Yom Shabbat, 10 Tammuz 5778
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“Avineu Malkeinu, act towards us as befits your name."

God is an indescribable, abstract concept. God is created in the human image just as humans are created in the divine image. Any possible way humans can conceive of such a powerful idea, and then transform those thoughts into words, and then communicate them outwardly, is limited by human consciousness and speech.

There is power in naming. In the pagan cultures out of which the early Israelite community emerged, the names of gods would be chanted repeatedly in order to commune with the respective deity. But the god of the Israelite tribe, “El”, developed into a less knowable character. Refusing to give his name after a night of wrestling with Jacob, God offers what seems to be an intentionally elusive response, often translated as, “I shall be what I shall be.” God is not someone we can meet. Though God is something with which we can wrestle. Jews had a tough time naming their god. Sometimes it’s just better to go with a place holder like “ha’shem” (the name). This difficulty in naming the divine is one of my favorite examples in which humans created god in our image. We recognized our limitations, inherent in our human design. We felt that if there was in fact a life force pulsating through everything, it would certainly be too awesome a concept on which to simply bestow a name. So instead of giving their god one name, the Israelites settled into a future of referring to god using a variety of titles. By whatever name we know God, may that Name guide our actions in the year ahead.

-- Blossom Cohon, Youth Engagement