Tuesday, May 20, 2008

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Is G-d Really All? – The Argument

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

The subject of Hashem being all, including the lowest of lows of creation, has been an ongoing argument amongst the scholars of mysticism from the earliest days. There are many opinions and many shades of opinions on this subject. The argument has become quite heated at times causing Jews to distance themselves from each other and even worse. So to ask me to resolve this fierce argument in one short letter with exact quotes and sources (and with my very short memory for exact quotes and sources) is asking not only for the sea to part, but for it to be put back together again.

If you like, here are a couple of places to look, but most likely they will not be enough to resolve the argument. Bli neder, in the future there will be a more thorough treatment of the subject sent out.

To understand the subject and not just the argument, please read the posts entitled “Idolatry,” “There Is Only One Infinite,” and “What Am I?” The subject of “Ain od” (“There is no other” {than God}) begins there. In those postings the reader is led up, step by step to the conclusion that G-d is actually all.

When you misquote the discussion by writing that the argument is that “everything is G-d” you do a disservice to the discussion. To say everything is G-d is simple pantheism, which no one in this discussion is claiming. To say that G-d is all, is not the same as saying everything is G-d. Again, reread those posts and see why.

To begin with, look at Rashi on Deuteronomy 5:7. He comments there on G-d’s commandment that “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Rashi’s first explanation is that “before Me” means “In any place where I am, i.e. and that is the entire universe.” Rashi there states that G-d is everywhere at all times. Think deeply on the practical result of G-d being everywhere.

Now look at Shaarei Kedusha (Chaim Vital) Third book, Chapter 1. “In all the five worlds (from Adom Kadmon to this physical world) every detail into the smallest possible detail that exists, you do not have even the smallest creation that is not comprised of the four letters of G-d’s Name which includes the Ten sefirot and this is to tell you that everything was created from the power of the Emanator, and there is nothing besides Him.

Certainly, all sides of this argument know these sources, yet they still maintain different opinions. As we well know, this is an ongoing argument. But here are two places that perhaps you did not look at that show you that the teaching of literal “Ain Od” is widely based.

To add an interesting facet, regarding this subject, Rav Dessler (a stalwart of the Ashkenazim) wrote that the Gra and the Baal Tanya (founder of Chabad Chassidus) were in fact saying the same thing. The Lubavicher Rebbe (The Chabad Rebbe) however, came along and said, “No, they were not.”

So the argument stands. Stay tuned until Eliyahu comes and gives what will be the universally accepted answer.

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for not presenting the opinion of Chassidus as the universal mystical opinion. The meaning of the Tzimtzum, and the meaning of Hashem's kavod being everywhere are obviously essential to the dispute. I'm not sure the quote from Shaarei Kedushah is that telling. It is a basic precept of Kabbalah that everything exists as a reflection of what is above. I.e. we can learn of the upper worlds by studying the physical world.

ReuvenEzraF said...

It seems to me that the Shaarei Kedushah quote IS quite relevant. The fact that every creation is comprised of the four letters of G-d's name (also corresponding to the four elements of fire, water, wind, & earth, in addition to the four creations of mineral, vegetative, animal, & human life) does not simply mean they are just a reflection of what is above. The "light" actually descends levels to bring what exists below into being. That's also the idea of the four worlds. "Comprised" connotes that the vitality of the thing itself is the illumination that the letters of G-d's name provide, since the Tetragamaton is the creative source for creation. When the Alter Rebbe was in jail, the guards wondered how he knew what time to daven the prayers each day since he was locked inside. He knew which combination of the tetragammaton was illuminating each specific hour of the day, & therefore knew when to daven. Matter doesn't exist purely on its own, whether spiritual matter of physical. Each thing is a product of the life force (G-d's light) that it receives. It doesn't have its own existence outside of that. Tzimtzum itself is the power of the Emanator. It's only a concealment from OUR perspective. To G-d it's all just Him like it always has been. Therefore all revelation AND even all concealment is really a form of revelation of Him. Your soul & your body get light (vitality) constantly from His light, albeit at different contracted levels (the "original" light being One with Him). Therefore He is the only existence. He only allows us to feel as if we're are separate from that so we can do our avodah. Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh, Hashem Tzvaot M'lo Chol Haaretz K'vodo"...the whole world is filled with his glory...even within the creations themselves. "The world exists on three things: Torah, service, & good deeds" (Pirkei Avot 1:2) Why? Because they are what serve as the keilim to bring the Divine Will & illumination here to sustain us. Like Reb Gutman said, there are a ton of good sources & books & the argument would be endless. But, in all honesty, who am I to talk. MUCH greater men than me have disagreed with what I'm saying. Moshiach should come & reveal the truth already!!

yitz.. said...

"So the argument stands. Stay tuned until Eliyahu comes and gives what will be the universally accepted answer."

i thought an argument that is l'shem shamayim is sofo l'hitkayem..

to me that means both sides are correct, from some more enlightened frame.

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