Prof. Dr. Eli Lasch
Breshit bara Elohim – in the beginning God created. This is the first sentence of the first book of the Torah. This is the moment where, according to the Torah it all started – the reality we know; the reality we can recognize with our senses, and with our tools and instruments, which are after all but the extension of our senses
What does the Torah claim? That somebody or something created for us a world and then created us, mankind, to inhabit this world – everything out of nothing and all of it in but seven days. Up to this point the Bible and modern astrophysics agree with each other. Both agree that the universe had a beginning and came into being out of nothing. We have also seen that even the seemingly difference in timing has been solved. The only question remaining open is, whether all of this “just happened” or whether it was directed by an intelligent entity called God. According to Stephen Hawking,[i] the universe came into being in a spontaneous and random Big Bang. According to Laszlo, our universe is just one of many universes coming out of what he calls a “metaverse”. In both theories, there is no place for the God who occupies such an important place in the Torah.
If we follow the Torah, we have to ask ourselves: Who or what is this entity the Torah calls God? Is it just a concept man has created to explain the unexplainable, a concept which seems to become less and less necessary as we probe ever deeper into the secrets of our universe and discover what makes it tick? Or maybe just the opposite is true? Can something as complex as our universe continue to exist without the presence of an intelligent being? Or is God the all-knowing father, the tribal chief[ii], the king of the kings of kings, as he is called in the Jewish prayer, the being who will guide the believer along the right path and who will deliver him safe and sound to heaven to bask forever in His glory? Is He the Ein Sof Or, the light without end’, the eternal source of light and love of the Kabbalah,[iii] or is He the ‚absolute nothing’ of Meister Eckhard? [iv]
According to the most widely accepted translation and especially to the Christian interpretation of the Bible, God is a being distinct from man and superior to him; the ultimate judge, the one we pray to, the one to whom we look for help and guidance. As to me, before my light experience God was nothing but a notion, the modification of an angry father figure dating back to the childhood of mankind. A being created by man in order to contain the “human animal“. A superstition which has become unnecessary.
Does this perspective correspond with the message of love which has been revealed to me in this book : “This is a message of love dealing with the all-encompassing love of God to all that exists …“
But is that what the Torah really meant to say? Breshit bara Elohim. Elohim. This is the term the Torah uses to designate the Creator and was later on translated as ‘God’. The sentence we are dealing with seems, however, to contain a paradox. The word Elohim is plural, while bara -‘created’ -is singular. Is this really a paradox? Or is it the first hint that God is both singular and plural; that He cannot be defined by the human rational mind; that when we approach divinity, all our classifications and categorizations lose their relevance. Like many other seeming paradoxes, this too is resolved in God, in whom there is no difference between the one and the many, the singular and the plural. For all is unity, and in unity one becomes all and all becomes one. To make it even more complicated, I once received a “message”. My hand started writing again and on the paper I found the following: I am both, tangible and intangible at once. I am everything and nothing. For you a paradox.”
On the other hand, the word Elohim, as it is written, also means: The One containing all the gods, the summation and amalgamation of all that is or is considered to be divine. The real meaning of monotheism: from multiplicity to the One. HE is everyone and at the same time one. Thus, the plural created the singular.
As you, the reader, may know, every script has its direction. English like all other European languages is written from left to right. Hebrew and Arabic on the other hand, are written from right to left. Read the other way round (from the end to the beginning) words or even sentences do not make any sense.
Here we should remind the reader that Hebrew the way it is written in the Torah scrolls contains only consonants. In the various ethnic groups of the Jewish people, the words of the Bible and of the prayers are pronounced in totally different ways. To use one striking example: The vowel pronounced as „o“ in the Mediterranean countries is pronounced “e” in the Yemen. Once I attended a Yemenite synagogue and heard there to my greatest astonishment that they proposed to give God „liver“ and „goat“. For me, the words meant “power“ and „glory“. Only with difficulties did I stay serious.
Jewish mystics, the followers of the Kabbalah, have often changed the letters around in order to look for hidden meanings. So let us follow their path and see, what my spiritual teachers have shown me.
As suggested in the introduction, before my “enlightenment“ I was far away from being a kabbalist. Previous to this experience I was what is called nowadays a “rational human being”. “Passing over the walls” had broadened my consciousness and enabled me to enlarge the scope of my understanding.
Like most of the Israelis, I was interested in the Bible, but like everybody, I read Hebrew the way it is usually done: from right to left. My teachers showed me that the Bible can be read also in the opposite direction: from left to right. This way, one could decrypt many secrets of the Torah and reach another understanding of the written text. The first time that this was shown to me was in the Hebrew word for God. To my amazement I realized that the word Elohim read backwards and pronounced Oluhim can be divided into three distinct words: mi hu lo, the first word being “mi”, which in Hebrew means “who”, the second word being “ hu” meaning “he”, and the third word being “lo” meaning “no”. The meaning of this word turned into a sentence thus becomes “who HE is not”. The middle word, however, is made out of one letter only, the holy “He” or “H” which is one of the accepted ways of writing the name of God. Thus, the sentence becomes even clearer: “mi ‘H’ lo”, “who God is not”. This word- become-sentence thus states very clearly that humanity cannot comprehend God through its rational mind; that the rational mind can say only who or what God is not, and never who or what God is.
Whenever we try to define God in the positive sense, we only define our human perception of Him, our human understanding of but one aspect of God; for God is beyond all definitions.
This insight has been enunciated in the past by great scholars like Maimonides, who said that God is unlike anything and thus cannot be defined by man, and by great mystics like Meister Eckhard[v]: “Man can only know the negation, never the affirmative, of the ultimate reality.”
This view is held by many mystics even today, but is typical for the Middle Ages and for the childhood of Man, the time, when he considered himself as a victim of an angry God (or Gods) who has to be placated with burnt offerings. Man regarded God the way a dog regards its master: with unconditional love but without being able to understand him. God had to be obeyed, the alternative being punishment, here or in the hereafter. Another danger was to be left alone in a menacing world – the original meaning of the word “sin”[vi]. In the beginning, I saw this word-become-sentence in a way similar to that of the medieval mystics. By now, I have learned to see this sentence in a different way: First we must learn, “who God is not” and cut off with “ Ockhams razor[vii]” everything which is not divine, but added by man. According to certain traditions, this is what is meant by the term “the coming of the Messiah”, when all the outstanding questions will be answered. Only then we’ll be able to grow up and reach our majority or even our divinity which is our birth-right.
The first step on this way is reading the sentence “mi ‘H’ lo” as a rhetorical question: Who is not God? Is there anyone or anything who is not God? Who is outside of God? This statement stands in total contradiction to most religious teachings and philosophies. If each and everyone of us is God, then the way to understand God is not by seeking on the outside but by attempting to understand our true selves.
Loving God thus becomes loving and accepting ourselves and our fellow human beings. Even the Chinese, Indian and mystical standpoints that the religious task of man is to try to become one with the One in the act of concentrated meditation becomes superfluous. Whether we want it or not, whether we recognize it or not, we are parts of God. As the Sufis[viii] put it: “God is the ocean, and we are the drops.” God is the macrocosm, and we are the microcosm, each of us containing all that makes God, God. Being God, we are not created but creators, each of us being the creator of himself, as well as being one of the co-creators of our universe with all that this implies – all the privileges and joys on the one hand, but also all the duties and responsibilities on the other.
But the Sufis also lived many centuries ago, and I was shown something new, something which no kabbalist or Bible scholar has seen in the last 2000 years, even though it is very simple and clear-cut.
This is the meaning of the word Elohim, and this is also the meaning of Genesis, the chapter on the creation of the universe and of man. Could it be that I was shown the following message : If we want to survive in the new era, we have to learn to revise our thinking and look upon us and our world in a different way.
Elohim, the Creator, who according to the Bible has created our visible world, the world which exists as is and which we can recognize with our senses. Mi H Lo, the mirror image, who HE is not, the world not yet realized, but which can be made reality. Does the world, as we know it, depend on the way we want to see it? Because we have got used to see it this way, the way we know? Is the world the way it is due to the perceptions of our senses and their interpretation by our consciousness? Do natural laws exist at all or, as the English scientist Sheldrake[ix] claims, only habits of nature? Are they possibly dependent on us humans and on our habits? Maybe there exists another view which would make another world possible. Are we or have we been the creators and have only forgotten it? To quote the kabbalah: “Every human being is obliged to create his world every day anew. If he wouldn’t do it, the world wouldn’t exist.” Elohim – that what is; Mi-H-Lo – that what could be, if we only wanted it. This is the meaning of the word Elohim and this is the mystical meaning of Genesis, the chapter on the creation of the universe and of man.
[vii] Ockham, William of, 1285-1345, Franciscan philosopher and theologist, a later scholastic, who invented the school of Nominalism. The central thesis of his teachings was, that we have to cut off everything which is not necessary before reaching the crux of a matter.