When we speak of God, we don’t mean some creature within the universe, which may be either real or mythical. We’re just saying that we owe thankfulness for existence and obedience to the ways of the ultimate source, foundation and sustainer, by which we are intimately known because our physical, cognitive, and emotional realities all come from that source. No reality, truth, or goodness exists elsewhere.
This seems philosophical, but it’s actually not quite. No one can say that anything in this finite universe (including time, space, energy, life, all of it) has no limit or beginning, no source or unifying force, and that would seem to be a proof for a ‘First Mover’. But it’s not, because but then to speak of a ’cause’ is also to speak in finite terms. There is no philosophical proof for God because the whole conversation breaks down in our eyes at the edge of the finite; at the first level of creation. Nothing can properly reflect the infinite, even though all things seem to declare their dependent nature and close connection to “something beyond all things”.
And there is the question of suffering. While only finite beings can have needs or impulses to take, which means that God can’t be seen as cruel, it’s still hard to look at creation and say that it is either kind or wise that good must come through pain, confusion, or injustice. There can be no ‘higher reason’ for things to be a certain way when God could not be restricted by reasons, even though creation must be seen as a gift rather than an act of taking.
It’s beyond comprehension, like a vantage point that all our purest desires and fair logic cause us to run towards but from which we can’t see clearly.
But in our lives, it is personal. He is to me the one who holds honesty, kindness, thankfulness, and gentleness up as true light. He is the rock of the world. He is the one who blesses bride and groom, who forms children in the womb, who creates beauty and love from nothing and holds its delicate blessing in existence. He is the resonance of transforming forgiveness and restoration. The one to whom I owe my everything, even if I forget that in some choices and moments. I feel I can’t ignore or let go of this.
This is why Judaism draws on its stories of history to address Him. He is the God of their fathers, whose lives pass down many values. He taught them to hate selfish cruelty and not to pour out their heart in demeaning, aimless worship towards fellow finite creatures. And He has preserved them and the treasured light of their culture until this day, despite many enemies.