God Is Very Close
Where is God? Everywhere! In this week's Torah portion (28:15), God tells Jacob that wherever he goes, God will be there watching over him. And He's with us too - all the time, and everywhere.
In our story, a kid discovers that some things are closer than we think.
"Hey, who were you talking to?" Jan asked her friend, Rachel, as the two of them were walking home from school.
"What do you mean?" Rachel asked.
"I saw you just whispering something. Don't tell me you have one of those micro-mini-in-the-ear phones and you're having another conversation with someone more interesting, while talking with me!"
Rachel laughed. "No, I don't have a phone in my ear and besides, Jan, there's no person I could possibly know more interesting than you!"
"I happen to agree with you," Jan smiled. "So then what's up?"
"I was..." Rachel fumbled for the words "I was just having a little chat with God."
"No. Tell me, really," Jan persisted.
"That's really it," Rachel said. "Something was on my mind and I was just telling God about it."
"You mean you were praying?"
"I guess you could call it that, but like I said, it was more like ... chatting."
They stopped at a crosswalk for the light to turn.
"I'm sorry to tell you, but God's not someone you can just chat with," Jan insisted, sounding a little annoyed.
"Because ... because we're not like in a synagogue or anything. You know, places where you're supposed to be able to send a message to God."
"What difference does that make?" Rachel asked. "God's everywhere."
"What do you mean by that?" Jan said, now definitely annoyed. "Isn't God supposed to be somewhere way up in the sky, like outer space or something?"
"Well, He is there also, but He's also just as much right here with us right now, and inside of us, too. God is everywhere."
By now, the girls were so wrapped up in their conversation that they weren't even paying attention to where they were walking.
"So how come I can't see Him?" Jan jousted.
"And the air, you can see?"
"Of course not. So what?"
"So I guess that means according to you there's no air here. Oh, no! Help! Get the oxygen masks!" Rachel pretended to yell in panic.
"Shhh!" Jan said, giggling. "You're going to attract attention from all the neighbors ... hey, wait," she said, suddenly concerned, "this isn't even our neighborhood! We are we?"
"Hey, you know, you're right," Rachel said "I think we're really lost."
"I don't like the looks of this place at all," Jan said, tensely, starting to shake. "Please God, help us find our way back to our own neighborhood!" she said.
Just then, a car drove up to them, slowed down and honked. "Hey, what are you girls doing way out here?" It was Mrs. Jacobs, their neighbor.
"We're kinda lost," Rachel said.
"Well both of you jump into my back seat. I'm on my way home right now."
"Wow!" Rachel said to Jan, sitting next to her in the back seat. "Why was I wasting all that time telling you something you already know?"
"What are you talking about?" Jan asked.
"The way you called out to God just now when we were lost. You knew He was right there and ready to listen, after all!"
Jan, her teary eyes glowing with gratitude, thought for a moment and then smiled. "Gee, I guess I did know it ... I just never knew I did."
Q. How did Jan feel about God at first?
A. She felt that God was someone far away that you could only speak to from certain places.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She realized that God was with her, and everywhere.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Jan learned that day?
A. She'd thought of God as being something abstract and far away, but when she panicked and called out to Him, she realized that she knew deep down, it was just like her friend said - God was everywhere and right with her at every moment.
Q. Why do you think her attitude changed when she got scared?
A. Sometimes, we know things deep in our hearts, but somehow we forget about them and live our lives as if they weren't so. But when we're shocked into action by situations like Jan had, the things we know in our hearts come out and the real truth emerges.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Our sages say that 'the world is not God's place, rather God is the world's place." What do you think that means?
A. God has always existed and is everywhere. The world (and the universe for that matter) are things He created 'inside' of Himself, so to speak. That means that God is the 'place' within which everyone and everything exists.
Q. In the famous 'Shema Yisrael' prayer, we say that 'God is one.' Does this have anything to do with the theme of our story?
A. It has everything to do with it. When we say God is one - we don't just mean 'and not two, or three.' We are saying that everything in existence is really, at its deepest roots, a unified, infinite oneness. We call that oneness God. This is the essence of the 'Shema' prayer and of monotheism.