One of the enduring questions of all faiths is “Who or what is G-d?” Each faith and spiritual path seek to define and explain how the world as we know it exists, and what our role or purpose is within that world. In this article, I will provide what I think is a useful metaphor for understanding an aspect of
G-d as our Creator, and answer another question that frequently pops up: Why do many Jews write
“G-d” with a hyphen?
First, let me share this metaphor for G-d the Creator that I learned from my Rabbi in a recent class:
Imagine you are in a conference room, getting ready to make a slide-presentation. You set-up the projector and screen, then rehearse your presentation. Your audience will arrive soon and you’re feeling good. Suddenly, the door to the room opens, and a staff person asks you if you are finished with the projector. You haven’t given your presentation yet; you have only rehearsed it. You tell that to the staff person who says, “I know. But if you have all your slides, why do you still need the projector?”
This seems like a ridiculous question. We know that, without the projector, no one will see the slides. We need the light from the projector to reveal the images on the screen. Yet as ridiculous as this question might be, it is a useful metaphor for us to attempt to understand what G-d is and the role G-d plays in our lives.
In this scenario, G-d is the projector, and the screen is the world. Everything that we see and experience comes from the projector. Without the projector, there is nothing on the screen. Without G-d nothing exists; we and everything we know are projections of G-d’s will.
We have many ways to refer to G-d, and perhaps comparing G-d to a projector seems a bit disrespectful, but I mean no disrespect. This leads me to the answer for why many Jews write “G-d” with a hyphen, which as you may have guessed is a sign of respect. This practice is rooted in history.
Over 2000 years ago, when Israel was part of the Syrian-Greek Empire, Jews were forbidden to make any verbal or written references to G-d. Once Israel was no longer under the Syrian-Greek rule, it was decreed that G-d’s names be purposely used in everyday conversations and documents. After a few years, our Sages saw that conversations were often trivial, and documents were often thrown away when they were no longer needed. The practice of using G-d’s names freely was stopped.
I was taught that to respect G-d I must avoid speaking any of the official Hebrew names of G-d (there are seven) except for in prayer. I was also taught to avoid writing any of the holy names on items that might be erased or thrown away. This behaviour is in keeping with the third of the Ten Commandments: We must not use G-d’s name in vain.
Even though “G-d” is an English translation, for me and many others it would be disrespectful to spell the word in full when referring to the Divine Creator of all that exists. So how can it be respectful to refer to G-d as a projector? Another way to respect G-d is to continually seek ways to bring G-dly energy into our everyday world—to connect intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually with our Creator. The idea of G-d as a projector is an intellectual connection for me. I hope it is for you, too.
Fiona Prince, MA is a coach and teacher who provides fundamental communication and writing skills through her own company and through Royal Roads Professional & Continuing Studies. Fiona acknowledges that her home and office are located on the traditional territories of the W̱SÁNEĆ and Lkwungen-speaking peoples, on whose traditional territories, she is thankful to live, learn, play, and do her work. She worships at the Chabad Family Shul in Victoria and teaches children and adults how to read Hebrew. Contact her at email@example.com if you would like to study with her.
You can read more articles from our blog, Spiritually Speaking at https://www.timescolonist.com/blogs/spiritually-speaking
* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, November 26th 2022