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RabbiBrian & Religion-Outside-The-Box


 

When say “this is something,” we thereby limit the ‘this‘ as synonymous with the something.
Therefore, we ought take care using the verb “to be” when talking about our highest ideals.

 


 

measure

God is. God isn’t. And you.

Marshall Rosenberg wrote a book called Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. As language and thought are intertwined, Rosenberg advises we should never conjugate the verb “to be” between a person and a thing. For example, one shouldn’t say, “He is a cook,” or “She is an executive” because to do so limits the person.

Here’s a poem from the book that captures this idea:

I’ve never seen a stupid kid,
I’ve seen a kid who sometimes did things I didn’t understand
or things in ways I hadn’t planned.
I’ve seen a kid who hadn’t seen the same places where I have been,
but he was not a stupid kid,
before you call him stupid, think, was he a stupid kid
or did he just do things different than you did.

In Semitic languages, the verb “to be” is not conjugated in the present tense, which is why people who have learned English as a second language will often say things like, “I hungry” or “she pretty.” In other words, they’ll leave out the “am,” “are,” or “is” because it’s not needed in the present tense in their native tongue.

Accordingly, in the Hebrew Bible, the verb “to be” is never conjugated into the present tense (except for once and I’ll explain that in a moment). The idea that is we would never say “God is this” or “God is that.” The brilliant scholar Maimonides posited that we should define God only in terms of the negative; for example, we could say that God is not evil. If say that God is good, we are limiting God, so we can only say what God is not.

Let me bring this to a conclusion about God. Maybe God is the present tense, and when we use the present tense to link two things together, we’re diminishing not only those things, but we’re also diminishing God. God is the great “I Am,” and that is the one exception in the Bible. When Moses asked God for God’s name, God says, “I am what I am” because God is the only thing that is truly present.

With lots of love,

am call myself

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