Thoughts on the two voices of God in the Torah

“The Torah is a record of how human beings hear God’s Voice, and sometimes the Voice they hear is not the God of possibility but an angry, vengeful God.

One Voice validates a despairing view of human beings – in which anger and hatred prevail, rule-breakers are cruelly punished, the Children of Israel will always dwell alone and are directed to conquer the Land of Israel and exterminate all of its inhabitants. The other Voice validates a hopeful vision of a world which can be transformed into an embodiment of justice, love, and communal welfare. It calls for radical redistribution of the land every fifty years (the Jubilee), for a Sabbatical Year every seventh year when the land is to lie fallow and debts are eliminated, for a society based on generosity (loaning for interest is forbidden), and for all members of the society to fight against oppression and to “love the Other” (the stranger).

Both Voices are there, both identified as the Voice of God, and sometimes both are subtly intermixed, because both Voices are INSIDE MOST OF US – a Voice of Hope which leads toward trust and caring for others, and a Voice of Dispair which leads toward rigid boundaries, doing to others what we suspect they might want to do to us, and protecting ourselves from a world we believe to be essentially filled with evil and hatred.

Which of these Voices gets to predominate (and hence how we hear God) at any one time in the history of the Jews, or in the history of any other people, depends on how much HOPE people are feeling at the time. The less hope, the more people gravitate to accounts of the world based on the belief in evil and the certainity that selfishness and ego and the tendency to pass on cruelty will predominate. The more hope, the more people gravitate to accounts of the world that highlight our capicity to break the repetition compulsion (the tendency to act out on others what was done to us) and to focus on the possibilities for transformation in even the most discouraging of circumstances.

There will never be some neutral time, because any set of circumstances, contemporary or historical, can be read from within either of these two frameworks. It is a matter of BELIEF – and those who see the world primarily through the framework of HOPE are seeing the world through the lens that Jews call GOD!”

[From “HEALING ISRAEL/PALESTINE”, by Rabbi Michael Lerner, pgs. 2-3]

It is refreshing to see the Torah or the first five books of the Old Testament from a Jewish rabbi’s perspective that is somewhat psychoanalytical or psychospiritual, and perhaps even mystical, which recognises that the God described by the Jews in the Old Testament times is actually a mental projection of their inner psyche at different points in time. It is perhaps not much different from the general mindset of people in other cultures in which they tend to attribute favourable times of plenty to the goodness/love of God and unfavourable times of hardship to the judgment/punishment of God. This shows that the Jews or Israelites in those days were second guessing what their God was telling them most of the time, if not all the time, and whether they were hearing the voice of hope or the voice of despair depended on how much hope they felt inside, according to the above post.

This may point to the universal truth that how people see or hear God depends on their inner perception, somewhat like how the law of attraction operates. Jesus may also be telling the Jews the same thing – he could be telling them in effect that if they see God as mean and vengeful, they will feel condemned in their consciousness (“how can ye escape the damnation of Gehenna?”), but if they see God as loving and gracious, they will feel peaceful and joyful, which is the kingdom of God within them, and they will see miracles manifested too (“how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? … If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”).

Related posts

The Voice of God vs. The Voice of Pain — Julie Oxenberg talks with Michael Lerner

How Do We Reconcile the Old Testament God with the New Testament God?

Matthew 23:33 What is the “Condemnation of Hell” that Jesus was Warning the Pharisees about?


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Doug says:

    The difficult actions of God need to be taken more seriously. The near sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham bothered me until I realized that the episode is a remarkable prophecy of the death of the messiah 2000 years later. The genocide of the seven indigenous tribes was necessary to wipe out all of the angel genes that could contaminate the blood line of the “lion of the tribe of Judah” scheduled in 1400 years.

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