There is an ethical code to living within Chassidic Judaism which is good to follow.
Basically it says “Be kind to others and don’t hurt people because you don’t want to be hurt yourself. Help and bring Joy to others because we are all connected.” I think this is true. I think this is something worth being. This is very old. Hillel, the head of the Sanhedrin, said it 2000 years ago, and it is based in Biblical Law. Leviticus 19. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He said everything else is commentary.
But that’s the trick, isn’t it? Because “Just who is our neighbor?” The woman across the hall? The fellow upstairs? The guy I used to pray with? The shopkeeper, servant, policeman? The beggars? Figuring that out is all in the commentary. “Life is in the Details.” Or is the saying “God is in the Details.” Then Hillel said, “Go forth and learn the commentary.” And that’s what I have been doing.
Chesed is a Hebrew Word. It means loving-kindness. “Forever will (Your) kindnesses be built; the heavens, You establish Your faithfulness in them.” (Psalms 89:3) “Righteousness and justice are Your throne’s foundation, kindness and truth precede Your countenance.” (Psalms 89:15). And biblical Hebrew has no vowels, so Chassidic Jews are Jews of loving kindness and Joy. But kindness and joy can be difficult, because all around us are harsh people and those who wish to take advantage of what they percieve as softness. It is hard to be so vulnerable in our modern society… at any time really. But we really don’t have a choice if we wish to maintain our sanity. And suddenly we are back to a Rabbi Nachman story of a King and his servant as the only two sane people in an insane kingdom. But it is certainly better to be thought mad, or better yet not to be thought of at all in a mad kingdom, and maintain your integrity and Truth and loving-kindness.
God is One, with no beginning and no end. As a Creative Force behind the universe and time and space this is necessary, fundamental in our understanding of time and space. We are finite beings in a finite universe. The whole story falls apart if God is not One, not Infinite and all encompassing. We are creation and God is Creator, incomprehensible to our minds. If God is anything less then the concept falls apart.
For the sake of convenience and common reference I will use Common Era (Xtian) dating, though it certainly would have meant little to Maimonides and absolutely nothing to Aristotle.
The question of whether the universe can exist without a Prime Mover is moot. Yes the scientific models exist, and they are valid, but at some point it becomes a question of definition. In a book “Guide for the Perplexed” Maimonides, a doctor scientist and religious leader, (10th century ACE) discusses the Jewish concept of God with the Aristotlian (3rd century BCE) concept of God. Basically, he was addressing a question of whether Faith is incompatible with logic.
Monotheism is a religion which is consistent with logic. For thousands of years the Jewish religion has been pursuing the questions of existence, both physical and social, though at a higher level there is no differentiation between physical and social existence. With the idea that there is One Force behind the universe comes the idea of law and consistency. Without the concept of Law in the physical universe there is no possibility of science, and so immediately God becomes integrated with everything. There is no longer any question of whether or not God exists. Because we have Physical Law the question of God becomes that of definition.
So, with these foundations in place, the mystics had been tackling ideas of existence and nonexistence, finite and Infinite, good and evil… How is such a physical existence compatible with our social existence. That’s the meta-physics of it.
And in the 18th Century a group of traveling Jews headed by Rabbi Yisroel (Israel) ben Eliezer (died: 6 Sivan 5520, 22 May 1760) began reviving an ancient mystical tradition. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baal_Shem_Tov And they began to explain to people that everybody had a spark of the Divine inside them and they should approach life by the principles of Chesed.
And this last paragraph is just so simple and beautiful that it is making me smile. Perhaps I should stop here. And now we are back to Hillel again who said to the fellow hopping on one foot “Do not do to others what would be hurtful to yourself. All else is commentary. Now, go and study.”
But this is still only introduction to explaining how we are all Divine. And now for the commentary… Well, technically “we” are not Divine but have the Divine within us, but as All is One this is conceptually problematic. It can lead to some wrong ideas and behavior. So I will continue to try to figure this out, so stay tuned for “We are Divine – Part 3”