Belief in G-d / Chassidic Thoughts / Essays 2018
Life is full of challenges and one can find endless advice on how to remain healthy psychologically and emotionally. A popular suggestion includes strengthening ones faith and connection to G-d. The world of recovery for example, emphasizes greatly the importance of surrendering to a higher power to overcome addiction. When it comes to anxiety and depression, people often preach the importance of believing and trusting in a higher power who is all knowing, all caring and helping in every way.
This is fine, but as we all can testify, living in a G-d centric reality seems difficult in our finite, ego centric world. However, with the revolutionary perspective of Chabad Chassidus, living a healthy spiritual lifestyle is easily accessible. In turn, the person will develop a healthy psychological make up.
Many people are familiar with Chabad as an organization which provides Jewish services around the world. However, most are unaware of the core teachings which lie at the foundation of this powerful movement. There are hundreds of thousands of pages which fill up a library full of Chabad literature, known as Chassidus. The Chabad founder, Rabbi Shnuer Zalman and subsequent Chassidic masters who authored these precious manuscripts, literally risked their lives to share the ideas stored in these volumes. Miraculously, these teachings have inspired thousands of Chabad Centers which have rejuvenated and inspired countless communities of Jews since the devastation of the holocaust.
Rabbi Yisrael, the founder of the Chassidic movement, writes that it is the teaching of these ideas that will be instrumental in bringing the world to its intended ‘end of days’, a time of; world peace, the eradication of illness and death with the coming of the Messianic age!
So, what do they say? What ideas could be so mind blowing to change the world so drastically?
Well, Chassidus is the deepest understanding of the Torah, the divine wisdom as passed down from Moses.
I believe it is fair to summarize all of Torah into 2 subjects. Namely,
- G-d and His relationship to the world. What He is, how and why He creates
- Man and his purpose in the world. What he is, how and why he was created
The Chassidic take on these 2 ideas are:
- G-d: Ain Od Milvado – There is nothing other than G-d
- Man: Chelek Eloka Mamesh – At our core, we are literally a piece of G-d
Although these ideas are not Chassidic innovations, the way Chassidus explains them allows us to internalize them and actually see the world through this lens.
Chassidus is notorious for its use of metaphors to take abstract concepts and make them relatable. One such metaphor is the idea of imagination.
In Perek 46 Tanya, the Alter Rebbe used this metaphor to explain G-ds relationship with the world.
If are to close your eyes, you can create an entire world in your mind and experience it with all 5 of your senses. If you imagine yourself sitting on a beach looking out at an ocean, you should be able to see the water, the sky, the sun. You can even hear the waves, smell the salty water and feel the sand.
When you snap out of this day dream, it is obvious that all of this beach existed within you, within your imagination. There was no part of it outside of yourself. The sand was you, the ocean was you etc.
In regards to G-d, the same can be said of this whole universe. It exists all within Him. There is no part of it which is not part of Him. By using this very relatable metaphor, Chassidus allows us to look at the world around us as G-ds constant production, as if we are in his imagination. He is not in a far off place looking down, but rather right here. We are in Him.
But we can take this metaphor even further, and this is where life takes on a whole new perspective. If we go back to the imagination of you on a beach, you will notice that there are now 2 of you:
- There is the ‘real’ you who is sitting and reading this paper,
- Then there is another version of you in your imagination who was just sitting on a beach experiencing a whole different reality. That version of you, is literally you, it is a real part of you, it is an extension of you. We will call it the ‘image’ of you because it is you in your imagination. You were experiencing a beach.
So too, in addition to the universe existing in G-ds ‘imagination’, G-d puts an extension of Himself into His imagination so He can experience this reality through the lens of a finite limited human. This is the divine soul which lies at our core. We have this image of G-d within us.
The ramifications of this perspective are awesome. Because we are intimately connected to the creator of this universe and everything in it, everything we do and feel effects G-d. We are never alone. He cares about us as He cares about Himself. We can do anything, even cause miracles.
There are many obvious questions which immediately come to mind, probably the first being “how come we don’t feel this to be our reality, and how do we have free choice?”
To explain this, we must continue with the metaphor of imagination. Free choice in your imagination would mean that if you were to try and imagine something, the ‘you’ in your imagination would have free will not to do as you wish. For example, if you wanted to imagine that you went swimming in the ocean, but the you in your imagination refused to follow your will and instead went home (in your imagination), I would say you are crazy or have lost your mind. But the truth is that this does occur to almost everyone.
It is during sleep that you will create a scene in your imagination. The ‘real’ you will be sleeping in bed, but the image of you in your dream will feel completely independent and can choose freely to do anything, even something which goes against your real will. Sometimes, people even imagine doing things which freak them out, like jumping off a cliff.
This is because sleep is the process of letting go of the image inside your own imagination and now it has free reign to do what it wants, even go against your true will. Again, this all exists completely within you.
To relate this to G-d, this whole universe is more like G-ds dream where he has let go of the image inside His own imagination which gives us free will to do as we please. (Chassidus describes this process as tzimtzum). We can even go as far as to sin, which would ‘freak him out’.
But what is the point of this G-d dream? What does he want to achieve?
In psychology, there is a concept called lucid dreaming. It is the state when you are half awake; you are dreaming but are aware that it is a dream. At this point, you now have control over the dream, and can master the dream from within. You can turn it from a nightmare into a beautiful fantasy.
G-d could have just imposed His will and created a beautiful world to begin with, but instead He wanted to develop a beautiful world from within the world, from within this dreamlike state. We do this by realizing that we are just an image of a ‘real us’ in His dream and with the awareness of this connection with the creator of the dream, we are able to master His dream from within to make a beautiful reality.
With this one metaphor, Chassidus has given us a most powerful tool to feel intimately connected and close to the infinite source of all existence. We will never feel alone – If I smile, He is smiling, if I am suffering, He is suffering. If I think good, then it really will be good. We will never feel helpless because we will feel empowered to be able to master our own lives and the world around us, with the confidence and security of being an extension of the true creator in His world. When we adopt this perspective fully, we will not struggle with any of the psychological problems that come from our sense of independent ego. Rather we will feel as true ambassadors to make this world a wonderful place for Him to live.
I am really an image of G-d.
 The 12 step program
 Tanya, Front page. Quote from Devarim: Ki Karev Eliecha Hadovor meod
 The Alter Rebbe was thrown into prison because of trumped up charges by those who distrusted Chassidus.
 In a letter to his brother in law
 Kuntres Inyonei shel Toras Hchassidus
 See the first 2 books of Tanya. Sefer Shel beinoni focuses on the person. Shaar Hayichud explains G-ds unity
 See Melukat Beis, maamer Balaleila Hahu and other maamarim where galus is compared to a dream.
 There is a deeper aspect to G-d which does not ‘go to sleep’ or ever lose control, and therefore although there exists human free will, divine providence also exists simultaneously.