Is God Male?

Before Rosh Hashanah began, I did some interrogation of myself. Not the sort you’d expect; it wasn’t an intake of my spiritual behavior or of my wrong doings. It went something like this:

Chanel 1: I do not want to go to shul this year. Do I have to? I cannot deal with the gendered God crap.
Chanel 2: Of course you don’t have to. You’re an adult. You don’t have to do anything. (There are some exceptions, but shul is not one of them.)
Chanel 1: Maybe I should try harder? Maybe I shouldn’t let myself off the hook so easily? THIS IS A SERIOUS THING.
Chanel 2: It’s not that serious. Calm down.

In the end, I didn’t go to shul on Rosh Hashanah or on Yom Kippur — and this is not a post about how I feel guilty about that. It is about how every time I open a prayer book, I get insanely angry at the gendering of God. I can’t get over the fact that, as a woman, I am praying to a male God. To be clear, I don’t think it’s better to gender God as a female either. I don’t believe in God having a gender at all. It seems pretty clear to me that God is not a gendered being — that God cannot be, God is bigger than that.

Enough of my theology, though. The point is, I know a lot of women who identify as feminists and who go to shul a lot, where God is regularly identified as male. How do they deal with this? I asked some women I know, and here’s they they told me.

K, 23, lives in the Midwest:

S, from the West Coast, now lives in New York:

D, from the South, now in New York:

R, a Reconstructionist rabbi:

After listening to these extremely thoughtful folks, I feel better about the fact that people are dealing with liturgy in meaningful ways. But ultimately, I will have to come to an understanding with myself about whether or not this is a battle I want to continue having, or if prayer is simply not how I’m going to access Judaism. The aggressive gendering of God as male is an enduring symbol of a patriarchal religion, which I happen to care about enough to wrestle with it, also in an aggressive manner.

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