Yishar Koach

*I participated in the TRT Yishar Koach program this year.  This program
allows congregants to celebrate the anniversary of their Bar/Bat Mitzvah,
and use the opportunity to re-examine how their Jewish identity has changed
since then.  The following words are from min-sermon I delivered during
the service.*

I remember, like it was yesterday, being a teenager and, with total
certainty, knowing that I knew it all.  And I remember my parents telling
me “you have so much more to learn.”  But of course, given that I already
thought I knew everything, I figured that they were wrong about this
also.  Now, on my anniversary of being 13 again, I have to admit – I was
wrong.  If I knew everything then, how could I possibly explain everything
that I have learned since then?

Among the countless things I’ve learned since then, I’d like to share just
one item, about my life and Judaism.
What I want to talk about is this:  It’s okay to question your belief in
God.

I’ve always struggled with the idea of God.  And when I was young, I
extended that to questioning my faith in Judaism.  I knew that I found
comfort and happiness in jewish practicies.  But if I wasn’t sure I
believed in God, was I being insincere?

It was actually in my first adult ed class that Rabbi Weber taught us about
Jacob’s dream.  In this dream, Jacob wrestles with an angel.  Some
interpretations say that angel was actually God.  And the following
morning, now injured permanently with a torn leg muscle, Jacob is renamed
Israel, which means “wrestles with God”.  It doesn’t take much poetic
license to view this struggle as all of us wrestling with God.  How can God
allow bad things to happen to good people?  How can God exist and yet allow
so much evil in the world?  Why would God remain silent while so many
people lose faith, when only a few words, or one minor miracle, would
instantly restore people’s belief?
I don’t know.  And that raises my doubts.
But then come times when I feel God in my life.  I talked earlier about
saying Thank You to a God I’m struggling to believe in.  Yet, when I sing
Modeh Ani, I feel a magical sense of comfort.

I’ve had many experiences where I just knew that there is something magical
happening – something spiritual.  At those times, I know with total
certainty, that our lives have purpose and there is something larger
involved here.  Perhaps it’s all some psychological trick that my mind
plays on my body.  But do I really care?  At those moments, I experience a
spiritual peace that I can scarcely describe.

So I wrestle with my belief in God.  I don’t really think I could be
comfortable with my belief if I didn’t.  I know all the logical
contradictions.  How could I have absolute faith when faced with alternate
theories and seemingly questionable data?  It’s hard to make a rationale
argument that God exists.  My strongest evidence is simply how I feel at
those key moments when I just know.

So do I believe in God?  I’m not sure.  But as I’ve come to say, I
certainly hope in God.  I hope in a larger purpose for my life and for all
of us.  I hope in the undeniable goodness of loving others.

It has taken me many years to get comfortable with loving being Jewish, yet
questioning my belief in God.  But I’ve finally learned – that’s okay.  In
fact, it’s almost encouraged.  We are the children of Israel – we wrestle
with God.