Return to Previous Page
Rabbi Jack Moline Website
Home | Profile | Works | Links
Prayerbook Vocabulary Studies
April 30, 2007
© Rabbi Jack Moline

It isn't enough to understand the two words in this phrase separately; together they have a meaning that is greater than the sum of the parts. If the first word intimates that God "acquires," or, perhaps more accurately, opens up the divine presence to be inclusive, and the second word refers to everything, then the question must be asked, is there anything that is not a part of God?

I think the answer to that question is frustrating for the mind that desires certainty and consistency. Of course, if we believe everything is of God's creation, then everything is a part of God. Yet, if there is nothing other than God, then how is it that we can distinguish between the sacred and the every-day, the pure and the polluted, the Jewish and the non-Jewish? Jewish mysticism posits answers, but most of us do not live our lives as mystics, and even those who do see distinctions between what is nearer and what is farther away.

It is maddening to have such a conundrum in the very beginning of our daily devotion. However, here's a situation in which I suggest less is really more--don't think too much about the deeper meaning of this phrase. Take it instead as you understand it without analyzing it: God is open to everyone and everything.

The beginning of this paragraph of prayer is extremely particular, even personal. The recitation of the unique relationships that our individual ancestors had with God, the adulation of God's great power and the affirmation that God renews and restores each of us might lead us to be, as I mentioned last time, somewhat proprietary. This phrase is an antidote to our particularism (even as we are about to emphasize it again). God is near to all, affirms the psalmist, and the poet who composed this prayer affirms that God is unwilling to draw a boundary that excludes anyone or anything from that nearness. We recite "v'konei hakol" not to tell us something about God we do not know, but to remind ourselves of something we forget with frequency: we are not all the same, but difference does not equal worth.

And just as God will not draw a boundary through creation that will include some and exclude others, neither can we presume to cross that boundary to a place that our God, the God of our ancestors has neither claim on us nor desire for us.

(NOTE: Due to my travels, there will be no posting on these topics next week.)

Home | Profile | Works | Links

Comments or Questions? Email