"The Future Is Feminine": Insights from a Lecture
A New Life Balance: Being Jewish after October 7th

Contemplating Purpose and the Man-in-the-Sky

The interconnectedness of life in an Oregon forest

Before writing silently for 60 minutes, the participants in my Shut Up and Write! group talk about what they’re planning to write. This week, I explained that as my part in pushing against the rise of antisemitism and anti-Zionism—in addition to my aching howl to FREE THE HOSTAGES and my plea for people to stop being motivated by hate—I plan on sharing a Jewish learning.

It feels right to be Jewish publicly, showing that Judaism is a way of being that encourages the individual to constantly improve the self and the world around you, where empathy and concern for the other are motivating factors and that this religion, philosophy, culture, people—this way of being that has been around for over 3,000 years—is not something to chant against or accuse of horrors.

I was drawn back to a quote I heard in the Mussar class that I’m taking. (Mussar is a virtues-based approach to Jewish ethics and character development.) This quote by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, z”l, from To Heal a Fractured World, focused my pre-writing musings.

“Each of us is here for a purpose. Discerning that purpose takes time and honesty, knowledge of ourselves and knowledge of the world, but it is there to be discovered. Each of us has a unique constellation of gifts, an unreplicated radius of influence, and within that radius, be it as small as a family or as large as a state, we can be a transformative presence. Where what we want to do meets what needs to be done, that is where God wants us to be. Even the smallest good deed can change someone’s life.” 

Not only does this conceptualize the idea that we’re always where we need to be, but it helps me perceive each moment—each circumstance—as an opportunity for growth, to be more fully me. The idea that we must continually work on ourselves, combined with understanding that we are always at our appointed place, means that there is never an excuse to not try to be my best or even to find fulfillment in the simplest of moments. This moment—each moment—is not a mistake: it is a stepping-stone within a life.

Contemplating that quote, I keep returning to, we are “where God wants us to be.”

What does that mean? Am I (this human, this spark), on my own, or is there a current upon which our lives—each of our lives—flows? Is this the concept of God that can help me understand the idea of God that has been so elusive?

Which reminds me of something else that I read recently. In Jewish with Feeling, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, says, “Think of God not as the subject of your sentence, who is or is not this or that, but as the is-ing, the very process of being itself.” He went on to talk about not using the word God but to think of how we each are enlivened or en-spirited to live our lives.

As I looked over my highlighting in his book, another idea stood out.

“Nothing we can say about God will survive the rigors of logical analysis. But that shouldn’t get in the way of our search for the presence we have felt in our most spiritually open—or spiritually hungry—moments. If there is a tension between what we know in our minds and what we feel in our hearts, then let’s stay with that tension. If there is a contradiction, let us take it upon ourselves. Only let us press on with our desire to experience the numinous and serve the patterns of the universe in a deeper, more meaningful way.”

And finally, “That part of us that always seeks to awaken even more, I call soul. Judaism speaks of the soul as a spark of God.”

The concept of an eternal, spiritual energy or force, stripped of the anthropomorphic man-in-the-sky imagery, appeals to me—speaks to the essence that is. The something within that wonders about the connections between people—the strings that seem to draw us together in coincidences and circumstances as we go about our lives—prefers to contemplate the “patterns of the universe” rather than that we are disconnected individuals stumbling around. It seems so much more correct, so much more of a way to consider our own purpose because in this case, purpose is not merely survival. It is to be, as Rabbi Sacks said, “a transformative presence.”

To be within the presence, the fertile soil, comforts me and challenges me. I do not want to wither. I want to use the nutrients that I am given to “serve the patterns of the universe in a deeper, more meaningful way.”

With this perception of God, this force, this is-ing, I can cry out for the pain that others experience and believe that there is a gathering of life forces that has an impact, has meaning. And to that I say, amen.



This is deep thought for personal transformation. It's been many years since I've let go of the God in the sky concept. I moved through an agnostic (leaning atheist) period, and have settled on the belief that what we like to think of as God may be out there in the collective sense, but more importantly, it is in each of us. When we embrace our highest self, we are one with the entity we call God, one with all others. When we understand that the more love and compassion we put into the collective, the more of it is generated back to us, the better we will all be. Instead, it feels like we are reverting to a period of "my God is the ONE God!"

It's my opinion that the dogged adherence to the sky God(s), regardless of belief system, and the insistence that others believe the same, causes far too much violence, human suffering and death, leaving me with a bad taste and a desire to abandon all concepts of any god.

It gives me pause to wonder where it all started in mankind's earliest evolving, when the belief and worship of deity first began, growing out of the need to put meaning to natural occurrence. When was the first religious war? What sparked it? Why did one tribe of beings - who only coalesced because early humans realized their chance of survival increased in groups - what instinct or desire made them believe that warring against and dominating another group behooved them? As opposed to joining with an assimilating? Is it animal instinct - the way a male lion or tiger will kill the cubs of a rival pride ensuring only his issue survives?
Why have we, as humans, been unable to evolve beyond that?

Laura of RTOAW

Judith, thanks for your thoughtful reply. I feel that I need to write another blog post in response. I heard someone the other day talk about the number of people killed by atheists, like the H-guy, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, etc. Made me pause. But, yes, I do wonder how far we have evolved. Has it just been in quality of life? We have indoor toilets and air conditioning, but we're still killing each other over ridiculous differences. Can't we have both?


Laura, your post and then Judith's comment--so many questions to consider thoughtfully. Your highlighted passages are thought-provoking. I find myself continually questioning religion and its place in my life--especially these past few years where our society has seemed to turn into upside down world, largely due to the push from Christian fundamentalists.

When I was younger, I went from agnostic to cautious, questioning believer back to where I find myself wavering toward agnosticism again largely because of the myriad ways religion has been abused to gain power. (The religious fundamentalists and their stated desire to rule over women and their bodies here in the U.S. has been scary to witness. The Handmaid's Tale is becoming reality.)

So back to the basics, I guess, is what makes sense to me. Your highlight and the additional sentence: "Where what we want to do meets what needs to be done, that is where God wants us to be. Even the smallest good deed can change someone’s life" is something that makes sense to me. The good that lies within each of us, the light we carry and ability we have to help others--is that where God is?

To Judith, I have come to my own belief that there is no one true religion. Either we're all right and we will all be welcomed one day into whatever the afterlife holds for us, or we're all wrong and so be it.

Laura of RTOAW

Margaret, thanks, as always, for reading and your insightful comments. This God understanding for me brings me to connections between people--to focus on that. I have no control over anyone, nor do I want any, but I can determine how I interact with others. Having this higher purpose and energy as my guide or motivator or reason helps me feel less isolated. It gives me comfort. And that is all I can hope for.

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