An earnest young visitor from Eretz Yisrael once asked the Rebbe: “How can I tighten my bond with you?”

The Rebbe replied: “When I walk down the street, I think over words of Tanya. When you walk down the street, do the same: think over the words of Tanya. And there we will meet.”

It is said: “The righteous resemble their Creator.” The suggestion offered by the Rebbe follows the pattern G‑d gave the Jewish people. How is a Jew to cling to G‑d? By studying His Torah. Through its study, a Jew can become one with G‑d.

This week’s Torah reading describes the Giving of the Torah, the event that made such unity possible.

Parshas Yisro

The first of the Ten Commandments is “I am G‑d your L‑rd Who took you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage.” Our Rabbis understand this as a positive commandment to know and to believe that there is a G‑d.

Other authorities question: How is it possible for there to be a command to believe in G‑d? Seemingly, when one speaks of a command that implies that there is a Commander. If one believes in G‑d to the extent that he considers Him as the Commander, it would appear that there is no need for there to be a command to believe in Him.

In resolution, the answer is given that the commandment to know and to believe in G‑d is not merely to accept His existence. That is accepted as a given. Instead, the commandment to know and believe in G‑d involves deepening one’s knowledge and faith in Him, relating to the dimension of Him that we would not appreciate on our own.

To explain: It is explained that Abraham, our Patriarch, came to the recognition of G‑d through observing the world around him. He saw the rising of the sun and then its setting, the appearance of the moon and its disappearance, and the myriad other continuous elements of the natural order and was overwhelmed: “Is it possible that there be an ordered creation without there being a Creator?” And thus he came to the realization that there is a G‑d Who creates and maintains the world.

Nevertheless, the conception of G‑d as Creator and the force behind nature is somewhat limiting. For although He brings nature into being, that does not describe Who He is. His true identity, Who He is for Himself, far surpasses nature. For nature is a limited frame of reference, brought into being in a certain way. The Creator Who brought into being that frame of reference is above it and not controlled by it.

Indeed, Who He is, is beyond our capacity for comprehension entirely. In that vein, our Rabbis said: “Were I to know G‑d, I would be G‑d.” For we are creatures bound by nature and there is no way we can conceive of anything above that framework. Who can? Only G‑d Who is not bound by that framework.

But if this dimension of G‑d is above our capacity for knowledge, what good will it be for there to be a commandment to know and believe in Him? How will we be able to know and relate to Him as He exists above nature?

We can know Him in that manner by relying on a source of knowledge that is itself infinite. “The Torah and G‑d are one.” Hence the Torah can expand our understanding above its natural limits and enable us to know G‑d in a manner which we could not do on our own.

Moreover, we possess a deeper potential than knowledge and that is faith. Every soul is an actual part of G‑d, a spark of Him, as it were. This dimension of our being is above our conscious potential. Just like we cannot know Him intellectually, we cannot know this dimension of ourselves. And yet through simple faith, we can identify with this infinite dimension of our being and bring it to the surface.

This is the meaning of the commandment to know G‑d: to highlight and express our inner, G‑dly potential through faith and to expand our intellectual potential through Torah knowledge.

Looking to the Horizon

The prophet tells us: “Behold days are coming [when]... They will no longer teach — each man his fellow... — saying ‘know G‑d,’ for all of them will know Me.” The unique dimension of the era of Mashiach will not be the revelation of miracles in the world — indeed, there are views that there will not be such miracles — but rather, the revelation of a miraculous dimension within ourselves. The knowledge of G‑d that at present is far-removed and difficult for us will become natural and even ordinary.

The point is also not only that we will know G‑d, but that we will know Him in a totally different way than we can conceive of at present. Today, our knowledge of Him is abstract and intellectual. We look at Him as something apart from who we are and how we live our ordinary lives. In the future, we will know Him as we know ourselves, i.e., with the same visceral, instinctive understanding with which we presently relate to the physical realities that are important to us today.