There Is a God

A Chasidic story tells of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev who told the members of his community one morning that at noon that day he would have an important announcement to make and that everyone should gather in the synagogue to hear what he had to say. The townspeople were abuzz with curiosity and intrigue about what their rabbi would have to say. Would he reveal that he was leaving town and heading to another community? Would he announce that he was ill and in need of treatment? Would he announce that he had written a new book or that he was about to make an important halakhic ruling? At the appointed hour the townspeople gathered in the shul and watched in silence as their rabbi ascended his pulpit. The great rabbi cleared his throat, and said: “Chevre, my people, I called you here today, in the middle of a workday, to tell you that there is a God.” The rabbi did not elaborate or offer any additional insights to his statement. Instead, he turned around and left the shul. The people were dumbfounded. Of course there is a God, they said to one another. But as they thought about what the rabbi had said, they realized that it was something they needed to hear and contemplate. Their bewilderment at having been asked to interrupt their day to hear the rabbi say something obvious was replaced with a sense of awe that he had shown them an important truth.

There is a God. Perhaps that is a statement that not everyone can make with conviction, but it is one that we ought to consider seriously. Countless theological books have been written across time, including books on Jewish theology, and there are numerous views of what God is and how we should try to understand the Divine. All of these theological ideas begin with the idea that there is a God. However we define or understand God, human beings tend to feel an impulse, an intuition, that there is a Sovereign Being who is the architect of life itself. There is no proof that God exists, only circumstantial evidence. The statement “There is a God” is not a point of fact, nor is it an expression of our intellect. It is, rather, an offering of our soul.

Beginning this Saturday night, we will celebrate the festival of Shavuot. Coming exactly seven weeks after Passover, Shavuot commemorates God’s revelation to the People of Israel at Mt. Sinai shortly after the Exodus from Egypt. We celebrate by studying Torah on the eve of the first day, by gathering for prayer and the reading of the Ten Commandments, and by sharing meals with family and friends. Shavuot does not ask us to articulate a theology or express a fully developed idea of what we believe about God. It merely asks us to affirm that which the ancient Israelites understood as they gathered at the foot of a mountain centuries ago, that there is a God. Because there is a God, we will behave differently, living up to expectations and standards that we perceive will strengthen us. Because there is a God, we will seek to behave with compassion and generosity. Because there is a God, we will come to understand that our lives matter now, and after our years in this world have come to an end.

Is there a God? I can’t describe God, tell you of God’s origins, or understand God’s capabilities. But with every fiber in my being, I believe there is a God.

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