I grew up secular: American first, Jewish by birth. No one in my circle of family or friends talked about God. Life as I knew it was about work, food and intellect. My extended family includes medical directors, college deans, lawyers, judges, scientists and accountants. But we were in it alone, pushing forward as feeble humans. Or so it seemed.
Yet in the darker, lonelier moments of childhood, somehow I knew to use my voice to cry out to God for help: I’m here, and I need You.
I realized then, and know now, that there is some greater Power out there, or within me, that is pure love and goodness, even if the humans in my life aren’t. There is a Power beyond what I can see and understand.
My sweet and loving mother says that she believes there is no God because of the painful things she has experienced.
Yes, the pain persists on a personal and global level. After generations of punishment for believing in God and practicing our religion, I think some Jewish people feel an inherent fear, as well as a persistence of intergenerational pain, that doesn’t allow them to open themselves up to God. But that’s changing as more and more people devote themselves to self-improvement, meditation and prayer. With the Baal Teshuva movement (the return of secular Jews to religious Judaism), thousands of secular Jews around the world are returning to our roots, the traditions of our ancestors and eventually to the Holy Land.
When God gave the Jewish people the Torah (Bible) at Mount Sinai 3,300 years ago, all of Israel experienced direct prophecy and open awareness of God. However, that revelation was too powerful, and they requested that Moses serve as an intermediary between them and God’s word: “‘You speak to us,’ they said to Moses, ‘and we will obey; but let not God speak to us, lest we die.’” (Exodus 30:16). So God sent prophets to communicate His messages. Official prophecy continued until the beginning of the Second Temple period. Since then, the Jewish people tend to receive God’s word with less clarity.
One of the indicators of the future redemption will be the return of direct prophecy to Israel. According to Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, when the glory of God will be revealed in the future world, all Jewish people will receive prophecy. Don Yitzhak Abravanel also writes (commentary to Joel 3:1) that during the time of the redemption prophecy will return to the Jewish nation–to those who are prepared for it.
In other words, at the time of the future redemption, we will directly hear and intuit the spirit of God from within–if we have actively worked toward allowing this to happen. In my opinion, we can work towards this by developing a practice of talking to and listening to God.
During my career as a writer in the U.S., I worked for secular Jewish organizations that do good work, yet God was rarely, if ever, mentioned. I was told by a coworker that we may be a Jewish organization, but that’s just culture. We weren’t allowed to share or discuss anything overtly religious. Even with many of my religious colleagues, religion is more intellectual than emotional. They admittedly don’t cultivate this deep, two-way relationship with God.
Yet I continue to reach out, to reconnect to that unwounded, infallible Force of love that is within me and beyond me. And I try to balance the rules of halacha (Jewish law) and mitzvot (commandments) with the emotional aspects of being connected to God, the Bible and my true self as a Jewish woman.
It’s something that goes beyond the intellect in the sense that it surpasses the intellect. The words we assign to anything in life are inherently finite. How do we use our brain and language to define, process and understand something infinite?
When others proclaim that God doesn’t exist, or that they don’t know how to really connect with Him, I understand them. “God” is only a word, after all, a simple combination of letters.
But the truth is, if I sit quietly and clear the clutter and chatter of my mind and I’m open to hearing Him, I know that God is really here. I am breathing and my heart is beating. I can feel my chest rise and fall. That breath is life, it is love and can’t be denied.
The Jewish women in my circle of friends here in Israel aren’t afraid to talk about the life force that keeps us going. Even when things feel utterly painful—from the death of a child in a car accident to the memory of a Nazi officer killing a relative—these women choose to still seek the light. The pain didn’t break us.
When I lost a baby 15 years ago, though my connection to and relationship with God wasn’t as strong then as it is now, it still helped. Even now there are moments when I feel pain deeply, and I sometimes forget to call out to God. But I know that He is always with me, holding my hand and helping me through even if I’m not fully aware of it.
So as a Jewish woman, why do I feel tasked with the mission of bringing down the light and love of God, when so many, including those closest to me, proclaim He’s not really there or shouldn’t be discussed?
Because I value truth and authenticity. And because I believe God wants me to.
I’ve been talking to God since I was a teenager in Florida, scared and alone. Decades later, after thousands of tearful conversations, I recognize and understand His messages.
One of those messages was to move to Israel. Three months later, I was on a plane with my family, heading from Miami to the Holy Land. It was my first time ever being in Israel. We now live in the beautiful north, overlooking the majestic Mount Carmel near the cave of Elijah the Prophet.
When things feel desperate and intellect can no longer save us, we go beyond what we know. We reach out to what’s beyond our finite brains, to what we intuitively feel on a soul level. And that is the Love of a Creator who is always waiting to hear from us. These conversations, and the tuning into God’s messages, are part of our preparation for the Messianic period and the final redemption, a period that is now in its beginning stages.
“The glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see…” (Isaiah 40:5).
“Thereafter it will be that I will pour My spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy…” (Joel 3:1–2).
It starts with a simple breath. Maybe a few words uttered: I’m here. And I need You. Please help. With enough patience and stillness, the answers come. I’m so grateful for the pain and practice that led to this realization, and my ability and motivation to share it with others.