Because My Soul Longs for You: Inte­grat­ing The­ol­o­gy into Our Lives

Edwin Gold­berg and Elaine Zech­er (Edi­tors)

  • Review
By – March 22, 2022

Despite the cen­tral­i­ty of God in Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture and litur­gy, some Jews strug­gle to talk about their rela­tion­ship with God. In the intro­duc­tion to Because My Soul Longs for You, the edi­tors liken this para­dox to the expe­ri­ence of eat­ing; We can talk a lot about food, but only when we taste it do we under­stand its tex­ture, fla­vor, and the enjoy­ment it gives us. The same is true about God. Only when we expe­ri­ence God in our own lives — when we expe­ri­ence that same mys­tery, beau­ty, and chal­lenge the ancients expe­ri­enced as well — do we begin to think and talk about God and our own the­ol­o­gy.” Explor­ing how we might expe­ri­ence God, and how it might devel­op, deep­en, and change over the course of our lives,” is the edi­tors’ moti­va­tion for this anthol­o­gy. Through a col­lec­tion of twen­ty inde­pen­dent essays, we trav­el the the­o­log­i­cal jour­neys of oth­ers so that it may inspire us to inte­grate sacred­ness into our own lives.

In the essay Expe­ri­enc­ing God in the Midst of Con­flict,” Miri­am Heller Stern asks us to feel com­fort­able in the uncer­tain­ty of our own con­vic­tions, allow­ing us to be more com­pas­sion­ate and empa­thet­ic to oth­ers. This shift leads to height­ened self-aware­ness and the capac­i­ty to become smarter, more resilient, and pre­pared to con­front and over­come our weak­ness­es.” Embrac­ing this com­plex­i­ty, Stern shares, is embed­ded through­out the Jew­ish tra­di­tion and is at the core of devel­op­ing a robust Jew­ish theology.

Hon­or­ing the culi­nary side to Judaism also pro­vides a gate­way to Jew­ish the­ol­o­gy, Melanie Cole Gold­berg sug­gests in her essay Expe­ri­enc­ing God While Mak­ing Jew­ish Food.” Through bak­ing chal­lah, pass­ing recipes to the next gen­er­a­tion, and using shared meals to cre­ate com­mu­ni­ty, Cole sees food as a con­duit to a Jew­ish life of spir­i­tu­al exploration.”

The work we do, day in and day out, to bring jus­tice to our world can­not be com­part­men­tal­ized into the cat­e­go­ry of jus­tice work,’ sep­a­rate from spir­i­tu­al work.’ It is holy work,” writes Rab­bi Gayle Pomer­antz in her essay Expe­ri­enc­ing God in Ser­vice to Oth­ers.” Sens­ing God’s pres­ence comes from mak­ing the words on the Torah’s page come alive through our actions,” writes Pomer­antz. She encour­ages us to be God’s hands in a world in need of repair and to find God in uplift­ing others.

Each thought-pro­vok­ing essay shares a per­son­al reflec­tion on how we may con­nect to God most often in the midst of ordi­nary life,” per­haps through pow­er­ful expe­ri­ences, but more often through unex­pect­ed moments or seem­ing­ly mun­dane encoun­ters. Even so, edi­tors Gold­berg and Zech­er remind us that nur­tur­ing a deep­er the­ol­o­gy will take work. To sup­port our spir­i­tu­al jour­ney, they con­clude by offer­ing read­ers ques­tions to con­sid­er as they start their search for God.

Jonathan Fass is the Man­ag­ing Direc­tor of Edu­ca­tion­al Tech­nol­o­gy and Strat­e­gy at The Jew­ish Edu­ca­tion Project of New York.

Discussion Questions