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.