God is Always With Us, Even After We Transgress

April 18, 2021

3 min read


Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16-18 )

The Tent of Meeting that dwells with them in the midst of their impurities (Vayikra, 16:16).
“Even when they are in a state of contamination, the Divine Presence is with them” (Yoma 57a).

Although disobeying the Divine will sets up a barrier between man and God, it is somewhat like a one-way mirror. We cause ourselves to be distant from God, but He is never distant from us. This is rather easy to understand. We sometimes see children who reject their parents, but regardless of how defiant the child may be, the parents' love for him is as intense as ever, and they long for his return to them.

When R' Mendel of Kotzk first joined the court of R' Simchah Bunim of P'shis'che, the latter asked him, “Young man, where is God?” R' Mendel answered, “The entire world is full of His glory.” R' Simchah Bunim repeated, “Young man, I asked you, where is God?” R' Mendel answered, “There is no place that is devoid of Him.” R' Simchah Bunim persisted, “Young man, I am asking you, where is God?” R' Mendel said, “If my answers do not satisfy you, then you tell me.” R' Simchah Bunim said, “God can be found wherever He is welcomed.”

“He who is haughty of eye and large of desire, him I cannot tolerate” (Psalms 101:5). Of a vain and arrogant person the Talmud quotes God as saying, “He and I cannot share the same dwelling” (Arachin 15b). God is indeed everywhere, but He withdraws His presence from a vain and arrogant person.

Committing a sin is not necessarily a denial or rejection of God. A person may simply have been overwhelmed by an urge that he did not suppress, or may not have realized that a sin causes him to be distant from God. However, a vain, egotistical person is one who is his own god. Inasmuch as there cannot be two gods, if a person thinks himself to be god, he cannot believe in the true God. There is no form of idolatry as absolute as the person who worships himself.

In my writings on self-esteem, I suggested that vanity and conceit are desperate defenses whereby a person tries to cope with a sense of unworthiness. I was thrilled to find that no less an authority than Rabbeinu Yonah validates this concept. “The vain person seeks to compensate for his feeling of defectiveness by means of grandiosity” (Rabbeinu Yonah al HaTorah, p. 156). A person with healthy self-esteem does not seek the praise and recognition of others to remind him that he has value.

If a person truly believes that he possesses a Divine neshama, soul, he will realize that he has great worth, and even if he may have gone astray in his behavior, he is nevertheless worthy by virtue of his Divine neshama. Anyone with a profound feeling of unworthiness must be in denial that he has within himself the breath of God.

Man's closeness to God is by virtue of his soul, which craves to be united with its Source. Denial of having a Divine neshama precludes a close relationship with God.

God is with us even if we have sinned. As long as we feel a desire to be close to God, we know ourselves to be of His essence, and that we are capable of becoming more spiritual. This opens the door to teshuvah, repentance, and this is why the above verse is contained in the narrative of the Yom Kippur service.

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