Shomer Emunim #36-37

14 Apr

Shomer Emunim #36-37  


She’altiel: I am surprised at you my brother Yehoyada, that you’re so critical of the beliefs of the Talmudic scholars of our generation, and that you don’t have the same attitude towards the philosophers that have proliferated amongst our people. On the contrary, I would think that you would do just the opposite like the Gaon Rabbeinu Hai, Z”L, did when he profusely ridiculed those that studied philosophy. You can find his quotes in the Sefer “Ein Yisroel” on Mesechta Chagiga, in the section that discusses the four great sages that entered the garden of Kabbalah. This is what he says: “It is well known that since our beginnings as a people, it is not our way to fabricate and to make interpretations without attributing the source that it comes from, like those others [the philosophers] do.” What Rabbeinu Hai Gaon meant by this, was that those who translate and interpret Psukim from the Torah and quotes from Chazal with a philosophical approach, fabricate interpretations regarding Torah that are not true, and that no-one ever intended for those interpretations to be translated in such a way.

Rabbeinu Hai Gaon also said: “It is well known that the following is something that has been accepted by all the Rishonim, and none of them ever disputed it. They said that Hashem makes miracles and awesome events through the means of Tzadikim just like He did through the hands of the Nevi’im, and He lets the Tzadikim see awesome visions just like He showed to the Nevi’im…. When R’ Shmuel Gaon became famous, along with others like him that read many Greek books, they disputed all the stories of miracles that happened to Tzadikim…. Any person that gets involved in this type of philosophical pursuit will end up removing the fear of heaven from himself, and will become lost with those ideas because he’ll end up removing from himself all Torah values. This distortion happens to people who become confused with their theories, and they end up so confused that they no longer care about abandoning the involvement of Davening and other Mitzvos. If those who are preoccupied with those ideas and the paths of the philosophers will tell you that they have a clear path, and that through it you will come to know the creator, don’t listen to them and don’t even desire to follow them. The truth is that they will be dishonest with you. You will find neither the fear of sin nor zealousness, nor humility, nor purity, nor holiness. Only those that are involved in Mishna and Gemara {will find those things}.” This was the quote from Rabbeinu Hai Gaon, Z”L. The Rashba, in his Responsa #414, also profusely ridiculed those that studied philosophy. As did the Rosh, in his Responsa #55, and the Rivash, in #45.

The great prince, scholar and physician R’ Yehudah Ibn Alfachar wrote to the Radak (published in the “letters of the Rambam” in Warsaw 5638 (1878 CE) Page 18) in this fashion: “Tell me please Kimchi [Radak = R’ Dovid Kimchi] who’s name means growth, [At that time, the Radak was criticized for his interpretation of Tanach, and was thought to have been tainted by philosophy.] since when have the Psukim of the Torah been given to be explained using Greek philosophy, whose path distorts interpretations? Since when do we give preference to Aram (Greeks) over Efrayim? Haven’t we gone up and escaped the chariots of Egypt? [Historical note: Egypt was then one of the centers for Greek philosophy. Egypt thereby saved Greek philosophy. If not for Arabic philosophers, Greek philosophy would have been lost.] This is improper, for Torah comes from Tzion and the word of Hashem from Yerushalayim.” [Rather than coming from Egyptian or Greek philosophers.] Some of the Achronim [later generations] also forbade learning philosophy, and rejected it with both hands.

[So She’altiel’s criticism is “Why are you criticizing those who learn Gemara, Mishnayos and Agadata and take them literally, while you’re being so lenient with the philosophers!? It should be just the opposite. You should be MUCH more critical of the philosophers. Look at all of the other criticisms that come from the philosophers. Why are you justifying their interpretation of G-dliness, instead of rejecting what they have to say. Instead of criticizing US you should be criticizing THEM!”

Yehoyada: I never said that the path of the philosophers is the correct path, Chas Veshalom. On the contrary, I already hinted to you before, in paragraph 13, how great their distortion is, with their rejection of the words of Chazal. However, the truth is that there are some truths in philosophy, which are consistent with what we have accepted from our teachings of the Mekubalim. Such as what is written in the Sefer Hapliya, [early Kabbalah Sefer, probably attributed to the Tanna; R’ Nechunia Ben Hakaneh] Page 19b. This is what he says: “There are three things that you have to be very careful about. Multiplicity in Hashem, distance from Hashem and physical attributes.” He also wrote there: “The Infinite has no boundaries. And since there are no boundaries, there’s nothing outside of Him and there is no change that can take place. And since there is no change, there is no limit. And since there is no limit, there is no way to ponder Him. And since there is no way to ponder Him, there is no way to describe a beginning. And since there is no beginning, there is no end. That is Hashem, Y.S..” He also wrote there: “Hashem’s infiniteness is complete without missing anything.” Study there. These various principals [as quoted in the Sefer Hapliya] are brought down and discussed in the writings of the Mekubalim in great length. And with all this, the philosophers DID come to an agreement with regards to G-dliness, and they proved with very clear irrefutable proofs that one must stay away from any material descriptions of Hashem, multiplicity, actions or reactions, or changeability. It also appears that even they agree and believe in the concept of a simple Oneness. So, on that particular point, I have no complaints about their approach, whereas I did have a complaint on the Talmudic scholars of our generation that still attribute to Hashem many changes and physical functions. That’s why it says in the Zohar, Parshas Pekudei, Page 237a, on the Possuk referring to a Parah Adumah that cannot have any blemish (Bamidbar 19:2): “This is referring to the kingdom of the Greeks, which have come close to our approaches of Emunah.” The Rav, R’ Moshe Rikanti, Z”L, explains on Parshas Chukas, that these are the philosophers that preceded Aristotle, for some of their teachings are similar to the teachings of Chazal.

But the truth is that among the writings of the philosophers are many false understandings and heretical statements. And because of that, Chazal forbade to read them. And in the Zohar, Parshas Mishpatim, Page 124a, they wrote: “R’ Chiya said on the Possuk: “You shall not refer to other Gods” (Shmos 23:13), This is referring to a person that involves himself in other writings that are not part of the approach of Torah. It should not be heard coming from your lips, and it’s forbidden even to mention them to learn from them any form of reasoning. Definitely not to use them to describe the Torah.” Actually, you can’t fault the philosophers for having this corrupt thinking because they are a people that never received the Torah nor Prophecy. As the Rashba writes in Volume 1, #9: “The problem is that some of our own people are to blame for trying to reconcile the words of the Torah and the Nevi’im with the theories of the philosophers. Because of that, they contradicted and uprooted a number of essential beliefs and many aspects of Torah that were explained by Chazal that we received from the Nevi’im, because philosophy contradicts and rejects them, such as the idea of sorcery, or the existence of Shedim, and the idea of amulets, and the phenomena of using Holy names to cause certain affects, and especially with regards to Hashem’s Hashgacha (intervention), and the idea of the existence of the Nefesh and its punishments. The philosophers wrote things that one is not even allowed to listen to. Unfortunately, due to our many sins and this plague that has spread itself among some of our own people, our own population of true believers has decreased. Additionally, the true Mekubalim among them maintained a code of silence in order to conceal their true identities. They should have come out to undo the lies, and silence those who told them.”

As the Great Rabbi, the Ramban, Z”L, wrote in Parshas Achrei-Mos, (Vayikra 16:8): “I don’t have an explanation as to why we didn’t silence the scientists that followed Greek thinking that reject anything that they cannot feel. They and their wicked students corrupted their own thinking. Anything that they could not grasp and didn’t make sense to them, they couldn’t accept as true.” Superbly written.

The truth is that those Jews astound me. Who gave them permission to reinterpret the Torah using philosophical premises and thoughts, which contradict the explanations of Chazal. How could they overlook what our Chachamim have told us (Avos Chapter 3, Mishna 11): “Whosoever brazenly reinterprets Torah inconsistent with Halacha, even if he knows Torah well and does good deeds, will not merit any portion of the world to come.” Take a look and see what’s written in the Zohar, Parshas Yisro, Page 87a: “Reb Yitzchok began his speech with: “Don’t let your mouth sin against your body.” (Koheles 5:5). How careful people must be when quoting the Torah. How careful they must be to avoid making mistakes, and not to bring out from Torah that which they do not know and did not receive from their teachers. Because any person that quotes from the Torah incorrectly or says something that he did not receive from his teachers, about that person is written: “Do not make for yourself any idol or image.” (Shmos 20:4). [Regarding that way of learning Torah is what this Possuk meant.] Hakadosh-Baruh-Hu has prepared the punishment for this person in the world to come, at the time when the Neshama wants to elevate itself to its designated place. The Neshama will be expelled and disconnected from that bond of eternal life that is guaranteed to all other Neshamos, etc. [Continuing the quote, reinterpreting the Possuk;] “Do not make for yourself another Torah that you do not know and that your Rebbi did not teach you.””

It also says there on page 86b: “As it says: “This is the Torah that Moshe gave over to us.” (Devorim 4:44). So the Zohar says: “That which Moshe said, we have permission to repeat. That which Moshe did not say, we do not have permission to say.” Look how much our Chachamim warned us to be careful not to be seduced after the yearnings of our own heart. Not to conjecture words from our own thoughts, to use them to explain the Torah, and especially if those explanations contradict the cornerstones and beliefs that we received from Chazal.

The end result is, that even though in the writings of the philosophers, there are a few good thoughts to describe the belief in the simple Oneness of Hashem, and to dispel any materiality, physicality, complexity, action or reaction, or changes in Hashem; never-the-less, for us who have accepted Torah this is not adequate, because to master the Torah and Mitzvos we need to understand the underlying premise of existence and the chain of cause and effect and the interim process which are the Sefiros that come from the infinite Oneness of Hashem, Y.S.. Most of the benefit from the things that we do to serve Hashem is dependant upon the knowledge of how these existences came into being, and the structure of the connection and the Oneness that comes through the actions of Mitzvos and the learning of Torah. No one can serve Hashem completely until he comes to a true knowledge of this Wisdom. And through this Wisdom one will grasp and understand the secret of Hashem’s ways, the various levels of Malachim and Neshamos, a true comprehension of reincarnation, the existence of Shedim and the various different Klipos (obstacles), a true comprehension of the concepts of Gan Eden and Gehenom, and other various details that never reached the scholars of the nations of the world.

For us, the chosen people, who have accepted upon ourselves Hashem’s G-dliness and His Torah at Har Sinai, and have accepted upon ourselves the responsibility to delve into it and live by it day and night, for {we know that} everything is all-inclusive and alluded to in the Torah. For us, the chain of Kabbalah has descended from our forefathers and our teachers, from the lofty righteous, generation after generation, to those select few firm believers that are closest to Hashem.

Also, by having this knowledge of Kabbalah, one can completely fulfill the Mitzvah of loving Hashem and being in awe of Hashem. The simpletons who do not understand the great loftiness of Hashem’s G-dliness, and that He is elevated above all other existences, they can only attain fear of punishment, which is a very lowly form of motivation. However, those who seek the Wisdom of Truth, can fulfill the depth of a Mitzvah, which includes the awesomeness of Hashem’s greatness. When a person contemplates the greatness of Hashem and His loftiness, he comes to great awe and fear of not being able to truly approach, or that he will never be allowed into the palace of the King, to become among those that serve Him and can perceive His countenance. Therefore, a person would be very careful not to allow any blemish or any dishonesty lest he be rejected from the palace of the King. He will continuously add greater Holiness and purity upon himself, and adorn himself with appropriate and desirable actions before Hashem, and will continuously be introspective of all his paths to make them consistent with that of Hashem, the Holy King. As is written: “You shall walk in His ways.” (Shmos 28:9). Also, through the knowledge of Kabbalah, it will intensify a person’s ability to fulfill the Mitzvah of loving Hashem, so that he will come to love Him with an intense love, until his own soul will be bonded with a continuous love of Hashem, and will never separate from it even for a moment. As it says: “Hashem is always before me.” (Tehilim 16:8). Also, one who serves Hashem, following the path of Kabbalah, will ascend many more virtuous levels, than one who serves Hashem out of simple dedication. As would be understood by anyone that comprehends the depth of this knowledge.

Copyright © 2015 Shaul Taub

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