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The View of A Jew

by on October 19, 2011

Rabbi Geoffrey Mitelman, on Why Judaism Embraces Science:

“There’s a great Yiddish expression that says, “If I knew God, I’d be God.” In fact, I think that claiming that you “know God’s will” is an act of incredible hubris. Instead, what we say about God has much more to say about us than about God…

And while I can only speak personally here, to me, “God” isn’t really a noun at all — it’s a verb.

Here’s why. The most common name that God gives Godself in the Torah is “YHVH,” a name that is sometimes thought to be so holy that no one was allowed to pronounce it. But that’s not exactly right — it’s not that “YHVH” was not allowed to be pronounced, it’s that it is literally unpronounceable, since it consists of four Hebrew vowels (yod, hay, vav and hay). By the way, that’s also why some people incorrectly call this name “Yahweh,” since (as Rabbi Lawrence Kushner once said), if you tried to pronounce a name that was all vowels, you’d risk serious respiratory injury.

But even more importantly, the name YHVH is actually a conflation of all the tenses of the Hebrew verb “to be.” God’s name could be seen as “was-is-will be,” so God isn’t something you can’t capture or name — God is only something you can experience….

God responds that God’s name is “Ehyeh asher ehyeh,” which is often translated as “I am what I am.” But it could also be translated as, “I am what I will be.” So God is whatever God will be — we simply have no idea. Indeed, for my own theology, I believe that God is found in the “becoming,” transforming “what will be” into “what is….”

Science is about creating hypotheses and testing data against these theories. Judaism is about how we act to improve this world, here and now.”

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