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/ 5 Adar, 5767
Your Sacred Self Worth
Rabbi David Aaron
Humanity and the Divine are not separate and in conflict
And let them make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell amongst them.
People are accustomed to thinking in terms of time, space and comparisons, so they automatically conceive of G-d as the one and only Almighty being, who has no body, is eternal in time and is infinite in space. This image is not only wrong but it can also be destructive. It is this kind of confusion that contributes to the mistaken thinking that humanity and G-d are separate and in conflict. We end up concluding that if G-d is infinite and we are finite, then we are opposites and mutually exclusive; if G-d is eternal and I am temporary, then we are opposites and mutually exclusive.
The Kabbalah teaches that the Jewish proclamation that "G-d is one" really means that G-d is non-dual. One is the opposite of many; it is limited. Non-dual is free of the confines of "one" or "many." Therefore, G-d is beyond you, me and everyone else in this world, yet mysteriously within us as well.
There is no reality separate from G-dG-d is reality, we exist within G-d, and G-d seeks to be manifest through us. So except in our minds and actions, we can never really separate ourselves from G-d. When we deny this truth by thinking and acting in discord with it, we experience painthe pain of separation from G-d who is our true source, ground and essence.
The Book of Isaiah addresses this point: "G-d says to the Jewish people: 'It is only your wrongdoings that are separating you from me.'" This is teaching us that if we experience separation from the source, then it is only because of our mode of consciousness and the lifestyle we have chosen.
Because G-d is absolutely one [non-dual] He is free to be manifest as 100 percent beyond us and yet also as 100 percent within us.
While this statement seems illogical and contradictory, we have to remember that these concepts can only be explained from our own perspective. From G-d's point of view, there are no two aspects to Divinity. It is only when we describe Divine truth with our limited language that we have difficulty understanding the paradoxes.
The Kabbalah metaphorically describes that there are "two faces to the one G-d"the face, or aspect, of transcendence and the face of imminence. The aspect of Divine transcendence is identified with the power of masculinity and is referred to in Jewish texts as, "The Holy One, Blessed Be He." The aspect of Divine immanence is identified with the power of femininity and is referred to as the Shechina, meaning "The Divine Presence" or "Indwelling Spirit."
Of course, G-d is not male or female, and G-d is beyond the either/or. The manifestation of G-d outside of us is described as masculine. The manifestation of G-d within us is described as feminine.
The Torah generally refers to G-d in the male gender, while the truth about the feminine side of G-d was left for the oral mystical tradition and shared only with a select few. Later in Jewish history the sages revealed this truth to the public.
There is a good reason for this. Jewish tradition aims to instill within us a clear understanding that G-d is beyond us, and that we are not G-d. If the mystery of the "Divine Immanence" were taught to the public prematurely, then there would be a dangerous risk that people would mistakenly think they were G-d. We must first firmly believe that G-d is beyond us before we can be introduced to the truth that G-d is also manifest within us.
THE ETERNAL AND INTERNAL REWARD OF COMMANDMENTS
One of the objectives of living a life of mitzvos [religious duties] is to empower us to make choices that liberate our true inner self and reveal our holiness, the Divine within us. This feat, however, cannot be accomplished until we overcome our selfish, egotistical concerns and control our lustful, animal drives.
Observing the mitzvos helps us access and express our true selvesthe Divine Presence, the Shechina, within. To this end, the commandments of the Torah direct and discipline us toward submission and obedience to G-d. Ironically, however, our submission and obedience to G-d becomes an expression of our own Godliness and freedom. We then enjoy the euphoric experience of feeling G-d manifest as the essential power within us.
Often, when we first start observing the mitzvos, we only hear the voice of the transcendental G-d, emanating outside of us from atop Mt. Sinai, who commands us to obey His will. However, after we humbly accept, submit and obey, we eventually hear this same voice coming from within us. It is as if the Divine voice that we heard speaking to us is now also speaking through us. We become attuned to the voice of G-d speaking through our soul. At this point, we no longer experience the commandments as acts of obedience, but rather as the free expression of our true inner divine self.
In other words, after we obey G-d's will, we discover that His will is actually what we want as well, because our will is really an aspect of G-d's will; a ray of divine will.
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The Kabbalah teaches that when we do not fulfill the commandments, it is as if we are divorcing the manifestation of the Divine within (the Shechina) from the manifestation of the Divine beyond (the Holy One Blessed Be He). The Kabbalah describes the Shechina as being cast away into exile. When we observe the commandments, however, it is as if we are redeeming the Shechina and uniting the manifestation of the Divine within us with the manifestation of the Divine beyond us. Therefore, the Kabbalah instructs us to recite the following sentence before performing a commandment: "I am doing this mitzvah for the purpose of uniting the Holy One Blessed Be He and the Shechina."
When we perform the commandments with this clarity, then we experience the mysterious unity of the manifestation of the Divine within us and the Divine beyond us. We are then able to feel how our individual soul is plugged into the "Universal Soul," and we become energized with an incredible life force and awareness.
A word of caution: These ideas and can be easily misunderstood. We must always remember that we are not unifying different parts of G-d. G-d has no parts. G-d is one, was one and always will be one. Certainly for us, this truth of Divine oneness is hidden and not easily recognized or experienced. But from G-d's perspective, there is only oneness. There is never a separation between the transcendental and the immanent. Our goal is to become conscious of it and experience this ecstatic truth.
When you do a mitzvah, your aim, simply, is to accord and unite your will with G-d's will. You are then a true a servant of G-d; a channel for the flow of divine presence into the world.
This may be a very different understanding of the commandments than most of us had as children. Observing the mitzvos is not about collecting merit points to be cashed in after we die, an approach that may have been good for us when we were five years old (how else could our parents and teachers have explained it to us?). Now that we are older, we need to understand that Judaism is a very rich, deep and transformative lifestyle that gives us access to divine life force, awareness and freedom.
In truth, Judaism empowers us to become a living sanctuary to accommodate G-d's loving presence in the world.
Get Ready for Purim Read Rabbi Aaron's latest best seller: Inviting G-d In: Celebrating the Soul-Meaning of the Jewish Holy Days
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Rabbi David Aaron is the founder and dean of Isralight, an international organization with programming in Israel, New York South Florida, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Toronto. He has taught and inspired thousands of Jews who are seeking meaning in their lives and a positive connection to their Jewish roots.
He is the author of the newly released, Inviting G-d In, The Secret Life of G-d, and Endless Light: The Ancient Path of Kabbalah to Love, Spiritual Growth and Personal Power , Seeing G-d and Love is my religion. (Click on links to purchase books. Sales help fund JWR.) He lives in the old City of Jerusalem with his wife and their seven children.
© 2006, Rabbi David Aaron