I was speaking in an out-of-town community on the topic of the four levels of emunah. I spent some time dwelling on the third level: that Hashem knows our thoughts. I explained the parable of the transparent man, and that Hashem peers into my essence and knows exactly what I’m thinking as I think it. When I was finished, a number of people came up to ask questions. I also noticed two young women, who were hovering on the side waiting. When everyone else left, they came over to me, and one said in a very agitated voice: “This is terrible! How can I live with this?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean this idea that Hashem knows my inner thoughts. I feel so exposed. How can I live with that knowledge?”
Her friend explained that she was a ba’alas teshuvah, and she had been brought up by an abusive father. The idea that someone knows her inner thoughts was very threatening to her.
I tried to gently explain that she was being anthropomorphic—projecting human characteristics onto non-human objects. She was comparing Hashem to people in her life. And you can’t compare Hashem to men or women or anyone. Hashem is miles and miles above any human limitation.
“Naturally,” I said, “if you view Hashem as you do a human, then there are many things that you will find troubling. But that’s the point—Hashem isn’t human. Hashem is limitless and boundless, contained neither by space nor by time. Hashem is all knowing and all-powerful. For us to even discuss Hashem in any meaningful way, requires us to break out of our limited experiences.
“One of the reasons that we find it so difficult to relate to Hashem is because His very essence contradicts all that we experience. In our world, everything is limited; everything has a beginning and an end. Trees are a hundred feet tall. Bulls weigh two thousand pounds. A dog lives for ten years. Everything we know can be weighed and measured because they are contained by limitations—they are so wide, so heavy and so tall. But Hashem has no limitations. So, by definition, for us to comprehend Hashem on any level, we need to step outside of our frame of reference.” While I could see that she understood where I was headed, she was still troubled. So I said to her, “I would like to ask you a question.”
What Did You Do to Be Worthy of Being Created?
“Before you were created,” I said, “what did you do to be worthy of being created?
“Meaning, at some point you didn’t exist. Then Hashem decided to create you. The question is, before you were created, what did you do that Hashem said, ‘Such an individual is worthy for Me to create.’ “The answer is—nothing. Because before you were created, you didn’t exist. You couldn’t do anything to be worthy to be created because you weren’t.
“And while this may sound obvious, it is really profound. The Chovos HaLevavos explains that Hashem created you for one reason—to give to you. Hashem is magnanimous, loving and kind. Hashem wants to share of His good. Hashem made you—not because you were worthy, not because of anything that you did, nor because of anything that you will do. Hashem made you for one reason: to give to you.
“And there is nothing that Hashem needs in return. Hashem lacks nothing— so there is nothing that you could ever do for Him. The sole reason that Hashem made you was to share of His good with you.
“The very first point that you need to understand in your connection with Hashem is that it’s a one-way relationship—Hashem is the giver and you are the receiver.”
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.