Further questions re: parshat Terumah

Copyright 2011 Neal Joseph Loevinger

Hi everybody, something new is happening. Either I’m not
explaining myself well in the past few weeks, or it took time for
people to feel confident pushing back a little bit, but in either
case, I have two thoughtful critiques of my parsha studies
awaiting response in my in-box.

We’ll do one this week, and one next week.

First, my dear friend Alan, in the sadly hockeyless city of Toronto,
responded to last week’s parsha study, in which I spoke of the
vision of the “brickwork of sapphire” and the closeness of
Creator and Creation:

“Maybe there’s something I’m not getting here, but I’m having
some trouble with this idea that the earth is not separate from
God. Footstools aren’t normally of the same substance as feet,
are they? And, while theologically you’re coming from a different
place of course, part of the point of the first chapter of Paul’s
letter to the Romans, [in the New Testament] a very important text
for me certainly, is that there are grievous consequences when
we get confused about the relative places of the creature and the
Creator. ”

Good point, and I see that my language, which was meant to be
evocative, was also confusing. Part of the problem is that
theological language, which attempts to describe a reality that is
beyond words, is always somewhat poetic and imprecise, but
still, you’re right, “Creator” and “Creation” are not the same thing.

First, let me clarify that I do not mean “Creator” in any literal
sense- I do not believe in a literal, historical, 6 day Creation story.
What I do believe is that the Power or Source which enabled our
ancestors to break free of Egyptian bondage is the same Source
or initiator of a long, evolutionary process of the world unfolding
and becoming filled with life. In other words, God is One, and
there isn’t one spiritual source to our ideals of freedom and
another one which causes us to be overwhelmed with awe in the
natural world.

However, without going into a long discussion of the theology
called “panentheism” (Google it if you like), what I’d say is this:
Yes, the footstool is not the same as the foot, as it were, but just
using the word “footstool” implies a necessary relationship to
the idea of “foot,” just as the idea of “mother” is impossible
without the idea of “child.” You can’t call someone a “mother”
without naming a relationship; “mother” is not a concept that
stands on its own, but only works in connection with something

This, to me, is how to understand the word “God;” it is
impossible to understand without reference to relationship- or, in
Jewish terms, covenant. We can’t understand the concept “God”
or “Creator” without implying, in the word itself, the idea of
“world” or “creation.” That’s what I was trying to say when I wrote
that Creator and Creation are not completely separate- we
understand these concepts as carrying the idea of relationship
within them, as essential to the very core meaning of the word.

What this implies for other aspects of our belief (or lack thereof)
is another story, but I hope this helps for now.

Questions? Problems? Objections?

Keep ’em coming. . . .

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Neal

1 Comment »

  1. Errol said

    I’m amazed that a believer in God (YHWH) cannot attest to a six day creation. Scientifically it has as much merit as evolution in the nothing to everything teachings of so called science. If i understand any context the time periods of Genisis 1 are clearly 24 hours periods as evening and morning describe. Many Rabbi’e agree that this is the case. To categorically deny this even as a possibility seems to discredit all your foundations of faith on YHWH.

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