Rabbi Bulka's Weekly Question



Is one capable of knowing God?

The assumption of your question is that knowing God is a challenge, but knowing another person is not. I wonder whether it is possible to actually know another person? We may think we know the other person, but each human being is so complex and intricate, that fully knowing them is highly unlikely, perhaps impossible.

To know another person would mean that you know exactly how they feel, how they think, how they behave, and why. But to do so accurately one would have to remove any personal projections from the mix, aside from the reality that we are hardly able to objectively know any other person.

We may think we know the other person, but that is more a poetic affirmation than an accurate one. We use the term "getting to know you" as if it is a reachable goal. Sounds nice, but unlikely.

So, if we cannot really know another person, how can we dare contemplate knowing God. Do we actually know what it means to "know God?" In the Bible, Moses asks God to reveal to him the ways of God. By that question, he wanted to know what is behind some of the most perplexing and disturbing issues, such as the matter of human suffering - who suffers, who does not, and why.

God basically told Moses that this was beyond human purview. There is nothing that has changed since to suggest the answer is different today. Yet the Book of Proverbs seems to suggest that it is not only possible; it is actually desirable. I refer to the words - "In all your ways know God ... (3:6)." What exactly does this mean? After having expressed doubts about being able know others, and how God basically closed the book on this matter, this statement in Proverbs seems to suggest we can "know God."

Or perhaps there is another meaning to this. To know God in all our ways more likely means that in all we do, we should know what God wants us to do; i.e., to know what is the Godly thing to do. This means that the kind, compassionate, caring, sensitive way of behaving is the way to know God, or more precisely - to know the way of God.

Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen on June 24, 2012

Fri, June 23 2017 29 Sivan 5777