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Is God a Man or a Woman?

May 8, 2009 | by Rabbi Dr. Jerry Lob

Q. My four-year-old daughter has begun to ask about God. Is God a man or a woman? What is God? What should I tell her?

A. First, know that this is a terrific question, a sign that for your daughter, God is a real entity. Express how proud you are, to her, if you haven't already.

Second, your daughter is probably struggling with where God fits in her life. One day, when she has the capacity to understand more abstract notions, you can have a complete discussion with her.

For now, given her very young age, it is sufficient to talk about God as a Being Who is more than man or woman, Who is endlessly loving, Who is someone we all turn to for help. You can encourage her to pray to God in her own words. You can tell her that God always hears her, is incredibly proud of her, is happy when she is happy, and is sad when she is sad as well.

As your daughter grow older, you will want to make sure that you communicate the following more complex understanding from traditional Judaism.

  • God is complete perfection without the limits or needs of human beings.

  • God is not a human being so God is neither a man nor a woman. The pronoun "He" is not really accurate and not any more correct than the pronoun "She." The term "It" may be better in accuracy, but is not respectful, implying some being less than human as opposed to the truth of a being that is so much more.

  • There are masculine names of God and feminine ones. For example, the name Elokim usually associated with God's attribute of justice is masculine, while Shechinah, a name that evokes God's presence in a close and intimate way, is feminine.

  • In the Midrash, God is sometimes referred to as groom with the Jewish people as his bride and at other times (e.g., Friday night Sabbath prayer service) God is presented as bride.

  • Images of God as father and God as mother are found throughout Torah and Jewish tradition.

  • God embodies the ideals, the perfection of both mother and father -- unconditional love, infinite patience, strength, support.

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