Posted by: ritagone | September 30, 2015




There are some Hebrew (Yiddish) words that just can’t be translated well into English. Most people are aware of “oi vey” as a sigh and a comment that defies translation and means, “What is this world coming to? Woe is me!” There’s “kvetch,” which can be a noun or a verb, and it means someone who complains or the verb to complain. Use it some time this week: “Stop kvetching about your life and do something about it!” It’s a fantastic word!

In Philip Yancey’s wonderful book “Disappointment with God,” he talks about what the creative process must have been like for God when He put the universe together in six days. His main emphasis in this chapter of the book is the fact that – like every creator and artist – the act of creating in and of itself causes the creator to make decisions and choices, and those choices by definition impose limits. He says Hasidic scholars have a wonderful word for God’s self-limitation: zimsum. Isn’t that a great word? Say it out loud and it sounds like you’re revving your engine.

When God decided to make continents with water surrounding them, or throw stars into the sky, those were choices. He could have done it some other way. (Use your imagination; it’s really quite fun to think up other possibilities for these scenarios, like being a science fiction writer.) When He chose to create animals with their various parts, can you imagine Him spending some time figuring out what kind of neck He wanted a giraffe to have: short, long, in between? He made a choice to give the giraffe a long thin neck. Why? Because He had to impose limitations on Himself, so where the elephant has a trunk, the giraffe has a long neck.

But most difficult of all, Yancey points out, was the choice God made about humans, starting with Adam and Eve. He could have created them with no free will, automatons who obey Him because they have no other recourse. Imagine that! Life certainly would have been much simpler in many ways…for God and for you and me. We wouldn’t know about the risk of making mistakes, or how to disobey, to go down our own path when we don’t like what God is asking us to do. It would surely have been easier for God: a bunch of humans who have no other option but to be obedient to Him and always, always do as He says.


Less risky, but much more boring.

And how then would God ever know who really loved Him and who just obeyed because that was all that they could do? The answer is simple: He wouldn’t.

So God limited Himself and His creation by giving to men and women the ability to disobey Him. In the end, He had to send His own dearly beloved Son to set things right. It wasn’t that God had made a mistake; He had just made a choice.

So today, when you’re facing a zimsum situation, think about God and the zimsum choice He made.

Because He wanted creatures who would love Him of their own free will, He chose to suffer at their hands, to suffer from their disobedience and willfulness and stubbornness.

Can’t you love and worship a God like that?

And doesn’t it help explain a bit about the world we live in?



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