Given: December 7, 2019
Last week, I mentioned certain ideas about G-D and also the barriers that He created. The task for man is to remove those barriers.
I mentioned the first barrier is the concept that we are an “other” besides G-D, a zulaso. The second barrier is that, even if we’re spiritual, G-D is not spiritual. So that’s a barrier to experiencing G-D. The third barrier was, of course, physicality, and I mentioned another barrier, that which is called the “zoama,” or the evil of the Satan that gives us all kinds of drives and temptations and so on. Those are the barriers that G-D created for us to remove, so to speak, in order to get back to Him.
I mentioned also that there are periods of time when each of these barriers are removed, so that’s a very important part of the Divine agenda, the Divine plan itself.
There are people that would say, “What else about G-D?” Many people enjoyed some of the ideas that I spoke about last week, so what I’d like to do for this shiur is speak about Who G-D is which I did many years ago and I think there’s a larger audience today that never heard that shiur. Therefore,I’d like to go into it extensively.
What’s interesting is that He is the central idea of the whole of Judaism. What is the vision that people have of G-D? Most people have the same idea about G-D that they had in the fifth grade: He’s a big, invisible individual, like a giant, that monitors mankind and the whole universe. It’s really a juvenile understanding of Who G-D is.
We know, of course, that G-D is central to the whole concept of Judaism and reality, so it’s very important to have a much deeper, more profound understanding of Who G-D is. What is the nature of G-D? What is His essence?
What comes out of this is that the way we relate to Him, in many ways, is based on what His essence is. Therefore, it’s very important to have an idea of Who G-D is to the extent that we can understand. We pray to Him three times a day. He’s the author, so to speak, the commander of all the mitzvahs so, obviously, knowing Who He is, is very important.
The Mitzvah to Know Who He is
You can ask if it’s a mitzvah to know who G-D is. Is it a mitzvah to know Who the Ribono Shel Olam is?---yes. The RaMBaM counts it as the first mitzvah in his Mishnei Torah, to know that there is a “first cause,” a first existential being. So, if it’s a mitzvah lada’at---to know, well, that’s what it is. To study Who G-D is, His essence, His nature, to whatever extent you can understand, is actually a mitzvah, a positive commandment.
This automatically places the whole endeavor to know Who G-D is at a whole different level. Where does the RaMBaM get that mitzvah from? It says in the Torah, in Devarim, “v’yodata hayom”---and you’ll know this day, “ki ha’Shem hu Elokim”----that G-D is the Master, “b’shamayim mima’al”---in the heavens above, ”u’ba’aaretz mitachas”--- and in the earth below. “ Ein od”---there is nothing else.
After it says this, it says “and you will satisfy your heart.” From there, we learn that it’s a mitzvah to know Who G-D is. G-D is saying, “You will know this day” and “You will satisfy your heart,” meaning that the quest to know Who G-D is, that G-D is the absolute master, the Lord in the heavens above and in the earth below and that there is nobody else, nothing else, is a mitzvah. That’s clearly a positive commandment to know Who G-D is.
The language the Torah uses indicates that it’s a tremendous labor to understand Who G-D is because your heart is agitated, so you want to satisfy your heart, right? Therefore, you have to really work hard to know Who G-D is. Why does the Torah express itself as if it is so difficult?
I mean, G-D is G-D. We don’t really know Who He is, or what He is, so how do we even begin to understand our G-D? The Torah is saying that it’s not going to be easy to understand Who G-D is. It’s going to be a difficult labor.
Besides that, there’s another idea put forth by G-D which He communicates in the Navi---Book of Prophets:
“Let not somebody want to take credit, not pride himself on his wisdom.
Let him not take pride in the fact that he is very strong and let not a
wealthy man pride himself on his wealth.”
It’s an amazing pasuk---verse. What G-D is saying is: you want to feel proud of yourself? You want to feel like you really have a sense of accomplishment? Then, the greatness of what you should aspire to, what you can really take tremendous pride in is in having learned Who I am.
G-D says that knowing Him is the greatest achievement. Forget about money, about wealth, about strength. All of these things mean nothing. Take pride in the fact that you understand Who I am. It’s a pasuk---verse. This clearly tells us that, not only is it a mitzvah, but that it’s the only achievement upon which you can pride yourself.
This, automatically, tells us something very interesting, that we can know Who He is. Why else would G-D say that, right? Why would He say, “Take pride in the fact that you know Who I am”? Excuse me, but how in the world could we know Who You are? Obviously, it is possible to some degree. Clearly, there is a way, a path, to have the knowledge of G-D Himself, the greatest achievement that you could ever do.
In the End of Time, when you’re facing G-D, after 120 years, G-D is going to say to you, to the entire heavenly court, the beit din, “What did you do? I gave you 95 years of life; tell Me what you did.” The person is going to say, “I studied You; I know Who You are!” The court will say to you, “Enter Paradise! Enter Gan Eden!” and He’ll quote the pasuk about it being the greatest achievement of all. There’s no question about G-D’s consideration of this endeavor to be paramount in terms of what the job of a Jew is, what the job of anybody is.
The problem is that we never get beyond the fifth grade in terms of our understanding. Everybody’s got their childish ideas. It’s amazing to realize what some religions think G-D is. Some argue as to whether G-D is male or a female. This is the level they’re at. Most religions, in some way, drag G-D down to be merely superhuman. They admit He’s not human, so He’s superhuman. They attribute to Him physicality. You will see how very far from the truth it is, how absurd.
This is the rationale for pursuing this line of study: Who is G-D? How deep can you go? You will see that it is possible to go incredibly deep. This is something that I felt is certainly very important, to understand Him so that when “get up” to Him, when you pray to G-D, to Whom are you praying? What type of a being is He? Is G-D limited in any way? Unlimited?
When you think of G-D, what are you normally thinking about? What’s your idea of Who He is? You’d be surprised at the answers people give. Most people usually describe G-D in terms of His role. They’ll say: God is a Creator, a King, a Judge. That’s a role, that’s a behavior, but that’s not really what He is. Maybe you could say that’s what He does. Maybe. But that’s not what He is. If you say George is a judge, I still don’t know who George is. I know that he acts as a judge. Fine. But the mere fact that you tell me what a person does, doesn’t tell me who he is. God acts as a creator, as a judge. He’s a king, a ruler. He directs, He supervises, but Who is this Being that does all these things?
That’s how most people see G-D. They describe Him in terms of what He does. That’s not what I want to do. We have to ask ourselves: where do you find in the Torah Who He is. We know many things about G-D based on the Torah. G-D speaks, clearly. He communicates with man. We know G-D thinks. G-D seems to have a memory because He remembers things. People say: It’s almost like He’s human. He’s invisible; that’s true, and He’s like a superman. That’s where people get their ideas from. The way He acts is very human-like. People think He’s like an incredible human because He created everything but, in the end, He does exactly what a human does. That’s a tremendous mistake, as we will see.
He is “One”
Where in Torah does it talk about Who G-D is? If you consult the Torah, there is a place where the Torah says Who G-D is. We say it twice a day: “Shema Israel, ha’Shem Elokeinu, ha’Shem Ehad!”--- Hear Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One.
Ah, that’s interesting! The Torah says that G-D is One. Fine. What that means to us is that He is one and not two. That’s what it means, right? That’s the concept of monotheism, that the Creation has only one god and doesn’t have two gods.
Can we study the concept of ehad---oneness? It seems to be pretty simple. We considered “and you will satisfy, will quiet your heart” and now wonder what’s there to quiet? I can ask you Who G-D is and you can answer me, “He’s One.” It takes exactly three seconds to say that, so what’s the problem that the pasuk seems to say that it is not simple?
The concept of “oneness” is a very difficult thing to understand. As simple as it sounds, there’s an enormous amount of profundity in the concept of “One” which I’d like to explore with you to really get down to a level of understanding that when we say “G-D is One,” there’s a lot to it.
Part of the answer lies in a very interesting statement: G-D is echod---one, yochid---singular, and yichud---unique. Why three expressions for G-D? What’s the difference between “one,” “singular,” and “unique,” all of which mean “one”? I want to explore those three ideas.
We can take a metaphorical elevator and go down through different floors, levels. At each floor, the door opens and we will see something else about G-D. The deeper we go, the deeper is the understanding of Who G-D is. It should be interesting to see how many floors we have to go descend until we reach the ultimate idea of Who G-D is.
Press the button, minus one. Some people might ask: why don’t you go up instead of down. “Down” means down in terms of depth---deeper and deeper. At the first level, minus one, the door opens and we see something astonishing. When we say that G-D is One, did you ever ask: why is He one. Is He lucky? He’s lucky that it just happens that there’s no “two,” so He can rule by Himself? Wow! Is He lucky! G-D doesn’t have to share His kingdom with any other gods and it just happens to be that way. God doesn’t have to be One. That’s how the coin dropped or the cookie crumbles, right? It happened to be that way. That’s what we could think.
He is One, but why is He One? Is that luck, or is that something about Him that demands that He be One?
There are two types of “oneness.” One type is called “relative oneness.” For instance, there are certain things in the world that are one of a kind. I remember when I was once in Versailles, in France, and I went to Versailles, the palace of Louis XIV and it’s an incredible place! Beyond belief! This is a king! This shows you what a melech---king really is. That palace at Versailles outside Paris puts the White House to shame. That place is gilded. It’s got frescos on the ceiling, paintings, and there’s one room called the “Hall of Mirrors.” In fact, Louis used to take kings in there in order to “knock their blocks off.” They were astounded by that hall. It’s filled with mirrors and chandeliers.
In that palace there was a desk; I remember that desk. it was extremely ornate, carved, magnificent. It took the guy thirty-five years to make it. I don’t think he lived to make another desk like that. It’s one of a kind, obviously. It’s priceless. Being one-of-a-kind, that’s ehod, right? Could the guy have made a second desk like that? ---yes. There could, theoretically, be a second desk but it just happens to be that there isn’t a second desk. Can we say that desk is one-of-a-kind? It has oneness, but there could have been a second desk. You’d agree to that. That’s called “relative oneness.” It’s one, relatively speaking. There are coins that are one-of-a-kind just like there are such stamps. A stamp from British Guyana, I think, is a one-of-a-kind. There are many things which were made to be only one. There might be diamonds that are one-of-a-kind. That’s called “relative oneness” because there could be a second.
There’s a concept called “absolute oneness.” It means that there is not just one because there happens to be one. There cannot be a second item like this item. In other words, there’s something about this item that the laws of existence refuse existence to a second. It is absolute. It’s one, but absolutely! There cannot be a second.
That’s an incredible distinction, between “relative oneness” and “absolute oneness.” When we say “Hear Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One,” what we’re saying is that G-D is absolutely One, not that He’s lucky that there is no other god. He’s absolutely One. There cannot be another being like G-D. G-D cannot be duplicated at all.
Why not? Putting that aside for now, this is the concept of echod, that G-D is absolutely One which, automatically, tell us that there is something about G-D that defies explanation. We have never encountered that type of a being of whom there can be only one. This is because everything can be duplicated or replicated, right? G-D cannot. G-D cannot be two by the laws of such existence.
This is a very important idea. Going down to that first floor, we are absolutely astounded. It’s incredible. We’ve never encountered that. That’s the beginning of our descent. We’re now beginning to see that G-D is not like anything else at all because nothing in Creation is absolutely one---only G-D. This is the beginning of our education about G-D.
Press floor number minus two, door opens and, again, we are astonished at the concept of a yet another dimension of “oneness.”
We’ve already seen that G-D cannot be more than one. He’s “externally one” in that there cannot be another being like Him but, on this next level, we realize that G-D Himself is only one thing. There are no parts. What does that mean? The human body has at least – what? – a hundred trillion cells? The human brain itself is comprised of at least a hundred billion cells. That’s a lot of parts! Hopefully they are all going to work together because, when they stop working, you’ve got big problems, right?
Everything has parts, There are atoms. Everything is composed of atoms, molecules, and so on. There’s an infinite number of molecules and atoms in the entire Creation. But when we look at G-D, there aren’t any parts. There’s only one thing and it’s called “G-D.”
We cannot understand what that means. What does it mean to say “there aren’t any parts”? I’m sure He’s got a head, arms, legs, whatever. What does it mean to be comprised of just one part and, therefore, you think you can cut that part into other parts---no, He’s indivisible!
Not only is He One thing, He’s indivisible! He cannot be made into anything less.
Imagine taking something and cutting it in half. Then you cut each piece in half, and that in half, and that in half and that in half…..how far down can you go until you can’t cut any smaller? We don’t know. We used to think that the atom was indivisible until they found out that the atom itself has parts, has electrons, has a nucleus. Ah! So it’s the nucleus! Then they realized that the nucleus itself has parts, neutrons and protons and so on. Then that’s the lowest, right? “No,” they said. The proton itself can be cut into parts called “quarks.” They keep going down and down and down.
But with G-D, you can’t go down. No way. He’s indivisible. We’ve never seen anything like that! But there’s something else that’s indivisible.
Grammar recognizes three things, at least. For example, let’s say that somebody remembers something and verbalizes it. Grammar says that there are three aspects to that verbalization: a subject: the one doing the remembering, an object of the verb: the memory itself, and the verb: the act of remembering. Three things: subject, verb, object (of the verb). These comprise the subject and predicate. Why these linguistic parts?---because you are not your memory. You are not identical to the memory that you have. You have a memory, but the memory isn’t you! When you remember something, the action of remembering isn’t you. You can perform the act of remembering. These three things are distinct: there’s a subject, the action and the object of the action.
When you talk about G-D, He is the subject, the act, and the knowledge. He is the subject and the predicate. He is identical to the memory that He has. That’s all Him! It’s one thing because we say that G-D is one eternally. That’s called pashut---simple.
So that’s a second way in which God “displays” oneness. He is not separate from what He knows nor from the act of knowing. We have the knower, the act of knowing, and the knowledge itself. All are identical in G-D. In us, they’re three different things. We cannot understand what that means; we’ve never seen anything like that, an identicality of these three things. In G-D, it’s one thing.
The RaMBaM says we can’t understand how this could be. We can hear it, but we cannot understand how that can possibly exist. Yet, RaMBaM says that that’s what G-D is because that flows from the concept called pashut---simple. G-D is a simple being. “Simple” means that He’s only One thing. There’s no complexity, no parts, no multiplicity.
This leads us to a big question. If we say that G-D is “pashut,” He’s simple, and that simplicity is one thing, then He’s indivisible, right? But I can show you that really G-D is two things. He’s got to be composed of at least two things. What are they?
Everything that exists is always composed of at least two things: essence and existence. Those characteristics, those attributes that something possesses makes it what it is. That’s called its “essence.” If you took away something of its essence, it would cease to be that thing. Essence usually has a bunch of characteristics, attributes, that constitute what the thing is.
But whatever the thing is, it also exists so there’s something about this object that’s has what’s called “existence.” We don’t know what that is, but everything has an essence and this essence has existence. So, there you are – two things! It has the essential attributes, characteristics, but it also has existence: it is.
Those are two things, the essence of what it has, and then the existence because it is. They are two different things, even if we don’t know the quality of what existence, itself, is. You might say: Uh oh! G-D isn’t pashut because He is composed of at least one thing, existence. We don’t know what He is, don’t know His essence, that’s true, but He has existence. So therefore, He’s got two things.
How do we answer that?
We come to a very important conclusion. If I would ask you: “Does G-D have existence?” everybody would say “yes,” and if you don’t say “yes,” you are an apikorus---heretic, right?
Does God have existence? The answer is: not at all. G-S IS existence. What a difference!
What does that mean, that He is existence? That means G-D’s essence is His being itself. He is existence per se. We don’t know what that means, because we are not in contact with our existence. We don’t know what makes us be. But G-D and His existence are one. That’s the pashut. With G-D, the knower and the act of knowing and the knowledge are identical. If we say “G-D is existence,” it’s the same thing. G-D, that exists, is existence itself. It’s identical. It’s called an “identicality.” We have no idea what that means because we’ve never encountered existence per se. How do we know there’s such a thing as “existence”?---because you exist! How do we know there’s a phenomenon called “existence”?---because you have it. God doesn’t have it. He is it!
It’s an incredible difference between Him and you. G-D’s essence is existence, is being, itself. This is part of pashut, that He and His existence are One. If we understand that, it answers many, many different questions about G-D. It resolves a lot of difficulty. G-D’s existence is Himself. That’s His essence; He doesn’t have an essence beyond existence itself. Being it’s what He is.
Let’s see what it answers, ok?
We know that God is omnipotent. “Omnipotent” means He’s all potent which means He could do anything He wants. The only thing that stops God from doing anything is because He doesn’t want to do it. Nobody can stop God from doing anything.
Wow! How does He pull that off? If you are existence, the phenomenon of existence, you can make anything you want, because you’re existence. You can give rise to anything to be. Simple. That’s why G-D could do anything, because He is the faculty of being---existence---so anything He wants to make, He can do.
What is interesting about omnipotence is that it means nothing can oppose Him, because G-D would have to enable the opposition to exist. He would have to give life, give existence, to the opposition in order for the opposition to oppose Him. Of course, it’s paradoxical. G-D is not merely strong, not merely invincible. He’s the only thing really, in that sense, that can create anything or make anything.
That’s why the Ribono Shel Olam says that one of the greatest statements of His might ever said, in Haazinu is, “I give life and I kill and I cure,” and “from my hand there’s no rescuer.” If I want to do you in, you are finished! Nobody can rescue you. Why not? I would have to give existence to the rescuer. Can the rescuer oppose me if I give him existence to oppose me? Obviously, I won’t give existence to the rescuer so “ from My hand there’s no rescuer.”
You’re looking at the most powerful statement ever made. Once you understand that G-D is existence itself, you now understand why He can do anything. Since He has to give it existence, it is, and guess what? if He doesn’t give it existence, then it isn’t.
That’s why He’s omnipotent. He’s a kol yachol, that which could do whatever it wants. If He doesn’t do it, it’s not because He can’t; He just doesn’t want to. It explains beautifully the whole concept of omnipotence.
That’s why you should never give up hope. Everything is possible. The real question is whether G-D is going to do it. You could ask yourself: is it possible for me to have 50 billion dollars. Then you say: it’s impossible. But no, it is possible. The challenge is that you’ve got to convince G-D. I just use that as an example.
Nothing is beyond G-D. It’s said that, even if it’s a guillotine poised above your neck, don’t think that G-D can’t save you. He can still save you, even if it’s literally right on your neck. I don’t know how, but He can do it. He did it, in fact, to Moshe Rabbeinu when Pharaoh wanted to kill Moshe because he killed the Egyptian. They put him under the sword to chop off his head. The midrash says that G-D turned his neck to marble and the knife cracked, or the spear, or sword---it cracked, and then Moshe fled. Yeah, He could do that; What’s the problem?
We also say that G-D is omniscient. G-D knows everything. Everything. There is nothing that G-D does not know.
How does that happen. In order for something to exist, G-D has to give it existence. If G-D gives it existence, that’s how He knows about it. He gives it existence and, obviously, knows what He does, so He knows everything. In fact, it could be said that, if G-D doesn’t know about it, it’s because He never gave it existence, so why would He have to know about it? It doesn’t exist anyway.
He never forgets because not only does G-D create it, but He maintains its existence. G-D never forgets because He’s the active cause and force that makes everything. That’s what knowledge is, the knowledge of all things.
So that idea, that G-D is existence itself, explains beautifully why He’s omniscient.
He’s all over. We see that in “Kidusha,” that “His glory fills all space.” That means that the universe, which is 13.7 billion light years across---and a light year is 6 trillion miles---is quite a large place. Keep in mind that a light year is not a time unit; it’s a distance unit, how far light travels at 186.000 miles/second, how far it travels in a year. It can travel approximately six trillion miles. That’s a long way off, right? Therefore, the universe is 6 trillion x 13.7 billion.
But in order for that to exist means that G-D “fills” at least 13.7 billion light years. That’s how “big” He is, right? Can we comprehend a being that’s minimally 13.7 billion light years?---of course not. But in order for the universe to exist, it has to be given existence. That which is 13.7 billion light years away from us has to be given existence by G-D. But how does G-D reach it? G-D encompasses all Creation which is much greater than the entire universe. Creation is much greater than the Universe. Creation is almost infinitely greater than the physical Universe itself.
That is what is meant by “G-D is everywhere.” If G-D is not in a place, it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t exist anyway. Why would He have to be located in that place? That’s a very important idea, that there’s no space that is devoid of the presence of G-D.
Those three ideas – omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence – are beyond the human mind to grasp. We are obviously no longer dealing with Superman because even Superman doesn’t know everything. He’s certainly not all over the place and he’s not omnipotent.
What is “Creation”?
How does G-D create everything?
We can only discover things, and everything we discover exists. Man can manufacture things, assemble things in different ways. Fine. But they all existed before man got there, before he discovered and before he manufactured.
We don’t really create anything, just assemble. We say that, “in the beginning, G-D created….” And that Creation is an act in which something comes out of nothing. It’s called “creation ex nihilo,” in Latin. It means that G-D can bring something that doesn’t exist into existence. Wow! How does He do that? It’s because He isexistence, therefore He can give existence to anything He wants. He’s existence per se, therefore He just says, ostensibly, I want to do this, I want to make something, right? He just makes it exist because He allows it to be part of Him, therefore it exists.
That’s how He creates. It’s an astounding faculty, property, to bring anything into existence. That’s why He is a true creator as opposed to somebody who is a discoverer or assembler.
We also understand other things besides the act of creation. One of the unique aspects of G-D is that He must be, must exist.
The RaMBaM uses this idea as one of the greatest ideas about G-D, that He cannot not be. He cannot not exist. He must be. We may, or may not, be and there’s no reason why we exist at all. There’s an option by anything else in all Creation that it may exist or not exist. But G-D cannot leave existence at all. His existence is imperative.
Why? His existence is necessitated because, were G-D to remove it from us, we are instantly annihilated. We’re gone, truly gone. We don’t exist. But G-D, Who is existence, where is He going to go? He can’t remove Himself from Himself. So, since He’s existence itself – I have to use the word – He’s “stuck,” in that sense because He is! You can’t take existence out of Him because that’s Who He is. If you have an item, fine, it could be taken away from you. But what happens if you are the item? Where are going to go?
G-D cannot commit suicide, so to speak. Thank G-D for that, you might say, that He can’t commit suicide because we would have a lot of problems if He did. Again, something that is existence cannot remove itself from itself. Therefore, He must be, which is an incredible attribute of G-D. G-D can never disappear but, more than that, there could never be a time that He wasn’t. He’s timeless, because a being that can’t evaporate or obliterate or annihilate or terminate means He always was, always is, and He always will be.
G-D is enduring. He always is. There was never a time that He wasn’t and, therefore, there will never be a time that He won’t be. We’re lucky. That’s why Olam ha’Ba---Future World will always exist. We don’t have to be afraid that G-D would ever “run out of steam or gas,” the fuel to keep the Creation going. Since G-D will always be, it means that whatever He wills to exist will always be. What a comfort!
Participant: Isn’t “time” a created concept?
R’Kessin: Yes, it is, He created time, but I’m not going into that now. The main idea is that G-D is permanent, always was, is, always will be because He cannot remove His existence. His existence is imperative.
There is another concept the RaMCHaL speaks about, that we don’t really know anything about G-D at all except that He’s perfect. That’s what the RaMCHaL says. He doesn’t say more than that.
What does “perfection” mean? Perfection is an adjective. To be deemed “perfect” means to have everything that the thing can contain or be. Nothing’s missing, right? That’s what “perfection” is.
If I say some guy’s strength is perfect, that means he has the totality of attributes called “strength.” Nothing’s missing, which of course, is impossible. When the RaMCHaL says that G-D is perfect, it means that, whatever He has, it’s complete, total, without lack. Sine He is existence, He’s an absolute totality of being. For instance, when we say that G-D is rachamim---compassionate, His compassion is total. We don’t understand that. Humans, at times, are compassionate and, sometimes, they’re not but the rachamim of G-D is absolute, total. Only a being that is existence can be perfect. Why? Since a perfect being made the thing, makes all that exists, gives it existence, He makes all the things that exist with that attribute of perfection. If it’s missing something, it doesn’t exist! That’s why He’s perfect. When He makes something, it’s perfect because it exists in its totality. If it does not exist, that does not mean that G-D is imperfect. How can He be imperfect if the thing doesn’t exist in the first place?
When the RaMCHaL says that He is a perfect being, that’s what he means. In other word, the ability to be a perfect being is because you are existence itself. That’s another thing that is now understood: how G-D is perfect.
G-D has no limitations because that would be an imperfection. G-D has no deficiencies at all. He’s not deficient in anything. He has no limits and he has no dependencies. We now being to understand how and why He’s “One,” what that means. If there were another being coexisting alongside Him, G-D would be limited by the presence of that other being.
The presence of another being limits you, you see? Even if you remedy that, the space that he could occupy limits you. You couldn’t occupy that space because he’d be there.
Therefore, when we say that G-D is perfect, He’s perfect because He has no limitations, no deficiencies, no dependencies. There is nothing else and He is limitless because nothing can occupy a space that G-D cannot occupy.
That’s why G-D is One. There cannot be two, because that would limit G-D.
Another idea occurs to us when we say that G-D is limitless. There can be many things, right? How many things are there? It’s almost infinite, in term of atoms, molecules and so on. How many things are there? There can be many things, many essences and so on, and each one has existence. But there is only one thing called “existence.” There are no “many existences.” Since G-D is existence, there’s only one thing that is existence. There are no two things that are existence itself.
In terms of essence, there could be many things, each one having an essence. But you cannot have many existences. That’s why G-D cannot be replicated. To have existence, you can duplicate something and just make something else be. But if you are existence itself, then how can you be replicated? There’s only one thing called “existence.” The existence doesn’t have another thing called “existence.” Since G-D is existence, He’s the only one and that’s existence itself. There is nothing else that is existence.
All of this is basically understood once you begin to understand the concept of what G-D is, existence itself.
Is G-D part of reality? No.
What is reality? Reality is whatever exists. It’s real. G-D is not part of reality. Reality is part of G-D. Reality is whatever existence makes. Since G-D is existence, He is reality. Reality emerges from G-D because G-D is existence itself. Whatever He makes is real. He is the One, not reality. There’s no such thing as a separate thing called “reality” and G-D is one of the things that is real. No! G-D is not part of reality, He is reality.
Where did the RaMCHaL come up with this idea, that G-D is existence itself?
What’s the name of G-D that we really cannot even pronounce it the way it’s written? Yud-hey-vav-hey. That’s called the “Tetragrammaton.” It’s comprised of four letters: “yud,” “hey,” “vav,” then another “hey.”
Why is G-D’s name “yud-hey-vav-hey”? The word spelled from yud-hey-vav-hey comes from the verb “lehiot”—the infinitive form of the verb “to be.” Translated, it means, “He was, He is, He will be.” G-D has the “name” yud-hey-vav-hey because what is He? He is BE-ing itself.
That’s why His name is “being.” Now you know where G-D gets his name---Being---because that’s what He is. G-D is existence itself. That is His essence.
In fact, when G-D told Moshe Rabbeinu to take the Jews out of Egypt, Moshe asked “What do I call you?” because everybody has to have a name, right?
G-D answered with the strange, “I am that I am” or “I will be that I will be.” There’s an entire midrash---commentary on that but, basically, what G-D is saying is: I am. You want to know Who I am? I am the “am,” the verb. There’s an “I” but who is the “I”?---the “am.”
English expresses the verb ‘to be’ as in “I am walking.” Why? You could say “I am walking” but how could you walk if you didn’t exist? Language, generally, uses the verb “to be,” uses “am” so you could say “walking.” Language assumes that, if you don’t exist, you can’t walk, right? So, English will always use the verb “to be” because “to be doing” something infers existence.
It’s interesting that Hebrew does not need the verb “to be” in this sentence. Ani holech---I go, or I walk, is how Hebrew articulates it, omitting the verb “to be.” Hebrew assumes that, if you are walking, you probably exist so doesn’t include the verb “to be.” English is not sure about that, it seems, so it inserts the verb “to be.”
G-D is saying I don’t have a name. The verb “to be” is My name because that’s basically what I am, existence itself. That’s why we have the yud-hey-vav-hey, from the word “lehiot,” that G-D is existence itself. It’s a very important concept and we see G-D refers to Himself that way.
How does G-D know that I am giving a shiur?---because He sees me? Yeah, He sees me, but how does He know? G-D doesn’t see me, He doesn’t “see” anything. G-D does not experience anything externally. He experiences it internally.
All of us exist because G-D is giving us existence, right now. Since G-D knows Himself, He knows us. He doesn’t know us because he sees us. He knows because we emanate from Him, or else how would we exist? That’s how He knows what’s going on here. That’s how He knows everything. Because He gives us existence and existence is Him, all emanates from Him.
The knowledge is Himself. He is the information and, guess what?---we are the information! That’s a tremendous difference between us and Him. He doesn’t know whatever because He’s looking at us or He’s seeing us. We are not external to Him. We emanate from Him because from where else would we get our existence? So, that’s how He knows what’s going on. Look how deep it is!
That’s when we begin to understand why it says, “You must satisfy your heart.” All we are talking about is oneness, that basically everything emanates from Him and that’s it. G-D is really, and only, One, as everything else is from Him and He creates everything and maintains everything’s existence.
We are only at level minus-two. Is there a floor minus-three?---yes. It’s amazing! Look how deep we are already!
One thing to understand and which we begin to see is that nobody can ever know who G-D truly is because He’s existence itself. Nobody has ever seen existence itself walking down the street. Have you ever seen existence itself?---no. Existence always has to be invested in something. We infer that, if you are walking down the street, you exist. But I’ve never seen existence itself, what that quality is. That’s why no being can understand Who G-D is, no malach---angel, nothing! They all have existence. An angel may have a different quality of being, have different attributes and essences and so on, a different structure and components but, ultimately, the angel also emanates from G-D, has to be given existence. He doesn’t know what existence is. Therefore, it is not possible to understand or to know G-D.
In fact, the only one who could know G-D is… G-D. He’s the only One Who knows Who He is. Not the greatest malach of all has an inkling Who G-D is. The malach emanates from G-D; how else could he get his existence? He doesn’t know from what he emanates.
So far, we’ve gone down just two floors. The first level is that G-D is One, there is nothing else external to Him, and there’s only one G-D. The second level is that G-D is simple. We’ve seen what “simple” is, that G-D is identical with everything that He is and, because of this, the only one who knows Who G-D is, is G-D Himself. Nobody can fathom the concept of “existence” in and of itself.
Level Minus Three: Ein Od Milvado
What do we see at level minus-three?
We’ve already reached profound levels of understanding about Who He is or, rather, Who He’s not. What’s the third floor going to reveal to us? The third floor is, in many ways, much more astonishing than the second.
The Jews stood at Mount Sinai and heard the statement, “You have been shown that G-D is the Lord, the Master. Ein od milvado---besides Him there is no other.
It doesn’t say “there is nobody like Him.” It says there’s nobody “besides” Him. Apparently, this was the main vision that the Jews had at Mount Sinai when they received the Torah. G-D showed them what they’d never seen before and it was the central experience at Mount Sinai. What was it?
We think that God made a Creation. He really didn’t. I’ll explain that.
Ein od milvado means that, besides G-D, nothing exists. Even after G-D created everything, it doesn’t really exist at all. That’s one of the greatest mysteries of all.
You need an example, an analogy, to understand this. Imagine there’s a guy sleeping on a couch and has dream. In the dream, he’s got two guys sitting at a table and they’re drinking coffee. One guy says to the other, “You know, we don’t really exist”.
The other guy says, “Are you, crazy? How do you ‘mean we don’t exist’? We’re having a conversation here.”
The first guy says, “No, you don’t understand. We exist relative to ourselves but, relative to the guy sleeping on the couch, we don’t exist. We are figments of his imagination. We don’t really exist like him. He is; we ain’t (to use ‘proper’ English). He continues, “We don’t exist at all, really. We’re some type of mental abstraction, manifestation, of this guy’s mind. He exists. In fact, if he woke up, what would happen to us? Poof, we’re gone! Not only does our existence depend on him, but our existence is not even like his.”
We can’t fool ourselves to think that we really have a true existence; we don’t. That’s what they realized at Mount Sinai when G-D said, “You have been shown that you may know.” Knowwhat?---that G-D is the Elokim, the Master, the Lord, and ein od milvado. Besides the entity called “G-D,” there’s nothing else. Even after Creation, we don’t really exist. Certainly, we don’t exist the way He does. We don’t realize that. We think we really exist. We take ourselves seriously, right? We think we are. But in true realistic terms, we don’t exist at all. In some way, G-D has concealed that from us because, probably, we’d have a heart attack if we realized that we don’t really exist.
Even though G-D created us, do not think that we really exist at all. Certainly, you don’t exist like Him. Forget about that. He is. Why?---because He is existence itself. We who have to be given existence, which is what we have, don’t exist like Him. Even after He has given us existence, guess what?---it’s still all Him. Think about that. It’s not like a mother gives birth to a child so that, even if the mother dies, the child will continue to exist. The child exists, having been given existence by the mother and, with the death of the mother, its existence continues. It becomes an independent entity. Our problem is that, not only do we have to be sustained by G-D from nano-second to nano-second and, if G-D diverted His attention for one nano-second, not even that long---for one instant in time---the whole Creation would instantly annihilate.
You can’t believe how weak, how vulnerable, how nothing we are. He has to be thinking to Himself: be, be, be! However He works it, of the entirety of Creation which is vast, were something to divert His attention, were somebody to tap Him on the shoulder and say, “By the way, I want to ask you something,” and He were to say, “What was that? Wait!....” the Creation just vanished! All of it would disappear. Talking about OCD---obsessive compulsive disorder, right? G-D has got to be thinking about it from instant to instant of time.
If He has to give us existence, He has to give us Himself. He allows us, in some way, some form within Himself. It’s like a cloud. Let’s assume a cloud takes a shape. It appears to take a shape of something but it’s still the cloud. It’s a shape in a cloud but, in the end, it’s still the cloud.
Even though the Ribono Shel Olam gives us existence, we’re nothing more than a shape within Him, whatever that means. The unbelievable thing that He did is that the shape thinks it’s independent from the cloud. It’s delusional and there’s no psychiatrist that will cure us from this delusion.
The miracle is, of course, how the Ribono Shel Olam does it. How do we think we exist at all independently of Him? We’re nothing more than a shape within Him, just like a shape in a cloud, That’s what the Jews realized at Matan Torah---the giving of the Torah. As Rashi says about that pasuk---verse in Devarim, “Behold, you have been shown…” G-D is the Lord and there’s nobody besides G-D. Rashi says that G-D opened up the heavens and He showed them, the Jewish people, that He is the One of the Creation, and they realized that.
How they can realize that and still exist to realize that, nobody knows. G-D did show them enough to be able to tap into the fact that they are nothing more than shapes within Him. However G-D does that, He allowed them to grasp it because He wanted to show them what it means to be One, that you guys don’t even exist at all, really. It’s all relative.
One guy could say, “Relative?” He could say “I’m going to sit in the middle of the highway, because nothing exists,” right? There’s a truck barreling down the road and, guess what! The truck kills the guy. Why did he do it? If the truck doesn’t really exist, then how did it kill the guy on the highway? One relative thing can kill another relative thing. That’s the rule. It’s all relative, as Einstein would say so, since the truck is relative and the guy on the highway is relative, you can get killed by another relative thing.
One cannot make the mistake that anybody exists independently of G-D. That idea doesn’t exist. In fact, Moshe Rabbeinu, when the Jews sinned regarding the golden calf, told G-D, “Erase him from Your book” when G-D threatened to kill all the Jews. G-D complied and then Moshe realized that he has favor in the “eyes” of G-D. That’s a good thing. We’re praying three times a day to find favor in G-D’s eyes, right?
Moshe asked G-D the two greatest requests that man can ever make of Him. First, he said, “Show me your ways” since everything that happens, ultimately, is the ways of G-D because G-D does everything. Asking that G-D tell him everything He does is asking for total knowledge. Moshe Rabbeinu’s next request was to be shown G-D’s “glory.” What does that mean? It means: “Who are You?”
Moshe Rabbeinu understood that I’m zero. I don’t really exist like You. In fact, I don’t exist at all. I’m a shape in you. How can I look at you? How can I “be” and yet speak to you? I don’t exist. How did You pull off this delusion?
“Show me Your Glory!” means Who are you? Since it’s ein od milvado, if I’m zero and nobody, how can I exist and talk to you? How do You do that?
G-D says, “You can’t see me and live” and so on.
A similar idea is in the Navi---book of the prophets where G-D says “I have not changed.” But, there’s “You” before the Creation and there’s “You” after the Creation. So, You had to have changed. Before the Creation, you hadn’t done it and, after the Creation, You had done something. So, that’s a change.
But G-D says that He has never changed. He means: I never did anything, because nothing really exists. We don’t understand what that means. We don’t really exist in His terms. In fact, we don’t really exist at all. It’s all relative like the dream. The two dreamers exist only relative to each other.
Why was Moshe Rabbeinu the greatest, yet most humble man, who ever lived? He understood “ein od milvado.” He’s walking around able to say to himself: I don’t exist like G-D does. Everything I am, everything I have, is G-D. I’m a shape in G-D. I’m a zero! In fact, Moshe and Aron say: what are we. Nothing. Zero.
That’s why anivut---humility is the greatest attribute of all because it’s the realization that you are zero and everything is G-D. That why it’s astounding to see people walking around preening their feathers, thinking, don’t you know who I am? You are zero. In fact, if you were to realize what you are, you wouldn’t even exist. Thank G-D you don’t know who you are because your lack of that knowledge is the only reason you can exist. It’s like “I don’t think, therefore I am,” right?
The illusion of self as an independent being is a very difficult illusion to penetrate, to get through. That is the great fall of man. That is the arrogance of man, that he thinks he is, that he can cause his own destiny, that he can actually cause things. If a person were to realize how nothing he is, he would faint. If G-D could ever allow us to realize who we really are, as I once said, it would be a field-day for cardiologists. Everybody would have a heart attack. Your existence would collapse.
Participant: That’s why the Jews died (at Sinai)?
R’Kessin: Exactly. They could not tolerate the revelation. They died because of dvekus---attachment, unable to tolerate being a part of G-D. It was also because they realized Who G-D is. He revealed the relationship that He has with everybody.
There will always be this delusion because, if there weren’t, you’d cease to exist. That’s why the Torah starts over with the letter “beis” in B’reishit. There’s a midrash that says that every letter wanted to be the first, remember that one? Finally, the letter “beis” won because it said, “I’m bracha---blessing.” It starts off with a beis which has the numerical value of “2.” There will always be two things in existence: one is the Creator, G-D, Who is existence itself, and, secondly, a soul that’s deluded about its existence. If that delusion was ever removed and it would realize its non-existence, it would instantly cease to be. There always has to be that delusion, or else nothing would exist. So that’s why Creation will always have these two things, G-D and the “self,” the “neshama,” as a created entity. So that’s why Torah starts with beis.
We will experience the existence of G-D in the Future World and that’s how we begin to feel, to experience our existence, which is G-D. It is to be an existence that continues more and more and more, and it’s an infinite climb. It’s more and more a detraction from the zuloso, that there’s an “other,” but enough “other” that we still exist.
Rav Chaim Volozhin, the greatest student of the Vilna Gaon says in “Nefesh Ha’Chaim,” that this is a powerful segula---remedy. When you are faced with a threat, an enemy, you can say to yourself: there is no enemy. The enemy is G-D in the form of that adversary because ein koach acher---there is no other force. The rav says that, when you recognize that there is no other force, there’s no other enemy, there’s nothing that can oppose you because G-D has to give existence to the opposition or the sickness or the cancer or whatever. There’s no such thing as cancer really; it’s a delusion, but it’s relative to us. If you recognize that everything is G-D, then Rav Chaim says it’s a tremendous segula, that the opponent, will cease its opposition.
There are people that have used it. I once used it and it worked. It was amazing. It actually worked within seconds against whatever I was going through. The threat vanished.
Rav Chaim Volozhin brings that down as a segula, as one of the ways that you can help protect yourself. They say that when the Brisker Rav was fleeing Europe from the Nazis, he was stopped by a Nazi and it should have been over for him. The Nazis would kill him on the spot. He thought: ein od milvado. There’s no Nazi. It’s all G-D. This man has no power to do anything to me because he doesn’t really exist. Any power that he has to harm me must come from G-D and I see that. I recognize that.
What happened next was a nes---miracle. For whatever reason, another Nazi stopped him. They both just looked away. Nothing, The rav just walked away because he used this segula, this remedy, called “ein od milvado.”
But it works. How it works and why we don’t know, but when you penetrate the delusion, G-D says ok, you spotted Me! You got Me! I’ll do it. I will activate your belief that I am the only One that gives power of an opponent and, therefore, I will take it away. It’s like a measure-for-measure. It’s the cause and effect we call “mida keneged mida.” G-D says: because you believe that I am the only force and the only power, I will show you that I am.
I recommend that people who are sick meditate on ein od milvado and, hopefully, it will help.
I remember I once used it in the airport. I got stopped by one of the people in customs. They wanted to check my bag to see if I have anything I shouldn’t. It so happened that my wife brought in some fruit that I hadn’t even known about. One of the customs inspectors asked, “Do you have anything to declare?” I said that I didn’t.
Then my wife said, “Well, I have some fruit.”
The officer responded, “Uh oh!” so I realized this is not good. I stopped and thought: ein od milvado. There is no customs inspector. This is G-D in the form of a customs inspector. Nobody has the power to do anything. A split second later, somebody called this woman away saying, “Hey, come on; I need you” and she just turned around and walked away.
It’s a very powerful segula.
This comes from this third level that we’re at which is ein od milvado, a very important idea. That’s what the Jews experienced at Sinai. It was astounding! To whatever extent they could, and probably that’s one of the reasons why they died, they realized the totality of G-D in their lives, that He is everything.
Ok, we’re going to go back in the elevator. We’ve already been to three floors, right? We go back and there’s a fourth button! We press the button. What else is there? We don’t even exist! We press the button and go down one more floor. The doors open, and.…
Participant: Where does the elevator comes from?
R’Kessin: That’s part of the delusion, that there’s an elevator! But I’m not going to say what’s on that fourth level until next week!