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Hiding from God

Hiding from God

Who is the master of your universe? A Rosh Hashanah meditation.


A common point of tension in any significant relationship is the struggle to balance closeness with autonomy. If you've ever felt like shouting at someone you love, "Give me some space!" you're in good company; Adam, the first man, essentially did that to the Almighty.

After eating from the fruit in the Garden of Eden, "… God called out to the man and said to him, 'Where are you?'" Adam replied, "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I am naked, so I hid." (Gen. 3:9,10)

Rabbi Shimshon Pincus, of blessed memory, interprets Adam's response as follows: "God, I heard you were looking for me, but I was afraid. After all, I'm just a simple man and I don't want to be with you all the time. It's just too much for me! I need some space, so I hid. I'll meet with you during the High Holidays, no problem, but other than that - let me live my life and leave me alone."

Yes there are plenty of times when we feel inspired to do God's bidding, learn His Torah, observe His commandments, but there are other times when we draw the line and recluse into our own private space where God is no longer the Master of the Universe - we are.

But there can only be one king. If we feel we have the power to dethrone God, even if it is only for a few moments a day, we believe, bottom line, that we are the reigning authority in our little kingdom.

The primary theme of Rosh Hashana is making God King. This is the central focus of Machzor prayers: "Reign over the entire world with your glory… and appear in the splendor of your majestic might over all who dwell on earth… and all who have breath in their nostrils will say, 'God, God of Israel, is King and His Kingship rules over all.'"

What does it mean "to make God King"?

Rabbi Pincus defines kingship as the dominant purpose that serves as the driving force behind something. For someone who is constantly plugged into an iPod, spends every available dollar on purchasing the latest cds and reads only Rolling Stone magazine, music is the king that rules his or her life. For others it may be sports or money.

Making God King means waking up every morning with the central, overarching goal in one's life to get close to God. All decisions and actions would strive to be in concert with this fundamental consideration: will this bring me closer or further away from God? In other words - no more hiding.


The question is: Why would we want to make God King?

There are a number of approaches to this question, and everyone needs to find the one that best speaks to them. The following explanation resonates with me.

There is a scene in Kurt Vonnegut's novel, "Breakfast of Champions" that brings home the meaning of God as King. The main character, Kilgore Trout, is having a drink in a bar, minding his own business. Suddenly he senses an awesome presence about to enter the bar. He breaks out into a cold sweat.

Who walks in?

Kurt Vonnegut. When the author of the book steps into the novel to visit his character, Kilgore's perception of his world turns upside down. He realizes that he does not exist independently. Rather, every moment of his life requires a new stroke of the author's pen. Without the author, he ceases to exist.

He also realizes that his universe exists only in the mind of the author, and that beyond his ephemeral world there is a higher dimension -- the realm of Kurt Vonnegut - that is more real than his own.

He also discovers that literally everything in his universe is an expression of Kurt Vonnegut. Because in Kilgore's world, the author is the only being that has true existence.

If Kilgore could reach out of the pages of the book and touch his author, he would have a mind-blowing, transcendental experience. For that moment, Kilgore would peel back the layer of his fictional universe -- and reveal the root of all reality. He would move beyond the Matrix.

Making God King means choosing transcendence over transience, Infinite over finite, reality over illusion.

Our finite world is also a work of creation. Everything in it is an expression of God's oneness. Without a new act of creation every instant, nothing could exist. The only true, real existence is the Infinite, as Maimonides states, "'And God, your Lord, is true (Jeremiah, 10:10) - i.e., He alone is true and no other entity possesses truth that compares to His truth. This is what the Torah says, 'There is nothing else but Him' (Deut. 4:35), meaning, aside from Him, there is no true existence like His" (The Foundations of Torah, 1:4).

This is the meaning that God is King - He, alone, reigns supreme in the universe because He is the only reality there is. Thus God is One - meaning the one and only; there is nothing else but God.

Making God King means choosing transcendence over transience, Infinite over finite, reality over illusion.


With Rosh Hashana days away, how can we make this practical? By realizing we are not the king of our universe. We can never run away and hide from God. There is no corner where He cannot be found.

Rebbetzin Feige Twerski gives a very simple and effective tool that helps to increase our God-consciousness in our daily life. Ask yourself several times a day, while doing whatever you're doing, "Is God comfortable here?" Does He feel at home while He joins your family around the dinner table? Does He like spending time with you and your spouse? Is He happy being with you at work? Listening to your phone conversations? While you surf the Internet?

By frequently asking this question throughout the day, we can increase our awareness that God is right here with us, and come to realize that by coming out of our hiding places, we acquire our ultimate independence.


September 11, 2004

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Visitor Comments: 27

(26) yehudit channen, September 27, 2011 7:46 PM

great imagery!

I loved the imagery I got from the analogy of Kurt V. entering his own novel and the character becoming unbearably aware of his creator! Just a beautiful and very useful illustration! thank you!

(25) don muntean, January 17, 2011 12:17 PM


Good article and I also liked Dvirah's comment...

(24) Dvirah, January 17, 2011 12:17 PM

Reversing the Question

Since we are G-d's creations, I cannot believe that he has any trouble accepting us for what we are and what we do - even hide from him. He will, I believe, always forgive and wait patiently for us to return. However, one could encourage one's "good" behavior by reversing the question: am I comfortable with G-d's presence while I am doing these things? Because if not, obviously I am doing something I feel is wrong. Asking this question constantly, analysing what feels wrong and changing is doing constant Teshuvah. And that too brings us closer to G-d. (A caveat: don't be too quick to find fault with yourself! G-d is much less judgemental than we are and will "give good marks" for trying even if the result is not perfect.)

Adinah, September 14, 2012 5:19 AM

The problem with reversing the question is it puts my mental/emotional framework as the end all rather than striving to align, realign, and once again realign my mental and emotional framework to G-d's. G-d always accepts us but not necessrily our actions. Acceptance means connections. And when there is connection there is the feedback of experiencing Presence. If I am angry, at that moment I am not "accepted" so to speak and the feedback is a lack of experiencing Presence. its a tricky thing because I can convince myself I am feeling something in order to justify the act. There is a structure to the Universe with its feedback system. Perhaps its a matter if I see mitzvah more as 'commandment' or as 'joining' (the root of the word being tzavta). Commandment is more distant where joining is incredibly personal. And when its sooo personal with G-d, the love is clearer and then I more easily put Hashem as the Master in asking is He comfortable in what I am doing?

(23) richard, September 30, 2008 9:07 AM

HEEEEE's back.

Thank you. God is back in my life. HE never left, I just chose not to see HIM. I've been worried about "my" ulcer, about "my" iminent financial ruin, about "my" life. I've always appreciated life and God's earth but now I have a better understanding. Thank you. Please tell us about God's sense of humor.

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