In the Torah portion of Toldot (Generations), the Torah tells us the story of Jacob and Esau’s fight for their father Isaac’s blessing. The Torah begins this tale with the words:

“And it came to pass that Isaac grew old and his eyes grew dim.” (Gen. 27:1)

The Hasidic Master, Rebbe Shlomo of Radamsk, asks, how it is possible that one of the great forefathers of the Jewish people should become so feeble and remain wandering in the dark for the last forty years of his life? He answers that the literal understanding of this Biblical passage does not reveal the whole picture. Behind the literal meaning of this phrase, there is a hidden message that the Torah is telling us: When it says that Isaac has grown old, the Torah uses the Hebrew word “zakain.” Zakain, the Radamsker Rebbe explains, is the name used in the Zohar for Arich Anpin (the Greater Countenance), the immense spiritual presence that overshadows the world.

In his later years, the Patriarch Isaac entered into a totally different state of consciousness. He lived in the consciousness of the supernal world of the Greater Countenance, a consciousness that is wholly love and compassion. Once Isaac was in this state of consciousness, his eyes no longer saw the objects of this physical world; everywhere he looked, he only saw the light of God. [1]

Swami Vivekananda vividly describes for us the nature of this experience, in his narration of what happened one day, when he declared in the presence of Sri Ramakrishna that he did not believe that God was in all things:

“How can this be?” Swami Vivekananda said. “This jug is God, this cup is God, and we too are God!”

He laughed scornfully at the idea, with his friend happily joining in. While they were laughing, Ramakrishna came up to them.

“Hello! What are you two talking about?” Ramakrishna asked him affectionately, and then, without waiting for an answer, he touched Vivekananda and went into samadhi.

Swami Vivekananda relates what happened next:

“The magic touch of the Master that day immediately brought a wonderful change over my mind. I was stupefied to find that there was really nothing in the universe but God! I saw it quite clearly but kept silent, to see if the idea would last. But the impression did not abate in the course of the day. I returned home, but there too, everything I saw appeared to be Brahman [God]. I sat down to take my meal, but found that everything – the food, the plate, the person who served, and even myself –was nothing but That…

“But all the while, whether eating or lying down, or going to college, I had the same experience, and felt myself always in a sort of comatose state. While walking in the streets, I noticed cabs plying, but I did not feel inclined to move out of the way. I felt that the cabs and myself were of one stuff…

“When the above state altered a little, the world began to appear to me as a dream. While walking in Cornwallis Square [now Azadhind Bag], I would strike my head against the iron railings to see if they were real or only a dream. This state of things continued for some days. When I became normal again, I realized that I must have had a glimpse of the Advaita [nondual] state. Then it struck me that the words of the Scriptures were not false.” [2]

In this state of consciousness, there is nothing but God, nothing but unity, nothing but love.  When we have attained this glorious level in the experience of God’s Oneness, abundant love flows naturally from us, because love and unity is all that we know.

In the Mishnah, Brachot 54A, it says: “Man should thank God for evil and praise Him.” The Gemara, Brachot 60A, then comments on this passage: “with joy and a tranquil heart.”

A hasid of the Seer of Lublin was troubled by this Talmudic passage:

“I can understand that we must thank God even for evil,” he said, “but how can it be that we must do so with joy and a thankful heart?”

Confused and perplexed, he went to the Rebbe to ask him to explain the meaning of this remark.

After he listened to the hasid’s question, the Seer paused for a long moment and then replied:

“You do not understand the Gemara, but I do not even understand the Mishnah; for I do not see any evil in the world at all!” [3]

In the teachings of the Hasidic Master, Dov Baer of Mezeritch, he states:

“It is a great virtue if a person constantly contemplates in his heart that he is with God, and that God surrounds him on all sides, and he is so bound to God that he does not need to remind himself that God is there…

“And he should think that the infinite Lord surrounds all the worlds, and His emanation flows down from above through pipelines into all the worlds, and this flow of Divine life is running through him with every movement that he makes, so that he is constantly and continually walking in God.” [4]

Annamalai Swami, a devotee of Sri Ramana Maharshi, recounts how one day, while they were walking on the mountain together, Sri Ramana turned to him and said:

“I don’t feel the weight of the body at all. I feel as if I am walking weightlessly through the sky.” [5]

Because the Maharshi was fixed in the infinite awareness of the Self, his every act fulfilled Rebbe Dov Baer’s teaching. Wherever he went, the Maharshi was always “walking in God.” This is what he meant when he told Annamalai Swami: “I feel as if I am walking weightlessly through the sky.”

In the state of being where we see nothing but God, evil does not exist; all that exists is love. On the transcendent level where we experience nothing but God, this physical world does not exist; all that exists is the Higher Reality. As the Torah (Deut. 4:39) proclaims: “And you shall know this day and take unto your heart that the Lord is God; in the heavens above and upon the earth below, there is nothing else.”


From Seeking the Divine Presence

copyright © 2009, by Yoel Glick

Acknowledgements    (↵ returns to text)

  1.  Shlomo of Radamsk, Tifferet Shlomo, Torah portion Toldot
  2.  Swami Chetanananda, God lived with them, p. 27-8
  3.  Buber, Tales of the Hasidim, Book I, p. 318
  4.  Dov Baer of Mezeritch, Lekutim Yikarim, # 54
  5.  Annamalai Swami, Final Talks, edited by David Godman, p. 9