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Ki Tisa

Ki Tisa

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G‑d is Somewhere 

So you think you're the first guy out there looking for G‑d? People have been searching for spirituality, exploring the metaphysical and generally searching for truth for millennia. Even the greatest prophet of them all, Moses himself, was preoccupied with seeking the Divine. Moses wanted to see G‑d in all His glory.

"Please, show me Your glory," Moses appeals in the 33rd chapter of Exodus. The commentators understand this to mean that he wanted it all, the ultimate revelation. Others see it as a quest for understanding the infinite ways of G‑d, like why the righteous seem to be perennial sufferers and the wicked seem to be laughing all the way to the bank.

Whatever the meaning, the Almighty places limits on Moses' understanding. "You will see My back," G‑d responds, "but My face may not be seen." Finite earthlings - even a Moses - can only perceive so much and no more. The face of G‑d, the ultimate full picture, is beyond human comprehension.

A youngster was being given his lesson and he wanted to know, "Where is G‑d?" The answer he received was, "G‑d is everywhere." "That's the problem," said the child, "I want a G‑d who is somewhere!"

"Everywhere" is abstract, theoretical and rather intangible. "Somewhere," on the other hand, is more defined, substantial and real. Yes, Judaism definitely believe that G‑d is everywhere. But even more important is the somewhere where G‑d is to be found.

In Judaism we find a clearly developed infrastructure of life. There is a list of behaviors that are considered G‑dly, and another list that may seem a lot more attractive but is deemed to be unG‑dly. We know what G‑d expects of us – and what He does not. It isn't left to what feels good or bad to us in our highly personal and very subjective mindsets. There are objective rules of right and wrong. Morality and ethics are in the province of G‑d and are therefore non-negotiable. Oh, we can talk about it and debate the issues all night long but, ultimately, our moral code is Divine and absolute.

I was once asked regarding a certain person whether he was "a religious person." I remember how that question was a moment of personal insight for me. From the perspective of the questioner, the answer was a definite "yes": the person he was asking about was a believer, came to synagogue faithfully every week, and did charity work-- the things that qualify a person to be called "religious" in the commonly accepted sense of the term. But in Judaism, the term "religious" carries different connotations. The most obvious one is Shabbat observance. Adhering to a kosher diet is another. The nitty-gritty do's and don'ts which the Torah instructs the Jew.

Faith in general, attending Shul and helping out are all nice, but still somewhat superficial. They are in the Everywhere category. Keeping Shabbat, though, is more in the Somewhere department. It is clearly defined and absolute. It goes beyond the surface-level feel good stuff. As Jews, we require a more precise definition of "religious." Practicalities not platitudes, action more than attitudes are the order of the day. G‑d must be somewhere, not just everywhere.

In the final analysis, when we connect to G‑d by doing His will we experience the greatest revelations.

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