Prepent 5774: Day 33, The ‘G’ Word
Talking about God during High Holiday services
Journey into the High Holidays with Amichai Lau-Lavie, founder of Storahtelling and the spiritual leader of Lab/Shul. It’s a daily dose of inspiration to get you focused and ready for the new year, featuring daily intentions, simple tasks, and tools for living better.
Allergic to God talk? You’re not alone. Like many people, I, too, often develop an acute allergy to the word ‘God,’ especially when it’s used in an all-knowing, preachy tone—which can happen a lot during the High Holiday season.
At the Lab/Shul worship events I host (I don’t like the word ‘service’), the liturgy features English translations such as ‘source,’ ‘mystery,’ or ‘creator’ while the Hebrew stays the same. Every once in a while, though, our texts use the G-word.
What helps my God-talk allergies and enables me to find my way through all this theological syntax is the innate knowledge that these are all just manmade words, which can be inadequate, too loaded with cultural assumptions and expectations to fully capture an essence much greater and more subtle than any single word can embody.
Which is why, even as I try to render words more user-friendly for my audience, I’m also turning to images—and paying more attention to my dreams. We may be sleep-walking through most of our lives, as many mystics and poets suggest, waking up on occasion to thank or curse the forces of the world for extraordinary gifts or grief. But it’s in our sleeping hours that our secrets hide.
That’s where dreams come in. They are, among other things, road maps to our soul, and to the mystery we call God. I’ve been reading Rodger Kamenetz’s The History of Last Night’s Dream (Oprah loved it!) and it’s helping me make more sense of my dream practice. I understand more about the limitation of words when it comes to making meaning of my spiritual practice, even though I know I have to use them in anything more public than the musings of my heart.
For Kamenetz, a tireless seeker, dreams are the path to our soul’s work, the place to discover the closest thing we can to truth:
Up in the sky, down on the earth, in a human face.. where exactly do we look for God? I admired simple faith, but I was low on it…Whenever we think of getting “closer to God” – a common phrase full of paradox and ironies – we encounter a detour. Instead of struggling with our selves, we struggle with our beliefs and traditions. That’s because for most of us, revelation is history. It’s something in the past that happened to someone else; its never last night’s dream. we don’t know how to look inwards, so we look up to religious authority, or into sacred books.
Prepent Day 33: I’m committing myself to my dream practice, utilizing the journal at my bedside and learning to probe my dreams to find deeper meaning in my life.
On Yom Kippur we will chant the words “Who will live, and who will die,” ending this heart wrenching prayer with the image of our mortal coil, “Like a passing cloud, a fleeting dream…” Whatever the accompanying God talk might be, this year these words are more meaningful to me, reminding me to dream, and dream big, winking at what awaits us when we close our eyes and open them inward.
Follow along with the Scroll’s daily Prepent series here.