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Jewish World Review
April 30, 2004
/ 9 Iyar, 5764
The Divine is present where He is welcomed
Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
Rethinking the conventional understanding of sin and the sinner
The Tent of Meeting that dwells with them in the midst of their impurities.
Even when they are in a state of contamination, the Divine Presence is
Talmud, tractate Yoma 57a
Although disobeying the Divine will sets up a barrier between man
and G-d, it is somewhat like a one-way mirror. We cause ourselves to
be distant from G-d, 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 G-d?'' R' Mendel
answered, ''The entire world is full of His glory.'' R' Simchah Bunim
repeated, ''Young man, I asked you, where is G-d?'' R' Mendel answered,
''There is no place that is devoid of Him.'' R' Simchah Bunim persisted,
''Young man, I am asking you, where is G-d?'' R' Mendel said, ''If my
answers do not satisfy you, then you tell me.'' R' Simchah Bunim said,
''G-d can be found wherever He is welcomed.''
''He who is haughty of eye and large of desire, him I can not tolerate'' (Psalms
101:5). Of a vain and arrogant person the Talmud quotes G-d as saying, ''He and I
cannot share the same dwelling'' (Talmud, Arachin 15b). G-d 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 G-d. 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 G-d. However, a vain,
egotistical person is one who is his own G-d. Inasmuch as there cannot be two
G-ds, if a person thinks himself to be G-d, he cannot believe in the true G-d. 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
If a person truly believes that he possesses a Divine neshamah (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 neshamah. Anyone with a profound
feeling of unworthiness must be in denial that he has within himself the breath of G-d.
Man's closeness to G-d is by virtue of his neshamah, which craves to be united
with its Source. Denial of having a Divine neshamah precludes a close relationship
G-d is with us even if we have sinned. As long as we feel a desire to be close to
G-d, we know ourselves to be of His essence, and that we are capable of becoming
more spiritual. This opens the door to teshuvah (reptentance), and this is why the above verse is
contained in the narrative of the Yom Kippur service.
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Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D. is a psychiatrist and ordained rabbi. He is the
founder of the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh, a leading center
for addiction treatment. An Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University
of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, he is a prolific author, with some 30 books to
his credit, including, "Twerski on Chumash" (Bible), from which this was excerpted (Sales of this book help fund JWR).
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© 2004, Mesorah Publications, Ltd.