Rav Kook taught:

“…all the worlds with all that is in them only appear to us as particular effulgences but they are in truth manifestations of the higher light and, seen in their essence, they make up one whole, a unitary manifestation in which is included all beauty, all light, all truth, and all good.” [2]

As with any of Rav Kook’s writings in translation, we might be unsure of his exact wording in the original. But his meaning here seems quite clear: we typically see — experience — everything as “particular effulgences” — as distinct and separate from G-d, just as stars seem like distinct points of light separate from each other and from us.

He then affirms that, our perception notwithstanding, all that exists — that seems to have separate, independent existence — is in truth a manifestation of a single “higher light” — the Light of G-d.

Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein similarly teaches:

“Matter is not something apart from divinity, but only the visible aspect of divinity; it is the Divine Mind expressing Himself in tangible terms; but this tangiibility and visibility do not alter the continuity of the Divine Essence.” [3]

The midrash, too, says that G-d remains unchanging, despite appearing to us in different ways:

“‘I am the L-rd, your G-d’ [4]. (What is this meant to convey?) As the Holy One, Blessed be He, appeared…at the Sea [i.e. the Red Sea] as a mighty warrior, and at Sinai (where Torah was given) as a scribe teaching Torah, in the days of King Solomon as a young man, and at the time of Daniel as an old man, the Holy One, Blessed be He, therefore said to them: ‘Even though they see Me in different guises, it is I at the Sea, and I at Sinai,’ ‘I am the L-rd your G-d’. ” [5]

There aren’t “manifestations” of G-d — plural; independent of each other. Rather, all that we “see” is, in its essence, a distinct experience of a unified whole. When we look at waves on the ocean, although we might see them all as separate and distinct, in truth, a wave is nothing separate from the ocean at all.

Taking the analogy further, even the mist that rises from the ocean, the clouds formed by the mist, and the rain that the clouds become in returning to the ocean, make up, with the ocean and the wave, simply a series of forms that their singular essence — water — takes.  The essence never changes. Remove the essence, and all the forms cease to exist spontaneously.

So, then, our “seeing,” our experience of the “world” — of all Creation — through our senses must be incorrect, or perhaps, only correct to a severely limited degree.

Quite an esoteric point, wouldn’t you say?  

Yet, in 1961, Rabbi Howard Singer wrote:

“The fact is, the human eye and ear do not give us a complete picture of the world we live in.”
The sharpest eye never saw a radio wave, yet we know we’re surrounded by them;…
The sharpest eye in the world never saw a magnetic force, yet we know that something makes bits of metal stick to a magnet…
The sharpest eye in the world never saw electricity flowing through a wire, yet every day we use it to heat our homes…” [6]

He wrote this for older children:

“…to present the Jewish faith to youngsters in the high school classes (14-16 years range) of the [afternoon] religious schools…” [7]

Children are, or should be, taught to distinguish between what we “see” and what we “know.” Isn’t that what they’re really learning in “Science?”

If so, then — kal v’homer — shouldn’t we adults make the same distinction, when seeking the Presence of G-d?

When we do, our contemplation ultimately brings us to awareness of G-d’s Presence as “all beauty, all light, all truth, and all good” — not as separate qualities within G-d, but as unified within the Presence Itself.

Experiencing G-d’s Beauty, we simultaneously know G-d’s Light, Truth and Goodness as the higher aspect of what we, ourselves, already are.


[1] Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer; Gerald Friedlander, trans.; Sepher-Hermon Press; © 1981; p. 15
[2] Kook, Rabbi Abraham Isaac; A Thirst for the Living G-d (essay); in Abraham Isaac Kook: The Lights of Penitence, The Moral Principles, The Lights of Holiness, essays, letters and poems; Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser, trans. and ed.; Paulist Press, © 1978; p. 251
[3] Lichtenstein, Rabbi Morris; Jewish Science and Health; Society of Jewish Science; © 1922; p. 17 
[4] Shmot/Ex. 3:20
[5] Konowitz, (Rabbi) Israel; The G-d Idea in Jewish Tradition; The Jerusalem Publishing House, Ltd.; 1989; p. 15 (footnotes to 2:19 cite several sources, including Midrash Tanchuma)
[6] Singer, (Rabbi) Howard; With Mind and Heart: An Approach to Judaism for Young People; United Synagogue of America, 1961; p. 5
[7] ibid., p. xv
About these ads