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