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tl;dr: Hashem creates us and communicates with us through prophecy. Creating seems as "close and personal" an activity as communicating, if not more. I note that He creates everyone (continually), regardless of how holy they are, and yet He doesn't speak to everyone through prophecy - only those who are holy enough. I am wondering if this is a question: if He can get "close enough" to create us regardless of how holy we are, why "can't" He get "close enough" to speak to all of us?


It seems like, when it comes to Hashem's closeness to us, we have 2 different sides, and they go in opposite directions and I would like to know how to resolve them.

A) On the one hand, the reason why Hashem doesn't speak to us openly (i.e. we aren't all prophets casually conversing with the Living God) is because we have sinned and the Shechina is in exile. I.e. Hashem is holy to the superlative, and we are sinners who He can't abide by to speak with.

B) Yet on the other hand, Judaism 101 is that Hashem is intimately involved in creation, again, to the superlative. He is personally creating us and the world, and all events and powers that exist are created by Him. He is closer to us than we can possibly imagine.

So Hashem is very close to us in one way (creating us), but in another way (speaking to us), there is a huge barrier. I would like to try to get to the bottom of the key differences between the two that produce this difference. Do note that it seems, from our vantage point, that creating someone is far more close and intimate than speaking, which in our world takes place at a distance. What's going on here?

There are endless sources to choose from to bring out both A and B, so I'll just pick one each:

Source for A:

אמר רבי שמואל בר נחמן, בשעה שברא הקדוש ברוך הוא את העולם, נתאוה שיהא לו דירה בתחתונים כמו שיש בעליונים. ברא את האדם וצוה אותו ואמר לו: מכל עץ הגן אכל תאכל, ומעץ הדעת טוב ורע לא תאכל ממנו (בראשית ב, טז-יז). ועבר על צוויו. אמר ליה הקדוש ברוך הוא, כך הייתי מתאוה שיהא לי דירה בתחתונים כמו שיש לי בעליונים, ודבר אחד צויתי אותך ולא שמרת אותו. מיד סלק הקדוש ברוך הוא שכינתו לרקיע הראשון.

Ribbi Shmuel Bar Nachman said that the moment Hashem created the world, He desired that there should be a dwelling place for Him in the lowest worlds just like in the highest worlds. He created man and commanded him saying "from all the trees in the garden you should eat, but from the tree of knowledge which is good and evil, don't eat from it". When he violated this commandment, Hashem said "So how I would desire to have a dwelling place in the lower world like the higher, and one thing I commanded you and you didn't listen!"... immediately Hashem withdrew His Shechina to the first heaven...

I picked this source because of how it connects His withdrawal with His desire to be close to us, and how sin blocks that. I could also have picked examples of how prophecy requires high levels of holiness and humility (bittul).

Source for B:

וְהַבּוֹרֵא יִתְבָּרֵךְ בּוֹרֵא הָאֵבָרִים וְנוֹתֵן לָהֶם כֹּחוֹת וּמַמְשִׁיךְ לָהֶם עִם הָרְגָעִים, וְאִלּוּ הָיוּ מַעֲלִים עַל לֵב הִסְתַּלְּקוּת הַשְׁגָּחָתוֹ וְהַנְהָגָתוֹ רֶגַע אֶחָד הָיָה נִפְסָד הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּו

The Blessed Creator creates limbs and gives them their power continually each moment

We cannot fathom how closely we are connected to Hashem.


So, how do the sources deal with this conundrum? How can Hashem not abide to talk to us, vulnerable to our deeds, actions and personal holiness, yet on the other hand, is so close to us that He is listening to our thoughts, He is animating us down to the atom, and to the core of our soul? I would like to understand this properly, as I am sure the answer is very deep and profound, so if someone would be able to explain it without jargon (He creates us from the "sweat of the Ophanim", "over the shoulder" or "under the Throne of Glory" etc), using grounded, but down to earth mashalim and logical explanations, with sources, I would really appreciate it thank you.

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  • @Deuteronomy why aren't we all prophets? As for the Rishonim, I would welcome answers based on sources from them if that answers the question, and I'd also be very keen to see answers based on Rishonim that support B. I hear you about only bringing the causal connection - I thought it was enough, do you think it's not enough?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 17, 2023 at 13:27
  • @Deuteronomy thanks for your feedback, I've made an amendment based on your first point. Again, on your second point, if someone wants to answer and say that B is incorrect and Hashem is actually "creating us at a distance" (and explains it), I wouldn't want to discourage that with making my question too focussed. There are a plethora of details in Hashgacha, and my ideal answer would be able to cover all bases, even the closest and most intimate form of ongoing personal creation
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 17, 2023 at 13:54
  • @Deuteronomy thank you, got it now. I've elected to replace the word directed with created. Maybe I'll add a source for directing later as well. Shkoyach. [Note, continually creating is intimately involved, even besides the direction - if it isn't then perhaps you could write an answer explaining why as that really is a key understanding I have that is leading to this question] P.s. I don't know what I clicked, but I am currently contemplating judaism.stackexchange.com/a/128581/31534.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 17, 2023 at 14:11
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    Rabbeinu Yona (Avos 3:14) addresses this dichotomy from the practical perspective of the mindset a person should have in seeking closeness with HaShem, and Rabbeinu Yona advocates balancing the two concepts. Nefesh HaChayim addresses the conceptual/philosophical aspect of this topic in 'שער ג, and there he explains and reconciles the two concepts.
    – Fred
    Mar 17, 2023 at 20:43
  • @Fred thanks for that, I have learned them now, stunning. I'm not sure how either of them actually reconcile the concepts. Nefesh Hachaim mentions about Hashem being present but pure even if where He is present is defiled. That's useful here (although most of 3 is making the point that this is a matter we can't understand and shouldn't think about). Neither discuss the reasons for Him not talking to us though. Any chance you could explain in an answer to help me see where you are coming from?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 18, 2023 at 22:15

2 Answers 2

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I think there are different contradictions that are at play...

But the main one you are asking about can be solved based off of the רמח׳׳ל if I understood you correctly.

Hashem and whether we are close or far is in reality not a description of proximity (as you know) but it is also not a description of connection either.

It is a description of his obviousness (radiance) and how hidden he is. And so although he can be the cause of every minute detail and where the world is heading, it is difficult for us to see this clearly.

See Derech Hashem Chapter 4:10

והאמנם האדון ב׳׳ה מאיר תמיד למי שיתקרב אליו...

It appears that proximity and הארת פנים are somewhat synonymous to the Ramchal and the Ramchal mentions הארת פנים as how openly revealed Hashem is. This coincides with someones שלמות (perfection). See there.

Purim I think highlights this well. Esther (meaning hidden) and of course Hashem's name not mentioned openly. And yet Hashem runs and orchestrates everything. This is the dichotomy I believe you speak of; however, I don't see it as a contradiction.

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  • Thanks very much, and I did get a lot of useful knowledge from this answer but I don't understand it well enough to see if it answers my question or not.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 18, 2023 at 21:01
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This is a really thought provoking question

  1. I think one of the best place which answers this question is Rabbi Nachman, in 64 https://www.sefaria.org/Likutei_Moharan.64.1.1?vhe=Likutei_Moharan_-_rabenubook.com&lang=bi&sbsq=%D7%91%D7%90%20%D7%90%D7%9C%20&with=SidebarSearch&lang2=he an explanation in shiur form from Rabbi Joey Rosenfeld (podcast inward).
    Rebbe Nachman explains how the screen of us not seeing Hashem is for our benefit. This answer is a more Chassidic answer.
  2. In a more litvish answer, two simulations happen in this world, the Nefesh Hachaim here: https://www.sefaria.org/Nefesh_HaChayim%2C_Gate_I.4.23?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=he (see the whole chapter) explains how the world can be viewed from the perspective of the ‘guf’ or the perspective of the Neshoma. Although our lives feel like disconnection from Hashem we have to get as close as we can. Rabbi Kelman here: https://www.simpletoremember.com/media/a/step-forward/ explains how the further dark we feel the closer we really are to Hashem.
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  • Thanks and thanks for taking the time. It will take time to go through your sources, I'll see where I'm at when I've been through them
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 19, 2023 at 10:57
  • btw check out Derech Mitzvotecha 94B, and ma'amar Veyadata (Rebbe Rashab), which deal with 2, and the general idea that these things are for our benefit is a very litvish idea, all over the place e.g. much of Derech Hashem. So just wondering what is specifically chassidic/litvish about 1 and 2 respectively?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 19, 2023 at 12:59
  • 1/ I am probably going to get so much negativity for this post but what I have seen is true. The litvish way of viewing the world would be a very grounded way of understanding (a logical analysis of said subject) if we don’t understand how Hashem works it is because we have a different vantage point. Mar 19, 2023 at 15:51
  • 2/ The Chassdic (except Chabad) thinking is more abstract, in the sense, in this answer Hashem is close to us but he puts on a cover, really he is talking to us etc… this would not stand a logical test. I did not hear Hashem talking to me, what does it mean Hashem covers himself, how does that work? Hence the split in my answer of a more litvish and a more chassdic answer. This is not meant to cause any hard feelings against any groups. Mar 19, 2023 at 15:51
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    Thanks, I will look in to it. I will not deny that both sides bring both. I agree with both sides זה וזה תורת... yet most sources written more then 150 years ago usually devide like i wrote, although there are exceptions. I love this question BTW Mar 19, 2023 at 16:00

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