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Read The Articles
from The Jacob Project:

Are You Ready?
Approaching the Jacob Project

Becoming Engaged:
Approaching Rosh Chodesh

What's Possible?
Approaching Shabbat

What Moves You?
Approaching Social Action

What's Missing?
Approaching Yom Kippur

Are We There Yet?
Approaching Sukkot

Meaningful Media:
Approaching Torah

Lands of Milk and Honey:
A Jewish Approach
to Thanks...giving

Celebrating Our Year Together

Our Movement's Principles:
Approaching Reform

Chosen for What?
Approaching Passover

God, Science, and
Living with Uncertainty

It's Your Choice:
Approaching Shavuot

God, Science, and Living
With Uncertainty

In the course of our discussion by candlelight on the Micah patio in the week preceding Yom HaShoah, we covered a lot of ground. We started with The God Particle – the layperson’s term for what is thought by modern physicists to be the smallest, most basic particle, which makes up all matter in the universe and therefore holds clues to the origin of the universe. Because of this potential for explanation, science has spent vast resources on efforts to understand the true nature of this particle—to measure its two key attributes, velocity and location. The paradox is that we are not able to measure both of these attributes at the same time. Measuring one attribute affects and changes the other, and therefore we can never wholly grasp the true nature of this particle and reveal its secrets about how the universe came to be.

In the face of this uncertainty, some scientists have concluded The God Particle does not exist and is only theoretical. Other scientists have concluded that the Particle does exist and we just don’t have the means to measure it and prove its existence. And other scientists don’t concern themselves at all with this area of physics, choosing instead to focus on more practical applications of science, like medicine or building hybrid cars. As a quick survey of Jacob Project hands revealed, there is a similar diversity of responses to uncertainty about the existence of God. What is “evidence” and proof enough for some is not enough for others. Are we all given the same raw data – the same evidence - with regard to God’s existence? If so, why do we arrive at differing conclusions? And if not, why does God appear to some of us and not others? And why are some people bothered by the question of God’s existence and others perfectly content to live with uncertainty?

For many (though seemingly not among those present at our Jacob Project discussion) the Holocaust was evidence that disaffirmed the existence of God. And yet for others, God was what kept them going and gave them hope. Some gave up on Judaism, feeling it did not offer adequate explanation for the Holocaust, while others continued to embrace Judaism, asserting that our texts are about laws for how we live our lives day to day, not about explaining the big picture. Some severed their relationship with God, while others found ways to express anger, hurt, and confusion while remaining in relationship with God. One tragedy – a diversity of conclusions.

Our conversation took many turns, as we discussed our own perceptions of God and God’s presence or absence in our lives and in the modern world. We debated the internet’s impact on social activism, the adequacy or inadequacy of education in addressing society’s injustices, the impact of religion on a child’s sense of right and wrong, whether we are predisposed to racism, the genocide in Darfur, the effect of hearing Holocaust survivors’ stories, and more. In the end, we arrived at the question: Is uncertainty a positive or a negative?

Clearly, our conversation would not have been as colorful, lively, and dynamic as it was, if we were each certain of God’s existence, certain why the Holocaust happened, and certain how and why the universe and humankind came to exist. It is in our conversations about the answerless questions that our individuality emerges – loudly and emphatically. In commemorating tragedies spurred in part by intolerance of differences and uncertainty, may we continue the conversations that reveal and proclaim the diversity and richness of life.

- Nickie Robert

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Yih'yu l'ratzon imrei fi v'hegyon libi l'fanecha Adonai tzuri v'goali.

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