Introduction – The Purpose of this Book
A Quick Word On “Faith”
Like a great many, Hebrew words, the terms emunah and bitachon defy translation. Trying to fit these concepts into the tight bonds of the word faith is comparable to calling the Grand Canyon a “pretty ditch.”
In his book about emunah and bitachon Nachmanadies says that emunah is analogous to a tree, and bitachon is the fruit of that tree. You can have a tree that never produced fruit, but if you have fruit, there must have been a tree involved. Emunah, he says, is belief in God and his power to act, but bitachon is the trust that He will.
It can be said that emunah involves a clear recognition of all of the principles of the Jewish faith, and bitachon is not only the active behavior which reflects these truths, but trust in God. Bitachon is trust that God is not only interested in our behavior, but He loves us and has our highest good in mind. Trust is the basis for relationships with our fellow man, and a relationship with God is no different.
The work of building bitachon is a life time job. The Vilna Gaon says that bitachon is necessary for all positive character traits, and without bitachon a person’s Torah will not last. This trust is the basis for a healthy, loving relationship between us and God, as well as with ourselves. The Gaon adds that bitachon is also necessary for experiencing true love for one another. How can I be jealous of my friend when we both have the very best we can have for us?
The positive benefits of trusting God have been discussed by the Sages throughout the generations. A person is relieved of his daily worries.Bitachon even has the inherent ability to bring a person the object of his desires. Obviously emunah and bitachon deserve a work of their own, and many have been written. Discussing emunah and bitachon – their definition, benefits and practice – is not the point of this booklet.
What is the Purpose of this Book?
The truth is, most people who have problems with belief in God have them for emotional reasons, and not because of intellectual difficulties. They are in pain. They’ve suffered either emotionally or physically, or they empathize with the great pain of others, as in the classic question: “What about the Holocaust?”
This pain must be acknowledged and respected – it cannot be ignored or batted away with platitudes. It is real, and a part of life. But why the pain? Would a kind and just God put us through all of this? To what purpose? What are we here for anyway? Why?
No one can free a person of his pain, he must do that himself. Working on bitachon in God is as personal as the development of any other relationship. But in this work I hope to answer some of these questions, providing a framework where trust can begin to grow. There are answers. He does have His reasons, and some I can understand.
New revelation and understanding can give us the strength to turn to God to help us get in touch with our inner strength.
For me the material in this book is exciting. It is abstract. It is deep, and it is life changing. For many of you it will be the first time you have ever contemplated these issues, but others will be overjoyed to know that these issues are addressed by the Torah, with a blazing light that illuminates all the dark places.
Read this book slowly and carefully, or fast and then again. Share the material verbally with others. Discuss it. Bring it to life. Awareness brings higher consciousness, and the ability to make higher level, better choices in our lives. Without awareness it is impossible to have healthy, happy relationships, with our friends, our spouses, our children, ourselves or with God.
The Power of a Question
Why do Jews always answer a question with a question? Why not?
Questioning has always been a very important part of being Jewish. All of the Talmud, the combined Oral Law as transmitted by the Sages, is written in a question and answer style. Most of us have heard of the four questions asked by Jewish children on Passover night.
Questions create a void in us that needs to be filled. It sets us up to understand the answer on a deep level – to experience higher consciousness. If we do not have the question, we will never really appreciate the answer. In Judaism questioning is a good thing.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. The Talmud says that all beginnings are difficult, and the word for the Talmud uses when describing a question is “kushya,” a difficulty. It’s not easy to be in a state of questioning, and many questions are very difficult.
In the introduction I mentioned some particularly difficult questions that we all have at some point: What am I? Why am I here? Why does God allow us to suffer? These questions are beginnings as well.
But let’s take a little turn. Let’s ask some even more basic philosophical questions. To understand God’s purpose for the world and our role in it, it’s worth questioning some of the fundamental premises we have concerning the nature of reality. This will help prepare us for a shift in consciousness.
Jews believe that God, who is one, infinite, and totally indivisible, created a world out of nothing. A brand new world.
The Jewish God is not a giant old man without a white beard sitting on his thrown in heaven like Zeus. He created the very concept of a physical and spiritual universe, and to this end He must be beyond all those things. He is beyond everything, yet is capable of anything.
This is what we mean when we say “Hear Israel Hashem our God, Hashem is one.” He is totally one and singular, lacking nothing and possessing everything, with no division whatsoever – a concept beyond our universe of perceived duality and separation.
How is this possible if He is one and indivisible? Everything is included within Him… How can anything be new? And if we grant that He can do the impossible, still what would be the nature of this new creation?
Kabbalah teaches that every soul is a piece of God, analogous to a rock hewn from a mountain. Well how can that be? How does one split God into pieces, so to speak? It’s against the basic principle of God’s indivisible unity!
How can the perfect, good God create and constantly sustain evil, His complete opposite?
What’s the deal with resurrection of the dead? Why is that an important belief? Let our souls stay in heaven, happy as can be. Why is the body necessary at all?
These questions may or may not bother you all the time – but they cut to the core of the reality of who and what we are, what is the nature of our world and what our purpose in it is. When we shed light on these questions, we can shed light on to all of our painful questions as well. Perhaps we will find that the darkness of our questions contains light that was originally to blinding for us to see.
What’s the Point of it All?
This question, which is sometimes voiced in depression, desperation and frustration, is actually the beginning of its own answer. What’s the point indeed? Any action, unless it is being performed by a person lacking any sanity or intelligence, has some sort of purpose.
Let us assume that God is not so evil, lowly and despicable (God forbid), that He would create myriad pathetic beings that would their lives out in all sorts of pain, for no real purpose, and just turn His back and walk away. If He is a good and loving God, than perhaps there is an end goal to this, maybe it’s a process?
To understand any process, or any object, one must understand its purpose. If you think a cell phone is a door stop, you might complain it’s too light. If you are watching an artist sketch the first details of an oil painting, you could say he doesn’t know how to draw too well. “Never show a fool unfinished work,” is the old folk saying.
The reality is, the human nature that could lead to evil was God’s creation. He knew what could and would happen. There are some who would say that God was “powerless” to prevent evil. This is heresy of the highest degree. There is nothing out of God’s control.
The answer lies in understanding what the end goal of creation is.
The End Goal
The end goal of creation is simple. Our Sages have told us that God created the universe so that He can bestow pleasure upon His creations. That’s just what He wanted to do. He did not have to, as He lacks nothing, not even the need to actualize His goodness. He is complete perfection.
This type of will and desire is something that we cannot comprehend. All of our desires and wants are based on a lack that we want to fill. We want food because we are hungry, we need energy. We want money because when we don’t have it. And we even want to do good because we miss doing good, or we feel good when we do good. That’s not it for God. He created the very concept of desire.
And it follows that if the purpose of creation was the pleasure of His creations, then He must have created the concept of a desire to receive. He created souls with an amazingly intense desire to receive.
This had to be, because pleasure and desire have a proportional relationship. The greater the desire for something, the more pleasure is involved. It’s true that there’s always room for dessert, but we like saving room for dessert just so it will taste better, if not to keep our figures slim.
If you receive a gift that you don’t really want or need, you aren’t so excited. If you just ate a large hamburger, the experience of eating an entrecote steak is just not the same.
The more the desire, the greater the pleasure. This is why God created His souls with an intense desire to receive, so they would fully enjoy the good that He wished to give them. This desire is the source of our problems, as well as the source of our answers.
Chapter Two – Self Knowledge
With the knowledge of our necessity for having a desire to receive, we can get a grasp on how it is that the creation can be considered new. The desire to receive cannot be something that came from God’s “essence” before the creation of souls, because from whom would He receive? He was everything, lacking nothing, as He is now.
The desire to receive must introduce a new type of consciousness, a perception of separation from the whole. Only when there is perceived otherness there can be a concept of lack, and a desire to receive. God’s indivisible unity leaves no “room” for a desire to get from the other. He is everything, and all He could want is to give to the other, if He so chose. And He did. He generated the concept of a lower level consciousness, something that could be a part of Him without fully realizing it.
The whole universe is essentially comprised of this lower consciousness, this desire to receive. The gift of good, the ultimate pleasure, the gift of Himself, it comes straight from God’s “essence,” and is nothing “new.”
We can see just how far creation is from its creator, despite being a part of Him. From our perspective of duality, with our desire to receive we are polar opposites with the Creator. He has the purest desire to give and bestow goodness, whereas we were created to receive. In the realm of the spiritual, being dissimilar causes distance.
This idea can be understood in the case of two friends. When two people love each other, they are said to be close – even if they are each on the other side of the planet. When people have feelings of animosity, we say there is distance between them – even if they are sitting at the same table.
And it works the other way as well. Bob and Frank are very close friends, but Bob is a Republican and Frank is a liberal Democrat. Sometimes this can cause distance. But they have many other things they have in common, like a love of chess, nature, and many core values.
Certainly it would be very difficult for them to maintain a “close” relationship if their core value system was completely at odds. How about if whatever Frank loved Bob despised and vice versa! What if Frank was a mafia hitman, and Bob was a pacifist cult member? With absolutely nothing in common it would be like they are “from different planets,” and “as far as the East is from the West.”
Like A Rock
It is clear that when referring to the abstract and the spiritual, the less similar one thing is to the other, the farther away they can be considered. Incongruence, being dissimilar, is like the minor’s pickax, hewing the stone from a mountain. To the degree that two things are unlike, to that degree their distance increases.
God has no desire to receive whatsoever – as far as He is concerned, and in true reality, there is no one to give Him anything. We were created for the purpose of receiving the ultimate good, and therefore must have a desire to receive it. This definitely causes some distance. This is what makes us “a part” or an “aspect,” whereas he is the greater whole of everything.
All of God’s light which the soul receives comes directly from God, straight from His essence. So the only difference that exists between God and a soul is the fact that the light is contained within the vessel of the desire to receive. It is thus an “aspect” of the greater whole. A rock from the mountain. It has the perception of separateness, the desire to receive, and this makes it only a part, but on a higher plane it is no different than the whole.
As I mentioned in the introduction, I have tried to present these concepts as simply as possible. They are very deep, and have many ramifications. I hope that they serve to open your mind, to see that there are answers, but that nothing worth knowing is simple at first.
Chapter Three – The Bad Stuff
Why did God make bad stuff? As explained before, the best way to understand anything is to understand its purpose.
We just explained that all souls were implanted with a strong desire to receive. This desire is in direct contrast to God’s infinite desire to give. What gives? We explained that in the spiritual realm, not bound by time and space, anything dissimilar is distant.
So how will the souls ever cling to God, the source of all goodness? How will they ever get close?
A Place to Rectify
So that’s the point of all the worlds, above and below. They give a soul a chance to rectify this separation, to bring the soul close to God. Now we have a lesson on basic metaphysical geography.
There are two opposing systems of universes, the holy system, based on the desire to give, and the unholy system which is based on the desire to receive. When an aspect of this system runs wild, only interested in itself, it sees itself as totally separate and wrapped in its own shell. It is evil.
This is why the Sages say that the wicked are considered dead, even in life. They are cut off from the source of life itself, because they are spiritually the opposite of God. He is the ultimate giver, and they are the ultimate takers. As different as night and day, East and West.
The two systems of worlds each form their own chains, world below world, until they end right here in this physical universe. Here is where the body and soul come together. Both the soul and the body have their roots in the intention of creation – to give pleasure to the souls.
But the body has its root in the aspect of the soul which is the desire to receive, and this is channeled down through the system of unholy worlds, manifesting as a physical body. It is totally under the control of that system until the age of thirteen (twelve for a girl). Despite his innocence a child is a total taker, and in that sense is extremely distant from his maker.
Learning to Give
When the child reaches adolescence he gains meta-consciousness, what can be called a conscience or a yetzer tov in Hebrew. If a person is involved in performing mitzvahs, studying Torah and doing good deeds, he starts to change.
A person must receive, our very existence is a gift from God, but gradually we transform the desire to receive into a desire to receive in order that we may give. That we may give to others, and that we may give back to God.
As we purify and rectify our bodies below, we get access to our higher self above, our aspect of giving – our soul’s light from God. This helps us even more to transform our desire to receive, in a type of snowball effect.
Even our very act of receiving God’s goodness, just enjoying it, can become an act of giving. In halachah, there is a concept that “adam chashuv shani,” the pleasure someone has when another receives his gift has real monetary value. When a loved one graciously accepts and appreciates the gift we give them, it feels good. The receiver can give by receiving.
When we work on ourselves here in this world, we can transform our need and want to receive into an act of giving. With our pure intentions we align ourselves with God. We cleave to him, and become capable of receiving all the infinite good we were intended to get.
But if a person who had other senses saw it, his reality would see only one real candle. The analogue: There are different levels of reality, and to God they are all illusory, it is all Him, He is One, and nothing has ever changed in any way. But in our level of perception lower levels of reality are existant.