God’s Presence in All Things

A description of one individual’s experience that the whole world is filled with God’s glory.

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts. The whole world is full of God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3).

When I am out in nature and especially when I am on silent retreat, I am able to simultaneously perceive and feel that the whole world is full of God’s glory. The world appears more luminous and alive. Colors take on a dynamic vibrancy, and I see the trees breathing. Aligned with this visual experience is an internal emotional one of peace, wholeness and an expansion of pulsating energy—as if I could be sustained for eternity standing in that moment, breathing and being one with my surroundings. When Liqqutim Yekarim[fn]“Precious Fragments.” An anonymous collection of short teachings from the first generation of Hasidic masters who followed the Baal Shem Tov, often attributed to the Maggid of Mezeritch.[/fn] says, “the fullness of the universe stands within the Blessed Creator,” I believe that he is referencing such an experience. I am so blessed to feel God’s presence in this way without much effort. It simply takes a beautiful setting, silence and solitude to experience the light in all things, as the Sefat Emet[fn]The Language of Truth, a commentary on the Torah by Rabbi Yehudah Leib Alter of Ger, translated and interpreted by Arthur Green, Jewish Publication Society, 1998.[/fn] says, “there is a light locked away in each thing, hidden from us. But by negating ourselves … turning all of our sensation toward God and becoming deaf to all else, the secret light is revealed to us.”

I can also easily sense God’s presence in Torah. The Jewish mystics teach us that Torah is a manifestation of God’s self; revelation is itself an act of Divine self-disclosure. Said another way, God is garbed in the text of Torah, hiding beneath the letters, traveling between the pesukim (verses) like cosmic wormholes, dancing in the white and glowing in the dark. When I study Torah for its own sake—when I am completely present with the text and have no ulterior motive or programmatic agenda—I can sometimes hear divinity calling to me from the text. As in a game of hide-and-seek, I see hints of revelation in the patterns of letters and the phrasing of verses. Slowly, I am enticed to dive deeper; the call becomes louder and the text takes on texture and dimension. Before my eyes, the text is transformed from a static entity into a living, breathing, beautiful being. The Sefat Emet speaks of this when he says, “this is the meaning of ‘you shall see it’—you shall see God’s sign [oto]. This refers to the sign that is within each thing, bearing witness to our blessed God.”

“The sign that is within each thing, bearing witness to our blessed God.” How do we see this “sign” in every person? In people this “light” and “sign” can be heavily garbed and concealed. It is very difficult to uncover the Divine light in people; it takes the great discipline of self-negation, the transcending the ego. It is easier with babies and children and, I have also found, when someone is close to death. I visited a congregant in hospice recently, and I told her, “I can see your soul, and it is so beautiful.” Pouring from her eyes was a radiant, Divine light. She seemed to be held by God’s embrace. As her body was decaying, her inner light was being brought to the surface. Why is so hard to see this inner light in most people? Imagine how the world would be transformed if we treated each other as the vessels of God that we actually are!

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