Let My People Know

"In the presence of God"

“The Chasidic rabbi Simcha Bunim explained that every person should visualize evil as though the devil were standing over him with an ax, ready to chop off his head.

Upon hearing this, one of the disciples asked, ‘And what if a person cannot see himself that way?’

Rabbi Simcha replied, ‘That is a clear sign that the devil has already chopped off his head.’

In other words, the man of God is someone who is constantly struggling.

The one who does not struggle is not a servant of God.

Faith is not of itself a solution to the agony of the soul.

It does not necessarily bring peace and tranquillity.

On the contrary, for the great majority of men, the way of piety and scrupulous keeping of the commandments is a way of perpetual conflict and ever-increasing effort.

What does faith offer in return for the struggle and the effort?

It gives the presence of God, but not always the sense of God’s presence.

A person studying the Talmud portion about the ox that gores a neighbor’s cow will not necessarily achieve religious ecstasy.

That is not what is promised—which is not to say that there is no relation whatever.

What is offered to the one who occupies himself with Torah and the mitzvot is that he will be objectively nearer to God, even if he does not feel that nearness.

One has to decide what one really wants, the actual presence of God or the feeling that one is close to Him.

If one wants to feel as though he is close to God, there are many ways, from drugs to rapture induced by some technique or other.

One can actually be in the presence of God, however, without having any ecstatic experience and without even knowing what is happening, that is, without any sort of great joy or enlightenment.

The bliss either comes or does not come.

But no matter how one is privileged to receive a revelation, it should be viewed as a special gift.”

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (forthcoming)