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Answering the Big Question: “Is There A God?”

One of the most significant passages into parenthood is when your child innocently asks you the BIG question—the one Jewish parents plotz over because they fear that if they don’t answer it perfectly, their child will wind up in therapy.

For many of us, the question, “Is there a God?,” raises more anxiety than the birds-and-the-bees conversation. For me, these significant bonding moments usually occur when I least expect it, like while I drive my mini van down I-64 with Jack and Sari in tow and try to search for a Neil Diamond CD and hand sanitizer all at the same time.

The other day, another heated discussion about God took place as I raced my kids to Sunday School. I even turned down the volume on “Sweet Caroline” for a conversation that went something like this:
Sari: “I don’t think there is a God.”
Me: “Why not?”
Sari: “Because there is no proof. People always look up to the sky when they think about God, but I don’t believe that God is up there.”
Jack: “So you don’t believe in God?”
Sari: “I didn’t say that.”
Jack: “Yes you did. I just heard you say that you don’t believe in God. Now you are lying.”
Sari: “MOOOOOOMMMMMM, Jack is making fun of me.”
Me: “Come on Jack, let your sister explain how she feels. We are lucky to be Jewish because our religion gives us permission to wonder about God. Go ahead Sari and finish your thought.”
Sari: “What I mean is I don’t believe God is a person. I don’t believe that God is in heaven. I don’t even know what heaven is. I don’t believe God is in a flower either.”
Me: “I believe that God made a miracle when he made you.”
Sari: “God didn’t make me. You and daddy did.”

Oops, I forgot we already had that talk.

At least the topic of how babies are made is black and white, cut and dry, and science backs it up. The proof of God, on the other hand, is not found in a microscope, but in the Ten Commandments. Therefore, the concept of God is more challenging and can be taught in many ways, including in the magical Jewish Bible stories that pack more action than a Harry Potter and Power Rangers movie combined. Not even Steven Spielberg could come up with a plot as unforgettable as turning the waters of the Nile into blood.

Another way to teach about God is through our actions. For Sari, I show my love when we snuggle together under my purple down comforter with lots of pillows, and we laugh at home movies of her when she was a baby. When she has a cold and feels yucky, I make her a cozy spa in my bathroom complete with a bubble bath, aromatherapy candles, ocean sounds, and a warm cup of sweet green tea.

For Jack, I show my love and God’s example when I tuck a brand new baseball card under his pillow after he loses a tooth, even though he doesn’t believe in the tooth fairy anymore. And when he sometimes practices his favorite sport with me, I let his fast ball smack into my oversized leather glove and sting my hand.

Our conversation on the road continued:
Me: “Sari, can you see love?”
Sari: “No, but I love my family and Luci (our toy poodle.)”
Me: “Even though you can’t see love, you know it’s real, right?”
Sari: “Well, yea, I feel love in my heart.”
Me: “Exactly. God is like love, something you can’t see with your eyes or hear with your ears, but something you feel in your heart.”

Then I hear silence. As I pull into the temple parking lot, I look in the rearview mirror and smile as Sari peels a banana for her older brother in the backseat. After I drop them off and start to clean up the banana peels and juice boxes thrown on the floor, I reflect on the last 20 minutes of enlightenment and realize how easy I got off this time. As my kids get older and struggle with existential questions about the reasons why another child disappears off the street or why a suicide bomber invades a crowded coffee shop in Tel Aviv, our conversations about God will get even juicier.

A medieval proverb says, “If I knew God, I would be God.” In other words, I don’t need to know the “right” answers in order to talk to my children about God. Perhaps the best part about being a parent is that it gives me an excuse to continue learning.

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Her stories are inspired by the real life of her family, including her two children, toy poodle named Luci, and her husband, but not necessarily in that order. Feel free to send any comments, prayers or recipes to ellie@mishegasofmotherhood.com.