Sunday, March 26, 2017


Recently, at the archives of Temple Beth Shalom, in Needham, MA, where I am the Rabbi emeritus, they discovered a booklet written in 2003 by the children of the religious school. Entitled, “Dear God…Our Children’s Letters to God,” it was dedicated to me and to my wife, Ines, on the occasion of my retirement from the congregational rabbinate. That was a lovely surprise. I did not know of this book and I am flattered that the kids decided to think of me at this critical stage of my life. They wrote: “You have pushed, pulled, prodded and led us on a wonderful spiritual journey, for the past 23 years.”  

I immediately read the book and realized that these children, most of them very young, 6-10 years old, are troubled by a number of issues regarding God. Here below are a few examples:

1.    What God looks like:
“What are you doing? What is it like to be God? How old are you? What color are your eyes? How high are you in the sky? Do you eat or drink?
“Are you a boy or a girl? Is the earth ever going to die?”
“How challenging was it to create the world? Did you enjoy it?”
“What do you do all day?”

2.    Many are grateful for their existence:
 “You are the best God in the world! Because you created the world.”
“I know you are watching me! I appreciate your love and care. You are awesome and doing wonders. You are my hero.”
“Thank you for giving me my wonderful family which I love so much.”
“Thank you for getting me through my medical problems, pains, hard times, troubles and allergies.”

3.    Some children have questions worth thinking about:
“I know people have their idea of you. But is that you? Are you just a spirit that lives inside us?”
“Why do you make people born with disease?”
“How come you made miracles a long time ago, but not now?”

4.    Some even doubt God’s existence:

“I’m having trouble believing in you. In school I have learned that the world started with atoms and molecules and the Big Bang theory. …I hope I don’t hurt your feelings, although I believe you are not real.”
“Why don’t you ever show yourself? Why all the secrecy? Do you have something to hide? Give me some sign that you are here with me for ever.”

5.    Some have specific requests:
“ I want a brother so I can play with him.”
“Are you watching over my papa? He is in the hospital. I miss him a lot.”
“Are you going to write back to me?”

6.    Some were even worried about their me:
“Why is the Rabbi retiring?”
“Please give Rabbi Sonsino a great retirement. He was a great Rabbi.”

7.    And, finally, some good wishes for the future:
“I wish there would be no more wars.”
“I wish that all people would be respectful, kind and grateful to all the other people in the world.”

These comments need to be taken seriously, and answered with sensitivity and realism. I will cherish this booklet for many years to come.

Rabbi Rifat Sonsino, Ph.D.
March 24, 2017