Experiencing God in the world

Rabbi Jessica Shafrin is PRN Chaplain at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital and a community chaplain with Jewish Family & Children’s Service. She is a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association, which provides the weekly d’var Torah for the Light. 


When was the last time that you experienced God in the world? 

I experience God on the face of a stranger, in the beauty of the snow, in the intricacies of a flower. I know that the way I experience God in the world is different from the way you do. 

 We each connect on a different level and experience the world through our unique perspective. You may find spiritual meaning through nature, art, prayer, spending quality time with family or meditation. Just as there are different “love languages” that one can use to connect with a partner, so too are there different spiritual languages to use to connect to the Godliness in the world.

In the weekly Torah reading of Pekudei, we witness how art can be used as a spiritual medium to create holy vessels. It is even said regarding the artist Bezalel that God blessed him “with a divine spirit of skill, ability and knowledge” (Exodus 35:31) that was able to inspire him in his creation and execution of the design of the Tabernacle, which is completed in this week’s Torah reading. 

It is not only the finished product of the Tabernacle that is holy. Holiness also is in the entire creation process. It is both the experience and the act of being present in it where we experience spiritual connection. 

After the construction is complete, the text states that “the cloud of God covered the Tent of Meeting and the presence of God filled the Tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34). The Hebrew word for the Tabernacle, mishkan, has the same root letters as the word to dwell or to settle. 

After the completion of the Tabernacle, God settled God’s self in the space, becoming a reminder of safety and security for the Israelites. This cloud was the indicator to the Israelites of when to travel on their journey, it was their Holy GPS, their Waze or Google Maps. 

Our goal as humans in interacting in the world is to use our individuality, which is intrinsically Divine, to be open to experiencing the Divine that is already present in the world. Looking for God in the world around us opens us up to the radical amazement. Our challenge is not only to view the ordinary as extraordinary, but also to continue to be amazed and to not allow ourselves to be jaded by the intricacies of the world.  

So, when was the last time you experienced God?