Shomer Emunim #32-33

14 Apr

Shomer Emunim #32-33


She’altiel: I don’t even bother trying to understand all of those details because it’s enough for me to believe that Hashem is one. As it says: “Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad” (“Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One”) (Devorim 6:4). And when I accept upon myself the yolk of the burden of heaven, I have in mind that Hashem is One in heaven, on Earth and in the four directions of the universe. [North-South-East-West] [Note: The letter “Daled” is written as side-to-side and up-down (symbolizing 4 winds)]

Yehoyada: It’s about a person like you that the Possuk (Yeshaya 29:13) refers to, when it says: “With his mouth and his lips he has honored me, yet his heart is very distant from me, and the fear that they have of me is like the Mitzvos of the people that do them out of habit.” If a person just says: “I believe that Hashem is one”, over and over again all day long, how will that help him if he doesn’t understand in his heart what that Oneness really means? Saying, “I believe” means nothing, unless it’s truly felt in the heart and envisioned in the mind. Expressing belief shows what’s in the heart, and if in your heart you believe in multiplicity, if you believe that He is like the other “ones” in the world, what will it help you to say that He is One? Therefore it is absolutely imperative for one to make the effort to understand how our Chachamim, Z”L, understood this Kabbalah. What is the real meaning of His “Oneness”? How do we describe it? As it says in the Possuk (Devorim 4:39): “You shall know today, and you shall place it upon your heart, [one must come to the realization, and recognize] that Hashem is all-powerful in the Heavens above and the Earth below, and that there is no other.”

[If we examine their explanation,] we can therefore understand how all the philosophers that dealt with the subject of G-d, attempted to delve into those concepts using their own intellect [and they almost got it right]. They finally arrived at the conclusion to actually agree with the Mekubalim on a few specific matters dealing with belief in the Oneness of Hashem, such as that He is a simple Oneness without components or many interchangeable concepts, but rather a simple Oneness in every aspect and form. So, because the philosophers reached that concept, they questioned the descriptions that our Holy Torah uses [the Eye, the Ear, the Hand, etc.] because these seemed to indicate that there are different components of Hashem. The concept of power and capability is not the concept of wisdom, and the concept of wisdom is not the concept of will, etc. [This is where they had difficulties with the terminology.] Therefore, to avoid a contradiction of this great premise that Hashem is really one simple concept, the philosophers tried to describe what Hashem is not {rather than what Hashem is}. For example, when they would describe {the terminology used by the Torah, describing} Him as all-powerful, they would {use a negative approach and} say that He has no weakness. When they would describe {the terminology used by the Torah, describing} Him as wise, they would {use a negative approach and} say that there is no foolishness. That’s the way the philosophers described all the terminologies. And the philosophers also said that it’s better to use the negative to describe Hashem, Y.S., rather than to exact a description of what He must be like. What they really wanted to say was that it’s better to say about Hashem that He is not foolish, than to say that He is wise. And the same goes for all other descriptions. Look at what great lengths they went to and how much they struggled to define descriptions of Hashem, in a way that would preserve the belief in the simple Oneness of Hashem. And there’s no question that this is the absolute truth, that He is simple in the ultimate concept of simplicity, and anyone that does not believe that, does not have a true concept of G-d.

However, the definitions that they attributed to the descriptions that are outlined in the Torah are wrong. The Torah did not mean at ALL to attribute the descriptions of Hashem in a negative way [by saying what He is not]. Additionally, no-where is it written that Chazal say that descriptions of Hashem should be defined in a negative way, and that we’re not allowed to describe Him in a positive way. Even this concept of Oneness that we are commanded in the Torah to believe in, they obviously did not understand at all, because truthfully, one really cannot understand nor grasp any of this without an understanding of how the structure of the Sefiros works. And the philosophers struggled to comprehend the descriptions because they did not possess that understanding {of how the structure of the Sefiros works}, and that’s why they defined it the way they did. We can’t really blame them for this, because without having the wisdom of Kabbalah, they couldn’t come up with a viable method to properly attribute descriptions to Hashem, Y.S.. Furthermore, they were compelled to resolve their dilemma by using the negative, rather than to contradict the concept of a simple Oneness.

However, on the other hand, the Talmudic scholars of our generation did not follow in the footsteps of the philosophers in attempting to define those descriptions, nor did they follow in the footsteps of the Mekubalim. They simply say: “I’m only Davening to the Master of all of the treasure houses” [higher chambers], and they believe that the names and descriptions are actually referring to Hashem. There’s no question that they’re far from the truth of Hashem’s simple Oneness. And the fact that they express their belief in a simple Oneness doesn’t help, because they believe that He has descriptions, and something that has descriptions is not a simple Oneness. As the Rambam wrote in the Moreh Nevuchim, Part 1, Chapter 56: “However, one that believes that He is One that has many descriptions, already stated through his words that He is one, but in his mind really believes in multiplicity. This is similar to the Christian doctrine that states that He is One but He is the trinity, and the trinity is One.” Study what is says there. And the Rambam is correct. That one term obviously contradicts the other term. [Either He is one or He has descriptions. It can’t be both.]

So why should I spend so much time discussing the opinions of the Talmudic scholars of our time that never learned about omnipotence. The Ramak (Reb Moshe Cordevero), Z”L, already argued with them about this in the Sefer Alima, section Ayin Kol (All-seeing Eye), Tamar 2, Chapter 1. He proves there that they’re making a mistake, and that they’re attributing physicality, functions, and absence to the Creator, thereby comparing Him to His creations. [Reb Yosef Irgis now goes on to expand on the comments of the Ramak arguing on the Talmudists, and how they are never the less attributing physicality or materiality to Hashem.]

Physicality: Even though they {the Talmudists} do admit that Hashem is truly far from any semblance of physicality or materiality, never the less, they don’t really understand what kind of remarks they need to stay away from, that can lead to the belief in physicality or materiality of Hashem. They’re misinterpreting a few descriptions that the Torah uses when referring to Hashem, because the Torah uses {what appears to be} physical descriptions. [That’s one mistake that they made. They also made a mistake in Hashem’s functions.]

Functions: It’s very important to stay far away from using any sort of functional actions or reactions when referring to Hashem, because all sorts of functional actions such as anger, compassion or similar concepts suggest change. [If you use those descriptions, you’re saying that Hashem changes functions.] And if so, when Bnei Yisrael made the Eigel Hazahav (the golden calf) and Hashem “expressed His anger”, and He “wanted to destroy Klal Yisrael”, and Moshe stood up to beseech through T’filah (prayers) on their behalf, and He “changed the anger to acceptance”, it appears as though Hashem reacted and allowed His Will to be changed due to Moshe’s pleas or prayers. Hashem therefore appears to change from one will to another. This is the exact opposite of the belief that Hashem is all-functioning and all-encompassing, and that Hashem’s will could never be affected by anything outside other than Himself, because there’s nothing that’s greater or superior to Him. He created everything and He is not influenced nor compelled by anything other than Himself. And according to what they’re saying; He IS affected by Prayers, by something other than Himself, and that it either made Him angry or that He was convinced to accept. [Which would suggest that Hashem has different reactions.]

Absence / Void: That there is an absence or a void in Hashem. [This is one of the other mistakes that the Talmudists made.] You need to distance yourself from saying that there is any void or absence in Hashem, for there is nothing that is missing from Hashem neither in time nor in existence. Hashem’s completeness is always in His actions, not just that He has the power or potential to make things happen. If you don’t say that, then what you’re saying is that at times Hashem is missing something, and that something happens to compel Him to go from potential to action. [To say that Hashem is not always active means that Hashem is sometimes inactive, which suggests that He is sometimes missing something, and that what goes from potential to action was due to some outside reason.] And that apparently Hashem is being affected or being compelled by something other than Himself {external forces}. Therefore, since there is nothing that can ultimately have an effect on Hashem, how can you say that Hashem became angry and that our prayers appeased Him? There is no greater suggestion of a void or absence than this because Hashem does not react from anger to appeasement due to plea-bargaining or an argument. Those are qualities that can only be attributed to created beings. One may be void of completeness, and if pleas or prayers convince him to accept, then those pleas or prayers complete the person and make him willful. Therefore he’s saying that if Hashem was missing compassion, THIS is what made Him complete, which suggests that He was missing something, and that He didn’t become complete until after the T’filah (prayer) was spoken. Study the lengthy discourse there. [This is all part of the arguments of the Ramak, who delves into this subject in great length.]

Comparison: One cannot compare Hashem to anything else that exists, to imagine what He is like. As is written, “Who can you compare Hashem to” (Yeshaya 40:18), “and who will you compare Me to that will be My equal?” (Yeshaya 40:25). If so, how can we imagine that Hashem has personality traits? Especially that Hashem has anger or appeasement in His personality. This is a very lowly description of people of an inferior quality that get angry or enraged, and can be influenced by other people, and when one of their friends come and appease them, they accept it and are satisfied. This is what it means when it says: “you can’t compare Me to anything else.” You’re comparing Him to us!? Saying that Hashem is great or that He is powerful is meaningless, while attributing or imagining Hashem with personality traits. Not only that, but anger and rage are the worst types of behavior!

So once these four prerequisite introductions are completely understood in the heart of the intelligent scholar, along with all of the consequential details that are naturally produced by these understandings, that person would never be satisfied, nor would he be at peace with himself, with a simple literal translation of the Psukim. He would never be content without deeply researching the essence of our belief, and understanding the effects that our prayers have, and how we are to serve Hashem. He would never be content until completely understanding the true meaning of the descriptions written in the Torah. What is the relationship to Him and what is the whole purpose of our serving Hashem. The first step towards understanding these concepts is only through a comprehensive study of the knowledge of the Sefiros.

Copyright © 2015 Shaul Taub

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