September 29, 2016

Protest as Prayer (Part 10): God’s Emotions

God emotions

Photo Credit: Stuck in Customs

 

By Marc Gafni

This post is continued from Part 9.

To go one step further — God feels the pain of the sufferer through the agency of human beings who feel the pain of other. God feels, not only but also through, human agency. We are God’s emotions.

Based on this understanding a number of mystical writers provide us with the vocabulary to re-think the idea of God’s Kingship. It was with this quandry that I introduced the problematics of God-language in a world that suffers. How can we call God King?

Borrowing a text from the Songs of Songs, early Hasidic writers describe God as a “King bound in chains.” God may be King but he is bound — waiting to be redeemed. The image of a King bound in chains refers to the Shechina in exile.

In light of this tradition we can now understand the ostensible proclamation of Gods Kingship — “Hamelech” which begins the morning prayer service of the Jewish high holy days. If it is interpreted simply as a declaration of God’s kingship then it is profoundly difficult to understand. For, as we noted at the beginning of our discussion, King means more than just relationship. Kingship is an expression of control. Kings rule overtly. They are not hidden. Kings decree and the decrees are obviously implemented.

If God is King and his desire is for Good (God =Good) then it is difficult to understand how we can declare God’s kingship in a world ravaged by distended stomachs and unparalleled brutality. If God loves truth, and truth means that our theological language needs to be true to our experience of God in this world, then we cannot yet declare God to be King.

Indeed I believe that the cry of “Hamelech” at the beginning of the Liturgy is not a declaration by the human being of God’s Kingship. It is far more profound. It is a human cry pleading with God to be King. “God,” cries out the human being, “reveal yourself as King!” It is a plea for the redemption of world. Deeper still, it is a human plea for the redemption of God. Echoing in Hamelech, however, is a second voice of overwhelming power.

“Hamelech” is the cry of Shechina, of God, re-sounding through the mouths of human beings.

The Shechina cries out to the assembled congregation – “Please, I beg of you, Let me be King … I am caught, bound in chains, free me, redeem me!”

 

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