Jewish Spirituality Book CoverJewish Spirituality
A Brief Introduction for Christians

by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

"Jewish Spirituality is a window into the Jewish soul
that people of all faiths can understand and enjoy.

—from the back cover of Jewish Spirituality


Chapter Fourteen - The Whirlwind

If God dwells within all creation, then God is what life is made of. For this reason, when we are keenly aware of being alive, we also feel God’s presence. We sense a special closeness to God when someone is born, just as we do when someone dies. This does not necessarily mean that God causes people to be born or to die.

The ways of God are beyond human understanding. Only the experience of living can begin to give some insight. Simple formulas, such as the thought that good people will be rewarded and bad people will be punished, often do not hold true in real life. Likewise, childhood metaphors like the notion of a God “up in heaven” running things seem inadequate.

The Book of Job teaches us about suffering and the mystery of knowing God. Job is the story of a righteous man whose happy life suddenly turns miserable. His business fails, his children die, and he is afflicted with terrible diseases.

Despite his ordeal, Job never curses God. His friends believe that bad things happen only as God’s punishment for sin, that Job suffers because he must have done something wrong. They try to convince him to apologize to God, but Job refuses, knowing he has acted justly. Heartbroken and angry, he sits alone on a pile of ashes, wishing he had never been born.

Finally, at the very end of the book, from out of a whirlwind, God asks Job one question after another: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the universe? Have you commanded the morning to begin? Have you entered the bottom of the ocean? Do you know the way to the home of light? If you know, tell Me” (Job 38:4,12,16,17,18). Job realizes that he knows very little about the mysteries of creation and that it is awesome simply to be alive. Now he understands that God is present in everything—even things he does not understand or like. Suddenly he feels grateful just to be able to love, to learn, and to live. Once that happens, the blessings and the fullness of his life are restored.

Becoming an ethically mature adult includes understanding that bad people often go unpunished and good people are often not rewarded. Instead, the way we feel when we do bad things is its own punishment and the way we feel when we do good is its own reward. To be sure, we stand guilty or innocent before our Creator. But God is not in the reward-and-punishment business. It is the same way with a spiritual approach to life. God seems to say, “Try to make your world the way I have taught you, and that will bring you more happiness than the greatest reward.” We emerge from an awareness of the presence of God with a heightened yearning to be better people.


Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians
Excerpt from Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians, 2001 (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing) used with permission from Jewish Lights Publishing. To purchase a copy of JEWISH SPIRITUALITY, visit amazon.com. This link is provided as a service to explorefaith.org visitors and registered users.


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