Everyone is looking for a connection to our Father in heaven, a portal to a world beyond where the presence of Hashem is shining with brilliant clarity. We want to transform our lives into a chariot for the divine presence, to allow the light of the Torah’s “hora’ah”, direction, to elevate every aspect of our lives and allow us to taste the true sweetness of a God-conscious existence. But we often have a difficult time finding the path. We don’t have a grasp on the proper seder-order of what comes first and what comes second. We spend much time building grand structures in a proverbial swampland, structures whose shaky foundations cannot support their weight. What is the first step in building  true relationship with the Master of the world? What is the absolute prerequisite which enables a Jew to begin climbing the mountain of avodas Hashem and without which everything else is blemished? The holy Tzemach Tzaddik of Vizhnitz sees the golden key hinted at in a verse from our parsha.

Immediately preceding Amalek’s brazen attack, the fledgling Jewish nation expressed doubt over whether Hashem’s presence was found among them. The words they used were “Hayeish Hashem b’kirbeinu, im ayin” – Is Hashem among us or not? The tzaddik sees a deeper meaning.

The Gemara in Sotah makes a few very strong statements about the scourge of arrogance. Perhaps the most well known is their paraphrase of Hashem’s perspective on the egoist: “He and I cannot occupy the same space.” When a person sees life through the lenses of one’s own gratification and concern only for matters pertaining to himself alone, he shuts Hashem out of his life. “God is there wherever one lets Him in’”, taught the Kotzker. But any such cracks in the iron barrier that separates the egoist’s world from the spiritual realm are stuffed up by the arrogant obsession with personal gain and total dismissal of spiritual matters and the concerns of the soul. By placing exclusive import on his personal feelings, tendencies, and opinion alone, such a person shuts Hashem out of his life. Any space it would be possible for Hashem to dwell is already occupied by his own delusions of grandeur and insatiable appetite for this-wordly prestige.

This, then, says the Tzemach Tzaddik, is the fundamental foundation of avodas Hashem, the steady platform upon which everything else is built: bittul, humility – “ayin”. When a person makes himself small, recognizing his limits and utter reliance upon Hashem who gifts life each minute for the purpose of the mission we were sent here to accomplish, he makes room for the Infinite One to fill his life and transform the darkness of the human experience into a marvelous journey of wonder and passion. Such a person will find it possible to stay within the boundaries of our holy Torah even when they seem at odds with his personal interests. He will taste the sweetness of casting his bundle – understood as being too heavy for him to carry alone – on our loving Father in heaven.

The Vizhnitzer tzaddik teaches that this is the message of our verse: “Hayeish Hashem b’kirbeinu”: The affirmative certainty that Hashem fills a Jew’s life is dependent upon “im ayin”: whether he has attained the trait of “ayin”, humility, getting himself out of the way to allow Hashem’s light to illuminate the world through his daily thoughts, words, and actions of holiness.

The foundation of avodas Hashem is humility. “Hayeish Hashem b’kirbeinu” – G-d dwells within a person. “Im ayin” – when one nullifies his ego before the Infinite One.

Rebbe Menachem Mendel Hager of Vizhnitz
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R’ Yaakov Klein is the founder of the Lost Princess Initiative, an author, musician, and lecturer devoted to sharing the inner light of Torah through his books, music, and lectures.

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