Does Spiritual = G-dly?

Thursday, 8 March, 2018 - 2:36 pm

How many times have we heard someone we know (maybe even ourselves) state, “I am not religious/observant, but I am spiritual.” What does that mean? I am not sure I can divine (no pun intended) what each person means with that statement, but let’s try to define the terms on a literal as well as colloquial basis.

Spiritual is defined in the dictionary as, A. Related to the spirit as opposed to material or physical. B. Related to religion or a religious belief. This would imply that in order to be spiritual one has to either, A. Believe in a soul or spirit. B. Accept a religious belief. Colloquially, the definition of spiritual has been expanded to include a quest for personal meaning and growth, an inner dimension and “sacred space” outside of the confines of organized religion. Often, but not always, the colloquial definition would be applied by people who believe in G-d, but don’t accept that a particular “organized religious path” is the truest way to connect with G-d.

Let’s take a look at what Judaism (granted a somewhat organized religion), within the context of Chasidism, has to say about this. Kabbala teaches and Chassidus echoes the teaching, that Hashem is beyond the grasp of the finite, and that humans through their own efforts could never achieve a connection. Therefore G-d gave us tools, which are invested with the power of the infinite, to enable us to bridge the gap. These tools are called Mitzvot. In addition to meaning a commandment, Mitzvah is also etymologically associated with the Aramaic – Tzavta – meaning connection. Within this paradigm, the only, and I repeat, only possible manner that a human being can achieve a communion with G-d, is by using the tools that G-d gave us, AKA Mitzvot. The obvious exception would be if Hashem decided to give us another (short term) method.

A fascinating example of this can be found in this week’s Torah reading. The people of Israel construct the Sanctuary so that they could connect (experience the Divine Presence in their midst). Everything is ready and complete, but no Divine Presence. Then they start to perform the service and use the Sanctuary as they were commanded by G-d. All of a sudden “The Glory of G-d fills the Sanctuary.”

In a similar sense, we can apply all kinds of activities and experiences to feel spiritual and closer to G-d, but if we don’t do things on His terms, we fall short. It might feel good, but it ain’t G-dly.

Purim with Chabad by the numbers:

12+ Megilah Readings in the NOLA metro area
300+ People heard the Megillah at those readings
270+ Purim Shuttle Packages packed and delivered by 20+ Volunteers
200+ People attended Purim in Hawaii

This is besides what Chabad did for Purim in Baton Rouge and Biloxi. To support Chabad’s Purim activities this year, go to And now, we are off to Pesach!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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