“There are some,” the Rebbe once told a university professor, “who have two sets of bookshelves: one for seforim, sacred texts, and another for secular books. That is a wrong approach. If a person conceives of secular wisdom as being unrelated to the Torah, he does not understand the Torah. And neither does he truly understand the secular subject he is studying.”

Ultimately, there need not be a split between the holy and the secular. Instead, all elements of our lives should be united in serving Him.

Parshas Shelach

This week’s Torah reading begins like many others: “And G‑d spoke to Moses.” But then something very different happens. Usually, G‑d would tell Moses: “Tell the people to perform this or that commandment.” Or, “Tell them that it is forbidden for them to do such and such.” But that does not happen in this Torah reading. Instead, as Rashi explains, G‑d tells Moses: “If you want, send spies to find out about the land of Israel.” Moses isn’t commanded to send the spies and he is not prohibited from doing so. He is told to make the decision himself.

This teaches us something very important about Judaism’s approach to personal growth and development. There are mitzvos and there are prohibitions. They are tests, enabling a person to show his will power. No matter how difficult it is for him, he should endeavor to fulfill all the mitzvos, and no matter how great the challenge, he should refrain from doing those things that the Torah prohibits.

But does Judaism end there? We have delineated the black and the white, but what about the gray area in between? Does Judaism allow this area to remain neutral?

In other words, when we’re doing a mitzvah we’re serving G‑d, and when we are sinning, we are obviously violating His will. But when we are neither doing a mitzvah nor sinning, when we are just living our life — eating, drinking, being involved in our work, or just having a good time — what is our relationship with G‑d then?

There’s a verse in Proverbs: “Know G‑d in all your ways,” about which our Sages comment: “This small verse contains the entire Torah.” For the secret of Judaism is that even when a person is involved in “your ways,” i.e., his own affairs, matters that are not mandated either way by the Torah, he should know G‑d and live his life in awareness of Him.

This gives us a different conception of the gray area outlined above. It’s not that there is good, bad, and neutral. Instead, there are realms of conduct that are inherently connected with G‑d, i.e., mitzvos. And there are other realms of conduct that are inherently separate from Him, which is what we mean by sin. Then there is an area where it is left to man to determine whether or not he will connect himself with G‑d. He may choose to develop a connection or he may decide to turn his attention elsewhere and ignore G‑d.

This is the lesson that Moses was given in this week’s Torah reading: that G‑d’s commands involve even those things He doesn’t command you about. For even when He does not tell you what to do, your choice should be in accordance with His will.

Significantly, this lesson was given to the Jews as they prepared to enter the land of Israel. In the desert, they existed on manna. All of their needs were met in a miraculous way and they were free to devote their time to Torah study and spiritual pursuits. In Eretz Yisrael, they would have to till the land and reap its harvests. In that land, they would spend much more of their time in the gray area, in tasks and activities that are not inherently connected with G‑d, and would have to learn how to connect even these seemingly mundane activities with G‑d.

Looking to the Horizon

The approach to Divine service described above serves as a catalyst for the revelations of the era of Mashiach. One of the unique dimensions of that era will be the all-encompassing revelation of G‑dliness that will permeate all existence. Moreover, what will be most unique will be not the intensity of the revelation, but its all-pervasive quality. In the present age, we feel the worldly nature of our environment. This is the basic truth of our existence. In the era of Mashiach, we will feel the G‑dly nature of our environment. That does not mean that we will cease to be aware of material entities. Instead, in the era of Mashiach, we will be aware not only of the body but also the soul — the spiritual truth connected with every entity — and this will be as openly apparent to us as its physical existence.

To usher in this type of awareness, we must precipitate it by extending the consciousness of G‑d into all aspects of our present-day conduct. By living in connection with G‑d and recognizing His oneness, even in the gray areas mentioned above, we herald the age when there will be no more gray, for all existence will shine with His light.