Consider the following imagining found in the Talmud [Avodah Zarah 3b]:
“Rav Yehuda says, there are twelve hours in a day. The first three-hours G-d sits and learns the Torah, the second three-hours he sits and judges the world. The third three- hours G-d feeds the entire world… the fourth three-hour period G-d plays with the Leviathan as it is written: “The Leviathan which you have created to play with” (Job 3:8). Leviathan is a large, mythic sea creature mentioned repeatedly in Hebrew Scripture (Job, Psalms, Isaiah, and Amos).
My first thought in imagining G-d at play is “Really? How fascinating to describe G-d in such human terms.”
I am reminded of the words of Voltaire: “In the beginning G-d created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.”
Our Bible and Rabbinic writings do describe God in human-like terms, because that offers us a way of relating and learning. G-d becomes the model of how we should lead our lives.
In the words of the Talmud [Sotah 14a]:
Rabbi Hama son of Rabbi Hanina said: “You shall walk before the Lord your G-d” (Deuteronomy 13:5). Is it possible then for a human being to follow the Shekhinah; has it not been said, “For the Lord your G-d is a devouring fire?” The meaning of this verse is to follow the attributes of the Holy-Blessed One… Rabbi Simlai expounded: The Torah begins with acts of loving kindness and ends with acts of loving kindness. It begins with acts of loving kindness as it is written, “And the Lord made for Adam and his wife coats of skin and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21) And it ends with acts of loving kindness, for it is written, “And G-d buried him Moses] in the valley.”
So, let’s consider why would G-d play, or for that matter, why would we?
“Fred Rogers” of TV fame said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”
And play is not just for children. Play is vital for relationship-making, creativity and joy at all phases of life. Play is letting go of utility to fully and unselfconsciously enjoy the moment. Sadly for too many, play is marked by escape from self, with a dependency on intoxicants. Rather play at its best is marked by surprise, sharing, and spontaneity. Play enables full presence.
Let us play more.
I once asked a marriage counselor the key to her success working with couples. She said, “I insist that each couple goes out once a week on a set day. During that time, they are not go over problems or bills, but just enjoy being together as if they were dating. I insist that they play together.”
Let us also play with our children, too, regardless of their age and our friends.
And let us play through art, cooking, music, dance and more to discover facets of our inner self, to see beauty, to laugh, and to enjoy.
RABBI ELIE SPITZ IS a contributing writer to jlife magazine.