The Torah reading for Chol HaMo-eid Pesach includes the 13 Attributes of God. The Eternal One passes before Moses and proclaims (according to the prayer book version of the passage): “Adonai, Adonai, a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, and granting pardon” (Mishkan T’filah, [NY: CCAR, 2007], p. 496). Here, God self-describes as an ethical being.
Rabbi Sussman’s discussion of Hermann Cohen raises our awareness of the tension between the national and the humanist, between the specific God of Israel and the universal God of ethics. This tension is one that has animated my own Jewish learning: What did it mean to want to serve the good of humanity and the planet, yet pray to God in language that was specifically Jewish? How could I be widely inclusive and yet also protect the inherent integrity of tradition?