Sunday, August 31, 2008

"A path without end on which one walks forever"

The literal meaning of “repentance” (teshuvah) is “return”—the return of the world to God, the return of the divine soul to its source, which is also the source and root of all worlds.

We achieve such atonement when we perform "good deeds" -- when we study Torah and perform the mitzvot.

This comprehensive teshuvah is comprised of Torah study and divine service (in particular, prayer).

A person engages in that worship with great joy, for it represents the soul's liberation from the body, with its sensory perceptions and desires.

It brings about renewal and the emergence into the freedom of divine holiness.

A person who is in a state of repentance throughout his life is not someone who must atone for a particular sin but someone who is returning to God, to the source and root of his soul, coming ever closer and growing ever more intimately connected to Him, walking upon the path that reaches to infinity, a path without end on which one walks forever, "in this state of repentance throughout one's life."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Understanding the Tanya by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, chapter 31, p.106-107


Friday, August 29, 2008

"When a person engages in Torah he in effect embraces God"

"It is impossible to embrace God Himself.

Nor can we cleave to Him.

He is a consuming fire; no man can see Him and live.

Yet because He has clothed Himself in Torah and Commandments in our world, when a person engages in Torah and Commandments, he, in effect, embraces God.

True, the garments are so numerous and opaque than any sense of intimacy is ruled out.

But one can nevertheless know: at that moment, he is embracing God."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Learning from the Tanya, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, chapter 16, page 70


Thursday, August 28, 2008

"I have always been suspicious about artifical means--like mantras or drugs"

“I have always been very, very suspicious about finding artificial means--it doesn't really matter whether it is a mantra or a drug.

Do you know the book by Aldous Huxley about the gates of heaven and hell?

One of his basic points (which I think was a mistake) was that he thought that somehow he had found the key to another realm.

That was the basic notion, and he wrote very beautifully about it.

Now, as more and more people that tried it found out, you don't get a gateway to heaven.

You get, at the most, a gateway into another chamber within yourself.

We may have wonderful experiences, and clearly have within us more than we know, more than the eye catches, but we are trying to pass over and through the self to the Other.

Now I may find out lots of beautiful things or horrible things within my microcosms, and there may be ways and means and exercises to get there, but the real problem is that this is still my own realm, and what I really want is to go to the Other Side.

There are, I think somewhere in the United States, a few miles of receiving antennas that are meant specifically to receive calls from outer space.

Just imagine that you receive such a message--you are overjoyed.

You hear a voice, and it's coming from a very small transmitter on the other side of the earth.

It's a wonderful discovery, but that wasn't what you are searching for.

You were searching for something from the other side of nowhere.

You didn't want to find something within your realm.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "The Command is to Hear," p.243 - 244 in On Being Free by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Rosh Hashanah is a repetition of the act of creation and a total renewal of time"

“Time is a pulsation.

It resembles heartbeats: Each heartbeat is a singular phenomenon.

Just because my heart is beating now does not mean that it is going to beat again one second from now.

Every second, life surges forth once again.

In the Kabbalah, this diastolic and systolic feature is called outpouring and contraction.

It is characteristic of all forms of psychological and biological life and thus, as the Alter Rebbe points out, is also a feature of the life of time.

It is as though the world has a heart whose continual beating enables the world to live.

Because this beating is continuous, we are not aware of its real, dialectical structure, which is simply a chaining of discontinuities.

Thus, we can define the renewal of time as the emergence of a new heartbeat.

In other words, life is reborn.

Time is both discontinuous and cyclical.

For example, every day there are two cycles of 12 hours forming the hours of the day and the hours of the night.

But no given hour is like another.

Each has its own life, dimension, and tonality.

According to Kabbalists, this reflects the 12 different configurations of the four letters of the Tetragrammaton, the 4-letter name of God.

Each hour is governed by one of these configurations.

In other words, each hour has its own code, a unique code, just the way each instant is unique.

The second cycle is the cycle of days.

Here again each day forms a complete cycle, a self-contained entity, and each morning is a new birth.

This explains the importance of the prayer that celebrates this birth.

In a similar fashion, the week has its cycle, and the month, whose birth is connected to the moon.

Finally, we have the cycle of the year.

However, there is a fundamental difference between this cycle and the others.

All the other temporal organizations are cyclical, but Rosh Hashanah is an absolute beginning.

Recall that ‘shanah’ (year) comes from a root that means ‘doubling,’ ‘repetition.’

Indeed, what happens is a repetition of the act of creation and a total renewal of time.

Time is like a plant.

The year only refines and develops the seed that is born on Rosh Hashanah and that will grow over the entire year.

To borrow a metaphor from computer science, we could say that the ‘program’ of the year is conceptualized and stored in memory on Rosh Hashanah and that the 364 other days of the year are simply spent running the program.

Time is also like the body, in that it obeys the brain.

This is clearly why Rosh Hashanah is called the head--the brain, program, principle--of the year.

Rosh Hashanah is in some ways, a ‘brain-day.’”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "The Days of Awe," p. 10-14, in The Seven Lights on the Major Jewish Festivals by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Many of the men who look like 'rabbis' turn out to be empty"

“The deepest disappointment of all (for the newly observant person) is in the discovery that observant Jews-the "bearers and keepers of the Torah"-are themselves frequently, not really interested in Torah!

The ba’al teshuvah hears the idle talk in the synagogue and sees the neglect of mitzvot both great and small, even in the narrow realm of ritual.

He finds that many of the people he has met in the synagogues and houses of Torah study lack any inner feelings for either prayer or study, and treat these as rote observances.

He finds an alarming degree of ignorance about Judaism itself.

Many of the men look like "rabbis" but turn out to be empty of either knowledge or interest in knowing more than they do.

The world of the observant is, all too often, a hollow one, devoid of fervor, learning, or even faith.

Naturally, such discoveries are profoundly unsettling.

Yet one must not get carried away with them so that one loses his sense of proportion.

One must remember, for example, that the religious community is made up of all kinds of people.

The ba’al teshuvah is by definition the product of a certain kind of self-selection.

One does not undertake a massive redirection in one's life without a high degree of motivation, in this case, a strong attraction to Judaism.

Such is not necessarily the case with Jews born into observant families.

It is true that many of them, in some places the majority, are conscious and wholehearted in their commitment.

But for others, the Jewish way of life is simply a matter of inheritance, which they are too lazy to cast aside or to which they have not found a satisfying alternative.

Religious Jews, in other words, are an unselected group, in their views, their modes of behavior, and their levels of observance.

One finds among them the whole range of types--honest and dishonest, scrupulous and unscrupulous--to be found in any other unselected population.

Thus, generalizing about them on the basis of a few unpleasant experiences is hasty and misleading.

At the same time, one may legitimately ask how religious observance seems to have had no positive effect on these people, how all the time they have spent in the world of Judaism has not made them better people than they are.

In fact, observance usually does have a profound effect on those who adhere to it--witness the negative change in behavior common among those who leave their religious life--but it is not the only factor which determines their personalities.

Moral flaws exhibited by a religious individual simply reflect the inability of religion to overcome these qualities inherent in his character, not religion’s lack of effect upon him.

Indeed, were it not for the restraining influence of religion, might he not be a much worse person?”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "The Observant Community." p. 81-82, in Teshuvah by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Monday, August 25, 2008

"Faith is one of the attributes of human character"

“Like the Jewish way as a whole, faith is a long, unending process of growth and change.

Such a growth process entails accompanying pains, new additions that must be consolidated at each stage, and gaps that must be carefully filled in.

As long as the process continues, special care must be taken at certain points, space for recuperation allowed at others.

Faith is one of the attributes of human character; its scope and power are a function of both inheritance and cultivation.

With rare exceptions, people who are musically gifted—to use an analogy—do not achieve full expression of their gifts unaided or all at once, but require nurture and training.

The same is true of faith: a single ‘revelation’ that solves everything is difficult to come by, and even one who has a deep religious experience must then expand on it and implant it firmly in his soul if it is not to remain merely an isolated incident.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “Problems of Faith” p. 42, in Teshuvah by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Sunday, August 24, 2008

"We are the result of everything that is"

“Given the creation by God of a complete universe, it is a basic assumption that everything is interconnected.

One can see something like this by looking at drops of water.

One see reflections, smaller ones and bigger ones, like a house of mirrors—the same thing, the same nature, reflected in different ways.

It follows that if I would know perfectly, completely, entirely, one part, then I would know the whole.

It is a beautiful thing; when God says, ‘Let us make man,’

He is calling the whole universe—‘Let us make man.’

And each contributes something: the foxes and the lions, the monkeys and the angels, all give something.

So we are the result of everything that is.

The idea is that we contain (and this point is considered essential) the mind-body point of connection; the same hierarchy that exists in the body exists in the mind.

One of the ways to explain the basic concept of our religion is to say that because we are men, we have to connect.

We have free will, and we have the ability to repair.

Because we have free will, we are also the only ones who have the ability to distort.

One of our problems is that of choice.

There is an attempt to become better; it is like making corrections for a lens.

The lens becomes not right for some reason, so it distorts whatever is seen through it.

We believe the main duty, the chief work of man is to make corrections until it is possible to transmit the right picture.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From “Becoming Unstable” p. 252-253, in The Strife of the Spirit by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Friday, August 22, 2008

"One should choose a single observance in which to be particularly scrupulous"

Everyone has a special gift in some particular field of endeavor, and in that field is called on to make a special contribution.

The Sages say that in addition to keeping all the commandments, one should choose a single observance in which to be particularly scrupulous and diligent—“more careful,” in the words of the Talmud.

In this choice, one can be guided by the promptings of one’s own heart and inclinations.

As the masters of Mussar (moral education) said, one who has a talent for cutting precious stones should not be a lumberjack, for to do so would be to spurn a gift bestowed by the Creator.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “The Relation to the Past,” p. 55 in Teshuvah by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
Drawing by Hans Guggenheim at a lecture by Rabbi Steinsaltz at the JFK Library


Thursday, August 21, 2008

"Blind reverence for people who are not really worthy"

“One can go from believing nothing to believing everything, from utter skepticism to utter credulity and a desperate effort to convince oneself of a thousand and one notions that may be not only spurious but actually even forbidden.

Acceptance of the Torah and the mitzvot turns into a kind of magical rite, belief in the Sages becomes blind reverence for other people who are not really worthy of such uncritical acceptance, and faith becomes hopeless fatalism.”
--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “Seriousness and Restraint” p. 49, in Teshuvah by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Use our flaws for leverage in an effort to progress"

“In looking back, we focus on our blemishes and faults, not in order to wallow in guilt, but to use our flaws for leverage in an effort to progress.

Not all deficiencies can be remedied, but some can and must be.

As the holy Zohar tells us, ba’alei teshuvah (those who becomes religiously observant) are even more exalted than the saints, “for they are drawn to Him with greater force.”

Evil deeds, once recognized, become a constant goad and encouragement to reform.

In this sense, they become virtues.

Whoever has been remiss and sinned against society or other individuals must repay and restore what he can, be it money or otherwise.

Whoever has been remiss, even slightly, and thereby caused others to sin must, through his own virtue, bring them back to the right path.

Whoever has been unwittingly remiss must consciously make amends; and whatever damage has been caused by wrong-headedness must be rectified by right-headedness.

Life itself, including both past and present, must be seen as a single whole.

And it is the task of ba’alei teshuvah, at whatever age or stage, to live in such a way as to be able to say, “Happy is our old age, for it has atoned for our youth.” (Talmud, Sukkah 53a)

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From “The Relation to the Past,” p. 56-57, in Teshuvah by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

“The righteous man may fall down seven times and yet arise”

“The greatest danger is that the sinner may sink to a level from which he can no longer raise himself.

Sometimes an accidental and quite trivial occurrence can cause a person to abandon an entire hallowed way of life.

Then, out of oversensitivity about the fallen state, he may continue for years to live in sin.

The seriousness of individual lapses should not be minimized, but neither should even the worst of them be allowed to lead to despair and total abdication.

“The righteous man may fall down seven times and yet arise” (Proverbs 24:16) describes the real-life experience of one who stumbles from time to time along the way, yet, no matter how painful the fall, always picks himself up, mends what can be mended, and moves on.

One who persuades himself that his very vulnerability to failure is a sign that he was never serious or sincere to begin with has rationalized a fatal descent.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “Lapses and Crises” in Teshuvah, p. 37, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Monday, August 18, 2008

“It is better to change one’s life gradually”

“The decisive point in the turn to Judaism is not the initial awakening, which can be seen merely as a response to a call.

It is, rather, the inward affirmation of ‘we shall do and we shall obey’ (Exodus 24:7)—the decision to address one’s life to the realization of this commitment—that makes the turn real.

Rather than waiting for an opportune time to make the change all at once—something that may never come along—it is better to change one’s life gradually, by stages, according to one’s inner capacity and outward circumstances.

But this does not lessen the importance of making a firm decision at the outset.

There is a crucial moment in which one ‘receives the Torah,’ with all its contents, both general and specific. It is then that one sets out on the path, toward the realization of one’s resolve.

Some are able to achieve this relatively easily, passing as if by magic from one world to the other, and encountering few obstacles or difficulties.

But for most it is a complex, long drawn-out process, fraught with tribulations.

And again the question that must be asked is not, ‘Must I do all or nothing?’ but rather, ‘What beginning can I make that will facilitate eventually reaching the goal of doing it all?’”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “All or Nothing: The False Dilemma” p. 21, in Teshuvah by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Sunday, August 17, 2008

"The way to faith is never a smooth one"

The latest issue of Parabola magazine (Fall 2008) has just been published, and, as is often the case, there is an article in it by Rabbi Steinsaltz.

I have been reading Parabola for over 30 years, which is just about the number of years it has been since articles and interviews by Rabbi Steinsaltz have been appearing in this superb journal.

Here’s a brief excerpt from the article, called “The New Year.”

Rabbi Steinsaltz writes:

“The path to faith is not easy.

Neither for someone who has grown up in a “religious” home, nor for one who has grown up in a secular atmosphere.

And this is not surprising;

the way to faith is never a smooth one.

It is not for anyone a broad and even highway along which people progress at the same pace, but always a tortuous, winding path—very personal and private.

A certain tzaddik put it with profound simplicity:

Because I know that God is great, because I know that I alone know and no one else can know as I do,

someone else may know more than I do,

know more deeply,

more comprehensively,

more perfectly,

but in the end,

the experience of God is personal and unique and can never be transferred to another.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “The New Year” by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in Parabola (Fall 2008)


Friday, August 15, 2008

"Let the Torah eminate its splendor"

“…God raised us to the level of consciousness in which we can participate in His mitzvah and in the accompanying heavenly delight.

Such, too, is the meaning of being occupied with the Torah for its own sake.

There are those who get involved with Torah in order to imbibe its contents, or to use it for whatever practical or even idealistic purpose they think best.

They are not relating to the Torah for its own sake, that is for the love of Torah itself and not for the benefits to be had from it.

To be occupied with Torah for its own sake means to relate to Torah, not as a literary work or as moral instruction or even wisdom, but to let the Torah emanate its splendor and joy, to let it serve as a channel for Divine light.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “Hidden Aspects of Shabbat” p.11, in The Candle of God by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Thursday, August 14, 2008

"Man is a fragile vessel"

“One may ask: Is not God’s mercy without end?

The answer, of course, lies in the fact that the giving does not remain in the realm of the abstract.

When Chesed becomes connected with the specific needs of those who receive grace, each according to his place in the value system of the World of Action, it can no longer bestow without measure.

The abundance can become a curse, like flood when the blessed rain keeps on falling.

This, in the Kabbalah, is the ‘breaking of the vessels,’ what occurs when the Light exceeds the capacity to receive it.

Does not everyone experience the smallness of the capacity to absorb pleasure?

Do we not cry out ‘Enough or I bust!’ even though we feel that our desire is measureless and our need immense?

For man is a fragile vessel.

Thus the very finitude of the vessel restricts the downpour of abundance, and divine Grace has to restrain itself (with the aid of Gevurah).

If one teaches something that is too much for the pupil, one has really not given him anything at all.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “Returning Light and Divine Laughter”, p. 171-172 in In the Beginning by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"The realm of the holy is apart from all else"

“God is actually totally other, the realm of the holy is apart from all else.

The effort to make contact with this otherness was advanced significantly by the Kabbalah of the Ari in a way that can be compared to the difference between the modern physics of Einstein and the physics of Newton.

It’s not that Newtonian physics is wrong; it has simply been proven to be a description of a particular aspect, and not of the whole, of the physical world.

In modern mathematics, too, there are formulae and proofs that are valid only for part of reality.

So, too, we may regard the views of such classical Jewish thinkers as the Rambam.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “The Way of the Soul and Torah: Essence and Structure” p.67-68, in The Candle of God by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"The Jewish people were never truly enslaved"

"The meaning of the word exile is not limited to a physical definition.

As with slavery, the meaning and full significance of the word lies in the spiritual realm.

To be in exile means that one has surrendered oneself to a set of values, relationships, and a way of life that are foreign to the individual or collective ego.

When the persecuted Jewish people went into exile, they had to change their mode of living and the ways in which they sustained themselves.

Once an agricultural people, they now turned to trade and commerce;

once free and independent, they were now subject to various lords;

once masters of their own way of life, they now had to sway with every passing wind.

As long as they retained their independent spiritual character, their religious principles, their internal leadership, and their distinctive way of live, the Jewish people were never truly enslaved—at least not in the spiritual dimension of their existence."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “On Being Free” p. 21, from On Being Free by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Monday, August 11, 2008

"Lord of the universe, see how devout your people are"

“There is a Chasidic story about Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev, who was a great champion of the common people, a lover of Israel.

One morning, looking out his window, he saw a poor Jew driving his horse and wagon through the muddy part of the road.

The driver was pulling hard on the reins and, at the same time, with phylacteries on arm and forehead, he was reciting his morning prayers.

“Lord of the Universe,” exclaimed Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, “see how devout your people are; even while driving their wagons through the mud of the world, they find it possible to pray to you!”

To another onlooker, this irreverent mode of prayer would probably have met with strong disapprobation; and Rabbi Levi Yitzchok himself would scarcely have considered reciting his prayers while doing something else, much less driving horses.

He was, nevertheless, able to put himself in the other man’s place, to transfer his point of view entirely to that of another person, another way of life.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “Love and Hate of One’s Fellow” p. 215-216, in The Long Shorter Way by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Torah brings the soul back to its source"

“A person should see himself as part of a caravan that is climbing a high mountain; his body and soul are on call, ready to do whatever is needed.

When one is busy with one’s hands, one is doing God’s actions;

when thinking or feeling, one is occupied with God’s thoughts;

when speaking one is uttering His words.

Such a life is called “soul restoring” in that Torah brings the soul back to its source.

As it is said, “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart…” (Psalms 19:9).

Their capacity to make the heart rejoice comes from the fact that no matter who the person is, whatever his level, when he does the will of God he knows that he is redeeming the world and redeeming his soul.

The sanctified deed extends in unknowable ways far beyond the confines of the action.

In such a life, a person forgets the personal accounts of his own self and becomes absorbed in the task of Divine work.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “Liberation of the Self,” p. 209, in The Long Shorter Way by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Friday, August 8, 2008

"A radical transformation of the essence of things"

"The Alter Rebbe’s purpose in writing about exile was not to make a litany of suffering; rather, he emphasized its positive side.

In his opinion, exile is a revolutionary process that involves radical transformation of the essence of things.

In other words, what is crucial as regards the exile of Israel is not what happens to Israel, but what changes when Israel is in exile.

This perspective forms the backdrop for the question of the sparks within the two worlds, or two states, which form the basic polarities in Kaballah: the world of tohu, the world of disorder; and the world of tikkun, the world of reparation.

What the kabbalists call ‘olam ha-tohu’ the world of tohu, is a world without order, lacking system and organization, a world where there is still no dividing line between the possible and the impossible; in short, a world where anything can happen…

It is indeed a world without Torah; in other words, without that guideline or thread that maintains men on the winding paths of life.

The world of tohu is that place where chaos engenders perplexity, since it is directionless.

When we look at the world today, it does not seem to be heading anywhere.

Where is the world going?"

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From The Seven Lights On the Major Jewish Festivals by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, pp. 117-118.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

"We cannot grasp the concept of Creation"

“Just as we cannot grasp the concept of Creation—it is no more than a matter of words for most of us—so we are baffled by the idea of Tzimtzum (God’s hiddenness and withdrawal).

To be sure, we can speak of it and say that it is an explanation of existence.

But all we are saying is that which is infinite can conceal the infinite, which is necessarily all pervasive.

And the problem is not merely a theoretical one; it spills over into the problems of good and evil, light and dark…Because just as God is to be found in Creation, in that which is good, He is also to be found in the opposite of existence, in the negation of life, as well.

As in the saying by the sages: May the good bless thee, oh Lord; but why should not the evil also bless thee!

To be sure, we may claim that it is impossible for the evil to bless God.

On the other hand, we cannot offer up to God only the good, even if we do wish to relate the good and the light to Him and to disclaim the rest.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “Concealment as Part of Creation,” p. 57, in The Sustaining Utterance by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"God is prepared to suffer the imprecision of our language"

“There are no words to describe the Transcendent.

But since, as we believe, God does wish to have some contact with us, He is prepared to suffer the imprecision of our language.

There is a little story—within another context perhaps, but aptly descriptive—of one of the Tzadikim who suddenly stopped his prayers at a point where there was no pause.

When asked why he did so, he answered with a parable.

Once a king passed and saw a beggar playing a fiddle, and the tune pleased him so much that he stopped and invited the beggar to the palace to play before him.

Now this beggar had an old fiddle with strings that broke easily, so that people told him it was not respectful to the king to play on it before him, and it would be better to make alterations and at least fix the strings.

At which the beggar answered: “If the king wants a tune on a fine instrument, he does not lack better musicians than I; if he asked me to play before him, he took into consideration the poor state of my fiddle as well as my own limitations.”

Thus too—if, as we surmise, God wishes to hear our prayers, and our sincere speech with Him—He suffers our anthropomorphisms, that is, our calling on Him by names that are human and in terms that are limited in their expressiveness.

We say: If you want us, take us as we are with all our faults and inadequacies; it is the best we have to offer.

The only thing we can do beyond that is to know that certain things are not exact or true, and to be grateful for the privilege (and the audacity) to say them.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “Concealment as Part of Creation,” p.47 in The Sustaining Utterance by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

"A greater mystery than reality is the concealment of reality"

“The true unlimited and infinite and incomprehensible is not Divine creation, but the Divine hiddenness.

A greater mystery than reality is the concealment of reality.

As has been said: The glory of God is perhaps the fact that among the rest of Creation there can also be an unbeliever, who denies God even though he lives by the mercy of God and reveals God with every breath of his nostrils or twitch of his finger.

That such a creature should have the capacity to deny the existence of God is an expression of God’s infinite power.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “Concealment as Part of Creation” p. 51, in The Sustaining Utterance by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Monday, August 4, 2008

"What are you doing at this moment?"

“The world is being created at every moment.

This makes it possible for man to create himself, because that which existed two minutes ago is a different world.

Now a new world has been formed and there are new people and new situations, and one can create one’s own world anew.

This optimistic spirit is parallel to another statement to the effect that no man struggles all his life between good and evil.

He struggles for only one moment at each conjuncture, at each choice.

The decision is always now, at the moment itself.

And there can be no other moment of struggle and choice that is exactly like this present one, in which I create a world.

Every moment is unique.

And once the world thus created is manifested, it becomes a part of the infinite reality of multiple worlds.

In one such world, I can be a Tzaddik; in another, a moment later, I can be something else entirely.

In short, the question is always being asked of one: “What are you doing at this moment?"

It is in this sense that God creates the world and the only one who can answer is man.

The other creatures of the world are part of the Divine speech; man can also respond.

God can say, “Let there be light!” and man can say: “I don’t want it,” or he can say “Hear O Israel.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “Creation is always new” in The Sustaining Utterance by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, pp. 128-129.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

"Wisdom as we know it is not of the same category as God's wisdom"

“It is not correct to describe God as “wise” or even to attribute wisdom to Him at any particular level.

For wisdom as we know it is not of the same category as God’s wisdom; it cannot transmit anything of the Divine essence.

One cannot even say that it is difficult to understand Divine wisdom because it is far too sublime; indeed such a statement is totally meaningless and irrelevant, like any attempt to determine something by means that have no reference to it, such as grasping a thought with the hand.

Nevertheless, the Scriptures do call God wise and good, and so on.

And, after all, we cannot very well maintain that he is so far beyond us that we are unable to relate to Him and to His wisdom at all.

The truth may be said to lie in the fact that he is the source of wisdom; God is the first cause, the basis of all creation, and from whatever we comprehend of creation we call Him wise.

Similarly we call Him merciful and kind and so on, because He is the source of all these attributes.

These attributes describe God’s actions and not God Himself; in the same way that we describe Him as “He who gathers the winds and brings the rain” (daily prayer book) and do not thereby identify Him with the wind and rain.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From “The Secret of Faith’ in The Sustaining Utterance, p. 104-105, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Friday, August 1, 2008

"The development of the world requires darkness"

"It may be said that for God to develop the photographic film of the world, He had to create a dark room.

And one needs a limited source of light, controlled and restricted, in order to function.

Once the desired effect is achieved, the windows can be opened.

That is, the development of the world requires darkness, the hiddenness of space and the obscuration of God Himself.

Indeed Divine revelation would most likely consume all of existence.

Reality as we know it would cease to be.

Thus, it is written, the prophet can hear the song of the celestial beings but he cannot see anything.

As it was said to Moses, “For no man shall look upon Me and live.”

There is this limit beyond which all is made meaningless, burnt out and extinguished.

As it is hinted in several sources in the Scriptural text, any trespass of the permitted range of sanctity is a matter of utmost peril."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “The Way of the Soul and Torah: Essence and Structure,” pp. 86-87 in The Candle of God by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz