Sir Isaac Newton (following Descartes and others) believed that there is a G-d, and that natural laws are signs of Divine Intelligence, demonstrating (if not proving) G-d’s existence.

Yet, he saw Creation and its laws as something separate from G-d.

We still do today, based on what he taught and on the experience of our senses.

But, traditional Jewish liturgy refutes this:

המחדש בטובו בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית  — “You renew the work of Creation every day.” [1]

It means that G-d didn’t simply create the “world” and leave it on its own. G-d’s act of creation is continuous.

The Besht — Rabbi Israel Ba’al Shem Tov — was the founder of the Hasidic movement within Judaism. His chief disciple was Rabbi Dov Ber, known as the Maggid of Miezricz. Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady, conveying the Besht’s teaching that he had received through his teacher, the Maggid, is even more emphatic:

“The power of the Creator must continuously be in the thing created.” [2]

Or, as Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein wrote:

“The Mind that called everything into existence is G-d, and His dwelling place is in the world He created [3]…Not only is the Divine Mind creative, He is constantly creative. There is no pause in His creation.” [4]

The error they refute lies in believing that “Creation” – i.e. matter itself – exists separately from G-d.

The alternative is to see all that exists as a continual expression of something spiritual, rather than as opposed to or separate from it:

“Matter is not something apart from divinity, but only the visible aspect of divinity…” [5]

Spiritual thinking truly starts when we see matter as an expression of G-d’s own existence; when we see Creation itself as a continuous, ongoing revelation of G-d’s Presence and Will.

We can then look on physical laws, “gravity” for example, not as unchangeable natural phenomena, but as ongoing acts of G-d.

Because Descartes and Newton (and, later, Einstein) saw physical laws as separate from G-d, even while seeing the laws as evidence of Divine Intelligence, they caused us to see the world in what Martin Buber called an “Ich-Es” (“I-It”) relationship:

“In the Ich-Es relationship, an individual treats other things, people, etc., as objects to be used and experienced…– how an object can serve the individual’s interest.” [6]

When we see the “laws” instead as continuous acts of G-d, we begin to see the world as the Besht saw it and as Buber, influenced by the Besht, described it: “Ich-Du” (“I-Thou” or “I-You“)*:

Ich-Du is a relationship that stresses the mutual, holistic existence of two beings…this is the only way in which it is possible to interact with G-d…an Ich-Du relationship with anything or anyone connects in some way with the eternal relation to G-d.” [7]

Ceasing to see natural laws merely as “mechanical” operations, we find ourselves always in the Presence of G-d – the Divine “You” — because there is no other presence; no separate force or power causing things to happen.

But this is still only a beginning.

To go further spiritually, we must see all the events of our lives — even the most commonplace — not as automatic operations of an “It” (luck; fate; etc.), but as the intentional acts of a Loving, Divine “You” of Whom we are each, nevertheless, a part.

I place G-d before me always.[8]


[1] end of first blessing preceding the shachrit/morning Shema
[2] R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi; Tanya; (section) “Sha’ar Ha-Yichud v’Ha-Emunah;” ch. 2; p. 291
[3] Lichtenstein, Rabbi Morris: Jewish Science and Health; p. 7
[4] ibid., p. 16
[5] ibid., p. 17
[6]; see also Buber, Martin; I and Thou
* German (Buber’s 1st language) has two forms for “you”: “Sie” is formal, used when addressing a “king,” for example; “Du” is informal, even affectionate; used when addressing someone who is more intimately known — a dear friend, for example. Buber’s original German title was “Ich und Du” — “I and You.” In this, Buber might also have been consciously emulating Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, another direct disciple of the Besht, who was famous for addressing G-d as “du.” Buber’s first English translator, Ronald Smith, chose “Thou” for its “reverential” connotations (which would be more suggested in German by “Sie”) based on the King James Bible (which is itself no longer the standard). Walter Kaufmann did a later translation as “I-You,” which more accurately reflects Buber’s own usage.
[7] ibid.
[8] Psalm 16:8