G-d is your shadow [1]

“This I [Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev] heard from the Baal Shem Tov…
When a living creature stands by its shadow…
just as the creature moves, so the shadow moves.
It is quite the same with [G-d].
According to the actions of a mortal human being on earth,
so he is treated by the Heavenly realm above.”

I’ve referred to this principle before, in several posts about “Judaism and Karma.”

I’ve been surprised that among my posts, that one has been referenced most.

The question is often: Does Judaism teach about “karma?”

As I said in my first post about it: Yes.

But Judaism doesn’t teach that “karma” is an automatic process, independent of G-d.

Rather, our tradition teaches that G-d always responds to our actions in a “karma-like” way, although the Divine response can be tempered with mercy, too.

The Baal Shem Tov (the “Besht”), gives the same traditional teaching, but in his own “earthy” way, likening G-d’s response to the movements of our own shadow.

The editor of the anthology from which I culled it connected this quotation by Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev — an early Hasidic leader and direct disciple of the Besht — with Pirkei (or Pirkey) Avot 1:3 — “Let the fear of heaven be upon you.”

Again, as I’ve written elsewhere, “fear of heaven” or “fear of G-d” are idioms that simply mean: We cannot escape the consequences of our actions.

We’re not asked to feel a needless, useless guilt or anxiety. We’re simply asked — or told, if you will — to consider these consequences when choosing any action. We will inevitably face them, sooner or later.

In “Psalms” and “Proverbs,” this is called “the beginning of wisdom.”

One would think that this is easy. Simply choose “good” acts and refrain from “bad” ones, right?

Would that it were always that simple.

I bring this up now with reference to the rocket attacks from Gaza and the Israeli response.

It’s easy for me, living outside of Israel, to ask that the Israelis refrain from a military response. In fact, in one post on Facebook, I wrote “Violence is a defense, but not a deterrent.” I meant that in the history of modern Israel, military action has defended the country and brought short, temporary periods of “quiet,” but no actual peace (except with Egypt and, it seems, Jordan). Some Israelis scorn the opinions of others, even Jews, who don’t live under the daily barrages (the town of Sderot is always under attack; not just now). We can all understand how they feel.

The fundamental issue, as I understand it, is Israel’s “right” to exist at all. The Muslim world rejects it. The Jewish world (for the most part) accepts it. The Christian world is somewhat divided, it seems to me.

Thus far, I see no room for compromise, until a political and/or religious figure comes along whose power and authority are accepted by both sides.

In the meantime, I can speak of what I wish Israelis would do ideally, but I can’t speak as someone who has to endure what they endure.

I can only hope that as they consider the necessary actions, they take into account not only the immediate political and safety considerations, but the longterm consequences of their actions, too.

I cannot — and will not — say what is “right.”

Only that they — and we — will inevitably face the consequences of what we do, sooner or later.


[1] Tehillim/Ps. 121:5.  ה׳׳ צלך — which can also mean, “G-d is your shade” (your relief from the heat of the sun; your comfort)

[2] Dvorkes, Rabbi Aryeh and Joshua; Chas. Wengrow, trans.; The Baal Shem Tov on Pirkey Avot; © 1974 by Rabbi Y.A. Dvorkes; p. 23 (from Rabbi Levi Yitzhak; Kedushat Ha-Levi)