For many Jews today, Judaism is a culture, a way of connecting with our history and heritage, a way of connecting with our community and our homeland … so many things other than what it should really be most of all – a spiritual journey, a way of life that connects us with the infinite God.
Our tradition says that the Torah is the way to connect or bond with God. The Hebrew term Torah is often translated as Law but it really means the Teaching or the Way. The idea is that by walking along the Way we achieve Devekut which literally means sticking or cleaving to God. This is why it is so important to keep the commandments or mitzvot, which are the details of the Way. The word mitzvah is similar to the Aramaic word tzvaas which means join or attach. By performing a mitzvah, we connect with God.
For those who believe in it, nothing can be more meaningful or joyous than bonding or connecting with the infinite God. But for many of us it is hard to imagine ourselves living such a life. We wonder…does God even exist? How can we really bond with God if we’re not even sure that God exists?
If we think of God as an entity separate from ourselves, as an invisible being that stands apart from the universe, then perhaps it is hard for some of us to believe in God or to envision ourselves as having a bond with God. But maybe that’s not the best or the only way to think of God.
Many great spiritual masters, including Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi and Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, teach that we may think of God as Being itself.
The most sacred name of God in the Jewish tradition is the Tetragrammaton or ה-ו-ה-י which is based on the Hebrew root of the word for Being. In this light, everything that exists, from a tiny grain of sand to a huge blazing star, reflects or expresses God.
If God is Being itself, surely God is real, for nothing can be more real than Being Itself! And, if God is Being itself, then God’s “attributes” are the ways in which Being is expressed in the world.
For example, when we speak of God’s mind we are talking about the orderliness and structure in the universe. When we speak of God’s benevolence we are talking about the fact that there are so many good things we experience in the world – the warmth of the sun, the nourishment of food we eat, the air we breathe, the millions and millions of tiny events that must occur in order for just one person to live, let alone the human race, let alone the myriad species of our planet.
Finally, when we speak of God’s providence we are talking about our faith that human history is not arbitrary or haphazard; there is a direction, a positive destiny toward which human history is headed: a world of universal justice and peace for all humankind.
So, if God is Being itself, and God’s ways are the ways in which Being is expressed, we can bond or connect with God by following the Way, that is, by keeping the Torah and specifically the mitzvot. When we contemplate the orderliness or structure of the world, we are connecting our mind with God’s mind. When we perform acts of benevolence, we are participating in the benevolence that fills the earth. And when we work for justice and peace, we are partners in divine providence. This is the spiritual journey of Judaism: to bond with God by following the Way.
Of course, Judaism is also a culture, a way of connecting with our history, our heritage, our community and our homeland. But all of these things are only more profound and meaningful if they are part and parcel of that awesome, spiritual project: living a way of life that connects us with the infinite God. May God bless our efforts to succeed!
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Candles should be lit for Shabbat on March 28 at 7:44 p.m., April 4 at 7:50 p.m. and April 11 at 7:57 p.m.; For Passover on April 14 at 7:59 p.m. and April 15 after 8:59 p.m.; for Shabbat on April 18 at 8:03 p.m.; for Passover on April 20 at 8:05 p.m. and April 21 after 9:05 p.m.; and for Shabbat on April 25 at 8:10 p.m.
Editor’s note: Rabbi Dr. Joshua Golding, the rabbi of Anshei Sfard Congregation (Orthodox), has volunteered to provide Torah commentaries for Community.