Does God need us?
In Nitzavim, God says:
This commandment [in the singular], that I command you today, is not hidden from you and is not distant. [Deut. 30:11]
The Midrash explains:
What [single] “commandment” [does the Torah refer to]? The Rabbis say: It is a difficult concept to state. [Maharzu: It seems inappropriate to say that because it implies we can "help" God.] ... It means: “If you observe the Torah, you have done a charitable act both for you and for Me.” [Deut. R. 8:5]
In other words, God derives some benefit from Jews following the Torah.
On Yom Kippur, we say:
Avinu Malkenu 'aseh l'maancha im lo l'maanenu -- Our Father, our King, act for Your sake if not for ours.
This implies that God has a stake in forgiving us.
The Psalmist says:
תְּנוּ עֹז לֵאלֹהִים T'nu 'oz l'Elokim -- Give strength to God. [Ps. 68:35]
The Midrash adds:
Rabbi Azariah said in the name of Rabbi Yehudah ben Rabbi Simone: When Israel perform the will of the Omnipresent they add strength to the heavenly power; as it is said [in Psalms], “To God we render strength” [Ps. 60:14]. When, however, Israel does not perform the will of the Omnipresent, they weaken, if it is possible to say so, the great power of He Who is Above; as it is written [in the Torah], “You weakened the Rock that begot you.” [Deut. 32:18]. [Lamentations Rabbah 1:33]
The Psalmist says:
Ve-atta kadosh, yoshev tehillot Yisrael. And You are the Holy One, enthroned upon the praises of Israel. [Ps. 22:4]
This implies that without the praises of Israel to sustain Him, God is not enthroned.
The Midrash goes further:
It is written [in Psalms], “Your throne is established of old.” [Ps. 93:2]. Rabbi Berekiah said in the name of Rabbi Abbahu: Although “You are... everlasting” [Ps. 93:2], Your throne was not firmly established, nor were You known in Your world, until Your children [Moses and the people of Israel] recited the Song: [He is my God, and I will praise him; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.] [Exodus 15:1-2] This is what the Israelites said: In truth, You existed both before and after You had created Your world, but You were standing, as it were… Since… we recited the Song before You, only then did Your kingdom and throne become firmly established [and you could sit!] [Exodus Rabbah 23:1]
Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk said: “Why was man created? To perfect his soul? No. To lift up the heavens!”
Sifre Devarim [Sifre Devarim 346; also Pesikta de Rav Kahane 12:6] says clearly that God needs us because, when we keep our part of the covenant, we not only affirm God's existence, we allow God's existence. In the words of the Rashbi (Rabbi Shim’on bar Yochai):
-It is written [in Exodus]: “This is my God and I will glorify Him” [Ex. 15:2]. This means: “When I acknowledge Him, He is glorified, but when I do not acknowledge Him, He is glorified only in name.”
-It is written [in Deuteronomy]: “Because I proclaim the name of the Lord, [ascribe greatness to our God].” [Deut. 32:3] [This means,] when I call His name, He is great, but when I don’t… [it is as if He is not great].
-It is written [in Isaiah], “You are my witnesses, said the Lord… and I am God” [Isaiah 43:10]. This means: “When you are My witnesses, I am God, but when you are not My witnesses, it is as if I am not God.”
-It is written [in Psalms], “Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You, my enthroned One in the heavens” [Ps. 123:1]. This means: “If it weren’t for me, it is as if You would not be sitting in the heavens.”
The Rashbi seems to be saying that, if we do not bear witness to God, God vanishes into unreality.
The Midrash [Exodus Rabbah 52:5] implies God needs us to "take over" for Him:
-[Rabbi El’azar, the son of Rabbi Yosei said:] The Holy One, blessed be He, first addressed Israel as “daughter” [then “sister”, then “mother”.] -[As “daughter”,] as it says [in the Book of Psalms]: Hearken, O daughter, consider and incline your ear… [Ps. 45:11].
-When He loved Israel more, He called them “My sister”, as it says [in the Song of Songs], Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled; for my head is filled with dew, my locks with the drops of the night. [Song of Songs 5:2].
-And when He loved Israel even more, He called them “mother”, for it says [in Isaiah],
Listen to Me, My people; and give ear to Me, O My mother... [Isaiah 51:4]
-Thereupon Rabbi Shim’on bar Yohai arose and kissed [Rabbi El’azar] on his forehead [saying]... “If this had been the only thing I learned in life, I would have been satisfied.”
Modern Hassidic Rabbi YY Jacobson writes:
The message here is too daring to be spoken clearly. Yet the Jewish mystics picked up on it and articulated it... We became, as it were, mentors to [God], showing Him how darkness can be transformed into light, how imperfection is the beginning of deeper perfection, and how destruction is the commencement of renovation. And this is the message of the third holiday, the festival of Sukkot, when we celebrate the renewed relationship between God and Israel forged on Yom Kippur following their estrangement. From sister we turn into mother. From partners with God, we became teachers to God... Yet here is the catch: To become a healthy mother, you first need to be a daughter and a sister. [http://theyeshiva.net/Article/View/12/Do-You-Know-How-To-Be-a-Mother]
So: Is the notion that "God needs us" (1) a mainstream teaching, (2) a rejected minority opinion, or (3) a heresy?