MARC — Do you think there was ever a time in human history in which we were closer to God than today? Or, in your opinion has it always been a distant and unpredictable relationship? MIKE
Friend Mike, Shalom!
Hope you and loved ones are doing well. Here things are a little dicey due to the progression of my MS, sometimes even leaves me for hours with my legs paralyzed. I daresay that it takes a greater toll on Linda than on me, as she has become my primary caregiver, my everything. God give her, as my mom would say, “a radiant place in the Garden of Eden.”
Obviously, there is no pat answer your query, but let me give you a few Jewish thoughts:
God is always, forever, in our presence, however near/far we choose Him to be, wondrously infinite, “ein sof,” endlessly master of the universe. But due to our own finitude, this manifestation of God is remote, distant, overwhelming, magical creator, the “unmoved mover.” We praise Him for the wonders of the universe and His endless majesty and infinitude.
We also believe that another manifestation of God is close and finite, springing from the earth itself, right under our feet, eager to be our “lover,” a partner in creation, not its total master.
Chances are that you have already caught that this sounds a whole like a dual-deity stuff, polytheism. You’d be right, but we are so staunch in our faith in monotheism that we steamroller right over that idea. Instead, we talk about the two manifestations of God (Ain Sof and Shechinah) as so intimately related that the medieval Kabbalists call it “yichud Kudsha Brich Hu u-Shechintai,” a “sexual” intercourse between the masculine and feminine elements. Earthly creativity is possible only through a far-near, God-human, mutual ecstasy.
So, the nearness of God is not His doing but how eager we are to jump in the bed with Him, our choice, not God’s, anytime, anywhere.
This leads us to the wisdom of the Prophets. Looking to the greatest rabbinic authority of classical Judaism, Moses Maimonides, even many of the Biblical prophets were not wham-slammed in their head seers of visions. They were kind of plain folks like us who usually received their prophecies in sleep-time dreams, and then were given the mandate to act upon them in faith and truth. Their difference came because they were especially receptive to God’s word through righteousness.
So, what is the origin of the prophetic potential? Again Maimonides: Every human being has prophetic potential. A desirous person need open up and diligently follow the “training regimen” that Maimonides lays out, not wholly spiritual, but rules for attaining the human potential to have intimacy with God. Anyone? Everyone?
The issue of God’s nearness is in our receptiveness. Who among us has encountered that kind of a blessed person? Not usually, I guess. But more than we imagine. We call them “tzaddikim nistarim” — the hidden righteous ones: the homeless “bum,” the chronic “wino,” you, me? We have likely encountered all of them.
Did I ever encounter a righteous person who had truly galvanized his prophetic potential? I think of my master, the Rebbe of Lubavitch, who died just two-plus decades ago. With no flourish or drum-rolls, in a split second he twice whispered advice to me that was so prescient that it could only have been from his connection to the Almighty. Dare I call them “miraculous”? And thousands of others were blessed the same, like micro-precise surgical incisions into our souls.
He was without any desire for worldly riches or fame, an image of complete humility. I once chatted with a Native American shaman who had once seen the Rebbe, and all he could say was “Ooo, connected!”
Could you replicate that level of connectivity? We all have the prophetic potential. Thus, the nearness of God at any time is our decision, not an eclipse of His presence.
Hope this made even a little sense. Thank you for this opportunity to think.
“WILUDI” (Rabbi Marc Wilson) is a retired rabbi who writes from Greenville, South Carolina.