21 Mar Kabbalat Shabbat-Hachodesh-Avodat Yisrael
The heresy of the Egyptians and other idolaters who followed them was as follows: They admitted God’s greatness, and realized that He is Infinite, and that no thought can encompass Him at all. They also knew that we cannot speak of will or any other attribute with regard to God’s essence.
This being so, they asked, how can we say that God deals with man according to his deeds, or that He desires that we keep the Torah and its commandments? How can we say that God has any enjoyment or pleasure from those who keep His commandments? Would this not be a deficiency for an Infinite Being?
These people therefore denied God’s providence over the physical world. According to their understanding, this would not be proper according to His greatness and glory.
They went further with their heresy and called Him, “the God of gods (Menachot 110a).” According to their philosophy, His influence was transmitted through the stars and constellations of the zodiac, since these have some relationship and affinity to the terrestrial world.
The Zohar says that these people, “worship the evil sun (1:238a).” Their main worship is therefore to a limited power. Since the Master of all powers is infinite, they say, “What is the Almighty that we should serve Him (Job 21:15).” These nations, therefore, base their calendar on the sun.
The Jews, however, base their calendar on the moon. This alludes to God’s attribute of Kingship (Pardes Rimonim 23:12).
We thus look upon God as our King. We serve the Infinite Being, Who is the Creator of all, and Who gives life and existence to all. We serve Him according to the Torah that He gave us, whose “ways are ways of pleasantness (Proverbs 3:17).”
It may be true that we cannot imagine any attribute in God, and that we cannot limit Him within any such concepts as desire and Providence. At the same time, however, it is also certainly true that He created the world with His simple Will. In doing so, He “lowered” Himself, and thus allowed Himself to be called “Great,” because of His acts of greatness, and, “Mighty,” because of His acts of strength, as stated in the Zohar (2:42b).
The idolaters erroneously think that they are enhancing the glory of the Infinite Being by saying that He does not oversee the lower world. What they are actually doing, however, is denigrating and debasing our Concept of the Power on high. According to God’s true glory, He is Infinite, and even the heavens, the heavens above the heavens, and all the angels, are like absolute nothingness compared to Him, since they are all finite.
With respect to God, there is no difference between the entire expanse of the universe and a single grain of sand. We can only say that one thing is greater and another is smaller when we are speaking with relation to something that is finite and bounded. But with regard to the Infinite Being, how can we say that according to His glory, He should not pay attention to a single grain of sand? If we were to say that, we must also say that according to His glory, He should not pay attention to the greatest Angels and the entire transcendental structure! Even though these are very great, wondrous entities, when compared to the Infinite Being, they are like absolutely nothing. Anyone with any intelligence should readily understand this.
The world was created through God’s simple Will, and we must therefore say that He brought some “Desire” into existence, even though we cannot comprehend this statement. No created entity can understand this mystery. The Zohar therefore says that “before creation and it’s beginning, it is impossible to comprehend or know (2:42b).” This is the question, “What is before?” about which we may not speak (Chagigah 11b).
After God created the world, however, He lowered Himself and expressed Himself in human form, and it is in this form that He is called by His Name, Y-H-V-H, as the Zohar states. [This does not mean that God has any human form, heaven forbid, but that He expresses His actions using anthropomorphisms, taking human form as an allegory.]
With this aspect of humanity, God is able to accept the worship of human beings, who served Him through His Torah and Commandments. This was God’s very first thought, and it is called, “My son, My firstborn, Israel (Exodus 4:22–Bereishit Rabbah 1:4).”
When Israel is hated by the idolaters because of this worship, they are then called, “The first-born, son of the hated one (Deuteronomy 21:17).”
The idolaters do not want this worship of the Infinite Being to exist. This is what Pharaoh’s servants meant when they said just before the Exodus, “How long will this remain a snare to us (Exodus 10:7).”
At first, they denied God completely. Later, when they saw the wonders and miracles brought about by Moshe and Aharon, they wanted to expel the Jews. They did not want to allow their hearts to experience the true path of serving God.
This is the way of the wicked. Even when they see the truth, they flee from it and want to cast it away.
In the Ultimate Future, the ones who were hated and pursued will inherit the Light. It is thus written, and added to Lecha Dodi of Friday night, “Arise, shine, for your light is coming. God’s glory will shine upon you (Isaiah 60:1).”
This will take place through the attributes of their worship in their ways in serving God. Even though the ones who serve God realize and know that even their ability to worship Him comes from God, and that all the radiance we attain is really His. The verse thus says, “God’s glory will shine upon you.”
This is also the meaning of the verse in Hachodesh, “This month shall be to you (Exodus 12:2),” which teaches us that we base our calendar on the moon. This refers to the attribute of Kingship, where we look upon God as our King. In this manner, to the extent that we can express it, all good influences are brought about as a result of our deeds. (Avodat Yisrael, Bo, 28a)