Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Kabbala & Prof Scholem: Ask no questions

For those who want to understand the important differences between an academic study of Kabbalah and the real thing - there is an interesting article by Boaz Huss Ask No Questions Gershom Scholem & the Study of Contemporary_Jewish_Mysticism. 

Scholem insisted on approaching kabbala as an "it" - something to be examined from outside and something which lacked vitality. He had no interest in contemporary kabbalists and having failed to have any  mystical experiences [Idel - New Perspectives in Kabbala ] insisted on dealing with kabbala as something entombed in the letters of musty old texts rather than  a living entity touching the souls of profound and complex men. I bring this up because it is obvious that many who have been commenting on these issues - come from his perspective. A related attitude was expressed by Shaul Leiberman who said
"In an introduction to a lecture Scholem delivered at the seminary, Lieberman said that several years earlier, some students asked to have a course here in which they could study kabbalistic texts. He had told them that it was not possible, but if they wished they could have a course on the history of kabbalah. For at a university, Lieberman said, "it is forbidden to have a course in nonsense. But the history of nonsense, that is scholarship." wikipedia
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By way of introduction, let me recount something that happened to a young acquaintance of mine in 1924. The fellow came to Jerusalem,unpretentiously bearing his training in philology and modern history,and sought to get in touch with a circle of latter-day kabbalists who had preserved, for over 200 years, the traditional mystical teachings of the Jews of eastern lands. Eventually, he met a kabbalist who told him:“I am prepared to teach you Kabbalah, but on one condition that I’m not sure you’ll be able to fulfill.” Some of my readers may not guess that condition: “Ask no questions.”1 
 Gershom Scholem used this mythical tale to open his lecture“Kabbalah and Myth” at the Eranos Conference in Ascona, Switzerland,in 1949—the first time he lectured at that conference. In a 1974 interview with Muki Zur, Scholem disclosed that he himself was the young man in the story, a fact that had no doubt been clear to his audience at Eranos. He went on to tell of his reaction to the condition imposed by R. Gershon Vilner, the aged Ashkenazi kabbalist from the “Bet-El”yeshiva, a reaction that was likewise unsurprising: “I told him I wanted to consider it. And then I told him I couldn’t do it.”2
Paradoxically enough, by his negative response Scholem effectively accepted the condition proposed by the kabbalist, for he chose not to ask questions about—and not to study—Kabbalah as a living, contemporary phenomenon.3
In his partial autobiography From Berlin to Jerusalem , Scholem mentions several more encounters with kabbalists and mystics, but he presents these meetings anecdotally, never raising the possibility that these mystics might be the subjects of study or research. 4

Indeed, Scholem’s meeting with contemporary kabbalists left no impression whatsoever on his vast corpus of scholarly work. He labored to examine the most out-of-the-way kabbalistic manuscripts he could find, but he devoted not a single study to the Bet-El kabbalists or any other kabbalistic stream of his own time. The kabbalistic yeshivas that functioned in Jerusalem during Scholem’s time (“Bet-El,” “Rehovot ha-Nahar,” and“Sha‘ar ha-Shamayim”) and prominent kabbalists, most of them likewise in Jerusalem during Scholem’s period, such as R. Saul ha-Kohen Dwlck, R. Judah Petaiah, R. Solomon Eliashov, and R. Judah Ashlag, go nearly unmentioned in Scholem’s studies. That is the case as well with respect to the few mystics of his generation for whom Scholem expressed esteem—Rabbi Kook, R. Menahem Mendel Schneerson,and R. Ahrele Roth.

29 comments:

  1. If I wanted to know about historical aspects of kabbalah, or anything else for that matter, I would have more trust in the opinion of someone who is not emotionally wrapped up in it.

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    1. Scholem is an outright apikorus gamur. No one in the frum world takes him seriously. Few even know his name or who or what he was.

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  2. This story is interesting , and has always fascinated me. Why would a major Mekubal offer to initiate or teach someone totally secular?

    I heard once from someoen in Chabad that before Scholem came on the scene, nobody in the academic world took Kabbalah seriously. He had some profound effect on the field, and although it is not quite the orthodox view, he opened the discussion to the general public - something that even groups like Habad or Kook had not succeeded in up to that stage.

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    1. Kabbalists (and Jews in general) never sought to publicize aspects of Kabbala. Indeed the idea always was to NOT publicize it.

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  3. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 16, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    "Kabbala & Prof Scholem: Ask no questions...I bring this up because it is obvious that many who have been commenting on these issues - come from his perspective."

    RaP: Actually the "ask no questions" approach is not as "way out" as it seems. It's the same approach that poster Ben Waxman reported when he just stated: "years ago, an acquaintance wrote to rav shach tz"l, asking him why they don't learn the kuzari in ponovich. the rav's answer: they didn't learn in in the european ponovich. ze hu." -- Bottom line, "freg nisht" i.e. "ask no questions, it is what it is! Often it's a "kashya af a maisa" to try twurn around an approach that is facing in a direction we may not like or that does not suit the interloper.

    "Eddie said...I heard once from someoen in Chabad that before Scholem came on the scene, nobody in the academic world took Kabbalah seriously. He had some profound effect on the field, and although it is not quite the orthodox view, he opened the discussion to the general public - something that even groups like Habad or Kook had not succeeded in up to that stage."

    RaP: Another important "bridge" transitional personality in this regard was the Jewish philosopher Professor Martin Buber (from Wikipedia:)...Buber (1878-1965) was an Austrian-born Jewish philosopher best known for his philosophy of dialogue, a form of existentialism centered on the distinction between the I–Thou relationship and the I–It relationship. Born in Vienna, Buber came from a family of observant Jews, but broke with Jewish custom to pursue secular studies in philosophy. In 1902, he became the editor of the weekly Die Welt, the central organ of the Zionist movement, although he later withdrew from organizational work in Zionism. In 1923, Buber wrote his famous essay on existence, Ich und Du (later translated into English as I and Thou), and in 1925, he began translating the Hebrew Bible into the German language...In 1930, Buber became an honorary professor at the University of Frankfurt am Main, but resigned in protest from his professorship immediately after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. He then founded the Central Office for Jewish Adult Education, which became an increasingly important body as the German government forbade Jews to attend public education. In 1938, Buber left Germany and settled in Jerusalem, Mandate Palestine (later Israel), receiving a professorship at Hebrew University and lecturing in anthropology and introductory sociology.

    Buber was a direct descendent of the prominent 16th century rabbi, Meir Katzenellenbogen, known as the Maharam of Padua...

    Buber was born in Vienna to an Orthodox Jewish family. "Because his parents divorced when he was three years old, he was educated and raised by his grandfather in Lvov where he learned Talmud, literature and the ways of Chassidism whose Rabbis and leaders he became exposed to." His grandfather, Solomon Buber was a renowned scholar of Midrash and Rabbinic Literature. At home Buber spoke Yiddish and German.
    In 1892 Buber returned to his father's house in Lemberg, today's Lviv, Ukraine."

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  4. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 16, 2013 at 3:03 PM

    Re: Martin Buber:

    "(From Wikipedia): Despite Buber's connection to the House of David as a descendant of Meir Katzenellenbogen, illustrated in The Unbroken Chain, a personal religious crisis led him to break with Jewish religious customs: he started reading Immanuel Kant, Søren Kierkegaard, and Friedrich Nietzsche. The latter two, in particular, inspired him to pursue studies in philosophy. In 1896, Buber went to study in Vienna (philosophy, art history, German studies, philology)...Buber's evocative, sometimes poetic, writing style marked the major themes in his work: the retelling of Hasidic tales, Biblical commentary, and metaphysical dialogue. A cultural Zionist, Buber was active in the Jewish and educational communities of Germany and Israel. He was also a staunch supporter of a binational solution in Palestine, and after the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel, of a regional federation of Israel and Arab states. His influence extends across the humanities, particularly in the fields of social psychology, social philosophy, and religious existentialism..."

    RaP: At one time, in the early years of the Baal Teshuva Movement in the 1950s, 1960s and into the 1970s, Martin Buber was the gateway to "rational organized mystical Chasidic thinking" he had no peers and those were the days before ArtScroll (started in 1976 on a whim) and no widespread translation and teaching of Tanya by Chabad since their emissaries were just branching out, so that for a long time there was no other way for secular people interested in Chasidism and mysticism from accessing that world excepting through Buber. Once the Charedi world got going with their publications they defenestrated the Buber school of thought with one easy phrase, they simply declared that what Buber taught was "bubba meises" ("old wives tales") that in the Yiddish equated the name "Buber" with "Bobba" or "Bubba" that means a grandmother who tells and makes up tall tales that cannot be believed, without getting into specifics of which details taught by Buber were actually false or not. No matter, yet another wall was thrown up by Charedi thought-control spin-meisters and it worked, while many potentially interested people could have been positively influenced in the long run. Even in psychology what Buber teaches is regarded as important, as derived from Judaism and Chasidism! That was then, this is now!

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  5. A very interesting post.. While I find Scholem interesting because of his scholarship and sources he was unquestionably a Kofer B'Ikkur so that is where my interest in him ends.

    I think your comment on "ask no questions" sums up the entire issue.

    If I had a question on Torah SheBiksav or Torah SheBaal Peh that I just could not answer... my approach? Ask no questions.

    I don;t understand how Parah Adumah works, I don't understand how Tumah and TaHarah work (other than what the Torah tells me)... ASK NO QUESTIONS. Naaseh VNishmah!

    The difference between me and you is that you want to give the very same status to Kabblah. That I don't accept. Why? Because it was met with considerable opposition from the time that it first came onto the scene and though most of that opposition has gone away, it was never universally accepted and does not have the basic requirements of the Mesorah as we have for Torah Shebisav and Baal Peh.

    So while I do understand why you take the approach "ask no questions" (though I think it is wrong as I stated) perhaps you understand why the others and I do not.

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    1. You totally misunderstood my post. I did not say one shouldn't ask questions. It is obvious that Scholem was not told that he could never ask questions - because even in the world of kabbala questions are encouraged.

      In fact when I first met Rabbi Friefeld I told him I had a lot of questions. His response was - that it was good to have questions and that the big people ask questions. However he said, "but you have to be patient with getting answers"
      That was a very true and honest approach. There were many things that I had to learn first before the answers made sense.

      I even have a chapter in my book Daas Torah of sources regarding the importance of asking questions.

      The Maharal goes so far as to say that a person who doesn't have questions is basically an apikorus because he doesn't care to understand the truth.
      Maharal (Divrei Nagidim): The person who doesn’t know how to ask a question is not far from being a wicked person. Even though he has not reached the level of causing others to sin by ridiculing their religion. By the fact that he doesn’t have questions at all concerning the commandments, it appears that he has no relationship at all with them. Therefore, it is quite appropriate to answer him by saying that for the sake of these mitzvos G d did miracles for me in my redemption from Egypt. This is to arouse his desire to take part in these mitzvos and to understand that they have such great power that they brought about the redemption… If he listens then it is well. If he doesn’t then you, speak to him exactly as you speak to the wicked person. “For me and not for you. If you had been in Egypt you would not have been redeemed.”

      To put it another way, Spinoza asked what an answer is? His response was an answer is what takes away the urge to ask another question.

      So I have no problem with people asking quetions - I ask questions all the time. The issues is what do you do when you don't get an answer that you are happy with?

      Rav Chaim Voloshner (Ruach Chaim 1:4): … It is prohibited for a student to accept the words of his teacher if he has questions about them. Furthermore sometimes the truth is with the student and not the teacher.” Avos (1:4) says, One should sit in the dust at the feet of one’s teachers and drink with unquenchable thirst what they say. “The word for sitting - avek - can also mean struggle or warfare. That is because this is an obligatory struggle. The holy rabbis who have composed the books we study have in fact given us permission to struggle and to fight over their words and to answer the difficulties they raise. Therefore, we have the right to question what they say and not to blindly accept their words - but one must love the truth…. Since ascertaining the truth is the prime concern - we must be very careful not to be conceited and egotistical in the discussions and to imagine that we are as great as the teacher or author with whom we are disagreeing. We should be aware in our hearts that we might simply be misunderstanding their words. Therefore we must always be very humble. We must have the attitude, ‘I am not worthy to argue but this is Torah and I must know the correct answer’. Furthermore, the Mishna states that the struggle is conditional on being ‘in the dust at their feet’ which means we must be humble and submissive and figuratively sit on the ground before them in these discussions.

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    2. With all due respect, I think you misunderstood my response. You say in your reply here...

      "Therefore we must always be very humble. We must have the attitude, ‘I am not worthy to argue but this is Torah and I must know the correct answer’".

      This is of course all true when dealing with something that is accepted "Torah".. This status of "unquestionable Torah" was never given to Kabbalah otherwise Reshonim would have been unable to argue on it.

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    3. You are not paying attention to Rav Chaim Volozhner's words. Rav Chaim Voloshner is simply saying that one should definitely ask questions but that the questions should always be asked in a respectful way. That applies to Torah being from Sinai or a psak in the Mishna Berura or the meaning of a strange medrash - it applies to everything. He nowhere makes the distinction that you have nor have I have heard of such a distinction - between "unquestionable Torah" and "questionable Torah."

      The only distinction I have heard is found in the dispute between the Rambam and Ravad whether you can ask an open ended question - which apparently doesn't have an answer that makes sense to the human intellect - such as the question of reconcile G-d's knowledge and man's freewill.

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    4. I have no issue with asking respectful questions... again, the issue is that you start from a premise that Kabbalah is a legitimate part of Torah HaKidosha, hence you feel that Rav Chaim Voloshner's statement applies to Kabbalah/Zohar etc. too. I don;t start from that premise therefore I don't feel compelled that I must be Mivatel my Daas to accept what my Daas tells me to reject.

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    5. I was told before going to a particular Yeshiva (OS) that they welcome questions, any question can be asked. the only restrictions are sex and drugs on campus.
      However, in practice, this is just a disingenuous trap. You can ask any question, but you have to accept the answer that the Rav gives you, however contrived and nonsensical it may be. I am not accusing R Chaim Volozhiner of such antics, but in both Haredi and Modern yeshivas I had the same problem.
      Very often an answer is given that is actually an answer to another question altogether.

      BTW, the Mormon religion is also based on a book that had no previous existence on record. The Mormon's are essentially Christians who found their own mystical book in America, and claim it to be par of the original canon.

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    6. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 17, 2013 at 10:58 AM

      "Eddie said...I was told before going to a particular Yeshiva (OS) that they welcome questions, any question can be asked. the only restrictions are sex and drugs on campus.
      However, in practice, this is just a disingenuous trap. You can ask any question, but you have to accept the answer that the Rav gives you, however contrived and nonsensical it may be. I am not accusing R Chaim Volozhiner of such antics, but in both Haredi and Modern yeshivas I had the same problem. Very often an answer is given that is actually an answer to another question altogether."

      Agreed 100% !!!

      The problem is that yeshivas do not deal with "intellectual honesty" but rather their stock in trade is training talmidim to the highest degree of becoming "lomdim" -- in practice however almost all talmidiim do not have a proper rebbe muvhak or even a regular rebbe to learn any wisdom from from from the time they are trained to do a "lehning" on the Gemora as they graduate from mesivta-high school. From that point on they are the "big men on the range" and your average "maggid shiur" today is just an overgrown albeit married with kids "bochur" who has learned the same way for twenty years, and he lacks any training in anything outside of a blatt Gemorah, the Rishonim and the related Acharonim. Period and full stop. To expect such people to answer deep existential, philosophical, historical, psychological questions, let alone solve dilemmas in these areas, is totally laughable, but too many naive students are led to believe that because they are in yeshiva learning Torah that ergo the teachers are "fonts of wisdom" who know everything, when the teachers are just FUNCTIONALLY ILLITERATE about anything outside of Talmud and they are just suffering from "the know it all syndrome" when it comes to any other subject, in a form of "Talmudic egomania" and plain ga'ava! No one would imagine that such maggidei shiur could solve their own simple plumbing or health or financial questions, so how could they solve anyone else's deeper existential questions?

      There are no who what how why when asked in yeshivas, it is all about memorizing the kashyas and terutzim of the Gemoras, picking up that style, becoming a boki and masmid maybe an oker horim now again and then just becoming part of that methodology for life. It does not qualify anyone for anything and it shouldn't because it is Torah Lishma and it should not come as a surprise.

      Torah knowledge and study methodology is not like secular study and its methodology, they are two different disciplines and worlds apart! It is truly sad when Torah scholars try to fake it as if they be like secular scholars when they are just clueless and it's too bad when secular scholars try to interfere with Torah learning and act like know how to be counter or refute genuine Talmidei Chachomim.

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  6. I think Scholem's approach to Kabbalah echoes the Wissenschaft des Judentums approach to Jewish religion in general.

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  7. As concerns...ask no questions...perhaps the mekubalim were hinting at the nature of true kabbalah as opposed to, for example, halachah, Torah peshuta, etc...it is not an intellectual probing, but an 'intuitive' probing...
    This is what one practitioner of the prophetic kabbalah has spoken in the name of his teacher.

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  8. Torah Truth,
    You state that Cabala "was met with considerable opposition from the time that it first came onto the scene and though most of that opposition has gone away, it was never universally accepted and does not have the basic requirements of the Mesorah as we have for Torah Shebisav and Baal Peh." I beg to differ with you. There is a book called the Babylonian Talmud in the trachtate Chagiga that clearly talks about Cabala in Perek Ain Dorshin. The Talmud has stories of people who lectured on the mystic and angels came to listen. Some lectured and died on the spot because they were not worthy or whatever. At any rate, the Talmud has PRDS that the Torah is divided into four parts, Peshat, simple meaning, Remez, hints, Derosho, and Sode, secrets of the Torah. There was an obligation always to learn SODE or secrets that we call Cabala after one mastered the revealed law. But in earlier generations there were no openly available books, but rather if there were books they were hidden. Even in latter generations, the Siddur of the Rashash, said to be a gilgul of the Ari z"l, was not only not open to the public, but also was passed around to gedolim who read it, one at a time. Also, my rebbe the Gaon of Cabalists in Jerusalem, whose haskomo from Reb Yitschok Kaduri said that he wrote Cabala works with Ruach HaKodesh, told me that he burned the books of Scholem. The story that Scholem said that a major Cabalist would teach him if he did not ask questions sounds wrong for two reasons. Who ever heard of a great Cabalist accepting a stranger who is an apikures for a student, and if he did, how can you teach if the student cannot ask questions?

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    1. Reb Dovid... Here we go again :-) this is the same old argument and you do this time and time again... you have a particular view and that is what you read into the Gemara and into the Ramban and then you say... see the Gemara and Ramban say it. It is circular reasoning... This is NOT how Rambam understood Pardas.. it is not how Meiri understood Pardes (who says the entire episode was a dream), and it not how Meili or Rivash or Rav Saadia Gaon understood Pardes... I understand it is how Mekubalim and you understand it..

      The fact that there are Agadita that sound "mystical" doesn't make it so. The Talmud never mentions "mystics" as you say. So you can call PRDS Kabbalah all you want but it doesn't make it so no matter how many times you repeat it.

      You refer to the Rashash but he was also a Mikubal so again no proof. In fact Rav Saadiya Gaon says in Emunos VeDeos that it is Kfira to believe in Gilgul.

      While I don't know who your Rebbe was, I would agree with him to burn Scholem's books... not because I don't find it useful, I do and I think his conclusions are correct... but because he was a Kofer Bikkur as such even his Sefer Torah should be burned.

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    2. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 17, 2013 at 10:32 AM

      "Torah Truth @ January 17, 2013 at 1:35 AM"

      Yasher Koach to you on amazing reply! I am impressed with your words and agree with you 100% on this subject and the way you approach and explain it! Again, I thank you very much!

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    3. Torah Truth,
      See Marsho in Perek Ain Surahi in Chagiga 13b that the Kabala we learn today is higher than those secrets quoted in the gemora such as maaseh merkovo and therefore it is never mentioned in chazal as it must be hidden. Yes, the Ari z"l revealed this, and the greatest of the great learned it such as Ramchal and the Gro, but it is so high that it is not mentioned in Torah Shebial Peh. Heaven waited until the final generations of the world to reveal it.
      Meiri there says that Maaseh Merkovo is the knowledge of the supernatural dimensions of angels and HaShem. Now, that sounds mystical to me. Isn't this the Meiri you quoted who said that Pardas was just a dream? What Meiri meant was that the four who entered Pardas did not go with their bodies, but in the capacity of a dream. Tosfose there says the same thing. They entered Pardas by uttering holy Names but did not go in their bodies there. But if it was not a real thing but a simple dream, why did Chazal discuss it, and why did this one die and this one go crazy? So it did happen but the physical bodies did not go there. Rashi in Chagiga tells us that maaseh merkovo dealt with the divine revelation to finite people where they saw HaShem in a way they could understand. And yet Marsho says that Cabala of the Ari z"l is higher and more hidden than that. And the gemora in Chagiga 14b says that the rabbis learned maasseh merkovo and the angels came to listen and engulfed the trees with fire, did that really happen or was it a dream? The Rishonim thus accept the story in gemora Chagiga 14b that four great rabbis entered Pardas or a heavenly dimension. But they refuse to accept that their bodies went there. So Tosfose said they uttered the Name and it appeared to them that they were there. Within that dream, their free will expressed itself and this one died and this one went crazy from the infinite sights they saw and only Rabbi Akiva succeeded properly there. Any dealing with the infinite world and the heavens is "mystical" and is not part of the regular Torah that is not mystical. The "mystical" deals with things really outside of human finite abilities, and somehow there is learning done through the great holiness and efforts of the learner.

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    4. David:

      Please provide the quote from the Mharsha, I looked in his Perush on Chagiga 13b and see no such thing, granted it may have missed it.

      You say:

      "Meiri there says that Maaseh Merkovo is the knowledge of the supernatural dimensions of angels and HaShem. Now, that sounds mystical to me."

      Well of course what else do you think Maaseh Merkava is? Do you think Rambam didn't believe in angles? Just look in Yad HaChazaka... again you have the same problem, you define anything that has to do with the supernatural and HaKadosh Baruch Hu and all of His heavenly creations as Kabbalah, I don't and nor did all the Geonim and Reshinom and Acharonim that I have quoted... we view them as what they are... Supernatural and HaKadosh Baruch Hu and all of His heavenly creations ... of which we have little to no understanding of.

      You ask "why did Chazal discuss it"? Good question... I have no idea, I can venture a guess but I have no idea. My guess would be to teach us that these things are way beyond our ability to understand and as such we should STAY AWAY FROM THEM... Ein Le Aisek B'nistoros. Why? Because at best we will be confused and at worst (which I believe has already happened R"L to many) we will develop a twisted and incorrect understanding of the Borai Olam and that is much worse, V'HaShem Yirachem.

      You ask: "And the gemora in Chagiga 14b says that the rabbis learned maasseh merkovo and the angels came to listen and engulfed the trees with fire, did that really happen or was it a dream?"

      I have no idea if this happened or not... I have no problem if it did or if it didn't. It is quite possible that it did... so what? What does this prove? That our Amoraim were so great that the presence of angles would exist for them?

      It should also be pointed out that this entire episode is a source of much debate among the Geonim and Reshonim as to what did or did not happen... in fact Ein Yaakov on this issue related to the trees burning says they did not burn up but were just slightly singed. Rav Hai Gaon as well as Rambam and Meiri say this was a dream state and did not happen at all. So you see that this Agada is the subject of much debate, but one thing we do know is that it most likely did not happen EXACTLY as stated on this Gemara for whatever reasons Chazal in their great wisdom decided to relate it as such.

      I would also point out that Rambam in Hilchos Yesodai HaTorah and in the Moreh says that one may only present Roshai Perakim and only to a perspective Chacham and not even that to a lesser person.

      So we are back to semantics... you wish to call everything that we can't/don't understand as Kabbalah and then you say.. "you see, it says it in the Gemorah!"... well if that is your definition... sign me up as a Mekubal...

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  9. from Critic:

    Torah Truth,

    Can you give me an email address to touch base for the original Me'ili that you had posted on Mesorah?

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  10. Book burning is a dangerous thing. And it has no end, once it is started. we know this from the case of Rambam, whose books were infamously burned in France - by Haredi extremists. It is generally accepted that the Talmud burning by Christian extremists was a sort of punishment for this act.
    Then there are things that other rishonim may have written that might sound like "kefirah" according to some dogma. Can an Ibn Ezra be burned as well , if he makes some comments on the authorship of the Torah?

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    1. @Critic... I would direct your to the Mesora website and see if you can find the posting from several years back. The Me'ili I have is in manuscript form and there is no easy way to psot it... I will however look into scanning it and putting online... but no promises..

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  11. From Critic:

    Torah Truth

    I have read the Tohar. I wanted to see the original.

    I agree with your take on things. I have always found that on one side of the debate, there are the kabbalists who believe that their way is 100% correct and is mamash misinai and on the other hand there are many who disprove zohar but they always seem to be on the fringe for one reason or the other (except for shadal who to me seems to be a 100% honest person without major issue like a Leon Modena or even a R Yihye Kappach).You seem like one of the few who is anti-zohar, but but not in love with the academic world as being much more enlightened and better than the Rabbis. This is encouraging. However, I dont get your stance on burning Sholem's books. A sefer torah, yes...because it makes the whole sefer torah pasul and is a halacha, but a historical/perhaps theological analysis of kabbala!!! Why burn it? Would you burn a book by Scholem on science? Or even if he wrote a pirush on chumash which is 100% kosher, the fact that he is a kofer b'ikkur does not necessarily mean we burn his books

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    1. Point taken... was not really recommending a book burning party, was simple explaining that I am no fan of Scholem and consider him a Kofer who has no Chelek in Olam HaBaah.

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    2. There is another issue regarding calling Scholem a kofer. He was not raised religious, but reform/secular, in germany. Thus even according to say, Chazon Ish, he is tinok she nishba - not accountable for his own upbringing. It is not for us to judge someone else's olam haba.
      If you read his study of Shabbetai Zvi, for example, he does not attack the Torah, rather he attacks Zvi and his followers for violating Torah, and orthodox halacha. This is a very important point - since it is quite common to brush off people as "apikorsim", however that accolade is reserved for only a special few.
      Scholem was not frum, but he was not a reform rabbi, and he also did not buy into the falsehood of the "Bible critics" - he pointed out that their claims are not so provable.
      I believe he was an honest scholar, who could easily have assimilated into Germany, but chose to be Jewish, an chose to move to Eretz Yisrael, and devote hi life to Torah studies, even if it was done from an academic approach - it may give him zchut that we are not able to see.

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  12. Torah Truth,
    The Marsho that says that our Cabala is higher than maaseh merkovo is where I said it was, Chagiga perek ain dorshin 13a. If I have to debate somebody who has no time to look up something when I give him the exact page, I give up.

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    1. Sheker Ain Lecha Raglayim...

      See below where I cut and pasted from your post ...

      "See Marsho in Perek Ain Surahi in Chagiga 13b"...

      Notice you have the wrong daf... so now you are saying it is 13a not 13b... when I have a chance I will look there too...

      Forthcoming apology accepted.

      Delete
  13. Torah Truth,
    You say "it is not how Meiri understood Pardes (who says the entire episode was a dream), and it not how Meili or Rivash or Rav Saadia Gaon understood Pardes... I understand it is how Mekubalim and you understand it."
    You seem to understand the Pardes as a simple dream which is fake and never happened. So why did this one become crazy and that one died and this one became wicked? And why was Rabbi Akiva praised for surviving a simple dream? If you would bring the exact place and text for your sources it would be helpful.
    However, in Aruch Even he quotes Rav Hai Gaon that they were not sleeping and dreaming but awake and dreaming in a state of Ruach Hakodesh and the Aruch goes at great length quoting Talmudic sources that they did Cabalistic things and were able to see into the very high heavens, so they really saw things and their reactions to these sights were real because they were not asleep but actually saw what it says in the gemora, even though their bodies were still in this world. The Aruch in Erech Pardes says that Pardes is a heavenly place like Gan Eden where the souls of the righteous are stored. It is a real place and the four rabbis did see it clearly and their reactions marked them for better or worse. Tosfose Chagiga 14b adds that it appeared to them that they were physically in heaven not in this world, even though they were still on earth. But their souls did see the heavens and perhaps their souls were there, and the bodies were still here. In this state people are rewarded and punished for their reactions, even if they never did something physical. The soul reacts doing something in the dream and the soul is then judged. So this one reacted and became crazy and this one became wicked, etc.

    I am struggling with another teaching about dreams see Ramban Yayaro in the beginning of the parsho, that Rambam in Morech Nefuchim considers the entire story of the three men coming to Avrohoms house to be a dream. So Ramban asks, if Avrohom and Soroh never really did what it says in the Torah they did, but it was just a dream, what merit did Sarah have from all of this to have a child?
    So I am struggling with this idea of Rav Hai Gaon and the Aruch that people can do Cabalistic things, pray, says a holy Name, and actually see into high heavens even though their bodies are on earth, similar to Ruach HaKodesh. Furthermore, we said that in Pardes people were judged for what they saw and how they reacted. So we see that while the person sees heaven and is in this world, he can be judged and punished for his reactions, because for the purposes of punishment and reward, he is just like every living person responsible for his actions.
    Now, back to Rambam and the "dream" of Avrohom. If it was a dream asks Ramban why did Avrohom and Sarah get reward for their reactions? But a level of Ruach HaKodesh descended upon them that enabled them to be in a dream state and be judged for their reactions to the dream. When they saw this they did that, etc. and the system works to reward or punish the person as if he was awake. Because if a dream enables the soul to be somewhere else, and the person can be judged for his reactions there, why could we not say this is what Rambam meant, that the entire episode happened only in the dimension of dreams, but with heavenly guidance and their souls were judged for how they reacted.
    I would appreciate a compliment for this. I didn't say I deserve it, but I just said I would appreciate it. And if you don't give me one, well, as the Zohar says, let a stranger praise you not yourself, but if he doesn't praise you, so praise yourself! Now do you understand why I like to learn Cabala?
    Shalom,

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