December 17, 2004
What you see is what you get (Rabbi David Aaron, 12/17/04, JewishWorldReview.com)
"Daddy, where is G-d?"
"Son, wherever you let Him in."
—Attributed to Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz
How do we open our souls' eyes to let G-d in?
The Kabbalah says, "There is no king without a nation." This point requires deep exploration. It may make sense that, in the human world, a king is dependent on having subjects who acknowledge his sovereignty. The last Emperor of China ceased to be emperor when there were no longer people who bowed when he entered the room. Even after the Communist government had exiled him, as long as people recognized him and acknowledged him as their sovereign, he was, in a very real sense, still a king, albeit without the power to rule. But G-d is reality, so how can G-d be dependent on human acknowledgment.
The world that you and I live in is a product of our perception of reality. The philosopher Immanuel Kant probed this concept. He asked: Do we see reality or do we see our perception of reality? Kant's answer, of course, is that we do not see reality, but only our perception of reality. In other words, is this world reality? No, this world is your perception of reality. Therefore, the focus and clarity of your consciousness will determine the kind of world you live in. [...]
The world you live in is a product of what you are looking and willing to see. This is expressed in the Kabbalah classic - the Zohar's commentary on the story of Jacob as he's going to Egypt to be reunited with his long-lost son Joseph. Jacob has misgivings about leaving the land of Israel, even to see his beloved son. G-d appears to Jacob and says, "Jacob, don't worry. Joseph will close your eyes." The Zohar queries, what does this mean? According to Torah, when a person passes away, someone must close the eyes of the deceased. The Zohar explains that the colors and textures and shapes of this world exist in your eyes. In order to enter a new world, a higher world, after death, the soul must first leave this world. This world exists in one's eyes, so the eyes must be closed in order to take leave of this world and see a higher world. G-d is announcing to Jacob that he is going to die in Egypt and Joseph will be there to close his eyes to this world, so that he will be able to enter, i.e. see, the next world.
Is the Zohar saying that this world is an illusion? No. The Zohar is saying that this world is your subjective perception. Your consciousness of reality determines the world you're in. Your consciousness of G-d determines how much of the light and the truth of G-d will be allowed into your world. To the extent that you acknowledge G-d, to that extent G-d will be in your life. This is a very crucial idea. Although G-d is, G-d is not revealed in your perceptual world unless you actively acknowledge and invite G-d in. [...]
Each one of us has a choice. You can believe that this world is filled with the presence of G-d who cares about it and guides it. Or you can believe that this world is one big accident, a chaotic mess. The choice is yours. But remember what you believe is ultimately what you will see. What you believe creates the world you live in.
The Talmudic Sages taught: "Everything is in the hands of G-d except awe of G-d."
The Hebrew word for awe, year, means both "awe" and "will see." Everything is in the hands of G-d, except for our acknowledging and seeing and being in awe of G-d. If we are in awe we will see G-d. If we are not in awe, if we are not open to seeing G-d, then G-d is not in our world. It's that simple and that serious.
This is the radical notion at the core of Western Civilization, particularly of the Anglosphere, that the only reason to believe in anything at all is aesthetic, but that the aesthetic justifies our faith. Posted by Orrin Judd at December 17, 2004 9:06 AM