Shabbat chol Hamo'ed Succot
"Yet you have said, 'I know you by name, and you have found grace in my sight'" Exodus 33:12
In a world where a leading scientist questions God's role in creation, the concept of a personal God who cares about human beings is at best quaint. The context of these words reveals their meaning. Moses appeals to God: he does not want to live in a world where even though he would be made into a great nation, the Israelites would be destroyed. It is the same as saying today, "I don't want to live in a world without Jews." On many occasions in Jewish history, Judenrein existed as a possibility. We called those dreadful moments churban and stopped counting them in 70CE with the Second Churban, the destruction of the Second Temple, as if that was the last.
We are committed to playing an essential role in history. But that role changes. We were once a people not quite fitting into society: we played an interstitial role. Some suggested we were the grain of sand in the oyster: the irritant producing the pearl of wisdom. Some thought we were the barometer of society: as it goes with the Jews, so the rest of humanity.
"I don't want to live in a world without Jews" is another way of saying "I want God's grace, mercy and compassion". We live "as-if" lives in that we go into each new day as if God is on our side. The fruit on the succah will lead to more fruit from the fields. Our moral behaviour will find a reward from God. A Jewish response to Professor Hawking might be: God doesn't have to have been the Creator: all we want is for God to be there in covenant with humanity.