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Concepts in Judaism

Feeling G-d’s ‘Tangible’ Reality by Experience

How can you feel G-d? What is the purpose of physical pleasure? What is a G-dly experience? “Every permissible physical experience includes within it a form of pleasure that is a “piece” of Hashem’s G-dliness

Feeling G-d’s ‘Tangible’ Reality by Experience
Every relationship must include interaction. If the way we “become one” with Hashem (G-d) is in the form of a relationship, we need some form of interaction with him. But where is there any point of real interaction? We certainly interact with Hashem ‘from our side’ by performing each and every day the commandments which he has requested of us to do; but what is it that he does each and every day for us?

In a general way, we can know that everything we have is from Hashem – the first source of ‘everything’. He brought us into the world, he has given us enough food to survive until today, he gave us parents, family, a home, etc. and certainly if we train ourselves to thank daily for the various facets of our life, it will help us greatly to feel more as if Hashem is now granting to us each one of those elements from anew each and every day.

Therefore, the acknowledgement of what we have through our gratitude makes it feel as if what we already had yesterday is being given to us today in a real interactive way, and is a very important tool in building a relationship with Hashem.

But there is an additional tool that we can use in a more specific way that will feel like actual positive interaction from anew each and every day. This tool can even allow for us to develop such intense feelings of positivity for his “giving” toward us, that over time can build into a relationship of overflowing positive emotions for him. That tool is “Experience”.

What is an Experience?

According to traditional Jewish sources, a “piece” of Hashem’s Infinity is hidden within each experience. From the time of creation, Hashem has embedded ‘aspects of his Infinity’ within each and every physical experience in this world. These Infinite, G-dly levels of pleasure which are spread throughout the world are termed in the Jewish holy writings as nitzotzos – G-dly “sparks”.

The reason the metaphor of a “spark” is used, is that just like a spark is an actual piece of fire, but if during its short existence it doesn’t catch on to any combustible material it just fades out of tangible reality; so too the “sparks of holiness” – which are actual “pieces of Infinity” and are located in the physicality of this world – if during their short tangible existence (while in the midst of experiencing the physical pleasure) the feel of the experience doesn’t “catch on” to connect to the “source of Infinity”, it just “fades out of the tangible reality” and is forgotten.

Every time we partake of, or experience, any physical pleasure, we are in essence experiencing a ‘little bit’ of Hashem’s Infinity. The “spark of holiness” was initially dormant in the form of the positive pleasure hidden within each physical experience, and when we partake of it and “experience” it, we feel the aspect of G-dly pleasure that was hidden within it. At that moment, we have the choice of “connecting” that experience back to its Source – Hashem – or not to.

These types of pleasures pass in and out of our day hundreds of times. If we pay attention to them and recognize that the pleasures we are experiencing are really the ‘aspects of Infinity’ hidden within physicality, then we can use those experiences to ‘spark’ our connection with Hashem.

But if we fail to make any connection between those experiences and the source, Infinite creator, then they flare up and are enjoyable for the moment, but quickly fade out of any type of tangible existence once they pass.

It is these experiences which are Hashem’s way of “giving” to us in a positive interactive way each and every day. Hashem certainly wants us to partake of these experiences – the proof being that he implanted human nature with needs; yet at the same time he warns us not to partake of those experiences that he has outlined which will serve only to draw us further away from him.

(The reason for physical experiences which are prohibited will be explained, with G-d’s help, in a later chapter. The continuation of the present chapter will relate only to such pleasures of experience which are permissible.)

The fact that we eat different foods each day, see beautiful scenery, listen to enjoyable music, examine the wisdom hidden in the physical world, etc. are all examples of positive experiences that we are exposed to daily in a permissible way. When we can “connect” the fleeting pleasure to its source, we end up strengthening our relationship with the One who we know it all comes from.

But how exactly do we “re-connect” them to their Source? What is it that we need to do while in the midst of experiencing the physical pleasure to “connect” and build our relationship with Hashem – other than just enjoying and experiencing a tiny “piece” of Infinite Pleasure?

 “Connecting” is through Thinking

The “reconnecting” of the “sparks” to their Source, is accomplished simply by means of “thinking”. Every “spark” is really the hidden element within a physical ‘housing’ that awards a person a “miniature” experience of a G-dly, Infinite pleasure that really emanates from the Source. The way to “reconnect” the experience back to its Source is simply to think about the Source while experiencing the pleasure.

Every time that we partake of any physical experience in this world, we experience its unique “taste”. The ‘taste’ of the experience is pleasurable – even “G-dly” when you think about it. At the moment that we experience the pleasant “taste”, we have a very critical choice to make. The choice is whether, at that moment, we choose to think about Hashem or not. The choice we make each and every time that we go through such a physical experience is what can directly affect how much closer we feel in our everyday life to forming a strong and bonding relationship with Hashem.

What to think About

The Meor Einayim directs us as to what we should be thinking:
“The way to worship Hashem even through the physical pleasures of this world such as eating, drinking, etc. is to think to yourself [while you are partaking of that pleasure]: “Why do I love [the ‘taste’ of] this physical experience so much? It’s because the pleasure that’s in it is really connected to the source of all pleasures above. If so, how much more should I love Hashem than I love this physical experience; because He is really the Infinite Source – not only for this pleasure, but – for all the pleasures that could possibly exist!!”

According to traditional Jewish sources, it is not considered negative to ‘think into’ and enjoy a physical permissible experience. The physical world is not something to be shunned away and distanced from; it can act as a ‘connector’ to the Creator. The only condition is that it be utilized with a mindset that includes the Creator.

A person who chooses to think about Hashem while experiencing physical pleasure will soon come to realize that pleasure itself is not ‘a negative’; rather it is actually a tangible “extension” of our experience of Hashem.

What is considered negative about any permissible pleasurable experience is when a person chooses not to think about Hashem during the experience; then the experience just remains ‘dangling’ afterwards in his experiential memory as something unconnected to Hashem. If this is his association with it, then the more he continues to experience that pleasure again and again, the more the visceral intensity of it “covers up” his perception of the ultimate Creator who is really generating it. But if while experiencing it he thinks about Hashem, then the pleasure itself can act as a ‘tool’ to connect his innermost emotions and desire to the ultimate Creator.

The Results of our Choices

If when we partake of a physical pleasure we choose to ‘just’ enjoy it – without exercising any thought of connecting it to G-d, we generally end up describing our experience with words like “I love this food, this scenery, this music, this person, etc.”

In truth though, what we really love is the “spark” and experience of Infinity that is hidden within that physicality; whatever is physical about it is only an external ‘housing’ [for the spiritual ‘spark’] which in itself does not include anything to love about it at all.

Someone who does not practice “reconnecting” his deeper experiences of pleasure to their Source through his thoughts, can end up going on for days, weeks, sometimes years from one pleasure to another, and still wonder how it is possible that he feels zero interaction from Hashem toward him for so many years of his life.

On the other hand, if at the moment we partake of a physical pleasure we choose to shift our thoughts to think about how this experience is our ‘window’ to sensing ‘a bit’ of Hashem’s Infinity, it turns into a very spiritually rewarding experience. One can think, “This pleasure, which I love so much at this moment, is really just an infinitesimal part of all the pleasures that exist within the Infinite Essence of the creator; if so, how much more should I love the Creator himself, Who is the Source of All the pleasures!!”

Connecting our Deepest Emotions to Hashem

By connecting our experiences of the physical world to Hashem again and again throughout our lives, we inevitably come to feel actual feelings of love and connection to Hashem.

Let’s take eating a delicious food, for example. The spiritual ‘spark’ that exists in food is the actual taste of that food. The experience of taste is not merely a physical experience; rather it is a spiritual, G-dly experience that is ‘housed’ within the physicality of the food.

When a person partakes of the food, the heartfelt pleasure and the added strength and energy that he feels as a result, is really an outcome of his connecting and having experienced the G-dly aspect that was imbedded within the food.

Although at first this exercise might seem to us as trite: “Do you really expect that I can build feelings of love, care and desire for the Creator of the world just through focusing on how much I enjoy my food?! Aren’t I supposed to love the Creator a lot more than the food?!!”

Nonetheless, try it. Even though it’s true that we should love the creator a lot more than we love our food, it’s still ok ‘for starters’ to love him at least as much as the food.

In reality, the depth of this practice goes beyond that. Once you begin to realize that the food itself is not really just “food” – meaning, it’s not just its physical casing – the pleasure hidden in the experience of it is really a bit of “the Infinite”, then you will recognize that “loving Hashem as much as you love the food” is really not a put-down at all. It really is one and the same.

Someone who trains himself to “connect” all his positive physical experiences by thinking about Hashem during the experience, will soon find himself thinking about Hashem numerous times throughout his day.

He will begin to notice how those same emotions that were previously aroused in him throughout his day as “infinitesimal bits of emotion” from seemingly unconnected experiences, start to join together within his heart into one massive feeling of love and positivity for the One who Created all of the experiences.

Adapted from "It’s All for the Good" by Rabbi Nachum Chaimowitz. Available at http://www.israelbookshoppublications.com/store/pc/It-s-All-for-the-Good-p1150.htm