Sunday, September 09, 2012

All is God and God is All

A guest at my Shabbos table told us of a religious Jewish professor who sat next to him on a flight from Israel. This Jew began philosophizing about the powers of God. He engaged questions such as, "What could God do and what could He not do", or "Where could God be and where can He not be". Our young Chassid guest said he wanted to jump out of his skull but hung on tightly to his seat, shuddering all the while, to let this man unload his nonsense before answering him.

Are God and the universe two separate things? The answer is a resounding and definite "No!". Most Gentiles (except for Noahides) and even some religious Jews, such as our professor, still make this mistake.

When Torah tells us God created the universe, this universe is real insofar as it becomes our frame of reference, for such is as we can make it out to be, but to believe it is actually apart from its Creator -- is heresy!

One of our opening daily prayers reads "אדון עולם". An incorrect interpretation of these words would be "Master of the universe". For that, proper Hebrew would read, "אדון העולם". The correct interpretation is "Master - universe", or "Master [is the] universe".

God, as it were, attires Himself for us to see as the universe. One is not separated from the other. We must understand, despite our perceptions, "I God do not change." (Malachi 3:6).

Anecdote: A Chassid applied for the position of a rabbi in a town full of Misnagdim. During his interview with the electing committee he was asked, "What's the difference between Chassidim and Misnagdim?" He said, "Misnagdim always think about God; Chassidim always think of themselves."

His answer appealed to the committee and they proudly hired him. Later one of the committee members approached the new rabbi and asked, "What did you mean?"

The Chassid explained: Chassidim know for sure nothing in the world exists but God. Therefore this leaves them always thinking "So am I real, or am I not real?" - thus they always are thinking of themselves. Misnagdim, on the other hand, feel certain they themselves are real, so perforce they keep asking themselves, "So is God also real as me, or maybe not?" - thus always thinking of God.

Two realities exist, one higher than the other. There is the absolute reality of God, which comprises the core of Jewish belief.

Then there is a relative reality, that which we humans sense and interact with. But while this second reality is our 4-dimensional frame of reference in which we operate, we know this reality is subordinate to the absolute reality that is God; Except that we, as mere products of God, can never really fathom the real truth of Our Creator. Any time God wishes, He can simply turn the entire universe "off".

In the middle of our prayers too we say, "אפס בלתך" - "There is nothing but You!";
"גדלו וטובו מלא עולם" - "His greatness and goodness fill the universe";
"מלא כל הארץ כבודו" - - "The entire world if filled with His glory";
and, of course, "שמע ישראל ד‫'‬ אלקנו ד‫'‬ אחד" - "Understand Israel God our Lord that God is One". This last statement means that everything is God and God is everything.

We conclude every daily prayer during עלינו לשבח with this quote from Torah (Deut. 4:39), "God is in the heavens above and on the earth and below - there is nothing else!".

(For those who understand Hebrew, this 1-minute video illustrates the Chassidic concept that despite the differences we ourselves see, God remains unchanged.)


  1. About Romney, he is a religious man, sincerely respects and values Israel, Jerusalem and our place in the redemption process (just like Glenn Beck), but a bit more pragmatically. Reagan didn't always do what "they" wanted him to do, he was a bit independent. I think Romney will be like that. Yes, I believe the same nasties are behind the scenes, but with O it was brazenly in your face, with those commie Czars.