Rabbi Marc Gellman writes about religion for Newsday.
So many readers have shared with me the one question they'd ask God. Here's a selection, along with my comments.
When I was 5 years old, I was in the family car coming home from Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, and I saw God in the sky. I would ask God, "Why was I able to see you, and what did it mean?" (I've never seen him again.) -- D.
What did God look like? The problem with all theophanies (experiences of God) is that we never know if they're hallucinations or the real deal. The deeper problem with your story is that it changes faith from something you believe in and trust in and hope for into something you saw on the way home from the beach.
My question would simply be WHY? Why did you do it? Obviously, this human experiment didn't work out so well. Most of the world's problems have been and still seem to be centered around religious differences. I have no complaints about the awesome planet, though. -- J.
So, let me get this straight: You're uncomfortable with the religions that produced Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr., but you're quite comfortable with a planet that produces hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis? We need to talk.
My question would be, "If you sent us guardian angels, why don't they protect abused children?" Suffering children tug at my heart. As a child, the only way I could sleep after thinking of them was to hope that the joy they felt in heaven after their deaths was so great that no memory of pain could exist. I still hope that. -- D.
I still hope that, too. We know that God gave us free will, and that most of the evil we see is the result of our misuse of that freedom. To stop evil would mean that God would have to end free will, and free will is the foundation not only of goodness but also of love. Still, the evil done to children haunts my thoughts as well. It is the worst thing we do. I'd surely ask God with you, "How can you cope with our evil choices?"
After much thought, I would ask God, "Did you create life on other planets?"-- B.
Many of you asked this question, but personally, it's not a big one for me. I think it's actually half of the real question. The other half is, " . . . and do they know of you?" Or perhaps, " . . . and do they have baseball and golf and pizza?" From my perspective, if they don't have baseball, golf and pizza, I could care less if there's life on other planets.
I would ask, "Why is there no credible, objective evidence of the existence of any god?"-- B.
Once again, let me get this straight. You're sitting in front of God, it's your turn to ask a question, and you ask the God right in front of you, "Why is there no evidence that you exist?" I must be missing something.
My question is, "What do you wish ME to do?" -- R.
I know the answer: Do good things.
And then there was D., who was filled to overflowing with questions for God. Here's a short list:
Do I need organized prayers to connect to you?
No, but you need organized prayers to connect to a community of faith.
How are the saints and righteous people different from the rest of us?
They don't have to try to be good. They're good by instinct. They are pure.
If I'm hit by a truck and die crossing the street today without having made up with my wife, am I doomed?
If you don't make up with your wife today, you may wish that you'd been hit by a truck.
I know that more times of intense pain will come for me on Earth. Will you walk with me?
Yes, just don't walk too fast.
How can I, such a lowly creature on a developing planet, be special in your eyes, as my faith teaches me that I am?
It's a balancing act. On the days you feel special, remember that you're just dust and ashes. On the days you feel like dust and ashes, remember that God made you just a little lower than the angels.