Readers Respond to the "The Gender of G-d"

From Jennifer Daly in Dallas, TX:

Dear Kresel,

I quite enjoyed your page, very interesting. I was particularly interested in "The Gender of G-d." It reminded of something that happened a while back. I began to think about converting to Judaism years ago and began going to synagogue to see if it was what I really wanted. Well, it was, but gender politics got in the way. I was disgusted one Shabbat when a woman who was having an adult bat mitzvah ceremony began insistently referring to G-d as "she". For me it ruined what had otherwise been a beautiful and moving ceremony. It struck me that forcing gender on G-d in this manner was petty -- as if to say, "I can't relate to G-d unless G-d is like me" -- as if to force G-d, who definitely transcends human categories, to accept human limitations.

To make a long story short, that experience upset me so much that I quit attending services altogether for quite a while. It was only after living for more than three years without Judaism as a motivating force in my life that I realized how much I missed it. I drifted, I flailed around, and I found that very little was worth the effort as long as I ignored my belief in one G-d and the need to perform good deeds. After moving back to Texas recently, I started hunting around for a good shul. I think I found one and hope to speak to the rabbi this week about beginning formal study. I hope G-d gives me the strength and dignity I need to go through with this.

Thank you,

Jennifer

Click here for Jennifer's Home Page


Kresel responds:

BS"D

Thank you for your complimentary words and for making my point so well. All the best on your journey. If you haven't already, please check out my husband's article for potential converts to Judaism, Becoming Jewish.




From Samantha Henry in the UK:

Dear Kresel,

I thought that Jews were made in God's image? If so then how come God does not have bodyparts?

Also I'd like to thank you for your very interesting site. As a young reform Jew, studying for a GCSE in jewish studies your website not only gave me some great points to include in ansers when giving an orthodox, very religious vie but also left me with a lot to think about. Having been brought up in a feminist environment, with a woman rabbi I haven't really been given the information about the traditional role of women, only the "they belong in the kitchen" analogy. Your website was higly informational and very thought provoking, I read the whole thing!

On the other hand I did very much enjoy reading from the Torah on my bat mitzvah, it gave a very liberating feeling, and I felt truly a Jew and connected with God as I chanted my portion.

Thank you again,

Samantha

Kresel responds:

Thanks very much for your compliments. I'm flattered that you read my whole site - that's fourteen articles! I hope I have made it clear that a woman's role is not "just in the kitchen;" we are central in Jewish life.

I really like your question about body parts. Answering it requires me to quote directly from the Torah and explain it in depth, and opportunities like that always excite me. In turn, I hope this bit of Torah study will excite you as well, and you will understand, as I said in "The View from Within," that more important than reading aloud from the Torah in synagogue is learning It earnestly.

To begin, I would like to emphasize that all humans, Jews and non-Jews, are made in G-d's image. The Torah teaches us this in the discussion of the Creation of Adam and Eve, and ALL of humanity descends from them. (Jewish identity begins twenty generations later with Abraham.) The verse reads as follows: "And G-d created the human in His image, in the image of G-d He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)."

Notice that the last clause in the verse refers to the female human, Eve, but that is not the question at hand. You asked about the meaning of the word "image." Does it imply that G-d has a physical body and that our bodies are replicas? The Talmudic Rabbis teach us that the meaning of that word, which is "tzelem" in the original Hebrew, does not refer to physicality at all. Rather, it refers to our intellectual and spiritual capacities, most specifically our ability to make decisions, our free will.

As I wrote in The Jewish Facts of Life, human beings are a miraculous combination of physical and spiritual. That we have spiritual capacities, that we can stretch our minds to contemplate the non-physical, that our hearts can soar with lofty feelings and connect to G-d, is what makes us in "G-d's image." Often, we take these gifts for granted, but they make us unique in creation. Each and every human being is a microcosm of G-dliness, and that is why the Rabbi ben Azzai of the Talmudic Era said that the biggest "golden rule" of the Torah is to honor all human beings.


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