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Foreword

At The Core Of Our Beings

With Mind And Soul

With Unified Purpose

Understanding What We Cannot Understand

Because He Is

Avoiding Errors

The Paradox Of Our Existence

Getting To The Core Of It All

The Way G-d Knows

One, As Only He Can Be

Looking From His Vantage Point

Afterword

What We Believe
A Series Of Essays On Fundamental Principles Of Faith
Based On Chabad Chassidic Teachings


Chapter Five
Because He Is

Adapted by: Rabbi Eliyahu Touger

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  Understanding What We Cannot UnderstandAvoiding Errors  

Sources: Derech Mitzvosecha,
Mitzvas HaAmanas Elokus, ch. 11;
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, pp. 931-932;
Vol. XVI, p. 269; Vol. XXIX, p. 26ff.;
Vol. XXIV, pp. 42ff.; Vol. XXV, p. 202;
Hadran al Sefer Mishneh Torah, 5735.

He was a bright boy and shortly after his Bar Mitzvah, he began studying Chassidus seriously. He began to familiarize himself with the common terms: yichuda ila'ah (the sublime unity), yichuda tata'ah (the lower unity), tikkun nefesh habahamis (amending the animal soul), birrur hanitzuztos (the refinement of the sparks of G-dliness), avodah bikoach atzmo (Divine service on one's own initiative).

Being an inquisitive youth, he also started to look into the texts of Jewish thinkers of the previous ages including the Rabbis of the Chakirah school. There he found an entirely different lexicon: mechuyav hametzius (that He is required to be), amitas metziuso (the truth of His being), ein lo techilah (He has no beginning).

He began to wonder: Why do the texts of Chassidus put their fundamental focus on a person and his Divine service in refining the world, while the texts of Chakirah are G-dly oriented, concentrating primarily on the description of Him and His uniqueness?

The question gnawed at him for a few weeks. Finally, he asked his mashpia, the spiritual mentor in his yeshivah. With a gentle and understanding look, the mashpia gave him a brief and somewhat cryptic answer: Mir ret nit vegan zich. Mir ret vegan yenar. "We don't speak about ourselves; we speak about someone else."

It took a while for the youth to understand, but then the meaning dawned upon him. The starting point for the Rabbis of the Chakirah school is the reality that the world exists; their efforts - and therefore the focus of their texts - are directed to knowing G-d. In Chassidus, by contrast, the initial frame of reference is G-dly. The effort involves extending the awareness of G-dliness to the material oriented aspects of one's being and to the world at large.

What Exists Before Time

The Rambam[62] lists as the fourth of his Thirteen Principles of Faith, the principle that "This Unified Being is the absolute Primeval Existence. All other entities, by contrast, cannot be considered as primeval in relation to Him."[63]

With regard to physical existence, when we say that one entity came before another, we are dealing in the context of time; this person existed in one era, and the other, in a later age. When speaking about G-d, however, the fundamental intent in describing Him as the First Being is not chronological; we are not concerned with establishing who came first and who, second. Instead, the emphasis is on clarifying that G-d's existence is above time. The existence of all other entities, by contrast, is a factor of time. At one point, they - and indeed, time itself - did not exist.

He Must Be

This indicates that G-d's existence is of an entirely different type than that of the other created beings. As R. Yosef Albo states when listing the fundamental principles of faith in his Sefer HaIkkarim: "His existence must be, i.e., His existence is from Himself, and is not the result of any other cause which preceded it." Every other being was created, brought into existence from utter nothingness. He, by contrast, exists - for no reason and for no purpose - just because He is.

In other words, the truth of every other entity's existence is non-being. Since there was a time when it did not exist, even now when it does exist, its fundamental state is non-being. It exists only because G-d wills that it be. G-d, by contrast, exists with no if's, and's, or but's. He is.

Truth At Work

As above, we are not trying to establish chronology, but instead to define reality. To explain by example: When we say 2+2=4 is true, what that means is that within our ordinary frame of reference,[64] that is the reality. No matter how hard one will protest that this is not so, it will not help. The equation is true.

Extending this concept further, if we assume that e=mc2 is true, it follows that this was the reality for the thousands of years before Einstein discovered this equivalence. The fact that man was not aware of the concept was of no consequence. Despite our lack of knowledge, this equation was at work within our world, determining the relationship between energy and matter. Since it is true, it is not a product of the situations which exist. Instead, it defines the nature of those situations.

And taking the concept still another step further, if we say that G-d is the true reality, that He is the only entity that truly exists, it follows that this axiom applies even though there are planes of existence where it is not evident. These realms of existence may appear independent and G-d's presence may not be at all apparent, but that does not change the reality. If He is true existence, He is true on every plane of existence.[65]

Moreover, His truth is all-pervasive. It is not only that He exists and the world exists; instead, just as He is the truth on every plane of existence, He is the truth within every element of existence. At the core of every being lies G-d. As the Rambam emphasizes:[66] "All the beings of the heavens and the earth... came into existence solely from the truth of His being." His presence may not be evident. We may not be able to appreciate how a particular entity or experience is G-dly, but that does not change the reality. Everything that exists is an expression of His truth.

Whose World Is It?

This is the thrust behind the volumes and volumes of philosophical treatises written to prove that the world is not kadmon, a primeval existence. If we were to say that the world was not created yesh me'ayin, from absolute nothingness, then even were we to postulate that G-d is a stronger and a greater power, He would not be an absolute authority. Were we to say that the world exists independently, He would have to take it into consideration when making demands of man. For there would be another genuine entity aside from Him with which man would have to reckon. He would not be the be-all and end-all of all existence. True, He would be more powerful than anything else, but because man is a material entity, man would have to take the material framework of the world into consideration.

To put the concept in personal terms: If we were to assume that G-d is the most powerful Being, we would have to do His will despite the natural desires that our environment prompts. But our feeling would be that we are giving something up for Him; the world we live in is leading us in one direction and He is telling us to follow another.

When, however, we appreciate that He is the only true Being and the world's existence is solely dependent on Him, there is no room for conflict. It is His world. And that awareness should readily spawn a commitment of "All your deeds should be for the sake of Heaven"[67] and "Know Him in all your ways."[68]

An Owner's Right

To cite a parallel with regard to Jewish business law: There is a concept referred to as chezkas mara kamma. When we are unsure who is the owner of movable property, we assume that the person in possession is the owner. If someone seeks to expropriate the property from him, he must prove his claim in court.

Were we to say that the world is a primeval entity, it would have a claim on everything and everyone who lived in it. Yes, G-d could "expropriate" an article, demanding that at a particular time, a person devote himself or an entity he owns to Divine service. That, however, would always be against our natural tendency, something unnatural, for in essence the article belongs to the world and G-d would be taking it from its ordinary setting.

The awareness that He is the only primeval entity, by contrast, establishes Him as "the Owner." Material existence has no rightful claim to our attention. Why should we involve ourselves in the world? Only because He commanded us to and desired that we refine the sparks of G-dliness contained within the world.

An Extension, Not An Exclusion

On this basis we can appreciate the implications of the verse:[69] "You have been shown to know that G-d is the L-rd; there is nothing else aside from Him." The Rambam[70] cites this verse in the conclusion of his discussion of G-d's existence, and continues: "I.e., there is no other entity that is true aside from Him, like Him." The commentaries[71] explain that the Rambam's intent is to explain that the world exists, for if it would not exist, there would be no importance to our Torah observance. Nevertheless, the world's existence is not at all comparable to His; He alone is true existence.

Chassidus[72] explains that the verse's intent is not merely to negate the possibility of there being any true existence other than Him, but also to imply that "together with Him,"[73] the world can enjoy true existence. The Jews' Divine service brings out the G-dly intent that brings into being every created entity, showing that the entity does not exist for itself, but to become part of G-d's dwelling. For as explained above, the world is not an aggregate of separate entities that should be dedicated to His service. Instead, it is His world, coming into existence "from the Truth of His Being" with the intent that it reflect that Truth.

This will be revealed in the era of the Redemption, when "the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the ocean bed."[74] To focus on the simile: The creatures that live on dry land are readily discernible as separate entities. A vast multitude of creatures likewise inhabit the ocean. Nevertheless, when looking at the ocean, what we see is the ocean as a whole and not the particular entities it contains. Similarly, in the era of the Redemption, although all the world will continue to exist, individual creatures will lose consciousness of their separate identity. They will be totally suffused with the awareness of G-d, existing as an extension of Him and expressing His Truth.

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Commentary to the Mishnah, Sanhedrin, Introduction to ch. 10.

  2. (Back to text) See Moreh Nevuchim, Vol. II, chs. 15-17 and 25, where the Rambam elaborates on this concept.

  3. (Back to text) In theoretical mathematical systems, it is possible to establish a framework where this equation does not apply, but within our framework of reference, it is true.

  4. (Back to text) On this basis, we can understand the concept of hierarchy within Seder HaHishtalshelus, the Hebrew term used to derive the levels of existence that comprise the spiritual cosmos. What defines a rung as higher or lower in the spiritual cosmos? The ability to appreciate this truth. Those realms of existence that are more refined and therefore more conscious of Him are described as being closer to Him. Those, by contrast, that are less perceptive and hence, less aware, are considered as lower.

  5. (Back to text) Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Yesodai HaTorah 1:1.

  6. (Back to text) Avos 2:12.

  7. (Back to text) Mishlei 3:6.

  8. (Back to text) Devarim 4:35.

  9. (Back to text) Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Yesodai HaTorah 1:4.

  10. (Back to text) R. Y. Abarbanel, Rosh Amanah, ch. 20.

  11. (Back to text) See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXV, p. 202.

  12. (Back to text) I.e., in contrast to "aside from Him."

  13. (Back to text) Yeshayahu 11:9, quoted by the Rambam as the consummation of his discussion of the era of the Redemption at the conclusion of the Mishneh Torah.


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