe MayFair will live again, one day.