Parshat Va’etchanan – A Relationship With the Infinite

By Rabbi Dovid Markel

 

On this Shabbos there are two aspects that coalesce that together convey an important message about G-d’s relationship with the Jewish people.

It is referred to as “Shabbos Nachamu,” alluding to the haftorah of this week, in which the Jewish people are comforted over the destruction of the Holy Temple. The verse (Yeshayahu, 40:1) states “Console, console My people,” says your G-d. G-d promises the Jewish people a double comfort for the pain of exile. Additionally, the Torah reading is that of Va’etchanan begins with Moshe’s prayers to G-d (Devarim 3:23) “I entreated the Lord…saying…;” Moshe turns to G-d beseeching Him to answer his prayers.

These two verses convey an aspect of the Jewish conception of G-d as it differs from the G-d of philosophy. The G-d of philosophy is an unmovable mover who is helplessly limp; incapable of loving and defined in his transcendence. The G-d of philosophy not only does not truly care about the actions of man, as they are intrinsically insignificant, but most definitely is incapable of an authentic loving relationship with Israel.

The anthropomorphic language of these two verses express a bilateral relationship that G-d has towards Israel, and Israel has towards G-d; G-d comforts Israel for their pain, and Israel cries to G-d for their needs.

Israel denounces the pagan statement (Yechezkel 8:12) of “The Lord does not see us; the Lord has left the earth,” which is expresses that G-d Himself is too ephemeral to care for man’s needs, proclaiming that indeed G-d is involved in the plight of man. G-d loves us and comforts us in our sorrow as a father comforts a child and we beseech Him to care for our needs and to have a relationship with His children.

Nevertheless, even within this affirmation, man is likely to deeply err in the meaning of G-d’s involvement, thinking that there are two expressions of G-d, immanence and transcendence; the expression of the immanence is the limited expression of the Almighty that relates to the world—though not His ultimate expression—while the transcendent expression of G-d, beyond what man can fathom is the true expression of the Almighty.

This though indicates the ultimate duality as it expresses a G-d of two points rather than a true unity. For if in immanence one does not experience the transcendent G-d, then essentially one isn’t experiencing G-d at all.

However, in truth, G-d is not limited to being infinite and transcendent, for a truly infinite being has choice to have relate to any being of His choosing—notwithstanding their lowliness. As such G-d can be found in immanence as much as He is found in transcendence. Additionally, a being that is truly One, is just as much one in the illusion of otherness. The true expression of G-d is expressed equally in both immanence and transcendence as both are come from the essence of G-d’s being—so to speak.

Instead, there is an inherent paradox in a Jews experience of G-d expressed in Tinukei Zohar (57) that “the infinite light of G-d is completely transcendent to the highest heights, and lowers itself to no end.” This is not merely expressive of two manners that G-d is expressed, but a deeper point; that the same experience that is wholly removed a finite individuals experience is present in all places and all times.

A person is to realize that while he should not delude himself into thinking that he can climb the heights of infinite transcendence to grasp G-d, concurrently he can experience G-d in the very moment he is in. This realization elicits both the desire to refine one’s self and deepen their spiritual connection by way of climbing the infinite ladder to G-d and effectuates that man should see the essence of G-d in each moment.

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