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The Duties of the Heart

Gate One. “The Wholehearted Acceptance of the Oneness of G-d”

Chapter Two

As we said last time, we declare G-d’s “oneness” day in and day out in our prayers without really knowing what we’re saying. We might even be implying that He’s more than one, unknowingly, or at least “downgrading” His oneness.

Some of us understand it to mean that G-d is “one of a kind” or “intense”-- much the way we’d describe a special event or gadget (though there’s certainly no comparison!). Others of us take “one” to mean “not-two”, “not-three”, etc. and thus settle for a rather limited, even banal and ordinary view of G-d. And yet others declare Him to be one without knowing the difference between real oneness and what we’ll term "circumstantial" oneness later on in this Gate.

But take heart. Because, truth be known, few believers know anything at all about this-- or about G-d Himself-- on a rational level. Because while we might have warm, even ardent feelings and convictions about G-d, few of us though know what we’re talking about in relation to G-d.

The case has been made, however, that simple, unalloyed faith in Him is fine-- and even better than a rational understanding of His Being (which is, after all, beyond us since G-d’s Being is so surpassing of our own). But that’s not Ibn Pakudah’s view of things. As he’ll argue later on, anyone who can analyze G-d’s make-up to whatever degree, must.

(The advice most others would give is to believe that G-d is the Creator, that He oversees it all both sweepingly and intimately, and that He functions in the universe much the way our soul functions in our bodies: fundamentally, vitally, invisibly, and utterly undeniably.)

Again, though, it’s important to point out that few of us know anything about all this. As such, it’s been said that we really don’t worship G-d so much as what we misunderstand about Him!

As we indicated before, there are four ways to express G-d’s “oneness”. By just declaring it, the way kids and simple folks do; by believing it after having been taught about it (which can turn out to be a case of the “blind leading the blind” if the people you learned it from didn’t really know what they were saying); by believing it to a limited extent (the aforementioned “circumstantial” way and thus being “so close, and yet so far”); or by proving G-d’s Oneness to yourself and believing it firmly, thus following through on the verse that commends us to "know today and reflect upon it in (our) heart that G-d is the L­rd" (Deuteronomy 4:39).

The latter form is the best of all, so the rest of this Gate will center on it.

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