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April 18, 2014 | 18th Nisan 5774

Finding God: Selected Responses

by Rifat Sonsino and Daniel B. Syme



A STUDY GUIDE

 

 

Finding God: Selected Responses
URJ Press

by Rifat Sonsino and Daniel B. Syme
Study Guide by Dr. Alan D. Bennett

To order this book...


THE AUTHORS
Rifat Sonsino, ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, holds a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He is rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom, Needham, Massachusetts. In addition to his distinguished career as a pulpit rabbi, he is an educator and author with a special interest in ways to bring God into the hearts and minds of adults and children.

Daniel B. Syme, ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, holds a doctorate in Education from Teacher's College, Columbia University. He is rabbi of Temple Beth El, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, having previously served as director of Reform Judaism's Commission on Jewish Education and as vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism. He writes and lectures widely about contemporary meanings of God.

WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT
The authors examine the theologies of the Bible, Talmud, and eight Jewish thinkers who are often at variance with one another in their views of God. The book's goal is to encourage Jews to talk about God without ambivalence or embarrassment. Here are a few suggestions for reading and discussion.

  • Our ideas about God change as we get older.
  • The biblical authors present different and changing ideas about God.
  • The inherent limitations of language restrict our ability to talk about and understand God.
  • Prayer uses poetry, metaphor, and symbolism to convey ideas about God.
  • In Judaism, one's ideas about God are less important than what one does to fulfill God's commandments.
  • Human reason cannot comprehend all there is to know about God.
  • Although we say that God is omnipotent and omniscient, we also believe that humans possess free will.
Before and after reading the book, complete the following three statements:
  • My most pressing question about God is _____.
  • I feel closest to God when _____. I feel most distant from God when _____.
  • What confuses me most about God is _____.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
When reading the book, consider the following questions. They may also be used in group discussions.

  1. How do you feel about expressing God and God's attributes in anthropomorphic terms?
  2. Is it important for you to be able to prove God's existence?
  3. The Kabbalists connected tikkun olam (the repair of the world) with prayer and mitzvot (commandments). Do you think one can perform tikkun olam or mitzvot without referring to prayer?
  4. Buber argues that a proper relationship to others in everyday life brings us closer to God. Luria says that repairing the world through mitzvot does that. Spinoza says we know God by understanding the universe. With which of these interpretations are you most comfortable?
  5. Do Buber's ideas of radical evil and an eclipse of God satisfy you as explanations for evil?
  6. Do you believe that God shares power with humanity? Do you agree with Milton Steinberg's idea that God needs you?
  7. How do you respond to Mordecai Kaplan's idea that prayers help the worshiper achieve self-fulfillment (salvation) and have nothing to do with God?
  8. Did you discover or rediscover any ideas in the book that you find helpful in your life? Can you identify why they have particular meaning for you?
  9. Does clarifying your ideas about God tell you anything about your spiritual life or the worship experience?

To order To order Finding God: Selected Responses
  Hardback: Call Jason Aronson, Inc., 1-800-782-0015
  Paperback: Order on-line from URJ Press, or call 212.650.4120
 
 

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