How To Find God: Nitzavim
Nitzavim: Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20
The three letters, tzadi, vav, vav, form the root of the word Mitzvah, usually translated as “commandment.” Yet the Hebrew, or the Aramaic in this case, has much more granularity than a one-word translation can convey. From this root additional words meaning are derived: “to be attached/connected,” or “to be joined together.” This greatly impacts how we read what is one of the most powerful passages in all of Torah.
Instead of “For this commandment that I command you today…,” we could translate:
Surely [realizing] this joining, that joins me to you in this and every moment, is not too extraordinary for you, it is not beyond reach! It is not in the heavens [for you] to say: “Who can ascend for us to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may act from it?” Nor is it across the sea [for you] to say: “who can cross for us, across the sea, and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may act from it?” Rather, exceedingly near to you is the word, in your mouth and in your heart, to act from it. [Deut. 30:11-14]
This represents the quintessential teaching of all non-dual spiritual traditions, words that could have been spoken by any enlightened master. We are “joined” with the Holy One of Being as one inseparable, undifferentiated manifestation. Being manifested Herself as every form, every shape, and is the Force, the Energy that enlivens and binds together this entire universe. We are bound up with the Source of Life, as each of us is the unique shape through which It expresses.
Yet this truth has been extracted out of us by the process of human evolution and socialization ushered in by our parents, and their parents before them, as we have done to our children since time immemorial. From undifferentiated awareness, we evolve into a differentiated awareness that posits a separation between a skin-encapsulated entity, and everything beyond it. Suddenly there is an “inside” and an “outside,” a singular “me” and a plural “them.” A kind of optical illusion is created by which “me” comes to reside “inside” and “them” resides “outside.” Whatever is now felt, sensed and seen refer to things “outside” of “me,” denying the truth that all experience arises within.
God, Himself, is also externalized; made into a noun (when YHVH is, in fact, a verb,) an object outside of “me” that some seek to connect to, to know, to have an intimate relationship with. God must be in heaven, in the highest of realms, unattainable by us, mere mortals. Surely, a wise one among us, a pious one, a true devotee “can ascend for us to the heavens” and bring God down for us so that we can have proof God exists. Or maybe a guru in India, the pope in Rome, a great rabbi in Jerusalem, “across the sea” can “impart… to us” his knowledge that we may know God. But we can’t. As long as we are looking for God as a noun, as an object outside, we will never find God. God is “in our mouth” as It is That which is doing the speaking. God is “in our heart” as It is that which is doing the thinking/feeling. We cannot see God as it is that which is doing the seeing. That is why the Torah is saying “it is exceedingly close.” So close, indeed, that It is “joined together”
with as us.