1. Hmmm . . .
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    02 Dec '08 19:114 edits
    The following is in reply to Epiphenehas’ first post on page 4 of the “Can you describe your god objectively thread. Epi wrote (in reply to my post on page 3):

    God cannot abide the presence of sin. By that I mean, God must either remove a sinner from His presence, or redeem that sinner - there is not a third option. Fallen man is a moral situation which God will not (cannot) abide forever. Why? Because God is holy.

    That God is holy indicates that He is utterly set apart from the world and undefiled by it. So, in order for a person to live eternally in God's presence, he or she must be made holy; i.e., become separate from the world and undefiled by it, like God. This is precisely how God's holiness (kedushah) is inextricably linked to the utter inability of unrepentant sinners to abide in His presence forever (and vice versa).


    __________________________________________

    I understand your theological/soteriological argument; had you cast it in terms of tzedekah, rather than kedushah, I would have responded differently—and we know each other well enough to have a general idea how that discussion might go. But I really don’t want to argue that—I would rather introduce some basic Jewish concepts, derived from the written and oral Torahs and Jewish mystical theology, since that is where I am refocusing my attention these days. (That means that I will be using language that is not often used on here, and I will try to define terms and relationships as best I can.)

    Before I proceed, I want to issue a caveat: I am speaking out of Jewish tradition; I am not speaking out of some kind of “the” Jewish tradition. The singular doctrinal/creedal statement of Judaism is the Shema.* I am speaking out of the broad stream of Judaism that reflects in its unique way the so-called “perennial philosophy”. That means I am speaking also as my old non-dualistic self—although some of what I argue might also be argued within some understandings of dualistic-theism.


    (1) You seem to speak here as if God needs separation as a protection from “defilement”—that notion is absurd from a nondualist point-of-view, and highly problematic from a dualist one!

    (2) How can the world (ha olam: universe, time-space cosmos, etc.) be a source of defilement? The world is neither defiled, nor a source of defilement.

    —Note: In Judaism there is no notion of so-called “original sin”, as there is in Christianity. The rabbis may differ over what human act might have been the first “sin”, but there is no notion of any hereditary sinfulness. *

    Too much should not be read into verses employing hyperbolic poetic rhetoric in the scriptures.

    (3) “Defilement” in Hebrew is the toevah that you correctly analyzed in the other thread.

    (4) Every aspect of ha olam is infused with holiness, being infused with the Or Ein Sof.** The sparks of holiness are often hidden within husks k’lipot of illusion.

    “Redemption” entails releasing the “sparks” from the illusive “husks” which, being illusive, have no intrinsic reality. This is called tikkun, “repair”—or healing. Tikkun can be effected on many levels; at the basic level of human interaction, it is principally effected by acts of justice (tzedekah) and chesed (compassion, loving-kindness, grace). Ultimately, tikkun is repair of the illusion of ontological separability.

    (5) Although there are varying emphases on transcendence versus immanence, that holiness does not imply separation from the world is expressed in the following verse from Isaiah 6:3—

    Kadosh kadosh kadosh YHVH tzevaot
    melo kol ha’aretz kevodo.


    Holy holy holy YHVH “of hosts” [possible translation of tzevaot],
    the fullness (melo) of all the earth is his [palpable] presence.

    —Although kavod is sometimes translated as “glory”, it seems more often to be translated among Jewish writers as presence, and has the sense of “weightiness”, hence my adjective “palpable”; to the extent that that is what is intended by the word “glory”, I have no objection to that translation.

    _____________________________________________________________

    A bit of a quick and light-fingered “midrash” on this verse—

    Why do they say kadosh three times, when YHVH is one?

    Under the principle of poetic parallelism: once for melo, once for kol [ha’aretz], once for kavod.

    Are they then each separate?

    No. melo-kol-kavod is all contained in YHVH tzevaot: YHVH is one (echad), therefore tzevaot (the host of manifestations) are joined in the one—the way waves are inseparably joined to the ocean. And though such things seem separable from our perspective, they are not separable from the Holy One of being that is the ground of being.

    But—because, in speaking of such things, we must speak in terms of separation, such as figure and ground, illusion and reality, and the like—we use the word kadosh when speaking of that which is beyond figure/manifestation and illusion. For example, when we speak of the ground, it might seem as if we are speaking of something separate and separable from the manifestations in, from, and of that ground—but that is impossible.

    To see only the figures/forms/manifestations is illusion; to see only the ground (if that were possible!) is illusion. When we use the word kadosh in reference to YHVH, we are speaking of that which is beyond (“set aside” from) such illusory views.

    This is why Rav Kook warns that even the word “God” can become a kind of idol:

    “Every definition of God leads to heresy; definition is spiritual idolatry. Even attributing mind and will to God, even attributing divinity itself, and the name ‘God’—these, too, are definitions. Were it not for the subtle awareness that all these are just sparkling flashes of that which transcends definition—these, too, would engender heresy. ...

    The greatest impediment to the human spirit results from the fact that the conception of God is fixed in a particular form, due to childish habit and imagination. This is a spark of the defect of idolatry, of which we must always be aware. ...

    The infinite transcends every particular content of faith.”

    —Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Palestine), quoted in Daniel Matt The Essential Kabbalah.

    And:

    “The essence of divinity is found in every single thing—nothing but it exists... Do not attribute duality to God. Let God be solely God. If you suppose that Ein Sof emanates until a certain point, and that from that point on is outside it, you have dualized. Realize, rather, that Ein Sof exists in each existent. Do not say, ‘This is a stone and not God.’ Rather, all existence is God, and the stone is pervaded by divinity.”

    —Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (16th century, quoted in Daniel Matt, ibid.)

    Note: Ein Sof means “without end.” It is the totality that has no edge, because it is the totality; and the ground of being from which all being emanates, however that is so. It is the ultimate term for “God” in Jewish mystical theology.

    _________________________________________________


    * Shema Yisrael YHVH eloheinu YHVH echad. A translation that is fairly literal, and yet with some poetic effect: “Hear O Israel, ‘the one that Is’, your God, the ‘one that Is’ is One!”

    ** Nor is there anything quite like Christian doctrines of “salvation”; rabbis differ both on the meaning of olam ha ba, “the world to come”, and who, if anyone, might be somehow excluded. There is no real soteriological doctrine. Nor is there any real doctrine concerning “messiah” (and what that term means).

    *** “The Infinite Light”; Ein Sof is the rough equivalent of the Brahman in Vedanta.
  2. Standard memberKellyJay
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    02 Dec '08 19:351 edit
    Originally posted by vistesd
    The following is in reply to Epiphenehas’ first post on page 4 of the “Can you describe your god objectively thread. Epi wrote (in reply to my post on page 3):

    [b]God cannot abide the presence of sin. By that I mean, God must either remove a sinner from His presence, or redeem that sinner - there is not a third option. Fallen man is a moral situation wh
    *** “The Infinite Light”; Ein Sof is the rough equivalent of the Brahman in Vedanta.
    [/b]Was it you that described for me once a story I believe it was Plato
    gave when referring to a chair I think? If I recall it went along the lines
    of there is chair the reality, what we think of when we think about the
    chair and an artist rendition of the chair. I believe the discussion was
    about reality and our break with it in our understanding, but it was
    a long time ago. When speaking about God in this manner we are
    limited to how God has touched our lives or revealed Himself to us
    which is going to be unique with each person’s experience, if you
    go back into the Old Testament as God reveals Himself to the
    Hebrew people they add to the list of names they called Him as they
    described what He did for them from provider, banner and so on.
    Kelly
  3. Hmmm . . .
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    02 Dec '08 20:291 edit
    Originally posted by KellyJay
    Was it you that described for me once a story I believe it was Plato
    gave when referring to a chair I think? If I recall it went along the lines
    of there is chair the reality, what we think of when we think about the
    chair and an artist rendition of the chair. I believe the discussion was
    about reality and our break with it in our understanding, but ...[text shortened]... they called Him as they
    described what He did for them from provider, banner and so on.
    Kelly[/b]
    Gee, Kelly, I don’t remember—but it sounds like the kind of analogy I might draw… 🙂 Knowing me, I would probably have put a lot of emphasis on the “artist’s rendition” aspect.

    You’ve been here long enough to recall that for a couple of years at least, almost all of my posting on this forum was from the same Judaic perspective as the one above. Although it’s a quick, off-the-cuff and somewhat playful one, that is the first “midrash” that I’ve attempted in a long time. After a month or so of reflection, I am re-membering it—and am trying to knuckle down and really work at the Hebrew, so I can have some real reading-fluency without always digging into dictionaries, grammars, language commentaries, etc. We’ll see how it goes…

    I like your comment about uniqueness. There is a rabbinical saying (I forget--😳--from where) that one must bring one own torah to the [written] Torah, and out of that engagement new, real Torah emerges. The written Torah—the words and their plain meanings—are called the “garment of Torah”.

    Although Torah is sometimes translated (badly, I think) as “law”, and sometimes (especially by Jewish writers) as “teaching”, I tend to take it as a much broader term—and prefer to leave it untranslated. However, I do like the following—


    One Shabbos afternoon, Reb Reuven called me into is study. He was sitting behind his desk and motioned me to take the chair across from him. A volume of the Zohar was lying open in front of him.

    “Do you know what the Zohar is?” he asked.

    “Of course,” I said. “It is a mystical commentary on Torah written by Moshe deLeon, a thirteenth century Spanish kabbalist who....”

    “Nonsense!” he yelled at me, half rising out of his chair. “The Zohar isn’t just a commentary; it’s a Torah all by itself. It is a new Torah, a new telling of the last Torah. You do know what Torah is, don’t you?”

    Suspecting that I didn’t, and afraid to invoke his wrath a second time, I waited silently, certain that he would answer his own question. I was not disappointed.

    “Torah is story. God is story. Israel is story. You, my university-educated soon-to-be a liberal pain in the ass rabbi, are a story. We are all stories! We are all Torahs!...Listen, Rami,” Reuven said in a softer voice. “Torah starts with the word b’reisheet, ‘Once upon a time!’”

    —Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Hasidic Tales

    Which prompted our old friend and forum comrade lucifershammer to ask: “Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Or am I missing the point of this story?”

    To which, I replied:

    “If you assume that all stories are told either by God or an idiot; or that human story, myth—as opposed to history or historical revelation—must signify nothing; or that the words “once-upon-a-time” necessarily signify a following-after of foolishness; or that your own story has no more depth than a newspaper bio.....


    “.....or if you think that’s the kind of message that I’m about here, then , yes you’re missing the point. Truth and meaning can be embodied in and carried by story—and for most of the human venture have been; and for most of the human venture, story has probably been the principal vehicle, whether oral or written—and probably still is, really. Whether the truth about the gods, or the truth about human beliefs about the gods, or the truth of the human condition. Whether woven around historical facts, or recurring themes of love and struggle and conflict, or pulse-pounding tales of human adventure and achievement—and human atrocities—or the wilderness of the human psyche, or the marvels of scientific discovery. Whether about pirates or peasants. Whether about a particular person at a particular time, or about “everyman,” anywhere, anytime.


    “And if today we have lost our regard for story as something more than entertainment, and insist on nothing less (or more) than a factual report (“Just the facts, ma’am” ) or a precisely decodable divine revelation—then I suspect that it is we who are missing the point(s) of the tales left by the ancients (at least the ancient ivr’im), in an ancient language, chock-full of word-plays and puns; the drama of open-ended readings, an adventure of meanings that rely on the listener/reader to pursue them—that indeed, demand the active involvement of the listener/reader if the story is to have any meaning at all. If you can’t put yourself in the story—not as someone else but as yourself—then it’s not yours. And the rabbis would say that leaves the whole story incomplete—but that’s another story...


    “Part of the art of such tales as are found in Torah is that they do not plainly disclose themselves to you all neat and tidy, with the appropriate climax, resolution, denouement—so that once you “know” the story, you don’t have to bother with it any more. Oh, some of them undoubtedly do; some of them are probably just entertainments, like Ridley Scott’s “The Gladiator,” in days before film. Or, what? you want to read them like a recipe-book?: Now, how many hin of oil did that call for...?


    “As Rami Shapiro’s Reb Reuven put it: ‘Torah is story. God is story. Israel is story. You are a story. We are all stories. We are all Torahs.’ To know one another is to know one another’s story—not just a rap-sheet of facts; to know one another intimately is to share the ongoing living-out of our stories, to be part of the same story, for good or ill. If you are asking for more than that (is there more? ...an existential question...), then I suspect that you may not find even that much. Maybe I’m wrong. As for me: “once upon a time, I..... ”
  4. Standard memberblack beetle
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    03 Dec '08 06:34
    Originally posted by vistesd
    Gee, Kelly, I don’t remember—but it sounds like the kind of analogy I might draw… 🙂 Knowing me, I would probably have put a lot of emphasis on the “artist’s rendition” aspect.

    You’ve been here long enough to recall that for a couple of years at least, almost all of my posting on this forum was from the same Judaic perspective as the one above. ...[text shortened]... ct that you may not find even that much. Maybe I’m wrong. As for me: “once upon a time, I..... ”
    -- "Once upon a time", the rabbi told the Student, "the angels were forced to get the human shape in order to communicate with the Human;

    The scientist brings up the concept of synthesis, whilst the one who studies QBLH has to analyse abstract ideas;

    The Tree of Life -the given Design- was designed by angels;

    One has to understand clearly what is objective and what is not, and this is the way to get conclusions;

    The ideas behind these conclusions are so abstract, that you have to keep yourself on the track for a lifetime in order to have the chance to grasp them;

    So for starters don't try to elevate your Mind to the pure abstract reality through metaphysics, but create specific symbols which your eyes can see;

    Then use the symbols as a means to expand and guide your mind within the abstract reality; each symbol has specific relations with any other within the given Design, and each symbol is an oasis within an endless desert; you can travel in the desert solely if you know where exactly each oasis is located;

    At first the given Design is incomprehensible, but the more you focus the most you get;

    You need words if you have to think, and symbols if you have to sharpen your intuition. There are connections between the symbols which they remain invisible in the material world;

    Every symbol is interprated differently by every individual because every individual is a unique entity;

    Then the images of the given Design are projected in the Universal Mind like the dreams in the mind of the individual, but they are not random. And the universe is projected as a devine projection. Therefore, if the Universe is the final result of Logos, the Tree of Life is the symbol of the raw material of the Devine Mind and of the creation of the universe;

    But the design of the Tree is valid for Macrocosmos as well as for Microcosmos, and this is the reason why the prophesies are validated;

    Every symbol on the Tree represents a cosmic force or a cosmic agent, which emerges in the existence of the individual who is focused on it;

    Now the individual has Energy; and he is responsible to rule hiself as a whole, otherwise each agent within him he will rule his own gained power as a separeted entity;

    So the Tree of Life is a symbol of the Human Soul, and it is the symbol of the Universe as well", said the rabbi. "You see, once upon a time the Tree was used by the Human as a means to help him know hiself"
  5. Hmmm . . .
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    03 Dec '08 07:14
    Originally posted by black beetle
    -- "Once upon a time", the rabbi told the Student, "the angels were forced to get the human shape in order to communicate with the Human;

    The scientist brings up the concept of synthesis, whilst the one who studies QBLH has to analyse abstract ideas;

    The Tree of Life -the given Design- was designed by angels;

    One has to understand clearly what ...[text shortened]... see, once upon a time the Tree was used by the Human as a means to help him know hiself"
    Wow. Have you and I really traversed such parallel paths? But, you’re a step or two ahead. Once again, I get the feeling that you’re prodding me to take my foot off the brake and crank it all up to the next level.

    And that’s exactly what that wonderful post does: crank it up to the next level. I am copying it to a file to go over it line by line, since I have to go for tonight—but I’ll leave you with this quote:

    “To know what a word is. To know what a world is. To know the difference…”

    —black beetle
  6. Standard memberblack beetle
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    03 Dec '08 09:57
    Originally posted by vistesd
    Wow. Have you and I really traversed such parallel paths? But, you’re a step or two ahead. Once again, I get the feeling that you’re prodding me to take my foot off the brake and crank it all up to the next level.

    And that’s exactly what that wonderful post does: crank it up to the next level. I am copying it to a file to go over it line by line, sinc ...[text shortened]...

    “To know what a word is. To know what a world is. To know the difference…”

    —black beetle
    You fly low and hard;

    I bow
  7. Hmmm . . .
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    03 Dec '08 16:30
    Originally posted by black beetle
    You fly low and hard;

    I bow
    And I bow in return.

    Now, I'm suddenly having major computer problems, and I fear it's going to crash again any second. If I'm slow in getting back here, it's just because of that.
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