God the Father in Judaism

Jayhawker Soule

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I stumbled across the following from Leadership U ...
There can be little doubt that, for Judaism, divine parenthood is better symbolized by fatherhood than motherhood, or at least that fatherhood is far less problematic than motherhood. In Genesis, God-like a father- generates outside of Himself. In the creation myth of feminine deities, however, everything emerges from the womb of the Mother God, conveying a sense that the world is an emanation or extension of the divine, and therefore divinized, as in pantheism. But at the very center of Jewish monotheism is the denial of a divinized nature: Nature is good, because God has made it so, but nature is not divine, and human beings are not made of godstuff.

The moral and theological implications of the Mother God and "birth metaphor" have been cogently described by Rabbi Paula Reimers in her essay "Feminism, Judaism, and God the Mother" (Conservative Judaism, Fall 1993). If "the universe and its processes are 'birthed' by the deity," Rabbi Reimers argues, then nature and its cycles are "held to be an expression of the divine will." In such a cosmology, good and evil lose all meaning, everything being good in its proper time. Suffering and death no less than flourishing and life are to be regarded as "necessary stations on the great wheel of existence." In a "birthed" universe, moreover, "human beings are not qualitatively different from anything else that exists. They share in the divine essence, as children of the goddess, but only to the same extent that everything else does. Human life objectively is no more or less significant than the life of animals or plants. . . . Human free will is dissolved in the face of the determinism of nature." Human beings need follow no moral standard other than to accept and submit "to the divine rhythm of existence, of which they are a part."

Rabbi Reimers contrasts the "inherent pantheism of goddess religion, rooted in the birth metaphor," with Jewish monotheism, which "is rooted in the creation metaphor of Genesis." In Judaism, nature and humanity emerge not as part of an undifferentiated birth of the universe, but through discrete acts of creation in which all things are appointed a place in the hierarchy of the world. Good and evil, right and wrong, are known not by reference to nature's processes, impulses, and vitalities, but through the words and commandments of a transcendent God. Because God is not identified with the cycles of natural recurrence but with unique revelations and mighty acts-especially the Covenant-time is given meaning by progressive development, and history is imbued with direction and purpose. Human beings are not permitted to view themselves or their impulses as divine; they are to understand themselves, rather, as creatures made "in the image and likeness of God," with a dignity and worth above the rest of nature, and with free will to act according to transcendent laws concerning good and evil.

The Father-God metaphor, then, while revealing certain limits and imperfections of human language and understanding, provides a better symbolization than motherhood of the sense of distance in the divine- human relationship and is less likely therefore to invite a pantheistic cosmology.
I'm not a big fan of the site, but I found the article (only partially quoted here) more than a little interesting -- particularly since, as a member of a Reform temple, I've grown accustomed to the 'new' gender-neutral terminology. The distinction between being made b'tzelem Elohim and being "made of godstuff" is an interesting reflection of the distinction between radical monotheism and paganism.
 

Jayhawker Soule

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Thanks for the post. I am not at all sure that "Judaism against paganism" infers or reflects "order against chaos," but that is perhaps left to some other thread.
 

dauer

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oh I wasn't suggesting as much. It was a parallel that was drawn from one of the two sources. I'm actually somewhat uncomfortable with that sort of essentialism.
 

Vimalakirti

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I stumbled across the following from Leadership U ...I'm not a big fan of the site, but I found the article (only partially quoted here) more than a little interesting -- particularly since, as a member of a Reform temple, I've grown accustomed to the 'new' gender-neutral terminology. The distinction between being made b'tzelem Elohim and being "made of godstuff" is an interesting reflection of the distinction between radical monotheism and paganism.

The thesis you’ve quoted while cogently constructed is very very old news. The point at issue is not these kinds of distinctions between mother religion and father religion, which have long been pretty obvious, but the ideological or personal agendas of the individuals who point these distinctions out.

A good analogy is the U.S. two party system. The Republicans have been called the “daddy party” and the Democrats the “mommy” party. Some say that political fortunes change according to the electorate’s preferred parent of the moment.

Similarly, viable religious traditions have both mommy and daddy strands, one might say, in various proportions. Often enough there’s too much of one or the other, too much daddy, say, and a correction is called for.

As for the writer you quote I don’t know if he’s trying to apply that kind of corrective, or whether he’s simply engaging in apologetics, defence of Abrahamic tradition, or whatever. I would only suggest that the true point of interest here is not what he is saying but why he is saying it and in what context.

Vimalakirti
 

bananabrain

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<moderator>jay: perhaps you might dial it down. i see no reason for you to be quite so aggressive.</moderator>

now, as to the subject, i will confine myself to remarking as per usual that the annoying and infantile Big Beard In The Sky tendency cannot be countered by replacing it with an equally annoying and infantile Big Tits In The Earth tendency (an argument i have had with a number of wiccans on many occasions). both are equally reductive. again, as per usual, i will point to the often unremarked traditionalist female G!D-language - you don't even have to go to kabbalah for the Shekhinah end of things; i am talking about E-L ShaDaY and HaRaHaMaN, both of which are about as female as it gets.

b'shalom

bananabrain
 

Vimalakirti

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And I would suggest that you don't presume to tell me my point of interest.


Herumph! Herumph! Why, a tiff among scholars! Charlotte, bring me my pipe & slippers, we’re in for a long evening!

Seriously, I didn’t mean to offend. I was merely expressing an opinion, which is hardly binding on anyone else – though I was probably a little inept in the expession.

As for the arguments you’ve posted, personally I see them as a subset of the larger battle of the Western Canon. I’m not against defending that canon, but I think that these kinds of arguments no longer serve, and in effect reduce both sides to charicature.

But BB makes the essential point above, and much more vividly than I do – as usual.

Vimalakirti
 
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