Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad

Hear O Israel the Lord is our God the Lord is One

When you say the first line of the Shema, “you should extend the cheit (the middle letter) of (the word) Echad – One, in order to proclaim God King in Heaven and on Earth…and extend the dalet (the last letter) of Echad – One, long enough so that you can think that there is only one God in the world, and that He rules over the four corners of the earth.” – Shulchan Arukh, Laws of reciting the Shema

Life in this world can be painful and difficult; sometimes it can feel like a hell on earth. But the truth is that everything, absolutely everything is part of God, and every single thing that happens comes from Him. For all is One and all emanates from the same Divine source. No matter what obstacles we face, despite all the horrors that we see around us – God is in it – it is all a part of His eternal Plan and Purpose.

The Baal Shem teaches:

“When a person knows that God fills the whole world with His glory, and that every movement and thought – all is from Him…all the angels, and all the heichalot (heavenly palaces) – everything was created and made from the essence of God Himself…through this knowledge ‘all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered’, because through this knowledge, there will no barrier or veil between the person and God.”

Knowing that “God fills the whole world with His glory” means reaching a state of consciousness where we are so powerfully absorbed in God that there is no barrier between God and us. Then all life becomes Divine Life and nothing can frighten us or turn us away from God. Then the battle with our lower nature is over and our life becomes shalem or whole: then we finally experience the peace and harmony that we have so longed for.

In this state of consciousness, the light of God flows out from us into every situation and every person, no matter what we are doing. Therefore, what we are doing no longer is important, because whatever we are doing is meditation and everywhere we go is illuminated by the Divine presence.

In the Hasidic text Devrei Moshe, it says that whenever a tzaddik is engaged in mundane affairs, he is imbuing them with holiness at every moment. If he is talking to a shopkeeper and negotiating over the price of an article, he is infusing him with holiness. If he is speaking to someone about the weather, he is infusing him with holiness. Whoever he encounters, whatever objects he handles or uses – all will become infused with his holiness.

This is the hallmark of all great spiritual figures: a natural air of sanctity that envelops them at all times, an ability to teach profound truths through the ordinary experiences of daily life, and an extraordinary capacity to bring the power and consciousness of God into every situation.

Above all else, knowing that God fills the whole world with His glory means that we see the Divinity in everyone: we see how each person fits into the greater whole, how each is an essential piece of the puzzle that we call life. This means realizing that we need both, the saint and the sinner, the virtuous person and the scoundrel, the wise man and the fool for the ”play of life” to carry on. It means recognizing that all these different “actors” form part of the wondrous manifestation of God’s Eternal Spirit in this finite, material world of ours.

We must love every human being, if we want to love God. And if we want to love all of humanity, then we must become fully one with it: only then can we become one with God.

In one of his books, the Trappist monk Father Thomas Merton, describes his sudden experience of this profound spiritual truth, while walking down a busy street in Louisville, Kentucky:

“I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers…

“Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depth of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time…

“At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God… It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely…the gate of heaven is everywhere.”[1]

How do we come to this all-embracing view of reality? How do we learn to see the Divine Life in everyone and everything?

We do not need to go off to a secluded forest retreat to find God; it can be done wherever we are. They key is to learn to penetrate beyond the outer surface of experience to see the higher reality that lies underneath. We do this by first developing our inner awareness of God’s presence and then keeping our consciousness focused there whatever we are doing.

We must become so focused in our inner space that neither the sense-perceived mental stimuli from the world around us nor the emotional turbulence from the feelings inside us can disturb our inner balance and poise. This is a powerful spiritual discipline that is not easily accomplished. It takes a great deal of hard work and perseverance, and an abundance of Divine grace.

Ramana Maharishi used an analogy from the world of music to explain to his devotees how to go about living their life in this way:

“When the harmonium [an Indian musical instrument similar to the accordion] is being played there is a constant note that is called the sruti. Along with that, other notes also come out. If the ear is fixed on this note that is constant, then, while listening to the other notes, that original note cannot be forgotten. Actually, that first note gives strength to all the other notes.

“So, the principle to understand is that the first note is the adhistana (substratum) while other notes represent worldly activities, if (awareness of) the note of the adhistana is continuous, whatever is spoken is then done with the authority of this adhistana note.

“The jnani [realized soul] keeps his attention on the first note…when the attention is fixed properly on the first note, the effect of the other notes will not be felt”…

Jnanais fix their sight in the substratum, the adhistana, even during worldly activities because nothing else is real except adhistana. To feel that there is clay in the pot is the proper attitude (that is, see the essence and not the form)…Even when the pot is whole you can see it as the form of clay. In the same way the world can be seen as the form of Brahman [God].”[2]

When we touch the Self or God, we are touching the realm of pure consciousness – the infinite and eternal Life Force that underlies all being. Once we have experienced this “place” of pure consciousness, we realize that the power of Life is greater than we could ever have imagined. Once we have tasted that power, we will no longer worry about the future, for we will know that a force much greater than our own is looking after the world.

This is the true source of all optimism and hope: the knowledge that the power of Divine Life is the greatest force in the universe and nothing can stand in its way. Temporary forms will come and go, but the Divine Life that lies behind all of creation will ever remain, because it is infinite and eternal. Through the power of this great Cosmic Force every human being will one day shine with radiant Divine glory. Through the power of this great Cosmic Force the Plan and Purpose of God will be brought to fruition. Through the power of this great Cosmic Force all of life on all the worlds in the manifest universe – from the lowest hell to the highest heaven will be revealed to be Echad – One.

Copyright @ 2007, by Yoel Glick


Acknowledgements    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Thomas Merton
  2. Power of the Presence, Godman, Vol. 1