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Where God is Depends on Us

When children ask us, “where is God?” We usually tell them that “God is everywhere.”

It’s a beautiful answer, completely true, but it doesn’t help when you are older. When we see what goes on in the world, we often ask ourselves the very same question, “Where is God?” The truth of the matter is that God’s presence in the world is hidden, difficult to perceive, yet embedded in everything.

After the Jewish people received the Torah on Sinai God instructs them in Parshat Terumah, “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” (Shemot 25:8). God instructs the Jewish people to create a vessel to experience the proximity of God.

Shabbat is another vessel for us to experience the indwelling presence of God in the world. For on Shabbat, teaches the Sfat Emet, we experience the truth that everything that we have and do exists only because of God, and we are able to recognize the sanctity of all creation.

When we gather at the table and bless the Shabbat on Friday night with our candles, wine, and meal, the Shechinah, the indwelling presence of God is with us.

When we gather as a community to sing, dance and pray especially on Shabbat- the Shechinah, the indwelling presence of God is with us.

Whenever we wonder where God is, it usually means that we’re not making a place for God. Because when we live a life full of Shabbat and community, of gratitude and giving, we cannot help but experience the proximity of God.

God’s presence in the world is truly, as the Rebbe of Kotzk taught, wherever we let God in. Our lives, and the whole world, can be a dwelling place for God. This is what the Torah is all about.

But our relationship with God depends totally on us.

Shabbat Shalom.


Not your average kvittel: Obama’s letter to God read around the world

Obama's letter in the Kotel

Obama's letter in the Kotel

“Lord — Protect my family and me,” reads the note published in the Maariv daily. “Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will.”

Someone – most likely a yeshiva student police say in Jerusalem – grabbed the note that Sen. Barack Obama placed in the Western Wall during his visit there last week. Then he sold it to Maariv Newspaper (who may face charges for publishing it.)

The letter, written on stationary from the King David Hotel, is a beautiful prayer to God. The rabbinic authorities that run the Western Wall – what we call the Kotel – are furious for this invasion of privacy. As they point out – Jewish law explicitly forbids intercepting and reading private mail.

Now that the letter is public and in papers around the world, I can publish the content here without violating that law.

Cynics will say that the letter is too good – that he must have known, or in fact even set up this whole thing. They will say that he used Judaism’s Holiest site to pursue more votes from Jews with this letter. Well duh, as my kids say. Every politician that has ever visited the Kotel did it with an eye to Jewish votes. What is more impressive are the contents of the letter.

According to Obama said during his 5am visit that, “America loves Israel and the Jewish people and will stand by the Jewish people, he said, standing at the Wall. The US, he added, will continue to look out for Israel’s security need and is Israel’s true friend.”

Personally, the letter is the best Western Wall prayer that any politician could have ever written, let alone a potential leader of the USA, and the most powerful man in the world. I am enough of an idealist to hope that he meant what he says in the prayer, but enough of a realist to acknowledge that a person’s actions are not always inline with their prayers.

Reuters video follows – a single heckler during he entire visit yells “Jerusalem is not for sale” perhaps pausing for a moment when Obama is praying. As he walks away from the Kotel, shouts of “Obama, Obama” from Israeli supporters (sic) drown out the hecklers. Rush Limbaugh’s headline “Messiah heckeled at Wester Wall.” [Video may not appear – click on link]