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God as Parent

Updated: Dec 26, 2023

We call on God as Avinu, Malkenu- our Father, our King, or, perhaps, our Parent, our Ruler. In her book, Nurture the Wow, Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg quotes William Thackeray, “Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.”  (p. 109)  When we reach out to God as a parent, we express our hope for unconditional love, for acceptance, for support, for patience, for nurturance.  We hope for protection and that sense of security we had cuddling in our parents’ bed and falling asleep in their arms.  We imagine a God powerful enough to control the events in our lives and keep us safe from pain, from harm.

Yet, if we become parents, we learn the hard truth that this is an impossible dream.  There is too much that is out of our control.  Rabbi Jeremy Kalmonofsky writes that, “Since my first child was born. . . the theological trope of God’s parenthood speaks to me very differently.  I hear its spiritual power- not through my experience as a powerless child- but in my experience as a powerless father. . . For God, I love these small people more than I love my own life.  God, if I could only keep them from bullies and nightmares, unreturned love, leukemia, bulimia, depression, bi-polar disorder, cocaine, car accidents, flunking math, AIDS, rapists. . . “ (ibid., pp. 119-120)

Parents can’t protect their children from the world and neither can God.  That is a hard truth.  As we approach God as a parent and express our deepest fears, we pray not for magical intervention, but for strength and wisdom and courage in the face of challenges, and for patience and forgiveness and love when we miss the mark.

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