Dear Rabbi Fried,
We were given an assignment from religious school for a week from Sunday to express our beliefs and feelings about the idea that God is watching us all the time. Do Jews really believe that? If we do, is there a way to look at the fact we’re always being watched that doesn’t feel creepy?
Allison & Brittany
Dear Allison and Brittany,
You didn’t tell me what you believe! I guess what you’re saying is that you sort of believe it … but it feels sort of creepy to think that.
It is, in fact, a core Jewish belief that God is constantly watching over us and knows all that we are doing and thinking. This is the 10th of the 13 foundational Jewish beliefs outlined by the great Jewish scholar and philosopher Rabbi Moses Maimonides. He bases it on a verse in Psalms which says, “He fashions all their hearts together, He comprehends all their deeds” (Psalms 33:15).
One way to look at this is like a GPS device. The very first time I used a GPS in my car, I got very emotional. I told my kids, who were in the car at the time, “Hey kids, just look at this! There’s something up in the sky that knows exactly where we are and what direction we’re going and at what speed! Not only that, if you make a wrong turn it even lets you know and then gives you another way to get to where you’re going!”
Then I told them, “We can learn from this that we also have a Father in Heaven Who knows exactly where we are, what we’re doing and where we’re going. He loves us so much that even if we go off the path we’re supposed to be going on, He gives us a way to get back to the right path and enables us to arrive at the right destination!”
Instead of it feeling creepy, this is a different way to look at the same idea. It shows how important we are that God takes the time and caring to be involved in our lives all the time. It illustrates how much He loves us to show us, if we look carefully and notice, little hints to let us know if we’re going the right way or if we’re veering off the path. So many people today suffer from a lack of self-esteem. They don’t think they’re very important or that what they do matters very much, if at all. Judaism teaches the opposite; every person is very important!
Every person has a soul created in the image of God, it is the spark of Godliness that gives us life. What we do, especially as Jews, doesn’t just affect our immediate surroundings; our actions, words and thoughts impact the entire universe! Every mitzvah we perform builds beautiful buildings in the upper spiritual worlds. This is implicit in our being created in the “image of God.” Just as God is a creator, we, too, are creators with all we choose to do, not only if we create a physical building with bricks and mortar, but through our choices and actions in the spiritual realm.
That is how God created us and is why He stays involved in the lives of His beloved creations, whom He considers like His beloved children.
The Torah provides the path and direction; God, with His immense love for us, provides the GPS!
Dear Rabbi Fried,