Even before I found emuna, I learned a key principle: either you believe in G-d or you don't; but to believe in a part-time God with human limitations is pointless. And dangerous...
by Sunny Levi
Many years ago, I had a kickboxing instructor named Fred whose, I'll call it, unique understanding of G-d, sticks with me to this day. Because I was the only Jew in his class, Fred liked to share his ideas about Divinity with me. We were never able to have a two-way conversation though; he would just preach his ideas to me and I was expected to nod my head and listen.
One day after class, as the other students were clearing out, Instructor Fred came up to me and told me in a very matter-of-fact way, that over the weekend, a little girl ran out of his church, ran into the street, got hit by a car, and instantly died.
"People at the church were screaming, 'How could the L-rd let this happen? Where was He when she got hit?' And I said, 'It's Sunday, for crying out loud! G-d is inside the church! He can't be out in the street watching after one little girl when He is busy with hundreds of people in the church!'"
With total conviction and no remorse, Fred continued to defend his idea of G-d to me, and explain why the death of the little girl was actually her own fault, as she should have stayed inside the church where G-d was. After all, G-d can't be in two places at once and everyone knows that Sunday is His busy day.
And that was the day I realized I couldn't listen to Fred talk anymore. In fact, that was also the day I decided I could no longer even train under him. It's not that I was such a strong believer in G-d back then, in fact, I didn't have much of an opinion about G-d. However upon hearing his thoughts I learned one thing for sure: either you believe in G-d or you don't; but to believe in a part-time G-d with human limitations is pointless. And dangerous.
The memory of my encounter with Fred was recently triggered by numerous people's comments about current world events. The devastating hurricanes, fires, and Las Vegas shooting have unearthed many thoughts, beliefs, and opinions about G-d and his "semi-involvement" in the world that all ring a similar chord to that of Fred's.
People have said things like, "G-d did this but He didn't do that." Or "G-d is in control of some of these events but the rest of them are random." It's almost like they were saying, "G-d was not in Las Vegas during the mass shooting because he was too busy dealing with aftermath of the hurricane in Puerto Rico."
These limiting opinions about G-d, like Fred's, basically reduce G-d to the position of a glorified President; powerful, but only to a certain extent. If we believe in a G-d that is involved with only some of what goes on in the world, and only some of what happens to us in our personal lives, then how are we supposed to know when something is Divine Providence and when it isn't? Are we expected to just figure that out for ourselves? And if so, on what basis do we decide-is it the Hand of G-d running things when life goes smoothly for us, or is G-dly when we are hit with challenges? To me, it seems more rational to believe in a G-d who is always there and always involved, but that's not just my opinion, it also happens to be one of our principals of faith.
After giving more thought to these various conversations, opinions, and beliefs, which were brought to my ears by none other than G-d Himself, I remembered that they, like all other things that bother me in life, have a spiritual mirror embedded inside of them. This mirror is meant to reflect a piece of something similar which lives within me, hidden from my consciousness. It sure is easy to find the absurdity and loop holes in other peoples thinking, but it takes a lot of honest effort and brutal examination to find our own. Hearing these limiting comments about G-d has led me to investigate my own core beliefs in G-d, find out where my mental cut off point is, and work on changing it.
And what a gift it's been! It is so freeing to find a place in my thoughts where G-d has been shackled, and to set Him free. It has helped me feel lighter, more positive, and less afraid. G-d is there anyways, limitless, doing everything, whether we believe it or not. The only limits on G-d are the ones in our minds that we place on Him. And those limiting beliefs don't limit Him at all, they only limits us.
G-d knows our hearts and minds and He meets us where we are at. By working on expanding our belief in Him and by increasing our emuna, He will reward us by showing us more of Himself. So why live small? Why live under the rule of a part-time G-d?
The more we believe in Him the more reason He gives us to believe. So let's go for it!