The truth that constitutes the secret of the world’s existence is that Ha-Shem’s presence fills the entire world, and from the reality of Ha-Shem’s being stems the very existence of the world. He causes everything to be [at] every moment and His Will is contained…in every material object both under the sun and above it. [1]

This might sound very “Hasidic.” In fact, it was written by the Hazon Ish [2] — a decidedly non-Hasidic (even anti-Hasidic) writer and teacher within Orthodox Judaism.

How different is this from Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein’s “The Mind that called everything into existence is G-d, and His dwelling place is in the world He created”? [3]

Not much, if at all.

In fact, it’s very much based on a teaching of the Rambam’s:

“The basic principle
of all basic principles
and the pillar of all sciences
is to know [lei’da]
that there is a First Being
Who brings all that exists
into existence.
All that exists could not exist
except for His True Existence.” [4]

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, the Rov, wrote on the same verse:

“If one wishes to know what the significance of lei’da [is]…, then study the words of the folk song – ‘A Dudele’ – which is attributed to Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev. ‘R’boyne shel Oyl’m/L-rd of the Universe,’ sang Rabbi Levi Yitzhak, ‘Let me sing a song of ‘du’. Du – are east. Du – are west. Du – are north. Du – are south.’ The sun rises – and one sees the Almighty in the illumination of sunrise. The sun sets in an afterglow of haze – and there too one discerns His Presence…It is a feeling – and it must be [personally, directly] experienced.” [5]

The Rov’s grandfather, the Beis Ha-Levi, also wrote:

“…nothing has its own intrinsic existence. Rather, the Almighty creates everything anew each second.” [6]

Their ancestor, Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, the “Nefesh Ha-Chaim,” chief disciple of the Gaon of Vilna, made a similar point:

“…One who builds a wooden house does not create the wood. He buys ready-made beams and boards and uses them to put up the house. When the house is finished, he…moves on to the next job…the house remains standing. Not so G-d…He created the universe out of nothing. And ever since creation, the universe exists only by virtue of the fact that He continually bestows an abundant flow of new [Divine] light [and existence] on it. If this flow…were to cease for an instant, the entire universe would revert to nothingness.” [7]

Even if it contradicts everything physics tells us, it’s a simple, straight-forward idea. One which we’re supposed to understand through reasoning, but which we’re ultimately meant to apply in our view of everything that happens in our daily lives.

It’s not a fast process. Perhaps that’s why the Hazon Ish places it at the end of his book, as a “final” step, while the Rambam calls it “the foundation of all knowledge” — i.e. the first step towards real, true wisdom.

But it forms the basis of the Jewish form of “jnana yoga” — the yoga of intellectual contemplation.

The basis of the Jewish form of “bhakti yoga” — the yoga of love and devotion to G-d — is in Torah itself: G-d took us out of Egypt, for which we’re eternally thankful. It also demonstrates G-d’s continuing active presence in our lives and unlimited ability to overcome any negative conditions. Our loving response is meant to underlie our entire acceptance and performance of Torah.

The “yogas” aren’t necessarily exclusive.

Over time in our spiritual lives, we’ll find meaning in and use for both.

(see also:


[1] Hazon Ish; Emunah u’Bitachon (“Faith and Trust”); Yaakov Goldstein, trans.; Am Asefer, 2008; p. 236 (“Prophecy”)
[2] Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz (1878-1953); rabbinic authors are sometimes called by the name of their major work (e.g. The Hazon Ish; The Nefesh Ha-Chaim; etc.)
[3] Lichtenstein, Rabbi Morris; Jewish Science and Health; p. 7
[4] Maimonides; Mishneh Torah; Book of Knowledge 1:1 and elsewhere
[5] Soloveitchik, Rabbi Joseph Ber (1903–1993); On Repentance; p. 134
[6] Soloveitchik Halevi, Rabbi Yosef Dov Ber (1820-1892); Bais Halevi; quoted in Pliskin, Rabbi Zelig; Gateway to Happiness; p. 165

[7] Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin (1749-1821); Nefesh HaChaim; Rabbi A.Y. Finkel, trans.; p. 30 (ch. 2); Here, Rabbi Chaim’s teaching is the same as Rabbi Shneur Zalman’s in Tanya/Sha’ar HaYichud, to which Nefesh HaChaim was otherwise intended as a rebuttal. The Soloveitchiks are descended from Rabbi Chaim.