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The God Squad: 'Mother Nature' can't hold a candle to God

February 22, 2013|By Rabbi Marc Gellman | By Rabbi Marc Gellman

Q: The term "Mother Nature" is used a lot. We hear about Mother Nature's fury, Mother Nature's wrath or Mother Nature "throwing everything at us." Isn't God in control of the weather? Where did Mother Nature come from and why the feminine angle? Curious minds want to know!

— R., Dix Hills, NY, via my personal e-mail. (Hey, the guy is president of my synagogue!)

A: I'm a bit embarrassed to say that all this talk originated with a margarine ad in the in which an actress dressed up as Mother Nature complained that "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!" If you want a more sophisticated answer, you have to go back to ancient Greek mythology, where nature (Gaia) was anthropomorphized as a feminine goddess.

In between the Greeks and the margarine ad is a deep and spiritually important ambivalence we all harbor about the forces of nature. On one hand, nature is nurture, and nurture is traditionally seen as a feminine trait because women give birth and we relate them with sustaining life in both the animal and human realms. On the other hand is the brutal, random, bloody destruction of life during natural disasters. If Mother Nature gives, Mother Nature also takes away, it seems. This contradiction can't be resolved because both Mothers Nature are valid.

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Fortunately, for believers in one of the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), Mother Nature is an idolatrous diversion. For us, God is the author and autocrat of nature. The Psalms are full of this teaching. Psalm 19 is all about how "The heavens declare the glory of God." Also check out Psalms 8:1-8; 78:26; 107:25; 135:7 and 148:8. My favorite reference is Isaiah's magisterial, "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things" (Isaiah 45:7).

This belief in one God who makes everything is necessary because any other alternative is ultimately polytheistic, not monotheistic. This is why the Devil and Mother Nature and any other divine contenders are just illusions. So we can stop blaming Mother Nature for wreaking havoc in our lives. As Isaiah reminds us, God is still on the hook for everything we both eat and suffer from in nature.

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