Reb Binyamin Kletzker was one of the followers of the Alter Rebbe. He was both a very successful timber merchant in Russia and a mystic who was known to meditate for hours on end.

Once after laboring over his annual budget and arriving at the bottom line — one which sported quite a hefty profit — he wrote in Hebrew: Ein od milvado, “There is nothing apart from Him.”

An associate took him to task for this; it was not appropriate for him to try to “show off” his spirituality with such pronouncements.

Reb Binyamin explained that he was not trying to show off, it was simply how he had felt at that moment. Responding to the look of amazement on his associate’s face, he continued: “Just as from time to time we think of our business in the midst of prayer, so, too, at times, we can think of prayer in the midst of business.”

The awareness that “There is nothing else apart from Him,” that we are living in G‑d’s world, is a fundamental Jewish concept. And it is not merely an abstract principle, it can serve as a directive to guide our conduct on a day-to-day basis.

Parshas Vayeira

This week’s Torah reading relates that Abraham established an inn for guests, and there he “called upon the name of the eternal G‑d.” Our Rabbis interpret this phrase, explaining that the intent is not that only Abraham himself called to G‑d, but that he motivated others to proclaim G‑dliness as well.

What did he do? He established his tent at a crossroads in the desert and generously provided food and drink to wayfarers. After they completed their meal, he asked them to: “Bless the One who provided you with food and drink.”

When the guests began to bless him, Abraham told them: “Was it I who provided you with food? Bless He who spoke and brought the world into being.” By providing people with their physical needs, he made them conscious of the spiritual reality.

The Hebrew term translated as “the eternal G‑d,” אל עולם has also attracted the attention of the commentaries. אל העולם would mean “G‑d of the world,” i.e., there is a G‑d and there is a world, and even the world recognizes that G‑d is Almighty and in control.

But אל עולם represents a different and deeper insight. There is no difference between G‑d and the world; everything is an expression of G‑dliness. This is the intent of the phrase “G‑d is one” that we recite in the Shema prayer: not only is there only one G‑d, but everything in the world is at one with Him.

This is not only an abstract concept. It affects a person’s fundamental approach to his life. When he sees G‑d as “G‑d of the world,” he understands that he has obligations to Him. After all, if G‑d is the Ruler of the world, a person has to pay his dues.

But that — he thinks — is all he is obligated to do. In the rest of his affairs, his life is his own. It’s like paying taxes. You have to give the government a percentage of your income, but afterwards, you can spend the remainder of your money however you like. Similarly, in a spiritual sense, such a person recognizes that he owes something to G‑d, but his life is primarily his own; he can do with it whatever he wants.

When we appreciate the world as one with G‑d, by contrast, our entire relationship with Him changes. Religion is not merely going to the synagogue or carrying out a certain body of laws, but an all-encompassing experience, affecting every element of our lives.

Every situation in which we are found, every person whom we meet gives us an opportunity to advance in our knowledge of G‑d and our connection to Him.

This is the heritage that Abraham gave to his descendants — to spread the awareness that we are living in His world, that our lives are not intended merely to provide ourselves with a little bit of enjoyment and satisfaction, but are instead mediums to make His presence known to others.

Looking to the Horizon

There is a forward looking orientationto the above concepts. For while, in our present mindset, we may believe that G‑dliness permeates every element of worldly existence, at best, we will gain merely an intellectual awareness of that concept. It will not be perceived overtly as actual fact.

In the era of the Redemption, this will change. In that age, mankind as a whole will have a direct experience of G‑d.. As the prophet declares: “No longer will one man teach his fellow... saying: ‘Know G‑d,’ for they will all know Me, from the great to the small.”

In that era,“The earth will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d, as the waters cover the ocean bed.” Implied by the simile is that just as the ocean contains a multitude of beings, so, too, in the era of the Redemption, all entities will continue to exist. However, just as when a person looks at the ocean and sees the water he does not notice all the different beings it contains, so, too, in the era of the Redemption, when we will look at the world in which we live we will appreciate the G‑dliness that encompasses all existence. Every entity will be subsumed in the consciousness of His presence.