My G-d


This is my G-d, I shall house Him;[1] the G-d of my fathers, I shall exalt Him
Exodus 15:2 (The Song of the Sea)

There are two basic tools by which we relate to the divine reality: faith and understanding. Obviously, our rational conception of G-d, defined by the limits of the human mind and of intellect per se, cannot encompass His infinite and definitionless truth; faith suffers no such limitation, being the unequivocal, unqualified acceptance of a truth greater than ourselves. On the other hand, what we understand is real to us, while what we believe is abstract and impersonal.[2]

So faith and understanding complement and fulfill each other. Where reason falls short of grasping the full extent of the divine infinity, faith fills the gap with its acceptance of G-d as He is, regardless of the degree to which He is understood. And where faith fails to make it relevant, the mind steps in to make tangible and personalize our perception of G-d.

Thus the Shaloh (Rabbi Yeshayah Horowitz, 1560-1630) interprets the above-quoted verse from the ‘‘Song at the Sea.” When ‘‘this is my G-d,” when my perception of G-d is personalized by my own understanding and appreciation of His truth, then, ‘‘I shall house Him,” His truth dwells within me and is made an integral part of my being. The Hebrew word ve’anvehu (‘‘I shall house Him”) can also be read as an acronym of the words ani v’hu, ‘‘I and He,” to say: with my rational perception of G-d I internalize His truth so that ‘‘I and He” are united.

On the other hand, ‘‘the G-d of my fathers”—my acceptance of His reality with the faith I inherited from,[3] and was indoctrinated to, by my progenitors—brings me to ‘‘exalt Him.” This is a more exalted perception of the divine than ‘‘my” G-d, for it is not confined to what I am and what my faculties can generate; but for that very reason it is exalted beyond my pragmatic self, beyond the plane of my daily reality.

Based on an address by the Rebbe[4]


[1] Ve’anvehu in Hebrew, from the root naveh, ‘‘home” or ‘‘dwelling” (Onkelus, Rashi’s first interpretation, Nachmanides, Ibn Ezra). Others render it ‘‘I shall glorify Him,” from the root noy, ‘‘beauty” (Rashi’s second interpretation, Rashbam).

[2] Cf. Talmud, Berachot 63a: ‘‘A thief, at the mouth of his burrow, calls on G-d.” The thief obviously believes in G-d, since his instinctive reaction to his fear of capture is to call on Him; yet this does not prevent him from transgressing the divine command, ‘‘Do not steal,” and even to appeal to G-d to assist him in doing so.

[3] See Tanya, chapter 18.

[4] Likkutei Sichot, vol. XVI, p. 245.


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