CONNECTING WITH HASHEM
In his essay, Halachic Man [Ish HaHalacha], Rabbi Soloveitchik posits that, in order to connect with Hashem, we are not required to transcend the “real word” of ordinary, tangible sense perception. Hashem has endowed the material, finite world – the world of our routine experiences – with infinite significance. We connect with Hashem by surrendering, in love, to His will within this finite reality of our tangible, physical existence.
The concept of “incarnation” refers to the act of transforming something spiritual and abstract into something concrete and tangible. The non-Jewish religious culture that surrounds us believes, in flagrant violation of the Second Commandment, that humanity must relate to God through a being whom they believe is the “incarnation” of God Himself, chas ve’shalom. Judaism, eschewing this obvious heresy, insists that we relate to HaKadosh Baruch Hu by devoting ourselves to His mitzvos – acts which serve to “incarnate” His will.
For example: The mitzvah of dwelling in a sukkah remains a theoretical concept until we make it “incarnate” by building it and dwelling in it; likewise, the mitzvah of visiting the sick is just an abstract idea until it becomes “incarnate” when we actually perform it.
Our commitment to mitzvah observance within tangible reality does not constitute an escape from spiritual transcendence. Faithful, lifelong, and passionate obedience to God’s will in the physical world results in a spiritual connection with Hashem – which endures forever.
In this manner, Judaism asserts that a harmonious connection exists between physical reality, as perceived by our five senses, and the Divine, metaphysical-transcendental reality.
Modern physics may reinforce the idea of seamless connections between unseen forces and the concrete world. The forces which hold together the subatomic particles of a sukkah or a pair of tefillin in our world of sense perception are not necessarily more concrete or “incarnate” than abstract, spiritual phenomena, such as: the human soul, states of ritual purity or impurity, or the holiness of Shabbos.