Conventional wisdom has it that as we grow older we wax more philosophical .When young, either lack of interest or conceptual ability inhibits philosophical thinking.
This morning this premise was overturned. While teaching a group of ten ten year olds I was gratefully graced with sophisticated philosophical thought from these young, and very bright minds and imaginations.
In light of the Torah portion of this coming Shabbat , which concludes the discussion of constructing a "Mishkan, " a sanctuary, more literally, a dwelling place for God, I decided to pose the following quite challenging question to the class, requesting a response of one or two words.
"Where does God dwell?"
These were some of the answers.
Several students wrote, not unexpectedly,"Everywhere." Perhaps this answer is indeed a very common one. While it may satisfy our need to understand God abstractly, it leaves us somewhat incomplete and vague about a more immediate sense of God's presence.
"In our souls" was another reply, followed similarly with, "in our hearts." The search for the divine that is more personal and experiential was demonstrated in this level of understanding. The heart and soul are places of deep and intuitive perception beyond the reach of our minds. These kids captured this awareness simply yet compellingly.
I was reminded of the story of a kindergarten student who posed a theological question to his teacher for which she had no satisfying answer. The teacher hurried to the principal’s office and invited her into the classroom to deal with this child’s question. The child asked:” My teacher told me that God is everywhere. Well, I don’t want a God who is everywhere; I want a God who is somewhere!”
A skeptic in the class retorted verbally and enthusiastically: "God is what we want Him to be!"
This thought goes back centuries to the earliest Greek philosophers. A ten year old was arguing this point today.
"In the world." This response raised the question of whether we can limit God to this world only or do we conceive of God as dwelling in the outer reaches of space as well? The class consensus was all the galaxies of the universe. I thought: Unlike the Creationists, I thank God for science .
My time ran out. I left a class still clamoring for more discussion on this question. I was grateful again for the gift of teaching and witnessing the miracle of young human minds and hearts.
A Hassidic rabbi was once asked the same above-mentioned question. His answer was: "Wherever we let Him in !"