How does Judaism view the relationship between people and God?

Answered by
Rabbi Amy Scheinerman

Our tradition reflects the view that humans are created in the image of God. Many interpretations have been proffered to explain this notion, including that humans have a capacity for morality and gratitude, unlike other animals, that they have an insight into the world that is unlike other species and closer to God's, and that they have a sense of self and relationship which is God-like. Tradition holds that humans have free will, meaning that they choose their own actions. This entails great responsibility.

The Talmud teaches that within each person is a Yetzer Tov (inclination to do good) and a Yetzer Ra (inclination to do evil). At all times, we are aware of the correct course of action as well as tempted by the wrong course of action. These struggle within us, as we struggle to make the correct behavioral decisions. Judaism does not promulgate dogma about God, but does limit legitimate Jewish belief to say that there is only ONE God, and that God is incorporeal. Throughout the ages, many scholars, sages, and philosophers have share a wide variety of ideas about God, all of which are legitimate by Jewish standards. As for the relationship between God and the individual, it is one spoken of by metaphor: king/subject, parent/child, shepherd/sheep, lover/beloved, and so on. Each individual's relationship with God is unique and deeply personal.