The Rapport Between Man and G-d
Chapter 1 Why Do We Need Unity In Our Lives?
The Natural Human Quest For Unity
Human nature is drawn to unity.
Look at a child who is given a pile of blocks of various colors and shapes – he or she naturally tries to group each block with the others that resemble it.
We are all constantly searching for the connections between the various objects and forces around us, trying to make sense of their relationships.
When we are not able to do so, when we cannot achieve symmetry or order, we feel confused and unsettled.
What do we mean when we say we are searching for “meaning” in our lives? What we really yearn for is to make order out of disorder, to gain insight into the unknown forces that determine all movement and behavior. But why are we so drawn to unity and so disturbed by chaos?
Because all the different creatures and forces were created by one G-d. Therefore the underlying element of our world is a single comprehensive unity, a seamless all-embracing equanimity.
So even when we see disunity on the surface, we can sense a unity within, and our souls reach for it.
A leaf, a twig, and a piece of bark may look nothing alike, but there is no question that they are all part of the same tree.
In fact, their very existence is possible only as long as they are unified with the tree itself.
Life itself is really a search for unity.
A scientist searches to discover the unifying laws that govern the seemingly diverse forces of nature.
A psychologist tries to trace the myriad elements of external human behaviors back to a few underlying needs inside the human psyche.
An engineer combines thousands of individual parts to combine one machine.
But all these forms of searching for unity are actually a means to a higher end: the search for G-d and the ultimate unity.
Our own personal search for unity is directed towards this same higher end.
We have been charged with the responsibility of taking all the elements of the material world – our families, our work, our daily concerns – and channeling them towards G-d, the one true unifying element both within and outside of ourselves.
To discover unity and meaning in our own lives, we must first understand the unity of G-d, and by searching for G-d, and for the soul within our physical bodies, we begin to make sense of the millions of threads that make up the beautiful tapestry of life.
This recognition enhances our lives immeasurably, for it invests deep meaning in our every single action and thoughts.
This is why we crave unity, and why we must search for it.
We are destined to unite our body and soul, our thoughts and our deeds, our faith and our reason.
Leading a unified life means leading a life of harmony, a life into which we have brought G-d into our every moment.
Chapter 2 What Is Unity?
Harmony within Diversity
Unity is often confused with sameness.
We may think that if everybody thought and acted the same, we would have perfect harmony.
But unity is a process, whereas sameness is just a state of being.
The same musical notes played again and again would be monotonous or irritating, but many different notes, each played differently, create a beautiful composition.
It could be said that unity is literally as simple as one, two, three.
One is the presence of an individual unit. Independent, but alone.
Two is a duality, two distinct entities.
And three introduces a third dimension that can combine or contain the two entities, producing a greater unity.
So unity can take two seemingly disparate elements and while recognizing the unique qualities in each, create a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts.
Unity is the harmony within diversity.
There are countless examples of unity all around us.
Our human body, for instance, is one unified whole made up of millions of diverse elements – genes, cells, limbs, organs and systems – all of which are nourished by different foods, liquids, vitamins, minerals, and unseen forces that we have only just begun to understand.
The challenge of unity is to recognize the strengths of these different elements and bring them together without annihilating any one element’s individuality.
Consider the love between two people, each person must be willing to bond while respecting the other’s individual needs and qualities.
The same is true in our relationship with G-d.
We humans must achieve a unity with the Divine without compromising ourselves or G-d.
But how can we integrate our independent earthly reality with G-d’s all encompassing, absolute reality, without obliterating one or the other?
Isn’t Divine unity antithetical to the extraordinary diversity of our physical universe?
This seeming paradox is exactly what G-d intended. He endowed our earthly reality with a seemingly independent existence that appears to mask G-d’s absolute reality - with the distinct objective that we would ultimately use our free will to accesses our innate desire to unite with G-dliness.
As our eyes and hearts and minds grow more and more knowledgeable about our physical reality, we begin to see, like scientists and engineers, that there is indeed an unshakable and Divine unity that underlies and gives meaning to everything we do.
The idea of Divine unity goes far beyond the concept that there is only one G-d; it also excludes any existence apart from Him.
Everything we can know or see emanates from this single unity.
Chapter 3 How Does G-d Reveal Unity?
Practice and Theory
How G-d Reveals His Unity
Because G-d wants us to become unified with him, and not just subjugated by him, He gave us the ability to achieve true unity with our Divine source.
And He allowed us to contemplate this awesome dynamic.
Yes, we inhabit a finite reality which, by definition and nature precludes contact with anything truly infinite or transcendent.
But in creating us, G-d has also imbued within us channels of awareness that allow us to breach the outer fragmented layers of our physical world, the “container,” and glimpse the pure essence of G-d’s unifying “light” within.
How does G-d choose to reveal this light?
Consider a teacher and his student.
The teacher knows that the student has a less developed intellect, and that if he presents a concept on the level of his own comprehension, the student will only be confused.
To introduce a new idea to the student, he condenses it and uses metaphors or parables to bring it within the students grasp.
Sometimes, when the teacher is at a far higher level than the student, it may be completely necessary to set aside the original concept, instead he must find a new frame of reference, reaching for examples and metaphors that the student can understand, even though they are far removed from the original concept.
The teacher must make a radical jump from one world of comprehension to another, and then allow a ray of light to stream through, containing condensed information and drawing a connection.
Using metaphors is not meant to separate the teacher and the student, but to bring them together in a unity that does not compromise either of them.
For the teacher, the complexity of the concept itself remains intact in his mind even though he had expressed it in a simple metaphor; he perceives it from the “inside out.”
The student meanwhile gains access to a new concept in a language that he is capable of understanding; he begins to relate to the concept from the “outside in.”
The “inward” journey from metaphor to concept has begun.
The concept grows and grows and becomes integrated in the students mind until he or she ultimately understands the original concept just as it exists in the mind of the teacher.
We can use this relationship between student and teacher as a metaphor to understand our own relationship with G-d.
G-d could have chosen to conceal everything, never extending to us a stream of metaphors through which we could learn his way.
He could have allowed us to coexist as independent beings, separated from His omnipresence.
But where would that leave us?
Yes, we would exist, but we would have no insight into the significance of our existence.
Even worse, we would have no desire to seek the meaning of our existence; we would remain locked into our own limited perspective, with no need to unite with something higher than ourselves.
Instead, by creating our world so that the outermost layers peel away to reveal successively more abstract and spiritual layers, G-d provided us with an opportunity to understand our Creator.
Just like the student, we gain knowledge of the universe step by step, metaphor by metaphor.
Our perception of the “light” continues to be heightened as our “containers” continue to be widened, as we approach ever nearer to the perspective of the Creator, our Divine guide and teacher: G-d.
Just as the relationship between a teacher and a student requires a delicate balance of closeness and respect, of love and awe, we must strive for a similar balance in our relationship with G-d.
This creates a healthy tension, forcing us to separate the finite from infinite, to differentiate between our limited worldly reality and G-d’s absolute reality.
The very act of recognizing this separation allows us to begin integrating the two realities.
Not only do we feel that G-d is with us every moment, but we also recognize that G-d created and transcends every moment.
Finally, we come to the ultimate conclusion that “there is nothing else” besides G-d.
Chapter 4 How Do We Achieve Unity?
Practice and Theory
To allow us to unite with Him, G-d has provided an elaborate trail of metaphors, like stepping stones across a wide river.
These steps function like a mediator or a translator.
A translator does not add any new ideas to a conversation – that is not his role – but he unites two parties in communication.
An intermediary does not settle a dispute, but he creates a bridge, a line of communication that enables the two sides to achieve a common understanding.
In a student teacher relationship, the teacher is both source and mediator.
The teacher’s metaphor is the intermediary, allowing an abstract concept to be translated into one that can be grasped.
The teacher’s goal is to create a series of stepping stones to accommodate the student’s intellectual stride, leading him deeper and deeper into the concept.
The metaphor then, is equal parts “light” the teacher’s concept, and “container” language that makes the ideas accessible to the student.
In describing the wisdom of King Solomon the verse states “And he grew wiser than all men… and he spoke three thousand metaphors.”
At first glance, we might think that this description of Solomon’s abilities reflect his fertile imagination rather than any real wisdom.
But the metaphor is far more than an entertaining way to convey an idea, it is the translation of a concept into a lower level of intellectual discourse.
The greatness of Solomon’s wisdom lay in the fact that he could take the most profound sublime thoughts and bring them to life for minds far less developed – three thousand steps less developed – than his own.
This in turn enables the recipients to retrace the steps one by one until they can achieve the original high level of discourse.
Solomon’s wisdom is itself a metaphor for the sort of wisdom that went into G-d’s creation of our physical world.
After the radical “jump” from a non-existential reality to an existential one, G-d began creating all existences in their most spiritual sublime forms.
He then caused them to develop in many stages ultimately producing our physical world, the most tangible embodiment of G-d’s created realities.
Every material element or force is actually a physical manifestation of a higher more spiritual one; water for example, is the physical embodiment of love and kindness, while fire represents the physical dimension of power.
But as the properties of the world become more tangible, they also become farther removed from their Divine source.
With each progressive step downward, more of each objects Divine “light” is concealed while more of its “container” is revealed, just as the essence of a complete idea may be diluted as it is translated into the concrete and specific words of speech or writing.
In our universe, this process has reached the point where everyone is able to experience the “containers” but very few can glimpse even a hint of the “light” within.
We can see or read the words on paper but we don’t always sense the ideas they represent.
And yet this is precisely what G-d wants: that our “dark” and “lowly” world obscure its connection to the Divine, so that man, out of his own free will, would choose to peel back the successive layers of the container to reveal the light.
And to facilitate the process G-d creates different steps along the way, a ladder by which man can climb ever upward and unite with his Creator.
Practice and Theory
There is a danger however to this cosmic metaphorical structure.
Just as a student may see the metaphor as an end in itself, failing to realize that is only a representation of a far deeper idea, we too may fall short, believing the trivial elements of our material world to be ends in themselves.
The master teacher, therefore, will allow a word, a gesture, or an inflection to slip through the layers of metaphor, giving the alert student an occasional glimmer of the more sublime concept that lies within.
Similarly, G-d did not create our existence as an “airtight” reality.
Even a person who is totally focused on the material world will catch a glimpse of a greater reality, for G-d always allows at least a pinpoint of light to escape its container.
Unexpectedly, we might have a certain experience that rings a bell of a higher truth in our ears. It is up to each of us to recognize and act upon that bell, to find the means to unite with Divine.
To this end, we have the Bible – the ultimate metaphor, for it is G-d’s pure wisdom manifested in a language that we are allowed to comprehend.
By studying the Bible we unite with G-d’s wisdom; and by performing the commandments instructed therein, we actualize G-d’s will.
This is the means by which we take the first solid steps towards unity with G-dliness, by which we can cross the divide between our limited reality and G-d’s infinite reality.
The first step is to acknowledge the need for such unity, which means understanding how the two realms came into being.
Light, with all its paradoxical qualities, is our best metaphor for understanding the process of creation.
We speak of “enlightenment” that dispels the darkness of ignorance, of a “ray of hope” penetrating the blackness of despair, of a “Divine light” that bathes the soul in virtue.
By contemplating the paradox of light – that it is clearly real and yet appears to have no substance or shape – we can approach an even greater paradox: the unity of our physical universe with the “universe” of G-dliness.
The mysterious qualities of light illustrate the main truth of our physical universe: that an existence must be defined not only in terms of its own being, but as a means to illuminate a higher truth.
Light becomes both a pure expression of G-d and the metaphor that, through our reason and other faculties allows us to experience the ways of G-d.
This Divine light begins as a pure light reflecting G-d’s essence, and then manifests itself as two forms of energy: infinite light, and a finite light that can be confined in a finite existence.
Even as this second light is compressed into the containers that define our existence, it retains its supernal transcendent quality, always reflecting the essence of its source.
From G-d’s perspective, the container and the light are two forms of the same Divine energy.
But from our perspective, they appear as distinct even opposing forces.
Within ourselves, we see this difference as the split between body and soul.
This tension can only be relieved by reuniting the light with the container, by reuniting our body and soul, and that requires introducing a third higher dimension: G-d.
When the soul unites with the body, it is finally empowered with the ability to carry out its mission in the physical world.
Since each element in our universe reflects another shade of the Divine, when we unite our own body and soul, we create a unity that begins to spread throughout the entire world.
This is the challenge that faces each of us: to reunite with G-d, first by recognizing the transcendent soul within our own bodies, then by recognizing that G-d is above and beyond us, and finally by integrating G-d into our lives.
As we raise our sensitivity to the spiritual forces within us, we learn to love and blend with others in a way that does not compromise anyone.
Together with appreciating the differences between people, we learn to see the common threads that tie us together.
Instead of looking at the world selfishly, we learn to see more deeply within ourselves and discover the light within, which in turn allows us to bring out the harmony in the diverse sprawl of humankind.
This unity carries over into everything we do.
The food we eat becomes fuel to help the soul carry out its Divine mission.
The people we meet become opportunities to perform good deeds.
By looking at each action and material object as a stepping-stone towards a more spiritual place we move ever closer to the underlying source of our world, to revealing the light in the containers.
Thus we unite with G-dlines on both our terms and His.
You practice virtue and kindness in a way that emulates G-d’s virtue and kindness.
You use your mind to express G-d’s wisdom.
Everything you do becomes a metaphor for revealing G-d’s light.
And that is true unity.
Chapter 5 How Can We Unite With G-d In Our Generation?
History itself is testimony to man’s search for unity.
With the explosion of knowledge in the last few centuries and the proliferation of technology that has followed, we have become more familiar with the inner workings of our material world.
Indeed, the world has grown so small that we now call it a “global village.”
Science has enabled us to begin
comprehending the unity within the laws of nature, and technology has allowed us to create a unity with on another across the globe.
And yet we are plagued by disunity within.
We still treat each other cruelly.
We do not always care for our needy.
This is because of the dichotomy that still exists between ourselves and G-d, because we have not yet arrived at peace with our Creator and the higher ideals and values that such a relationship demands.
Because we have not yet come in total concert with the ultimate unity underlying all: G-d.
Now so long ago, it was accepted as scientific fact that the world was controlled by hundreds of independent forces and elements.
But with advancements in science, it was determined that the atom was the principle building block of all matter, and that matter and energy are actually the same substance, only in different forms.
In the same way, by peeling back the successive layers of the container of our physical world, we can begin to glimpse a unity within.
The “light” and the “container” are being slowly revealed as one and the same.
Isn’t it time then to peel back a few more layers?
Today we have the opportunity to integrate our reality and G-d’s reality, to see how they are really one.
We are all in the position to achieve the ultimate reality: peace between body and soul.
Between our material drives and transcendent yearning.
Between ourselves and G-d.
Never before have we had a better opportunity to communicate so easily and form a unity between man and man, community and community, nation and nation.
Finally, in our generation, we can conclude the process that was begun at the outset of history: bringing peace and unity to all mankind.
Have you ever wondered where heaven meets earth?
The entire process of creation was meant to challenge us with fulfilling this task, with bridging the divide between our reality and G-d’s reality.
By creating unity in your life, you generate a domino effect that ripples throughout the entire cosmic order, uniting forces that have been wrestling with each other for thousands of years.
And this is the most gratifying experience of all.
Our lives become truly meaningful when we know that it is our duty to marry heaven and earth, to fuse the human and the Divine.
So where does heaven meet earth?
Right at your doorstep.