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Jun 6 2014

When the Rabbi’s Wife Doesn’t Believe in God

By at 10:55 am

boots

What do you do when your power goes out for six days in the middle of an epic ice storm, coating the streets of Toronto in a polar vortex, and you’re 40 weeks pregnant?

And then you give birth to your third baby during this multi-­day power outage, followed by a life threatening surgical complication?

Rounded off by a subsequent burst pipe, flooding all four floors of your newly renovated house, making it uninhabitable and having nowhere for your family to live, one of whom is only 4 days old?

You ask why.

“I don’t believe in a vindictive God,” says my husband, the rabbi.

Since I don’t believe in God, vindictive or otherwise, his response was quite unhelpful.

I know what you’re thinking. How can you be married to a rabbi and not believe in God? It’s one of the top 10 assumptions I encounter as a rabbi’s wife; up there on the list with Shabbat observance (I’m not), kashrut (we don’t), my hair (yes, it’s real) and active synagogue involvement (we’re not).

“God is in my heart because God is everywhere,” says my 5-year-old.

I appreciate the Reform Jewish day school education she is getting. I love the elaborate Haggadah she made for Passover that she used at our seders, the songs she sang incessantly for Tu Bishvat, and the dreidel game she taught my 3-year-old over Hannukah. But when she talks about God, I never know how to respond.

My husband’s labeling of God as “vindictive” implies that there is some entity unknown to me that could be described by any adjective: forgiving, loving, spiteful, angry, or accepting. I believe that human beings can be all of these things, with their actions and words supporting such descriptors, but I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that there’s a causal relationship to “something else” that influences what happens in my life. Or in anyone’s life.

So, back to my original question. Why?

For me, it was mostly rhetorical. There are so many Jewish values that underpin what I believe about myself and my place in the world. God just doesn’t happen to be one of them. And while these tenets happen to be Jewish values, like respect and compassion, giving to those in need, and repairing the world in which we live, they are also universal in nature, which is how I try to live my life.

Why?

I don’t know.

But it’s an opportunity to reflect, look inward, and take a moment to chart a new course forward. To rebuild our home–literally and metaphorically, from the inside out–and to ensure that our actions and behaviors mirror the holiness we want you to feel when you walk in the front door.

When, one day, we have a door.

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