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Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek

Welcome to the game of cosmic hide and seek. We are "it" and the One we are seeking is God Himself.

by

Who needs Arthur Conan Doyle? If we are seeking adventure, searching for an enigmatic mystery to solve, we don't need stories about Sherlock Holmes. There is a greater and more exciting quest in our daily lives. It is a game of cosmic hide and seek. We are "it" and the One we are seeking is God Himself. But God is deeply hidden. To find Him we must first understand why He hides, and then how.

In the Eighteenth Century, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto wrote one of the most masterful presentations of Jewish belief every put down on paper: Derech Hashem ("The Way of God"). In it he explained why God created the universe. It is an arena for human action. Within it, man can grow morally and spiritually to achieve his ultimate reward: closeness to God. All the difficulties we face in life are but steps along the way, problems we must solve to further our growth -- and as this is going on, God remains hidden. Why?

Suppose I go to the governor of the state and tell him that I have a new way of rehabilitating prisoners. I can take the worst criminal and in one week turn him into a good person. The governor is intrigued. How will I do this?

I place a gun to the prisoner's head and tell him that I will be following him around for the entire week.

Quite simple. The prisoner will be released into my custody. I place a gun to his head and tell him that I will be following him around for the entire week. If he ever hurts another person, if he ever commits any criminal act, if he ever does anything wrong I will squeeze the trigger and shoot him.

Now at the end of the week, will I find that he has committed any offense against society? Of course not. But, by the end of the week will he have become a good person? Absolutely not. In fact, no moral growth will have occurred at all since the only reason the prisoner avoided criminal acts was his fear of the consequences. It was pure self-preservation. He had no thoughts or concerns as to the morality of his actions. He did not grow. In effect, he lost his free will.

God wants us to grow. If we could see His presence at all times, if we could see Him looking over our shoulders as we go through life, we would be no different than the prisoner. We would lose our free will, we would lose the freedom to transgress, and hence we would not experience the moral growth that occurs when we freely choose to do the right thing. So God must hide to give us room to become "all that we can be."

How does he hide? There are a myriad of ways, but we will consider only one. We will show how God hides through physical law.

I hold a ball in my hand, and I let it go. It falls to the ground. Again, I do it; again it falls. Why does the ball fall? A scientist would say that it is a law of nature: the force of gravity causes it to fall. But we know differently. We know that the ball falls because God makes it fall. If God wanted to, He could just as easily make the ball move upward as fall to the ground. Why, then, does He make it fall each time?

God allows us to become atheists if we so choose.

If God acts according to a pattern, in a manner we can predict, a scientist can learn this pattern and call it a law of nature. Then, if he wishes, he can say that there is no God, only absolute laws of nature that determine how the world behaves. God allows us to become atheists if we so choose. Thus, we are given free will.

What would happen if God caused the ball to rise upward? What of those very rare occasions in which the laws of nature are "violated?" A scientist would say that this is impossible, but God can choose to do anything. Those observing such an event would have a name for it -- they would call it a "miracle." But in reality it would be no less miraculous than when the ball falls down!

Albert Einstein said that he studied physics to understand how much freedom God had in creating the universe. He saw God as subject to the laws of physics. The Torah tells us otherwise. The Master of the Universe is just that: the creator of man, of physics, and even of logic itself.

God hides to give us free will, and one way He hides is through the regularities of action we lesser beings call physical law. He hides, but we seek Him. The Hebrew word for the world is "Olam," the root of which means to hide or conceal. To the Jew, the world is the hiding place, the place we seek the concealed God, and it is through the Torah, the guidebook and map to the universe, our license to "cheat," that we find Him.

Published: June 8, 2002


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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Anonymous, December 9, 2009 2:39 AM

I am in sixth grade and I just read your article and I think you would make an amzing Rebbi.

(4) eduardo aranda, June 15, 2002 12:00 AM

estupendo....

This article is super...really enjoyed it.... muchisimos gracias

(3) Anonymous, June 10, 2002 12:00 AM

There is no contradiction

There may be misunderstanding from the language of the article that the author collide two opinions as "opposing" each other, the scientific one and Torah.
I am sure this is NOT what author meant. This might be only a misleading language. This theme was perfectly explained by another scientist of blessed memory Arieh Kaplan in many of his works. The "true" scientific development will always lead towards the Torah. And, on another side, true Torah understanding will lead to the right "scientific mentality". If somebody feels they collide- either he does not have a proper scientific understanding or does not properly understands Torah. This is a Rambam mentality. In fact one of the methods of the early Kabbalists in the initial stage of self development is the analysis of the nature ... as the visual presence of the Divine.

(2) Anonymous, June 10, 2002 12:00 AM

fear

"G-d must hide to give us room to be all that we can be."
well...reishit chochmah yirat Ha-Shem. in your colorful parable, there was no moral growth in the prisoner after one week of walking around with a gun to his head. right. however, he had now become impressed that there were consequences, and experienced a degree of self-control (however externally imposed).
correspondingly, our awareness of G-d can begin with the sincere convic-tion that there is no escaping the consequences of our actions (appear-ances to the contrary). typically, this arises when we meet, G-d forbid, some misfortune, at which point, Talmud tells us we should first examine our actions.
the next step in the rehabilita-tion of the prisoner would be to give him a short period of time when he is being watched, WITHOUT the gun, then a short period when he isn't even being watched (as he earns trust), then longer and longer periods. he can build on his initial self-control -- which was initially out of fear -- until he is proud of his accomplishment, and even loves his teacher. Likewise, our moral growth begins when we choose the right actions for BETTER reasons than the initial fear. but that "fear" -- let's call it hesitance to cause ourselves discomfort -- is the necessary beginning.

(1) Anonymous, June 9, 2002 12:00 AM

I mostly agree, but I have a quibble or two

I agree that (by definition) an omnipotent being can do as he will. God, even chooses to play by the rules that He has set forth. Simply put, God chooses never to break the laws of physics. This is analogous to his choice to never make a plane triangle have its internal angles sum to more than pi radians. Also, I pointedly said flat, we can leave Riemannian geometry and K-theory for another discussion.
The fact that Hashem plays by his own rules is a very important insight into his nature. If anything, it reminds us that he is a source of order - that he does not lie. Understanding that order, and not lying, are two very important ways that we can get close to Him.
Appreciation of those laws and principles, which govern matter and energy, does not nescessarily make one into an atheist.
In fact, from the beauty contained therin, one can not help but feel a certain awe for the majesty of creation. How can the curvature of space-time or the generations of the quarks, not insipre awe, and a sense of reverence for thier source?
To sum up, my quibble has two bits:
(1) God wouldn't break his word. Rambam says that if what is scientifically proven contradicts your understanding of Torah, you must revise your understanding of Torah. In short, Rambam is arguing that it is impossible for the Torah to be wrong, and what is proven...is well proven. So, the person who sees a contradiction must not be seeing everything.
(2) Though you did not say this, and I am sure that you did not mean to imply it, your article could be interpreted as "there go those silly scientists trying to disprove God's existence again..." Science only tries to describe the "HOWs" of the unvierse. God tells us WHY. It is unfair to write in a way that will convince the lay-person to further assume that science is nescessarily gunning for religion.

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