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Is G-d Religious?

by Rabbi Simon Jacobson

  

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The polls are mixed on that count. Recent surveys show that as much as 80-90% of Americans will say that they believe in G-d, but 40-50% will say they do not practice a religion.

Indeed, if G-d is all-powerful and infinite, and religion is a set of laws and rituals and a list of things that one must or must not do, it would seem that G-d could hardly be described as "religious." Nor would it seem that being religious will bring a person closer to G-d. If G-d transcends all limitation and definition, why would the way to relate to G-d be to impose further restriction and definition on our already finite and constricted lives?

Yet this paradox is not confined to the religious-spiritual aspect of the human experience. Throughout the ages, whenever man has endeavored to escape the bounds of the mundane and the everyday, he did so by submitting to a structured, even rigid, code of behavior.

There are just so many musical notes on the scale, and no one--not even the greatest musician--can create additional notes or subtract any. Anyone who wishes to play or compose music must conform to this absolute, immutable system
My favorite example for this is the discipline of music. There are just so many musical notes on the scale, and no one--not even the greatest musician--can create additional notes or subtract any. Anyone who wishes to play or compose music must conform to this absolute, immutable system.

And yet, by submitting to this framework, the musician will create a piece of music that touches the deepest place in a person’s heart---a place that cannot be described, much less be defined. By using this very precise, mathematical formula, the musician will create something that transports the listener to a place high above the confines and fetters of everyday life, high above the strictures of physics and mathematics.

Imagine, then, a musical discipline whose laws are dictated by the inventor and creator of life---by the one who has intimate knowledge of life's every strength and every vulnerability, of its every potential and its every sensitivity.
The only question remaining is: but why so many laws? Why must this discipline dictate how we are to wake and how we are to sleep, and virtually everything in between?

Because life itself, in all its infinite complexity, is our instrument of connection with G-d. Every "scale" on its "range" must be exploited to achieve the optimum connection.

Music being our metaphor, we cannot but quote the famous anecdote in which Archduke Ferdinand of Austria says to Mozart, "Beautiful music, but far too many notes." To which the composer replied, "Yes, your majesty, but not one more than necessary."

© 2005 meaningfullife.com. All rights reserved. More from meaningfullife.com.


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COMMENTS

Great essay

Posted by: Greg Silver, New York, NY on Dec 05, 2006

Thanks for the great essay. The analogy of the musician is really brilliant. Keep up the good work!

Inspired.

Posted by: Matt Green, Palm Beach, Florida on Dec 06, 2006

Thank you Rabbi Jacobson for inspiring me once again with this intresting and thought-provoking article.

Composing

Posted by: Sheila on Dec 07, 2006

I really like your analogy from music. I guess you are refering to the composer not to musician who plays the music. The musician transcends limits of the individual musical notes when he correctly plays each note of the melody to create an elevating song. However, Mitzvot are about application, bringing G-dliness into the world. I think the analogy applies more to the composer since he finds the correct notes within a limited scale to express an infinite-like feeling, i.e. application as opposed to transcendance.

Thanks for the great article, you really got me thinking!

G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.