May we condemn God?
I enjoyed the poetry book “Brought Down” by Simon Constam. It is both delightful to read and thought-provoking. The phrase “brought down” is a literal translation of Yiddish, Hebrew, and Aramaic terms suggesting an ancient Jewish idea or teaching being recalled. The thirty poems are easy to read. The images created by the poetry are often works of art. The word pictures in the poems to question God and the practices of Judaism are essential today as they were when Abraham queried the deity and was criticized for not doing so when he understood that God wanted him to sacrifice his son Isaac, when the great rational philosopher Maimonides (1138-1204) reminded us that knowing God and why we are created is something we will never understand, and when others like the Hasidic mystic Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev (1740-1809) condemned God while praising fellow Jews for obeying the divine commands. But most of all, Simon Constam prompts us to think, and as the remarkable pagan philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BCE) stressed, if we do not use our minds, we are no better than plants and animals. And as Maimonides emphasized, the intellect is the “image of God” that God set in humans, and we dare not neglect this divine gift.