Review: "The God Upgrade"
The God Upgrade Finding Your 21st-Century Spirituality in Judaism’s 5,000-Year-Old Tradition
By Rabbi Jamie Korngold
Rabbi Jamie Korngold, known as “the Adventure Rabbi” for her work in getting people back to their spiritual roots by taking them out into nature, says that one of the biggest stumbling blocks to religious practice today is an outdated concept of God. She reveals Judaism’s long history of willingness to disagree, to wonder, and even to argue about God, saying that “Judaism remains relevant today not because of our relationship with a divine being but because our religion provides us with an interpretation of life that brings meaning to our everyday actions. Through the Torah, the Talmud, and other texts, Judaism creates order, establishes priorities, and builds values in an otherwise chaotic world.” And, she says, by imposing a moral order on our natural instincts, it teaches us to seek justice for the weak and oppressed and to care for the poor and defenseless among us.
Rabbi Korngold first gives readers a brief discussion of the way some of the luminaries of Jewish thought throughout history have handled the concept of God, and then she presents her own concept to be explored — a concept attempting to be compatible with both Jewish tradition and current science, and that links ancient traditions and rituals that bind people together with the freedom to interpret them in accordance with personal experience and understanding. Calling her book “a blunt questioning of contemporary portrayals of God,” she says: “The God I experience in the wilderness can neither talk to me nor grant me the wishes of my heart. But this God can help me create a meaningful paradigm in which to live my life … Once we know what this God experience feels like, we can connect with God wherever we are.”
Speaking to the Jewish community, she says: “My hope is that my writing, my work, and my teachings will help you find a God concept that echoes your experience but does not insult your intelligence and that therefore you will be able to access the rich tradition of thought, culture, and community of our Jewish heritage.” Her lively engagement with her tradition offers hope that those within other established religions, with their own hallowed texts, rituals, and teachers, will find that they too have room for growth, change, and adaptation.