September's issue of Shma features essays and art based on first encounters with God, doubt, death, and ritual.
- Shoshana Olidort: "By the time I recognized doubt for what it was — a feeling of uncertainty, a lack of conviction — there was no return to the kind of religious belief I'd been raised on. It wasn't so much the question of whether God exists or not that wreaked havoc with my mind, as what those ideas — God, existence — even meant."
- Arthur Gross-Schaefer: "This first encounter with tragedy — the piercing loss of our son — was an experience of sadness the depth of which I had never imagined."
- Zev Farber: Explicating the first three words of Torah, "Bereishit bara Elohim," "In the beginning, God created," Farber offers three different ways to imagine God: The God who creates with primordial material and lives in this world; the God who creates the world ex nihilo; and the God who makes use of words and wisdom, and permeates the universe with divine emanations.
On shma.com, watch Israeli novelist Meir Shalev discussing "first loves in the Bible"; download the special User's Guide to First Encounters, crafted by Lee Moore; and read daily bloggers:
- Alon Ferency on how we each create individual mosaics of Jewish life
- Franny Silverman on discovering via Facebook about the death of a distant cousin who was a soldier in the IDF
- Aryeh Ben David on his first encounter saying Kaddish after losing his father last erev Rosh Hashanah.