Shomer Emunim #24-25

12 Feb

Shomer Emunim #24-25

Reminder: Translation is by;
 The Horonsteipler Rav; Rabbi Mordechai Twerski, Shlita,
Edited & transcribed by his talmid, Shaul Taub.
Brackets are notes from Rabbi Twerski, Braces are editors’ notes.

She’altiel: The words of a wise man are delightful.” “And your testimonies are indisputable proof” to validate your statements. However, how would you answer and what do you have to say about a much more difficult concept that is found in the Sefer Zohar, that refers to Hashem with descriptions of physical limbs? For example the skull, the forehead, the eyes, the ears, and many other concepts which are physical, or bodily descriptions. The same thing applies to ALL the Seforim of the Mekubalim that are full of these types of descriptions. This is very strange and very puzzling. In “Seder Eliyahu Rabbah”, Chapter 1, Chazal say that when Bnei Yisrael stood at Har Sinai to receive the Torah, they saw NO image that was human, no image of any creation, and no image of a Neshama that Hashem created in His world. As is written (Dvorim 4:15): “Watch yourselves very carefully, since you did not see any image.” We understand from this, that since the Neshama of a person is in essence an intangible spiritual existence, it therefore fits into the category of those words: ” you did not see any image. ” So how can you justify describing Hashem with physical descriptions?

Yehoyada: Your complaint is not on the Zohar and not on the Mekubalim, your complaint is on Toras Moshe. As is written there: “The hand of Hashem.” (Shmos 9:3), “The eyes of Hashem.” (Devorim 11:12), “The ears of Hashem.” (Bamidbar 11:1), “….and underneath His feet” (Shmos 24:10), “…written with the finger of Hashem” (Shmos 31:18). There are also a number of physical actions, such as: “I will go down and I will see.” (Bereshis 18:21), “I will now rise up, says Hashem” (Tehilim 12:6), etc. But the truth is that whether these physical descriptions are found in the Torah or in the words of Chazal, they are all meant as metaphors and tools for the imagination, and are assigned to the highest of powers that emanate from Hashem, Y”S, to enable us to understand how He controls and directs His created world. These {descriptions} are called “The Ten Sefiros”. And just because they’re given descriptions of physical limbs, does not mean, Chas Vesholom, that they physically exist, such as our limbs, that DO physically exist. There is no composition of matter in the upper worlds. As is written in Zohar, Parshas Vayakhel, Page 197A: “How could Eliyahu {Hanavi} have {physically} risen up to Heaven? The entire Heavenly world will not tolerate even a shell of a mustard seed  of  the  physical  world!” {No physical matter can exist in the non-physical realm of the spiritual world.}

As is written in [the Zohar,] Parshas Shmos, Page 19B: “Rav Abba said: “In the Possuk: “They saw the Angel of G-d standing between Heaven and Earth, and his unsheathed sword was in his hand.” (Divrei Hayamim (Chronicles) 1:21:16) The word “sword” is referring to judgement.” Was there really an unsheathed sword in the hand of the Angel? [It can’t mean that! What it really means is that] permission was given [to the Angel] to bring judgement into the world. And don’t even begin to think that there’s a similarity in form or imagery, Chas Vesholom, and that the “eye of Hashem” is like the form of the human eye, or that the “hand of Hashem” is like the form of the human hand; and just that one is spiritual and the other is physical; for the truth is that there is NO comparison between Hashem and us, neither in essence, nor in how it is constructed. As is written (Yeshaya 40:18): “Whom can you compare Hashem to, and what kind of image can you attribute to Him?” [Additional references to this concept of not comparing the spiritual to anything physical can be found in the following:] As is written in the manuscript, by the author of the Sefer Hakaneh [the Mekubal; Nechunya ben Hakaneh], and in the Sefer Sha’arei Orah [written by the Mekubal; R’ Yosef Gikatilla]; in its introduction, and the Ra”am [Reb Moshe] Ricanti; Parshas Vayechi 49:22, and in the [Sefer] Avodas Hakodesh [written by the Mekubal; Reb Meir ibn Gaboy]; Chapter 26; in the section on the purpose of the world, and in the [Sefer] Pardes; in the Gate of descriptions; Chapter 1. Look and study all those different sources. The following is a quote from the Zohar; Parshas Pekudei; Page 260B: “The hands of man, are the different places and directions.” [As it says in the Possuk:] “Your hands made me and have set me upright.” (Tehilim 119:73) These are Holy Names of Hashem. Refer there.

Rather, these [descriptions] are referring to functions. For just as mortal human beings have feet with which to walk, hands with which to take things, eyes with which to see, ears with which to hear, and the remaining limbs of the body that allow for other functions, as such; in the Higher worlds, there are the powers, known as “Sefiros”, that are compared by name as eyes, ears, hands, feet, fingers, etc., for the purpose of functions that The Infinite One uses, which are similar in functionality to the comparable functions of human limbs. And that is why the names are the same. For example; the power of The Infinite One which sees and intervenes on this world, is the concept [of the Sefirah] that is referred to as “The eye”. The concept of accepting a cry [or prayer] and ascertaining its sincerity, is referred to as “The ears [of Hashem]”. And this is the approach to use for the remaining concepts that have descriptions of bodily functions and the effects that they cause, that are found throughout the Torah and the words of Chazal. And especially in the Seforim of the Mekubalim, [it is known that] they are all metaphors that have a similar functional comparison to physical actions, and not, Chas Vesholom, that they have any materiality {composed of matter}.

The Ari, Z”LHH, writes in the beginning of the Sefer Kanfei Yonah: “In order for us to understand, we were given permission to use the limbs of our body as metaphors. As is written in Iyov; 19:26: “Through my flesh, I can perceive Hashem.” But you, wise man, [who is learning this,] in order to purify your pondering and your thoughts, and to understand that there is nothing above that has any physicality, Chas Vesholom, you should be very careful, [not to get caught up in the metaphor] etc.” Refer there. And in the Drasha [among the writings of the Ari, entitled]: “Moti velo moti” (It approaches and doesn’t come close to it.), he writes in the introduction: “You already know that we have NO way to {comprehend, nor} deal with anything that precedes the emanation of the Ten Sefiros, nor to compare it to any form, or even simply to imagine it at all, Chas Vesholom. However, to soften it to our ears, {to make it somewhat comprehensible to man} we need to speak metaphorically, but the wise man will understand, using his intellect, that there is no imagery nor form at all, Chas Vesholom, in these concepts. However, from the Ten Sefiros and below, [when discussing  the  structure  of  creation]  we  can  use metaphors and imagine [different concepts]. Refer there.

Additionally, in his explanation of [the Zohar; which is called] “Safra DeTzni’usa” (The book of modesty), he writes as follows: “Don’t be seduced by those sinners that are arrogant, that are destined for Gehenom, that say that there are visions and colors at the level of the highest and loftiest emanations of creation.” [i.e. There are those who say that it’s true that there is no physicality there, but that there ARE colors and auras that emanate from Hashem.] “Let those people be inundated by the vengeful waters, for they have dug up words that are inappropriate to use for the Master of all Masters, for there is no color nor any vision. He sees but cannot be seen. He is lofty over all that is lofty. It’s true that the source of everything is from above, and is bestowed [all the way down] to the ocean [to this world], because there [in this world], that which comes from the highest of roots, is made perceivable, as the power [or energy] that creates colors {such as} white, red, green, black, etc.” Refer there. You see how the Ari Z”LHH relentlessly opposed those who erroneously use colors, which are physical descriptions, to describe the emanations of Hashem. Take a look also at Sefer Hapardes, in “Sha’ar Gavonim” (the Gate called Colors), Chapter 1, where he goes to great lengths [to explain that the colors are metaphors, not descriptions]. You’ll see the same thing [written] in ALL of the earlier writings.

This is also how the Ra’avad [R’ Avrohom ben David] describes it in his commentary on the Sefer Yetzira, [The book of creation, attributed to Avrohom Avinu,] Page 42B: “Those specific spiritual levels, including the Ten Sefiros, {which would be more readily comprehensible if described as “a concept with ten different expressions”,} cannot be referred to as having any beginning nor end to them, because beginnings and ends only apply to something that can be quantified, and that which has no quantity, {such as a concept} cannot be referred to as having a beginning nor end. {I.e.: Those spiritual levels that are not composed of matter, including the Ten Sefiros, cannot be referred to as having any beginning nor end to them, because beginnings and ends only apply to objects that are composed of matter, and that which is not composed of matter cannot be referred to as having a beginning nor end.} And this is a very essential basic concept.” [The Ra’avad] also writes on page 47A: “Truthfully, any description of the Keser Elyon (Highest Crown), cannot have any comparison to anything that has qualities, because qualities can only be ascribed to that which is composed of matter. And even that is lacking a true description. Indeed, this is comparing spiritual concepts, and you won’t gain any spiritual levels by [trying to conceptualize] them [physically].

The conclusion that was agreed to and accepted by all of the Mekubalim, is that there is no materiality in the Sefiros, and we are obligated to stay away from describing them in any way that would suggest that they have mortal limitations, just as we are obligated to stay away from describing the essence of the Infinite One, Y”S. Study what is written in the Pardes, Gate 22, Chapter 1. You should know, that this is the reason that the earlier generations refrained from imparting knowledge of the hidden secrets, unless the student had mastered the entire Mishnah and Talmud, because in those days the concept of didactic reasoning (intricate intellectual discussion) had not yet become common, so how could he possibly have comprehended the insights of this wisdom? As the Ramak [R’ Moshe Cordevero] writes, in the Sefer Ohr Nerav (Sweet Light), Part 1, Chapter 6B: “There are groups of people that are erring. There are some of the people in our generation that have no introduction, and have not even BEGUN to accumulate neither Chumash, nor Mishnah, nor Talmud, yet they delve into this wisdom [of Kabbalah], and there’s no doubt that they’re making a complete mistake, for several reasons. The first reason is that they never saw didactic reasoning being used, and therefore never benefited from the results that such an experience would have granted them. They ended up distorting that which is appropriate and straight, and they only understood the metaphor of this wisdom, and they got [dangerously] close to making the mistake of describing physical qualities to these lofty concepts. This happened to them because they were insufficiently prepared, and they continued learning while taking everything at face value and assuming that these things were not meant as metaphors. They never went into the depth of the thoughts. This led many people that had inquired about these studies {of Kabbalah}, who might have otherwise been worthy, to distance themselves from these studies and reject this entire field of thought. They rejected all those who followed these pursuits, and they therefore said that this wisdom doesn’t need all of these intricate discussions and questions. So they themselves closed the gates of real understanding and ended up walking in darkness.”

 So, why are you trying to oppose the Mekubalim that use material descriptions and physical functions when referring to Hashem, when they themselves explained that these are ALL metaphors and tools  of  imagination, to enable us  to  understand  and  master  the concepts of this great wisdom?

Copyright © 2015 Shaul Taub

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