"…There is nothing else besides Him…The L-rd is G‑d in heaven above, and upon the earth below; there is nothing else"—Deuteronomy 4:35; 39.

In this week's Torah reading we are told twice in very similar terms that there is nothing but G‑d. These verses do not just mean to negate the existence of any other deity or higher power. What these verses tell us is that there is nothing that exists except for G‑d. G‑d is the only existence.

A question arises. If there is only G‑d, is the world an illusion?

Jewish teaching insists that our world is not an illusion, but neither is it an independent entity. To believe that the world is something separate, an entity unto itself, would be to accept that G‑d is not really everything. This would assume that He is one thing and that the world is another thing. In truth, however, there is only One thing. As the Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement, said, "All is G‑d and G‑d is all." G‑d is not only the Master and Creator of the world, He is the world. He is everything.

The merchant could not help but to state the bottom line—that G‑d is all there is.Indeed, the central prayer of Judaism, the Shema, states, "Hear, O Israel, the L-rd is our G‑d, the L-rd is One." This does not just mean that there is only one G‑d, but that G‑d is "One"—an absolute Unity precluding all and any other existence besides Him.

Almost three hundred years ago in Russia, there lived a Jew, an ardent spiritual practitioner, who happened to be a lumber merchant by trade. One year, when tallying the annual accounts, he found himself writing on the bottom line: "TOTAL: Ein od milvado—"There is nothing else besides Him." So real to him was this notion of G‑d's complete "everything-ness," that the lumber merchant could not help but to state the bottom line – even on his tally sheet – that G‑d is all there is.

There is an epilogue to this story. When a friend heard of what happened, he criticized the mystically-inclined lumber merchant for his absentmindedness, remarking, "There is a time for meditating upon the absolute oneness of G‑d, and there is a time for business. Belief is not a license to be careless in one's practical dealings."

The lumber merchant replied, "If one knew that during meditation, a businessman was thinking of the fair in Leipzig, nobody would be the least bit taken aback. So why should it be considered such an offense if during business he slips into thinking about G‑d?"

Those of us who recover from addiction, have come to see the need to apply our belief in G‑d to all aspects of life. This concept probably relates rather well to the lumber merchant. To quote:

"When we became alcoholics, crushed by a self-imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either G‑d is everything or else He is nothing. G‑d either is or He isn't. What was our choice to be?" (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., p. 53)

The program does not dictate which Higher Power to believe in. The program does not favor one or any official theology. But it does tell us clearly that the One who has the power to help us recover from addiction is "everything."

One can call G‑d whatever one wishes, which may be especially helpful if one was soured by negative religious experiences in the past. Ultimately, this idea of choosing your own concept of G‑d may be pure semantics—a rather unimportant word game, if you will: what real difference does it make if we call it "G‑d" or "Higher Power" or "the ultimate force," etc.? As the wise old rabbi told the young, self-proclaimed atheist, "Son, the god you don't believe in, I don't believe in either."

In any case, the Jewish concept of G‑d – if you are interested to know – is that people, places and things do not exist by themselves. G‑d is not just the Maker and Manager of all—He is the All.

He is not just a higher power. He is the Only Power. He is Everything.