Level Minus Three: Ein Od Milvado
What do we see at level minus-three?
We’ve already reached profound levels of understanding about Who He is or, rather, Who He’s not. What’s the third floor going to reveal to us? The third floor is, in many ways, much more astonishing than the second.
The Jews stood at Mount Sinai and heard the statement, “You have been shown that G-d is the Lord, the Master. Ein od milvado—besides Him there is no other.
It doesn’t say “there is nobody like Him.” It says there’s nobody “besides” Him. Apparently, this was the main vision that the Jews had at Mount Sinai when they received the Torah. G-d showed them what they’d never seen before and it was the central experience at Mount Sinai. What was it?
We think that G-d made a Creation. He really didn’t. I’ll explain that.
Ein od milvado means that, besides G-d, nothing exists. Even after G-d created everything, it doesn’t really exist at all. That’s one of the greatest mysteries of all.
You need an example, an analogy, to understand this. Imagine there’s a guy sleeping on a couch and has dream. In the dream, he’s got two guys sitting at a table and they’re drinking coffee. One guy says to the other, “You know, we don’t really exist”.
The other guy says, “Are you, crazy? How do you ‘mean we don’t exist’? We’re having a conversation here.”
The first guy says, “No, you don’t understand. We exist relative to ourselves but, relative to the guy sleeping on the couch, we don’t exist. We are figments of his imagination. We don’t really exist like him. He is; we ain’t (to use ‘proper’ English). He continues, “We don’t exist at all, really. We’re some type of mental abstraction, manifestation, of this guy’s mind. He exists. In fact, if he woke up, what would happen to us? Poof, we’re gone! Not only does our existence depend on him, but our existence is not even like his.”
We can’t fool ourselves to think that we really have a true existence; we don’t. That’s what they realized at Mount Sinai when G-d said, “You have been shown that you may know.” Know what?—that G-d is the Elokim, the Master, the Lord, and ein od milvado. Besides the entity called “G-d,” there’s nothing else. Even after Creation, we don’t really exist. Certainly, we don’t exist the way He does. We don’t realize that. We think we really exist. We take ourselves seriously, right? We think we are. But in true realistic terms, we don’t exist at all. In some way, G-d has concealed that from us because, probably, we’d have a heart attack if we realized that we don’t really exist.
Even though G-d created us, do not think that we really exist at all. Certainly, you don’t exist like Him. Forget about that. He is. Why?—because He is existence itself. We who have to be given existence, which is what we have, don’t exist like Him. Even after He has given us existence, guess what?—it’s still all Him. Think about that. It’s not like a mother gives birth to a child so that, even if the mother dies, the child will continue to exist. The child exists, having been given existence by the mother and, with the death of the mother, its existence continues. It becomes an independent entity. Our problem is that, not only do we have to be sustained by G-d from nano-second to nano-second and, if G-d diverted His attention for one nano-second, not even that long—for one instant in time—the whole Creation would instantly annihilate.
You can’t believe how weak, how vulnerable, how nothing we are. He has to be thinking to Himself: be, be, be! However He works it, of the entirety of Creation which is vast, were something to divert His attention, were somebody to tap Him on the shoulder and say, “By the way, I want to ask you something,” and He were to say, “What was that? Wait!….” the Creation just vanished! All of it would disappear. Talking about OCD—obsessive compulsive disorder, right? G-d has got to be thinking about it from instant to instant of time.
If He has to give us existence, He has to give us Himself. He allows us, in some way, some form within Himself. It’s like a cloud. Let’s assume a cloud takes a shape. It appears to take a shape of something but it’s still the cloud. It’s a shape in a cloud but, in the end, it’s still the cloud.
Even though the Ribono Shel Olam gives us existence, we’re nothing more than a shape within Him, whatever that means. The unbelievable thing that He did is that the shape thinks it’s independent from the cloud. It’s delusional and there’s no psychiatrist that will cure us from this delusion.
The miracle is, of course, how the Ribono Shel Olam does it. How do we think we exist at all independently of Him? We’re nothing more than a shape within Him, just like a shape in a cloud, That’s what the Jews realized at Matan Torah—the giving of the Torah. As Rashi says about that pasuk—verse in Devarim, “Behold, you have been shown…” G-d is the Lord and there’s nobody besides G-d. Rashi says that G-d opened up the heavens and He showed them, the Jewish people, that He is the One of the Creation, and they realized that.
By Yoeri Schepens
Sources: a shiur by Rabbi Mendel Kessin, Derech Hashem series, who is G-d part 1 https://www.torahthinking.org/post/derech-hashem-who-is-god-part-1
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further.