Seeing God

Rabbi David Aaron*, in his most provocative book, Seeing God, relates the following dialogue with his son:"My three-year-old son was watching me pray one day, trying to imitate my movements, pretending he was also praying. Then out of the blue, he blurted out, "Daddy! I just saw God's feet."

I didn't know what my immediate response should be to this, but quickly I decided that truth was my best option. "Yehuda," I said, "You couldn't have seen God's feet. God doesn't have feet."

He seemed startled by that, but all he said was "Oh."

A couple of minutes went by and then he tugged at my sleeve. He looked at me with his big brown eyes and, smiling sweetly, said with total conviction, "But I saw them."

There was nothing I could do to persuade him otherwise. So I decided to let it ride. After all, he is only three-years-old. Hopefully, by the time he reaches adulthood he will have learned that God doesn't have feet. If he still harbors that concept, it will get in the way of his truly seeing God." Part of the difficulty in "Seeing God" is that most of us are blinded by juvenile impressions. For the most part we have been conditioned to comprehend God very much the same way Cecille B. D'mille had us perceive Moses in his epic movie The Ten Commandments. For the 40-something crowd out there, how many of you, when the personality of Moses is mentioned, imagine in your mind's eye that you are beholding the likeness of Charlton Heston?

It is true, that a godly-individual may invoke spiritual inspiration merely by gazing upon his countenance. But he isn't God. There is no corporal representation of God on earth. One of the greatest sages of Israel, Rabbi Akiva, a contemporary of Aristotle, was once traveling through the streets of Rome. He walked into the marketplace and was recognized by a Roman merchant who was peddling various graven images. The patron, obviously proud of his wares, asked the venerable sage if he could see the rabbi's god(s). Undaunted, the rabbi brought the fellow out of his stall and into the street, beckoning him to lie down on the ground and gaze at the sun. The merchant exclaimed "no one can look and the sun and not get damaged." Rabbi Akiva responded, "If you cannot even gaze upon one of our God's messengers, how do you expect to behold our God Himself?"

Based on this anecdote, the best way to describe our monotheistic relationship with God, is that He is the great Seer who cannot be seen. "No one can see Me and live," scripture proclaims. However, it is through His attributes and the way He relates to mankind, that we can develop a personal relationship with God. For instance, we are taught, "Just as He is merciful, you be merciful. As He is kind, so too, shall you perform loving kindness." In other words, the more a person practices imitatio dei, emulating the one-way giving of the Creator, the closer we will cling to Him.

Performing altruistic acts without the expectation of reciprocity is one of the greatest godly-attributes. Most religions of the East and West are bogged down by the pre-occupation with what God is or isn't. For certain, the more we attempt to paint a picture or imagine what He looks like, the more elusive will become the effort to find Him. Emphasizing deed over creed will prove more productive. A good exercise in appreciating the gift of life from Above and sharing it, is to meditate or think about ways to benefit one's fellow each day. Try picking a "victim" from among your friends or associates at work or school. Think about a way you can give them something unexpected without expecting any reciprocal gesture. It might only be a thoughtful smile and "good morning". If you do this on a regular basis, we guarantee that you will begin to "see" God clearer each day.


*David Aaron is the founder and Dean of the Isralight Institute, an international organization with centers in Isreal and the United States. He travels throughout the world lecturing and leading retreats. Sprirtual mentor to many, including several celebrites, he is also the author of Endless Light, He lives in the Old City of Jerusalem with his wife and their six children.