3.9 Impediments to Perceiving God

Chovos HaLevavos, Shaar HaBechinah chapter 6


The contemplation of God through observing creation can be impeded by numerous things.

In Shaar HaYichud chapter 10, Rabbeinu Bachaye lists several things that impede recognizing God’s unity. Among these are polytheism, idolatry, attributing a physical form to God, and following one’s lowly physical urges. (This is not part of our summary of that chapter.) The Talmud expounds upon the verse “Let there be no strange god within you” (Psalms 81:10). The Sages ask, “What strange god exists in the body of man? Let us say that it is his evil inclination” (Shabbos 105b). All of these things likewise keep a person from seeing the signs of God’s wisdom in creation.

Three more reasons people are blind to God’s influence are given in the introduction to this gate, Shaar HaCheshbon: (1) They are too concerned with material things and they crave an unreasonable amount of physical pleasure; (2) Human beings are born as ignorant as beasts and some people remain that way; (3) Some people cannot recognize the goodness in their lives because they’re too focused on their misfortunes.

An additional factor that keeps a person from recognizing God’s hand in things is arrogance. An arrogant person feels that he deserves all the benefits he receives, and more. He doesn’t think about all the goodness God bestows upon him and he feels no obligation to thank God for it. Regarding such a person, King Solomon said, “Every arrogant person is an abomination to God” (Proverbs 16:5).

Related to the contemplation of God in creation is recognizing the goodness that God bestows upon us and our obligation to serve Him because of it. One should constantly consider the signs of God’s wisdom, analyzing them with everything he perceives with his senses and his intellect. By doing so, one will ascertain a new sign of God’s wisdom each and every day, as per the words of King David, “Day by day, speech pours forth” (Psalms 19:3).

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