Judaism: Letting G-d In
Moshe KempinskiMoshe Kempinski, author of "The Teacher and the Preacher", is the editor of the Jerusalem Insights weekly email journal and co-owner of Shorashim, a Biblical shop and learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem.
How does one understand the phenomenon wherein there are people that experience G-d in every aspect of their lives, while so many others just miss Him? Some see the hand of G-d in all the text and subtext of our lives while others see their lives tumble forward in random meaningless waves.
One of the great Hassidic giants Reb Menachem Mendel of Kotzk once asked his students "Where is God to be found”? His students sheepishly answered, “everywhere”. He is to be found in every corner of our existence. As it says in Isaiah "And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is Hashem of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.(isaiah 6:3).
Rabbi Menachem Mendel answered “He is found in the place where He is given entry”. This response is in keeping with the words of the psalmist "Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.( psalm 72:19).
Which is it, then ? Is the world filled with His Glory or is it our fervent prayer that “may the whole earth be filled with his glory". The Kotsker Rebbe is declaring that the choice is in our hands.
Clearly G-d fills His creation as He is infinite and His creation is but finite. Yet the impact of such a filling is only relevant if we yearn to see and experience it. We read in the book of Leviticus the following;
" And if in spite of these things you will not be corrected unto Me, but will walk contrary ( Keri) unto Me; then will I also walk contrary( Be-Keri) unto you; and I will smite you, even I, seven times for your sins." ( Leviticus 26:23-24)
Maimonides in Hilkhot Ta'aniyot (1:3) translates keri not as "contrary" or odious" as some traditional scholars do but rather as “happenstance”. He writes;
“But if people do not cry or sound the trumpets, and instead say, "This occurred to us as the natural way of the world, and this crisis surfaced by happenstance" – this is an attitude of cruelty, and it causes them to become attached to their evil ways, and this crisis will bring upon further crises. This is what is said in the Torah, "And if you act towards Me be-keri; then I, too, will act towards you in the wrath of keri." Meaning, when I bring a crisis upon you so that you repent, if you say that it occurs by happenstance, then I will add the wrath of that happenstance."
Essentially what Maimonides seems to be saying is that if the people react to the events of the world as if it is all “happenstance” then G-d will allow them to continue to experience the world in the random and happenstance fashion they have identified.
That is the meaning of the verse
“They shall make for Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell amidst them” (25:8)
The people need to yearn for G-d to be experienced and the result of that yearning is that He becomes experienced in their very essence.
The Torah portion of Truma begins with the words;
"Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: "Speak to the children of Israel, and have them take for Me an offering; from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take My offering. (exodus Chapter 25:1-2)
What is the actual offering that HaShem yearns for? What He “yearns” for is the offering expressed in the following words "every person whose heart inspires him to generosity." That is the offering that is pleasant to Hashem. When the hearts of men and women are brought as an offering then G-d dwells “amidst them".
This can also help explain the text of last week's Torah portion. First we read;
“So Moshe came and told the people all the words of Hashem and all the ordinances, and all the people answered in unison and said, "All the words that Hashem has spoken we will do.( Exodus 24:3).
Yet following that, the youths of the children of Israel offered up burnt offerings, and peace offerings to Hashem. We then read " And he took the Book of the Covenant and read it within the hearing of the people, and they said, "All that the Lord spoke we will do and we will hear.".
Before the offering the people of Israel were ready to obey and do what G-d commanded them to do. Yet the moment that they offered themselves up to be part of the relationship. The moment they became active participants in the relationship they were able to "do and Hear ( listen and understand)
The message is simple and clear. Those that do not search for G-d either due to their feelings of inadequacy or due to arrogance will not find Him anywhere. Yet those that actively pursue and are actively involved will find Him everywhere.
LeRefuat Yehudit Bat Golda Yocheved