There is a Jewish theology that may make us uncomfortable encompassed in a maxim coined by the Lubuvitzer Rebbe, Menachim Mendel Schneerson.
The typical prompt given by Jewish teachers to children is “where is God”? And of course, the child is taught to answer: “God is everywhere.” What the Rebbe did was put an ellipsis on the end of that statement, and with it, a statement that informs our relationship with the Divine.
“God is everywhere…that you let God in.”
What is off-putting (controversial and may make us uncomfortable) about Rabbi Schneerson’s re-framing of Jewish wisdom is that it calls into question the omnipotent nature of God. For clearly, his theology implies that just as much as we need God…that God needs us.
That God’s presence, and effect, on the world is contingent on our decision to invite in God’s proverbial light. As troubling as this might be (to some), it is equally empowering. For Judaism is an empowering religion. Ours is not a faith that allows us to sit on the sidelines, or delegate moral responsibility to another person, or another generation. It is on us. In Judaism, effort is everything, with residuals that span like ripples in a still pond.
Along those lines, this Friday night is our Volunteer Appreciation Shabbat here at Temple Emanu-El. Interwoven throughout the service, we will call up some of our best volunteers of the year, say nice things about them, and weave them into the prayers, our stories, and Jewish wisdom. We will lionize their decisions “to let God in” to our collective lives, and our synagogue walls.
I would extend a special invitation to you to make an extra effort to join us in our sanctuary, to honor them, and to become (yourself) inspired.
“God is everywhere… that you let God in.” Let’s welcome The Divine this Shabbat, together.