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High Holidays: How Do I Become Close To God?
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Ein Kadosh kaHashem ki ein biltecha v’ein tzur Kelokeinu – She saying, “There is no one as holy as God because there is no one but God.” What’s that supposed to mean?
Let’s take a look at this Rambam. The first few paragraphs of the Rambam in Yesodie Hatorah begin as follows: Yesod hayesodot v’amod hachachmot – “The foundation of all foundations, the source of all wisdom is to know something; to know sheyesh sham matzui rishon, that there is a first existence.”
You know, if you don’t read the Rambam carefully here, you’ll think he is talking about a related philosophical concept, the idea of First Cause. You’ll think he is saying, “Well, there is a First Cause in the universe. The universe wasn’t here ago and back infinitely in time rather than a First Cause that started it all, that First Cause we call God.” But actually, it talks about our first existence, God as the ground of all being.
V’hu mamtzi kol hanimtza – “This first existence gives rise to all other existence.” The Rambam is speaking in present tense. It’s not the God once upon a time created something one time ago and now it exists. It’s talking about God as the ever present ground of all existence.
Was it meaning to think of it that way that God constantly is the ground of all being? His existence brings into existence, present tense, all that exists? It means this, v’chol hanimtzaim min shamayim vaaretz umah be’eineihem lo nimtzau ele meamitat himatzo – “Everything that exit, he said, from heaven and earth, it only exists through the truth of God’s existence.”
Now, these are strange words – “through the truth of God’s existence.” Ramah was using the word truth here a little bit differently from the way you and I do. You know, you and I will say 2 + 2 = 4, that’s true; 2 + 2 = 5, that’s false.
Ramah was getting up something slightly differently when it’s talking about truth. He is actually talking about what Hannah is talking about. You will hear it again if you skip forward a couple of lines in the Rambam.
Here is what He says, ein amitato k’amitat echad mehem – “He is truth, God is truth, He is not like the truth of any other creature or any other thing in the entire world.” Again, the Rabam was coming back in a strange way to this word ‘truth’.
You know, you and I thinks something is either true or it is not true. It’s not like there is different degrees of truth. But, Rambam seems to be saying, yes, there is different degree of truth. You know, you and I are true, but we are not true like God is true. What does that actually mean by this?
Hu levado he’emet – He alone is true.
Ein la’acher emet kamito – No one is true like He is true.
And finally, He tells us, this is really what Hatorah means when it says the words, ein od milvado – “There is none other but he, no one but God.”
Ah, that’s what Hannah said too. What is really going on here? It all boils down to how the random is using this word, the ‘truth’.
Right, it wasn’t mean when it says “there is no one but God”; no truth like God is true; no one exits but God. Now, you and I exist, again. We know things like plant exits, the tree exits, that school over there exists; what do you mean there is no but he?
So, here is the key. When the Rambam is talking about truth here, he does not mean truth in the sense of 2 + 2 = 4, he mean something a little bit different. What he really means by truth is independent existence. Actually, if you think about that, that’s what we all mean by truth.
Take some vast simplest statements about truth, like 2 + 2 = 4. What makes that statement true? So, you might say, well, 2 + 2 = 4, that’s real, that exists. 2 + 2 = 5 doesn’t exist. But, is that really true?
I mean, let say you believe 2 + 2 = 5, let’s say few believes 2 + 2 = 5, let’s say we have a whole group together of 2 + 2 = 5 believe base, and we have great charisma, and we convince half the world that 2 + 2 = 5 under this debate, and Fox News does a special MBR and argues with them. Yeah, the whole world is up in arms. You can’t say 2 + 2 = 5 doesn’t exist. There is lot of people who will believe it. That’s an idea. The same way 2 + 2 = 4 has an idea.
But, 2 + 2 = 5 doesn’t have any independent existence, only 2 + 2 = 4 does. Think about that! If you took away everyone who believes 2 + 2 = 5, there would no longer be any existence to that idea, but it’s not that way with 2 + 2 = 4. Even if no one in the world would love to believe that 2 + 2 = 4, that idea will still have existence because it’s true, it just exists, it exits independent of being propped up by anyone believing at it. Truth at its core is independent existence. Everything else can exit, but it’s not independent existence, it’s propped up.
So, when you say something exits or something is true, you really have to ask yourself at what level of existence or truth are you talking about. You know, at some level dream exists. Either dream that seems very real, it existed because I thought it, but if you take away my thoughts, if you take away me the ground of those thoughts, the dream evaporates.
You and me exits, but we are not really independent existence. We happen to exists because we got created. Our continued existence is only conceivable because there is a prime existence from which we all emanate somehow.
It’s like that joke about the turtles. A guy says to his Professor in an unbelief that stuff about the earth being in space and just kind of hanging there. “Everyone knows it’s a big turtle that holds up the whole earth.” The students’ position, off course, is that the earth can’t just be there, it has to be support by something, it has to be supported by a big turtle. Anyway, so, the Professor was kind of shell-shocked by this. “You’re pardoned upon.” He comes with the rhetoric, “What’s underneath the turtle?” “It’s another turtle. And underneath that, professor, you don’t understand, there is turtles all the way down.”
Now, look at our then age, we do believe that the earth really hangs there than some fundamental philosophical way. When we talk about the universe as a whole, we talk about space and time and matter and energy. Where does that come from?
But, Rambam is saying, “turtles all the way down” doesn’t work. There is a ground of it all. A dynamic prime existence more real than anything we know. We call that existence God. Ein od milvado – “There is none other but God.”
It’s not such a creative thing to say. It just depends on how you defined the bar of existence. Do you mean existing like dreams or do you mean more independent existence? We have more independent existence than dreams.
But, when you raise the bar to highest level, only one being exits with absolute independence, the source of all existence itself. That I think is what Hannah was talking about too. God is radically different from us. But, not because he is less real than you and I, because he is more real than we could ever be. God is radically different from us. He is not alien to who we are either. On the contrary, we are closer to him than we could ever imagine. He is our source. We eternally spring from his existence. Off course, I can connect with him.
When I think of God as the fundamental existence from which I spring, yes, I am filled with a sense of awe, but it’s not the kind of awe that draws me away, it’s the kind of awe that beacons me closer, the kind of awe that allows for a closeness, vulnerability, intimacy. Who could understand me better than my source?
Here, one more time, are Hannah’s nine words. Ein kadosh caHashem ki ein biltecha – “There is no one as holy as God because there is none but you.” God is separate, but he is not more inferior than you and I. He is more real than you and I. His separateness consists of him being the ground of our being, the only one in the entire universe at which the buck stops here. The one who he is so real that he is not even tangible! So real that in comparism to his existence, I am but a dream. When it comes to absolutely independent existence, there is truly none but you.
Ein tzur Kelokeinu – She concludes “There is no rock like our God.” The image of rock, of border, of shared wall, of granite is the most foundational thing human beings can imagine in the world of nature. The foundation of all foundations, our source, that is the kind of separateness, is what holiness is all about.
Hannah does something subtle here. She makes a very subtle shift. Ein kadosh caHashem – As we talked about before is in third person – “there is no as holy as God” – that the next thing she says, ki ein biltecha – “there is none but you.” That’s in second person – “there is none but you.” She is talking directly to God. She is moving from third person distance to second person. Direct communication! Closeness!
When you start thinking about Kadosh Sha'ar – holiness, your first sense is, “does that create distance?” The separateness of God is awe inspiring and I feel like shrinking away until I realize what holiness truly consists of. Ki ein biltecha – And then, I’m drawn to you; “there is none but you.” You are my soul rest. Off course, I can talk to you. Off course, you can understand me. Off course, I can relate to you directly. It is you. Ein tzur Kelokeinu – You are a rock. “There is no rock, no source other than you.”
These ideas of Hannah have powerful ramifications in our lives. Some of these are quite surprising.
Come with me to the next video let me show you what I mean by this.
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