family / myself / pregnant

Our Father, Our King

Shanah Tovah – it is Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, a time of reflection and preparation for the year to come.

One of the prayers that we sing on this holy day is Avinu Malkeinu (translated: Our Father, Our King). As we approached the this prayer, Rabba (our female rabbi prefers this title) asked the congregation how we feel about the image of G-d as King.

Note: I belong to a Reconstructionist Jewish congregation, and I love the thoughtful discussions we have about liturgy and everything.

Many congregants shared that they struggled with this image. Some shared that they also struggled with the image of G-d as Father, some preferring Parent and others preferring nothing to do with parenting at all.

This made me think (perhaps my favorite part of the Reconstrucitonist congregation): What does the image of G-d as parent mean to me. And what kind of parent am I/do I want to be.

I’m still thinking. I am comforted by the image of G-d as parent, but a little put off too. Comfort comes from the love, acceptance, and warmth that a parent should give to a child (should being loaded, I know). But put off because I do not like personifying G-d. It helps me to think of it as a simile: G-d, like a parent. But because parent is so loaded for so many people, myself included, the simile carries a huge weight that perhaps isn’t right for G-d.

Being a step-parent and a soon-to-be bio-mom, I see the role of parent having many different meanings. I emphasize to my step kids that while I am not their Birth Mother, I am one of their parents.

But what does that really mean? I love them, I care for them, I want the best for them. But I feel that way toward many people in my life, not just my kids.

I also emphasize to them (as I will to my offspring) that they have many parents – grand parents, great grandparents (aren’t they fortunate). Each of us has a role. It is not always clear what it is.

And perhaps, because of the lack of clarity of what it means to  parent,  this is a wonderful word to describe one aspect of our relationship to G-d.

Complicated, unclear, but always full of love.

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3 thoughts on “Our Father, Our King

  1. Just came across your blog so I’m reading some of your old posts, especially these on Judaism because it’s sort of my current obsession because I’m in the process of converting. (My blog on my conversion: http://jewishjourney.wordpress.com/)

    I think I prefer to not personify God (fyi I’m used to spelling out God, my Rabbi said there’s nothing wrong with it) or give God human attributes and terms like “parent”. I agree, I prefer to say “like a parent.” Catholicism which is what I grew up in refers to God as Our Father, and I think that does automatically give God a whole bunch of human attributes, which I believe is not appropriate because God should be a special spiritual being that’s above humanity.

    • Are you familiar with the Reconstructionist prayer book, Kol HaNeshamah? There are beautiful metaphors for God throughout the prayers. I no longer belong to that congregation because I’ve moved and the drive was getting long (thanks traffic), but I really miss the prayerbook. And the people. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by.

      • I’m not familiar with that book, or really with the Reconstructionist movement, but it sounds interesting and beautiful. I’m going through my conversion at a Reform synagogue, and I like that the prayers try to use gender-neutral language, like “Ruler” instead of “King”.

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