“Lift your eyes on high, and behold who has created these things.” – Isaiah 40:26
The Hasidic Master, Avraham Dov of Avritch, teaches that one of the key principles in serving God is to ask ourselves about everything that we see, be it a creature or an object, “Who is it that has given it life and vitality? Why has it been created?”
When we look at the world around us we are seeing more than just random arrangements of molecules – we are beholding Divine creations. Each object has a use and a meaning. Each creature has its own particular role in the Divine structure of the Creation.
By asking these questions, we will penetrate beyond the outer form and circumstances. By reflecting in this manner, we will see the world each day anew. We will break the hold of our physical mindset and lift our minds onto a higher plane.
Reb Avraham, then adds another dimension to our contemplation. Our reflection, he says, should be based on the teaching in the Ethics of the Fathers (6:11): “Everything that the Holy One, Blessed be He, created in His world, He created for His glory.” 
This is a wonderful thought. Every single object was created for the sake of God’s glory. Everything was designed to reveal the presence of the Creator. Each tree, each rock, each living creature was formed in order to bring us into contact with its Divine source.
This concept becomes even more profound when it is applied to other human beings. We are more than animal creatures. We are part of the One Indivisible Universal Spirit that lies behind all that exists. No one is without a higher purpose or value. No matter how difficult a person may seem, each individual has within him or her, qualities that reveal God’s glory in some way.
Swami Sivananda of the Divine Life Society would mentally bow down to every person that he met. When asked about this practice, he would quote Lord Krishna’s declaration in the Gita, “I am the indwelling Spirit, O Arjuna, present in the bodies of all beings.” Then he would explain that when he meets another person, he seeks out the Divinity within him and bows down in worship to the God that is in us all.
This is a powerful sadhana or spiritual practice that will raise us above of the prejudices of our own small-mindedness. By acknowledging the Divinity in each person that we meet, we will transform our interactions with other human beings.
When we see someone living a life of degradation and immorality, let us not look at him in disgust and abhorrence, for he is a part of God’s glory. He may not be manifesting his Divine nature at the moment, but it is most assuredly there. If his innate Divinity lies buried under layers of coarse physicality, then maybe we can play a part in helping him to uncover it. It is far better for us to seek out this hidden treasure within him, then to dwell on his obvious imperfections and faults.
Even if we do not succeed in revealing the Divine glory that lies within him, and his difficult nature remains ever as before, still our efforts have not been wasted. The Divine spark that we have tended will one day come ablaze, and the inner transformation that we have hoped for will begin to take place. In the meanwhile, our efforts will have a positive effect on our own state of awareness. Our consciousness will be raised a little higher through our aspirations and the energy that we emanate to others will become more elevated and refined.
Reb Avraham sees this way of looking at the world as more than just a technique to help us change the manner in which we perceive reality. He believes that the very fact that we recognize each person or object as a revelation of the Divine glory, adds to that glory, and expands the manifestation of God’s presence in the world.
This is an amazing idea. Our conscious recognition of the Divinity in another person or object has a dynamic influence. Our awareness of another’s beauty, wisdom, love or generosity sparks a revelation of the Divine glory. And our refusal to see the Divinity in another human being or creature obscures God’s splendor – prevents it from being fully manifest in the world.
When we uplift another human being, we uplift all of creation, and when we debase another person, we debase the whole of humankind. When we support another human being, we cause his Divine glory to shine forth – we augment the light and hope in the world. When we humiliate another person, we block out his inner majesty and we increase the darkness and despair on this physical plane.
Every encounter is an opportunity for us to reveal God’s glory. Every experience is a chance for us to open a doorway to the blessings of the spiritual realm.
This concept of seeing the manifestation of God’s glory in others is taken one step further by Sri Ramana Maharshi. When asked why he does not go out into the world and help others, he would say that he sees no others. He sees everyone and everything as the Universal Self of all Being. He regards everything as him-Self.
Someone who abides in the glory of the Self does not need to go out into the world in order to help others – an unceasing flow of Divine grace pours forth from him to the whole of Creation at all times.
The Maharshi also taught that all the outer forms that we see in the world are in fact only an illusion – none of them really exist. To really exist, something must be eternal and unchanging. Since all of these forms are ever-changing and fleeting, they cannot be real.
He would qualify this statement, however, by adding that the world is unreal as long as we look upon it as a separate entity, but it is real when we perceive it as the underlying unity of all existence, as “part” of God or Brahman – the Universal Self.
This is perhaps another way for us to understand Rebbe Avraham’s teaching: The outer appearances that we perceive with our physical eyes are all only an illusion; it is only the inner Divine glory which truly exists. When we inquire, “Who is it that has given this person or object life and vitality”, when we ask, “Why has it been created”, we are striving to uncover the Divine glory that is its real nature, we are trying to touch the true reality from which it was formed.
At the conclusion of his teaching, Rebbe Avraham assures us that if we learn to ask these questions and make them our approach to everything in our life, they will purify our hearts and focus our minds and mold us into a fitting dwelling place for the Divine Presence. As God commands the Children of Israel in the desert (Exodus 24:8), “Make me a sanctuary and I shall dwell in your midst.”
If we live our lives seeing the Divinity in all things, then we will become a sanctuary in the desert of this material plane of existence. We will become a spiritual lighthouse radiating out hope, peace and healing to others. We will become a sanctified vessel revealing the awesome majesty of the Infinite Divine Glory in this finite physical world.
copyright © 2009, by Yoel Glick
- Rabbi Avraham Dov of Avritch, Bat Ayin, on Sukkot↵