“Nothing Compares to You”

Rabbi Israel Chait

Written by a student

Why is the concluding statement “Nothing Compares to You” found only in connection with the Shofaros prayers?

Exodus 15:3 records Moses’ description of God as “a man of war,” but not that God is a man, as Rashi says, (Ibid.) it is similar to “the man of Naomi,” the man related to Naomi. [God too is related to war.]

Shir Hakavod (the poem recited on Shabbos after musaf) says:

"I shall allegorize You, I will describe You, though I don’t know You.

They allegorized You, but not according to Your reality, and they portrayed You according to Your deeds.

You are one, containing all the allegories.

They saw You as old and as young.

And the hair of Your head was [both] hoary and jet black."

 On the phrase, “and they portrayed You according to Your deeds,” Eitz Yosef comments: "They gave You a nickname of a warrior. Also, a roaring lion, a bereaved bear, a leopard…the mightiest of animals."

Isaiah 40:18 says, “To what will you equate Me, and to what form will you arrange to Me?”

All these sources teach that God permitted man to have an idea of His presence. It is only in God’s revelation of His presence—Shofaros—that such visions take place. This explains why the phrase  “Nothing Compares to You” is said only in connection with Shofaros, the prayer discussing God’s revelation. Such visions are concessions to man. [Isaiah’s words “To what will you equate Me?” intend to clarify that such physical descriptions of God are only metaphors.]

When we say, “God is merciful; Ail Rachum,” we don’t mean God has emotions. But Torah says this to offer man a concept that God exists. Malchiyos and Zichronos—the 2 prayers discussing God’s omnipotence and omniscience—are not where God relates to man, as is true regarding Shofaros, which is God’s particular providence (hashgacha pratyos) of relating to man. Shofar/providence is the substratum, without which there is no Malchiyos or Zichronos, God’s kingship over and His remembrance of man.

[Thus, “Nothing Compares to You” counters any literal misunderstandings of the visions man has of God during revelation, as on Mt. Sinai and at the Reed Sea. But as Malchiyos or Zichronos are not revelations, there is no need to counter anything.]


Yom Kippur and Affliction

Rabbi Israel Chait

Written by a student

Yom Kippur concerns eating the day before the fast. We learn, “One who eats the day before is considered as having fasted for 2 days,” something commendable. Judaism doesn’t have the concept of affliction, which other religions value. Suffering on Yom Kippur is not the goal, rather, it is the removal from the instinctual life that Judaism values. By eating the day before, we make the fast easier; it provides the necessary strength to endure the fast in order to focus on the perfections achieved through the 5 privations and the prayers. But to pain the body, Judaism does not endorse.


Whom God Doesn’t Punish

Rabbi Israel Chait

Written by a student

Talmud Rosh Hashanah 17a says, “One who forgoes his character has his sins overlooked.”  This refers to a person who doesn’t set boundaries for his friend’s behavior. His friend overstepped certain boundaries of friendship and disturbed him, but he remained silent and accepted it. He recognized that his personal boundaries (likes/dislikes) are not real; only God’s boundaries are real. [So he didn’t act to defend himself.]

With “overlooking his sins,” the Talmud means he is not taken to task. This perfected person breaks down the human desire to “take for himself” (follow his desires), precisely what we recite during Neila, “That we forgo the oppressiveness of our hands.”

Since this person is traveling on a path towards perfection, he is not deterred by receiving punishments for his sins, which could derail his new, proper path and ruin his progress. He is traveling a path to approach God, so his course is not interrupted. This is done so he might break down the human desire for a life of physicality, which stems from the need for others not to violate his boundaries.