Offering God Divine Service

Rabbi Eliyahu YaakovIn the previous article we ended by explaining that there can be no other logical alternative other than the fact that there exists a Being beyond the limited dimensions of the finite, beyond time and space. In Judaism and in Kabbalah, this Infinite Being is what we refer to as God. And, given that God is Infinite, it comes out that God is not only the creator of all there is, but is in essence all there is. After all, any other suggestion would be limiting the unlimitable.

This leaves us with three questions:

  1. If the Infinite is beyond all limits, doesn't that imply that He should be able to limit Himself if He chooses? After all, if He "can't" limit Himself, is that not in itself a limitation?
  2. If the Infinite is all there is, then what am I?
  3. How can I talk about doing a Divine Service—a service for One who is beyond all limits? What possible service can I offer the Infinite?

In an attempt to address these questions, we must first acknowledge the fact that, of course, there is nothing God needs from us, and there is nothing I can do that would make a change in God's essence. Infinite plus one still equals Infinite.

So then why would God create us in the first place?

The Parent Paradigm
In Judaism, the main goal when raising a child is to help that child to actualize his potential and grow into his true self. I find that a healthy approach to foster this process is to put before the child the opportunity to do something that I don't need the child to do, but I can benefit from. For example, if I'm cooking dinner, there are plenty of things my 5-year-old daughter can do to help me, but I am prepared to do those things even if she is not going to assist me. She can cut the vegetables, spice the food, or even mix the drinks. When she makes a contribution in this manner, she gains a sense of self-worth and slowly develops a feeling of responsibility without feeling the entire burden on her shoulders.

Giving a child the opportunity to make a real contribution in a context in which one is not dependent on the child creates the healthy scenario needed to facilitate growth in that child.

After all, let's look at the alternatives.

What if I were to put the entire responsibility of something I need done on my child? What if I were to rely on her to the point that I would be aversely affected if she were not to fulfill my request?

Obviously, this is not a healthy scenario for a child to be placed in.

Most likely, if a child were to get the sense that a parent was indeed acting as a dependant, the child would disregard the mission completely and feel that the parent is no parent nor all that respectable. Barring a miracle, such a child would grow up without the proper sense of security, irrational fears, and unwilling to take on responsibility since the proper healthy secure environment was never set up for this child to struggle, develop, and grow.

Alternatively, say the parent were not to put on the child any responsibility. Let's say the child were to grow up with a live-in maid that ran around cleaning up after the child, getting the child dressed, making the child a sandwich whenever he had such a whim—what would happen to this child? Obviously, barring a miracle this child would grow up finding it severely difficult to do anything for himself, let alone for anyone else. He would severely struggle when anything does not go his way, and would feel paralyzed when it comes to being proactive. This, most likely, would lead the child to a strong sense of depression since his surroundings have all but programmed him for inactivity and given over the message, "You are not needed for anything; it's all paid for."

The only healthy middle road is to set up a situation in which the child can be proactively contributing but not essentially relied upon. This creates the healthy balance between contextual security and personal responsibility.

Similar is the nature of our Divine Service.

When we talk about the Infinite, we think about God being beyond the finite, beyond time and space, and, of course, that is indeed what we mean. But there is another level of beyond. When we say that God is beyond, our intention is that God is so beyond that He can be within yet not limited to being within; He can be within, yet beyond.

Let's understand this deeper.

Living the American Dream
For human beings, our portrait of accomplishment is the American Dream, the guy who is poor but turns it all around, builds himself up against all odds, and gains wealth and prestige. For us, this is tremendous. This is the underdog we all love to root for. That is to say, for us created beings "down here" in this world, a move from the bottom to the top is going to be the story we will pay money to see. It is the saga they will make the movie about.

1/27/2011 5:00:00 AM
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    About Eliyahu Yaakov
    Rabbi Eliyahu Yaakov is a sought after international speaker on Kabbalah, relationships, parenting, and life. His newly released book, Jewish By Choice: A Kabbalistic Take on Life & Judaism, recently hit #1 on Amazon's Best Seller list.