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What Is G‑dliness?

What Is G‑dliness?

The Underlying Reality

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© Claudia Ravel
© Claudia Ravel

G‑dliness, obviously, has a lot to do with G‑d. When we speak of G‑dliness, however, we do not mean G‑d. When we say that nature is G‑dly, or that the world is truly G‑dliness, we don’t mean that nature or the world is G‑d, G‑d forbid. So what do we mean?

What we mean is that since G‑d created this world out of His own will and imagination, therefore, no matter how it appears to us, its true underlying reality is nothing more than His will and imagination. His will and imagination, in turn, are not acquired qualities of His, but rather entirely one with His oneness.

G‑dliness, then, is an underlying singularity that unites all creatures and events, past, present and future, vitalizing each of them while simultaneously transcending all of them.

One way to conceive of G‑dliness is to imagine a great storyteller, artist, composer, or some other creative mind. Imagine that mind conceiving in a flash-out-of-nowhere some concept, theme or motif out of which he or she can build an entire story, painting, symphony or other creative work. Now imagine that this master artist is so skilled that, once the piece is done, despite the gamut of diverse emotions, styles, timbres and tones it contains, upon close examination all can be traced to a single theme and idea.

Now imagine that this idea is not just another idea that popped into the artist’s head, but a profound expression of the artist’s soul. In a way, the art is a better manifestation of the artist than the persona of the artist himself. His persona is just the way he has found to relate to other personas. His art, at its very core, expresses the very core of his own soul.

Imagine G‑d as an artist, whose soul breathes in every detail of His art.

I suppose that this is the ideal artist, and while some may have come very close, our world is not a world of ideals. Aside from that, even the ideal human artist can create new forms, stories and patterns only out of the experiences he has acquired in life. No idea truly comes “outanowhere.” Even if it did, the art must be created out of materials, sounds and colors that pre-exist, within a time-space continuum over which the artist has no control.

But at least this can serve us to help us imagine the work of the Master Artist of All Things, from whom all ideals, forms and concepts extend—even the very idea of existence itself. It’s an analogy: it speaks of an experience of which we otherwise have no grasp whatsoever, by means of comparison to the familiar—and then it demands that we strip away the familiar to touch the mystery that lies beneath its covers.

Breathing within every cell and atom of His work is an expression of His very Being—yet superbly disguised within the intricacies of the story He tells, to the point that a fool who sees only one brief act of the play believes that there is no Playwright, no story, no idea—just a bunch of fools like himself playing around on a stage.

We know otherwise. We know that beneath it all, there is nothing else but G‑d.

The most puzzling thing about G‑dliness is our incognizance of it.

The most baffling thing about G‑dliness, then, is that it can be hidden. The true reality of everything that exists can be hidden from those very creatures that emerge out of that reality. Just as the Creator generates and sustains new beings without source or precedent—something we cannot begin to imagine—so too the Creator conceals His G‑dliness from those very creations at the very moment that He is sustaining them with that G‑dliness. Nothing could be more perplexing. And yet, this dynamic is the essential dynamic behind existence.

Whatever the explanation (if we can explain it), such a state of concealment is termed in the Zohar “the other side”—meaning that which feels itself to be other than its Creator. Our material world is a world dominated by otherness. There are higher planes of existence, however, that are called G‑dly worlds—worlds where whatever exists feels that it is nothing more than an emanation of a Higher Force.

Within our world, as well, there are places and times where G‑dliness is more readily apparent, and special individuals who are more attuned to the underlying G‑dliness. There are windows through the facade.

This is the healing that Torah brings to the world: with each mitzvah we do, with each act of beauty and wisdom, we uncover a little more of that underlying reality. In a time to come, due to our work now, the entire creation will be translucent vessels to display that G‑dly light. May it be sooner than we can imagine.


Interested in more? Watch or listen to the video discussion Who Needs a Temple? by the same author. Also read Getting to G‑dliness.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
Claudia Ravel obtained a computing degree from the Buenos Aires University, in Argentina. Then she studied drawing, painting and art history at the workshop of great masters in art. She studied Art Therapy and scenography. Many collectors, from Argentina and throughout the world, particularly Japan, Israel, France, Canada and the United States own Claudia Ravel paintings. Ms. Ravel has had more than 50 solo and group shows in Argentina from 1989 to 2011, having also participated in art fairs in her native country and abroad, receiving important prizes and distinctions. View her work at www.zazzle.com/ClaudiaRavel.
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Benzion Waldman Millburn, NJ January 16, 2017

G-dliness is Perfection Clearly, this is a very esoteric and abstract concept: What is G-dliness?
Anything that is perfect in the world is G-dliness. The Torah is perfect. Nature is perfect. The creation of Man is perfect. Re-creation is perfect. On occasion man's thoughts and acts can acheive G-dliness. In fact, at times, all humans are at times capable of G-dliness, and for this we must thank Ha'Shem. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma December 26, 2012

we don't mean that Nature or the world is G_d... G_d forbid I reread this just now, and strangely, I almost put the word "singularity" into something I was writing just before coming to this, on my Facebook page... and I have been here, of course, before. I am sorry, but it's ALL G_D, and the AWE in this is of Nature too, and I would say, you are wrong. When I am in Nature I feel G_d to the core, and when I am with others, and doing this journey through life, I feel with every fibre of my being, that I am being moved, and that emotion, the motion even within the energy of the word, is part of a singular whole that pervades all life. So I would say, this phrase, somehow, sprung out at me, this morning early, and I am saying NO, you have to be wrong. It's all G_D, and the awe within even saying the WORD, the NAME, is just this. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma November 9, 2011

High expectations: Raising the bar I love this and I think a teacher who believes in his or her students, that they CAN do it, communicates something very important. There are many movies that are truly inspirational about teachers, and how students succeed, because the teacher reaches them, takes the time to understand them, and finds creative outlets in also ways of teaching that get the students to move to great heights in terms of personal and group accomplishment.
We cheer these movies, and they are so often taken from the lives of truly, inspirational teachers.

As to my writing, I am "me". I am a poet. I do what I do with metaphor because I see life this way. I think one of the qualities of G_dliness is deep empathy, the ability to put oneself in the shoes of another, to comprehend their point of view and to "feel" them as we do, in losing ourselves for the moment in a good movie, in such identification. Then we can understand being "them". In so doing we "reach" & reach for, each other. Reply

Anonymous November 9, 2011

r h Please do not change your style of delivery.

It's like asking R. Tzvi to change his delivery. Your ideas are crystal clear. I cannot say the same for R. Tzvi. Sometimes i don't get his complex messages. i reread until i do. Sometimes i disagree with his ideas, but i do see his side. i just figure i might get to that side one of these days. I have a ways to go to catch up with your ideals, but I believe that you are right on the mark.

I have been reading you both ever since i was directed to Chabad,org, as a means to get in touch with Judaism, my roots.

On another channel, a Rebbetzin wanted to start a campaign of " Don't blame. Don't complain. " I love it. Sounds G-dly. Especially when she admitted that she was only able to last for three days herself. She is another online persona in whom i sense G-dliness. In real life i sense it in a lot of people. Just never enough. Oops. Scratch that last complaint. Extraneous, not cool, no soul ... not G-dly. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA November 8, 2011

So, Julie and Ruth, to boil it down simply, Are you saying Go-dliness is the ability to feel as one with other human beings? Sometimes the message you two send is hidden within words of description. It's as if I were to say I'm talking about a living object which has a head, two legs and two arms, but I am not saying I'm talking about a human being. See? It's easier if you make a point and THEN describe what you mean. Reply

Anonymous November 8, 2011

responsibility III Just recently i found the job application i had written up, why i wanted to be a teacher ( handwritten was a requirement ). It covered the responsibilities of leadership, citizenship and discipline. The reader was agog. The ideals were high.

One of the offhand praises i received from a principal was :

" You really have high expectations on your students. What surprises me is that they try to reach them. I was never able to do that. "

I set a high bar for educators. Remember this is all about a classroom teacher. By holding myself to high responsibilities and high expectations, i could fell just a smidgeon closer to G-d, my innermost core. Doing right because there is no other way.

If anyone in this forum can ' get it ' r h it is you. I have high expectations on your responsibility to teach us because that is how you get closer to G-d too. If you do not see it that way, i won't roll my eyeballs. My ideals may be high, but i never pressure my colleagues.

Shalom. Reply

Anonymous November 8, 2011

resposibility II Like all teachers i was sent an invitation to 01 and 20 year anniversaries. I would go. What astonished me most was teachers who were surprised by students who would tell them how they affected their life is some big or small way. Any teacher who was surprised, i considered stunned, and would roll my eyeballs. They had gone into their classroom without the responsibility to expect very one of their students to be affected.

Day one of my semester , i would tell those who did not agree with my forcing them to think were better off leaving. None ever did. Some could not handle the curriculum. I would work lunch hours with them until we established whether or not they should continue. Day one, I made a floor plan. That first night i committed the names of all four classes to memory. Students were shocked that i knew their names the very next day. My style was to address any question to an individual student by name.

It is the criterion by which i judge the classroom teacher ... tbc Reply

Anonymous November 8, 2011

responsibility It is everyone's responsibility to affect your neighbor for what is right. I may be wrong but i expect like my neighbor to have the responsibility to discuss differences so that either of us can change.

As a classroom teacher you have full responsibility to be effective in your curriculum/discipline . Without that attitude of responsibility, you cannot be top notch. Furthermore if you expect not to be effective with 100 % of your students, you do not belong in a classroom, and there are places in the workplace for those who do not take such responsibility and cannot teach or or not very good at it, and their paycheck is a necessity. I taught in the classroom for 3 action packed years. I forced my students to think, because in my mind that was my responsibility/profession. I found out that the harder i pushed my students, the harder i had to work. It did set me apart. I avoided the teacher's lounge because the main topic was all about being underpaid ... tbc Reply

julie Durham, UK November 8, 2011

ONE? I love this site very much even though I m not a Jew by birth i know there is some Jewish soul within me and I feel the pull strongly to the beauty of the Truth written. There is however one point which I am sorrowful about. I know that each and everyone of us is ONE as well as separate, I know this through my practice of meditation which has led me to see the Truth of Torah which i could not see before meditation. I know that there is IN REALITY no lasting permanent self but that ultimately everything disolves in The ONE. I think this cannot be taught in words, it must be experienced and only the practice of meditation can revel it to those who know it not. How can they learn what you have seen Ruth, without the means to learn - words cannot fulfuill it even though they are amazing. We must know it within. Can anyone tell me, how Judaism transmits this directly to the heart/soul (soul is too separate a word for soul is ONE). I think we all know it naturally but it must be revealed. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma November 7, 2011

To Dear Anonymous I think we all need to know we're being heard. And often, I so agree with Karen, we never know, who it is, we have touched. Sometimes we find out, and sometimes, never. I know people have said things, that have made a huge difference in my life, and they might never know. In fact, their words might reach me in a cast of hundreds, as in a lecture hall. Something is said, this one thing, a statement, that opens an entire world of seeing. How astounding!

Something a rabbi once said, made a huge impact on my life, and I was actually upset with his words. He said, you must always pray aloud. I argued internally with this. Surely a deaf person might not. And surely silent prayer is heard. So I do disagree still, but he got me hearing words, and that hearing, these aural connects, brought me to this place, so I owe his words a deep debt of gratitude.

I do believe, for us all, it is important to acknowledge our contributions. We need to feel heard. Writing can be a very solitary endeavor. Reply

Anonymous November 7, 2011

r h Nov 7 - 2011 Many times I have stated how myriad others and i appreciate the voice in your words.

I am astonished how you have taken upon yourself the responsibility to share your ideals of love and peace in order to make refinements in our world. It is so ' Abraham-ic '/physical dissemination and Sarah-ic/prophetic dissemination.

On this subject I take your words of wisdom before most others, because you are not an initiated rabbi. If you can dream it and do it, so can we. Take this post for example, I am replying to you and not the rabbi. Still, R Tzvi is the numero uno voice for me on the rabbinical side. He too takes responsibility for his role in the scheme of things. Fortunately, there is a rabbi locally who takes that same altruistic responsibility.

Yasher koach to all three! Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma November 7, 2011

G_d chose invisibility to be SEEN. For Karen: I have never been in charge; like others, only charged; some lead the charge, and others, do follow; so often, we take turns, as birds, beautifully, in V formations. Soar, not shot down: Sore.

VAV. The AV in VAV. AV inu, Malkeynu.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, to hear, does it, sound? Creativity wants participants. Write in their books. Tell them. I love your work. It moved me. This moves them, to further create. G_d too needs LOVE. Say it!

We all need, at some level, to be heard, and maybe even, to herd, if just for a moment. A blip in time. We are all gifted some ego. Aren't we?

We all, even you, and all teachers, feel the frustration of seeing such potential in their children. so wanting them to fly, to do what they, as teachers can do, to bring this out in them. To share.

And yes, of course, you are right, we need to surrender to a greater power. There are lessons in humility for us all. It's fall. We all fall down.

We're human. after all. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA November 7, 2011

Love the poem, Ruth. Here's another. Godliness is happiness
To this I can attest.
When, in life, we have a choice,
G-d's way, for sure, is best.
I want to walk the straighter way,
But then turn left, then right.
I want to get and hoard
All items in my sight.
And, now, although I love our G-d
And know that He loves me,
My place is cluttered, disarranged
To the point you can not see.
I stumble over papers, books and
All things on the floor.
Yet and still I will go out
And take in more and more.
Whenever will I walk the way
The Lord has mapped for me?
For then, I'd live my life out,
And do things happily.
Godliness is doing, saying, thinking
All things wise.
Godliness is in our hearts,
Which no one can despise.
Love the Holy God of Love
And take Him to your heart.
Then, in the end, when days are done,
From us He won't depart. Reply

ruth housman marshfield, ma November 7, 2011

two Hebrew Letters Peh for Breath
Ayin the I within the Eye
The English word: Pain
Listen: peh ayin Pain

we endlessly contemplate the meaning of suffering
we do know this
the search for meaning brings us to acts of tikkun, the need to heal each other, a suffering world
and it brings us to the doors, the gate of perception in posing the eternal question why, Y
consider con Siddur
the Y
it is the tree bared of its foliage
it is man, woman, hands outstretched
reaching, asking, seeking, holding
it is a branch
we are also its leaves
return, teshuva
it's all G-d
belief be leaf
we are the branches
G-d the shelter our Tree
there can be one answer
only
to Love Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA November 7, 2011

Hi, Ruth my friend. OK, so you have an imperative to teach. As a teacher, I can tell you that no matter how much wisdom you impart, the other part of the equation is a student who is willing to not just listen, but also incorporate your wisdom into his or her life. I found that many of my students, at the TIME, didn't listen. However, YEARS later, when I saw them, many thanked me and said that my words really had an impact on their lives. Other students I lost contact with and don't know. Maybe they, too, incorporated my words, but I will never know. So, it may be your gift to impart your knowledge and stories, but it is not your responsibility to make people feel the same way. If you can realize this, then you will never be disappointed or angry. Or frustrated. Reply

Bren Toronto, Canada October 30, 2011

G_dliness revealed in the connection between us A healthy human body depicts the harmonious perfect connection between its cells, systems - each continuously senses the needs of other and provides and works for it, taking just what it requires to survives for itself.

Our task is to re-assemble the human soul - Each comes out of his inner world, what he felt as 'this world' senses other's needs and contributes after taking just what he needs. - G_odliness will be revealed in this globally connected human soul - all working together for the sake of others.

The quality of G_dliness will be revealed in this perfect, healthy connection between the integrally assembled human soul - as it was originally perceived in the thought of G_d. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma October 11, 2011

i ask G_d WHEN? I didn't write this story. Life has a deep and ongoing learning curve, and I am actually not angry with anyone, but do get frustrated, for sure. If you have a story to tell, and it's awesome, even beyond words, you want to tell it, to share it, and if it's a beautiful story that involves everyone you know, then it feels so hard, to not be allowed, to go aloud with it. I am so serious about this.

I am no better than anyone who takes ethical issues seriously, and I do not have ultimate answers. I do have a deep and ongoing personal relationship with what is Divine, and I think that could be said for many, many people around the world. There is beauty in this. We can each have a Father and Mother and have our own, unique conversations.

I learn from everyone here and especially the articles. I really do. And that's why I come back.

I also have something to teach and for me it's an imperative. Perhaps you cannot perceive why it is I feel this way.

To be tossed a key... Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA October 10, 2011

Ruth, it's not we are not paying attention. It is that we don't share your passion of words. Why are you angry that people can see your passion in a different way? To some, it IS just a "fun, punning game". So? Why should this bother you? I see the world in a particular way, too, but don't get angry when others see my ideas differently. If you expect everyone to see what you believe and believe it to the same extent and with the same passion, you'll always be disappointed. Why? Because we are all individuals. Reply

Anonymous October 9, 2011

rh Oct 6 2011 take 2 - first one didnt make it.
Kindly take it easy on us. We do take you seriously, but please realize that you are far ahead of the curve. Your message appears in many of your posts. When will mankind learn that there must be a solidarity of like minded G-d loving who believe in goodwill/G-dliness beyond all else ?

The Oct 6 post shows frustration. Van Gogh was frustrated that nobody could understand his Starry Night. He knew that stars emit energy and thus are ever changing, not static. He cut off his ear and suffered other self afflictions.

You must teach your lesson of righteousness in the world with the hope that we will catch on. You teach your vision of Truth in a very scholarly and entertaining/inspiring way. You love your fellow man. The majority of us do not have that strength of moral rectitude. At some point we will. So repeat it. Oftentimes, repetition is the key to learning. Just look at our prayer books.

Don't give up. Your message is too important.

Happy and healthy Shana Tova to you. Reply

Anonymous October 9, 2011

r h oct 6, 2011 Kindly take it easy on us. We do take you seriously. You have a scholarly and interesting way of making your points. I have read many of your posts and do understand your message. Your altruism always shines through along with your entertaining delivery. You should realize that you are way ahead of the curve. The solidarity of a like-minded world culture for the love of G-d is a beautiful message. You love your fellow as yourself, maybe even more. It does not make you holier than us, but it does set a high bar for us, as it must.

You are ahead of most of us on the scales of intellect and heart. Unfortunately it means that you must keep repeating your message. Van Gogh faced the same dilemma. One of the things he was trying to make society understand in Starry Night is that the stars are bodies of shimmering energy. Nobody caught on. After all he was only an artist. He cut off his ear in frustration,only one of many self-inflictions.

Don't give up ! Happy and healthy Shana Tova ! Reply

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