iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Rabbi Chaim Miller

GET UPDATES FROM Rabbi Chaim Miller
 

Beyond Transcendental: Realizing Your Innate G-d Connection

Posted: 05/15/11 10:14 AM ET

It's not easy to worship a distant G-d. Often He feels so heavenly, so uncommunicative, so incompatible with mortals.

You might have never realized it, but when we reach out to G-d we always do it in one of two ways, what I call the "meaningful" and the "transcendental."

A meaningful religious experience is one that resonates with you as an individual. It could be words of Psalms that reduce you to tears, the shrill of a shofar blast that stirs an awakening inside you or a moment of ecstasy as you walk your child to the Chuppah. Meaningful moments are always inspired by some sort of understanding or general appreciation of what you are doing. The words of Psalms were apt to your life, or very beautiful poetically. The cry of the Shofar was chilling in its purity. And the marriage of your child was the culmination of countless hours of education and exhaustion, completing another cycle of Jewish transmission from generation to generation.

The problem with meaningful experiences is that they are extremely human. There's nothing wrong with that, but it leaves in the back of your mind a gnawing feeling of distance from G-d. As much as the Bible is filled with anthropomorphic metaphor, we are all acutely aware that G-d is very un-human. He created the world and He is also infallible, two things that none of us really relate to on personal terms. So however meaningful a religious experience might be, we remain acutely conscious of how far we remain from G-d.

That's why we all have an urge, from time to time, to transcend our mortal trappings and escape the constraints that stand like an iron wall between ourselves and our heavenly Father. That could mean meditating until you lose awareness of your surroundings, or doing a mitzvah with the awareness that its given reason does not define it, because it is the will of G-d. Transcendence can also be a philosophical experience, the realization that the mind cannot grasp G-d in any way and that any human activity is inadequate to contain the Divine.

These two paths -- of seeking G-d with the mind/heart or despite the mind/heart -- frustrate us as much as they satisfy us, because we always seem to be flipping from one to the other. Neither seems to work fully. As we narrow the chasm with acts of worship, we come to realize that it is a gap that can never be bridged. Narrowing it only makes it wider.

But there is a third way: Stop trying to connect; you are already connected. This notion of an infinite chasm between you and G-d is simply not true. It is not a vertical relationship of G-d up there in heaven and you down here on earth, but a horizontal one, because your own soul is G-dly. It is the same substance as the Divine.

Instead of looking to bridge a gap that isn't there, come to the realization that your very being is sacred. Meaningful and transcendental experiences are aimed at connecting the non-Divine with the Divine, but as soon as you recognize that you actually contain the Divine, you will see your connection to G-d as existential: your very being binds you to God. The simple fact of your presence testifies to His existence.

If that's the case why do we need to worship God? Can't we just be, and that's enough?

Remember this: Your being only provides your connection with God, it does not manifest that connection. And that's a problem because it imposes a limitation on your relationship, and, in a certain sense, projects a limitation on G-d. If your relationship only "existed" and it never "manifested" then it would send the message that things have to be that way. It would be as if G-d cannot connect with us openly and manifestly; it all has to be subliminal and existential -- which, of course, is not true. So while the greatest connection that you can have with G-d is through your being, it helps when that essential connection begins to manifest through overt, conscious connection -- and that's where meaning and transcendence come in. They are not a substitute for your existential connection; they are the manifestation of it. And, of course, a manifestation is always something of a failure; it never fully brings to light what lurks under the surface, which is why you get frustrated.

But when you realize that the shortcomings of your religious experience do not really cripple you -- they do not compromise your existential connection with G-d in any way, they are just an inherent limitation in the power of manifestation -- you might just want to dance for joy. Your connection is always absolute, and all your attempts to manifest are really the icing on the cake. Quite important icing, mind you. It's the reason why you're here in this life, to ice your cake. But you can't fail. You can only make a delicious cake even sweeter.

This column originally appeared on Chabad.org and is based on a discourse from the Lubavitcher Rebbe on his birthday in 1978.