Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: Invitation to discuss Zohar & Kabbala

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim basically disagreed with the Kabbala/Zohar discussion that Rabbi Tzadok has posted. I invited him to write a guest post to present his views. He initially agreed to do so but I just received the following e-mail from him. It is an invitation to move the discussion to his website.
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This Blog's author was gracious enough to invite my words regarding this recent Zoharic/Kabbala debate, which cannot be decided based on a halachik mechanism of "majority rule". My thoughts grew to more than a page in length, so I have posted it here for those of you interested in reviewing my thoughts: http://www.mesora.org/ZoharsDeviation.html

I also cannot seem to subscribe here, as I see no "email" link on my Mac/Safari browser. Therefore, I am happy to continue on the Mesora website in the Discussions tab: http://www.mesora.org/Discussions  under the forum: Judaism's Fundamentals>Zohar & Kabbala: The Heresy

May we each cleave to emess, abandon falsehood when we realize it, and adhere meticulously to God's words. May we each show kavod to God's habriyos and learn in order to help others, not for self-aggrandizement, and certainly not l'kantare. may God show us all His intelligent truths.


Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim, Founder
Mesora.org / The JewishTimes
(516)569-8888 ph
rabbi@mesora.org

80 comments:

  1. Sadly he has chosen half quotes, and thus one can assume intentional distortions of the sources, as his method of argument. For instance he "quotes" the Rivash thus:
    "I have also informed you that my teacher Harav Rabbi Peretz Hakkohen never at all used to speak or think of those Sephiroth. I also heard from his mouth that Harav Rabbi Shimshon of Chinon (the author of Sefer HaKerithuth), who was greater than all others of his generation used to say: I pray with the intent of this child, i.e., in rejection of the opinion of the kabbalists, who pray sometimes to one Sefirah and sometimes to another Sefirah, according to the subject of the prayer ... And all this is a very bizarre thing in the eyes of those who are not kabbalists as they are, and they (i.e., the non-kabbalists) consider this a belief in dualism (i.e., belief in two or more deities). I once heard one of the philosophical (i.e., non-kabbalistic) persons denigrate the kabbalists by saying: "The Christians believe in trinity, (i.e., the union of three), and the kabbalists believe in the union of ten [Sephiroth]." (Rivash)

    For an honest, though still partial translation, see the one that the blog owner did over three years ago where he does not seek to distort the Rivash's words with his own interjections as though they are part of the text. He also saw fit to properly source the actual Teshuva, as 157, so that those who know Hebrew would have the ability to look it up and see it for themselves.

    I also find his ongoing instance that Kabbalists claim that the Sephirot are in some part part of G-d(l'havdil) when all of the Kabbalistic seforim make it perfectly clear that they are creations, also disturbingly dishonest.

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  2. I agree with him about what he says about not being bound to majority rule in regards to historical verification and hashgafa. However The way he quotes the Zohar with a literal translation in order to assert that there is a question on G-d's unity and the suggestion that the spherot are to be depicted as seperate entities according to kabbala, shows that he has never learned Kabbala 101.

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  3. I agree with his opinion that issues of majority rule are limited to the sphere of halacha. However his insistence of reading the Zohar with literaral interperatation to depict the sepherot as independent entities shows that he has no rudimentary knowledge of Kabbala period and is not uniquely qualified to write anything about this subject.

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    1. He is also discussing halachah. He uses the word "heresy", but he means that halachic concept of apikursus and who is an apikores. So, beyond the fact that he is showing that a concept no one actually preaches is false, he is making halachic claims about it. And there majority is very relevant.

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  4. Rav Daniel. I wrote about him asserting that the sepherot were separate entities. I meant to say separate independent entities.

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  5. According to Zohar III, llb, 70a: "He is they, and they are He."

    source

    http://www.mesora.org/ToharHayihud.pdf

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    1. Ah yes one line from a sugya in the Zohar, it is about as honest as bringing one line in a sugya from the Gemarra. Anyway let's look at what the Zohar actually says:
      ואילן אינון עשרה שמהן דקודשא בריך הוא אקרי בהו, מתקשרין דא בדא, ביחודא שלים. ואלין אינון כתרין קדישין דמלכא, דהוא אשתצודע בהו. ואינון שהיה, והוא אינון. וכד מתקשרין כלהו כחדא, על ריהא דקטרת כדין אקרי קטרת קשורא דמתקשרין כחדא. זכאה חולקיהון דצדיאייא, דיגעין אורחין דאורייתא, וידעין לאשתמודעא ביקרא דמאריהון עלייהו כתיב ובאו וראו את כבודי

      Now with translation(and commmentary from the Ramak)
      And these are the ten names that the Holy One Blessed be He is called byfor we have no knowledge of Him except by means of his works which are done by means of the sephirot which His names may He be blessed, and even though they are many names, despite this they are united one with anotherfor all of the sephirot they are a single unitywith a complete unityfor all of the ten sephirot make a single partzufand these are the holy crowns of the king, who is known by themthese are the ten names, they are the ten holy sephirot of the king which is the Ein Sof, who is known by them and called by themand these are his names, and he is themfor He has no name except that he dresses within the sephirot and is called by the name of that Sephira.
      Parashat Vayikra 11b.

      Once again we see that the Sephirot are not HaKadosh Barukh Hu(l'havdil). Rather they are a separate creation, in this case specifically in the most supernal state, they are names. As names are by nature defining(and thus limiting and confining things) once you call G-d by a name, you are no longer dealing with G-d in His ultimate Essence, but rather with the limited aspect of G-d that your mind is capable of grasping.
      Further we will also see, if we are honest, that the Rambam and Rashi and other meforshim on the Torah, point out that at times these very names are ascribed to various angels. Meaning that the Sephirot, and even the very names that we call G-d, are entirely separate from him, and He is only them in so much as he is called by them, for the purpose of our grasping intellect.

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    2. Now for the second reference in the Zohar:
      תא חזי, קדשא בריך הוא, אפיק אשר כתרין, עתרין קדשין לעילא, דאתעתר בהו, ומתלבש בהו, והוא אינון ואינון הוא כשלהובא דאחידא בגומאר, ולית תמן פרודא, לקביל דנא, אית עשר בתרין דלא קדישין לתתא, ואינון אחידן בזוהמא דטופרא דחד עטרא קדישא, דאקרי חכמה ועל דא אקרון חכמות.
      Once again translation with commentary of the Ramak
      Come and see, the Holy One Blessed is Hewhich means the Ein Sofbrought forthand emanated above in the world of atzilutten crownswhich are the ten sephirot of the innermost light andholy crownswhich are the surrounding lightsand he is crowned in themin the surrounding lightsand is dressed in themin the inner lightand he is them and they are hewhich is to say that the Ein Sof and the Sephirot are one thing in the sense of a soul that is dressed in a bodylike a flame clinging to an emberthat is to say that the light of the sephirot clings to its source in the Ein Sofand there is no divisionbetween the Ein Sof and the Sephirot that clothe it
      Once again when left within the sugya, we see that the Sephirot are only a creation, and even then only clothe the Ein Sof, which as we have said before, is itself not G-d. Even then the unity of the Ein Sof with the Sephirot is only that of a soul to a body, meaning that the soul can exist without the body, but the body cannot exist without the soul. The Ein Sof(which still is not G-d) can exist apart from the Sephirot, but not the other way around.

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  6. I am certainly no expert on kabbalah. However, it seems that the issue of whether the Sefirot are part of God or are creations is a machlokes among mekubalim. See here and here. An excerpt:

    And behold, they argue on on the other in the fundamental upon which everything depends. Is it not the matter of the Sefirot. For some of them say that they are the Identity of the Creator. And some of them say that are only created vessels.

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    1. In all due respect Josh, as someone who has been studying Kabbalah for the last 10yrs, I have not yet found(and truly doubt exists) any Kabbalistic text, that when truly and accurately delved, will say anything other than that the Sephirot are creations, and are not the Essence of God. Certainly post Arizal you will not, and I would see even before, you would not.

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    2. Rabbi Michael Tzadok - The Ramchal explicitly states that the sefirot are not creations. That doesn't mean that they are G-d, but he quite clearly rejects what you say is universally accepted.

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    3. Actually no he doesn't. He specifcally states that they are creations, see Klach Pitchei Hokhma Patach 5 and 6. Aside from his Patach 1, in which he states that the Ein Sof is a creation.

      There is also what to argue, according to the Leshem, that the the Ramchal really means that all of this, Ein Sof, sefirot, olamot, are all mashalim, and none of it really exists. The Leshem discusses the Ramchal's views in this direction in his introduction to Anaf 2 in Sefer HaBiurim.

      Anyway since you seem to have missed the quote I brought from the Patach 1 of the Klach, I will bring it here again, the Ramchal makes it very clear that the sefirot are separate entities, and thus creation(parts of the created order that is built upon the foundation of Hakadosh Barukh Hu's unity):
      The oneness of the Ein Sof: You already know that we are not talking about G-d Himself, meaning about the essential nature of the owner of this Will. Everything that we discuss relates only to His Will, which is all-powerful and unlimited. Of this we are permitted to speak, yet even here there is a limit to how far our minds can reach, as will be discussed below. Nevertheless, since we are not dealign with His Essence but with His Will, it is more permissible to seek understanding...
      Thus only His Will, the Will of the Emanator, namely the unified Ein Sof exists, because only G-d exists of necessity. In other words, just as we must beliee in the oneness of God's existance, that G-d alone exists of necessity, so we must believe in the oneness of His power and will. Just as His existance is necessary, and it cannot be otherwise, and he alone is the necessary cause, while everything else derives from Him, so too, His will and power are necessary, and it cannot be otherwise. His power alone holds sway, and all toehr wills exist only in accordance with this Will. Thus no other willl exists except through Him...

      The entire structure is built on this foundation, namely on the oneness and unity that we have explained. The entire structure refers to all that was brought into existence by God, including both the lights, the Sephirot, and the separate realms and beings(the worlds and creatures that are derived from and governed by the Sephirot). This entire structure is founded on unity, in the sense that is a single, complete unity that manifests the truth of this oneness and unity in the parts of the structure itself. The sephirot that may be seen in it, the bodies(the ctreated realms and beings) that exist in it, how they are governed and all that happens to them, all ere made as parts of a single order which points to and actively reveals the underlying oneness.

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    4. See Kelalim Rishonim, ot alef - in Rav Chaim Friedlander's edition, on page 247; see Rav Friedlander's note at the bottom of the page.
      I didn't say that the Ramchal says that the sefirot are G-d; but 'creation' is a concept which was itself brought into existence, and the Ramchal (at least here) does not use it with regard to the "shining out" of the sefirot. (The fact that he seems to say otherwise in other places is irrelevant; you stated that no one says this at all.)

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    5. I just checked Petachim 1, 5, and 6, and I don't see what you say that the Ramchal says. It seems to me that you are using Greenbaum's translation. I suggest comparing his translation with the original. There, the words "Both the lights, the Sephirot, and the separate realms..." is actually just, "whether the lights, whether the separate existences". Sefirot is mentioned by Greenbaum as an interpretation of "lights", not as a translation.

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    6. For this yes I did use the Greenbaum translation, however it agrees with how the Leshem understands the Ramchal, so I see no reason to doubt it.

      Greenbaum uses Sephirot as the intent of lights because that is what they are called in Patach 5 and 6.

      The fact that he seems to say otherwise in other places is irrelevant; you stated that no one says this at all.
      Well you have to interpret the Ramchal by the Ramchal at least, which is doing the proper Amkut in his writings. Since he does say that the Sephirot are simply creations, just because he does not fully expound that every time that he talks about the sephirot, does not suddenly mean he is saying that they are not.

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    7. This Ramchal is somewhat problematic.

      R Luzzatto claims that G-d's Essence and His will are 2 separate entities.

      Do they pray to the ein Sof or to the Essence?

      Chabad actually saw this logical error in Nefesh haHaim, where R ' Chaim claims that the Essence is unknowable, and our prayers should be to another entity, which is perhaps the Torah or his Will...

      This was criticized as being Dualism, by Chabad of all people!

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    8. Do they pray to the ein Sof or to the Essence?

      The very essence of G-d, nothing else is G-d, and it is forbidden to pray to anything else. Even when we say the various holy names found in the siddur, recognizing that any name is not G-d at his essence, our intention is supposed to be to the essence that is clothed within that name(Kise Eliyahu Shaar 1, sorry don't remember the page).

      Chabad actually saw this logical error in Nefesh haHaim, where R ' Chaim claims that the Essence is unknowable, and our prayers should be to another entity, which is perhaps the Torah or his Will...
      Can you bring actual sources for this claimed view?

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  7. A few years ago I had this debate with some leading rabbis of the time, and I had seen in the Tanya the claim that Sefirot are G-d forbid, the same as the One God.

    One of the rabbis I consulted was Norman Lamm, who incidentally wrote his Doctorate on the teachings of R Hayyim Volozhiner. Lamm knows Volozhin/ Chabad/ Kook/ Rambam all very well.
    He claimed that all Rabbis considered this unity of the Sefirot to be same as the ein Sof. and I got quite angry and just said this is a base 10 version of the Trinity.

    There were some problems in R' Lamm's claims -

    In Nefesh HaChaim, R ' Haim says that we should never ever pray to any of the sefirot - this would be "kotzetz b'netiot". So if we cannot pray to them, they cannot be the same as G-d.

    Next, Ramchal, was a strict monotheist, and as far as I know he opposed any kind of pan-en-theism, or sefirotcism. (This may sound like a pun, but there is a vile eroticism in the pantheistic concept of the Adam Hakadmon, where this demigod made of sefirot has one which is his phallus - i think the Yesod.


    Scholem wrote a book on this, called the On Mystical shape of the Godhead. There are many citations there of the overall pantheistic view of the sefirot.


    I agree with Josh above, that there is machlokes amongst mekubalim on the subject. I am not privy to the real beleifs of kabbalsits, and whether they live quasi -Sababtean lives where they privately accept pantheism, then issue denials to quieten the rationalist rabbis form attacking them.

    The anonymous Tohar HaYihud, which is on R Nen Chaim's mesora website, cites all the classical rabbis ho opposed kabbala, including Meili. Whether one agrees with them or not, one cannot call such Gaonim apikorsim, for denying the Zohar.
    And, in the orthodox world, it is very difficult to call Gedolim who accept Zohar the same. Ultimately the 2 views are opposed, whether a majority accepts one position or not.



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  8. From Critic:

    Josh,

    I posted a whole bunch of stuff from Shadal last night and Rav Tzadok ignores it. You/Shadal are clearly right. there is no way around it. In fact, Shadal uses this point not to show that their beliefs are minus but more importantly to show that there is no real mesora on kaballa. He states that there can not be a mesora on this kabbal that supposedly is straight from Sinai and Rashbi when the leading mekuballim - some of them right after the Zohar was discovered - can not even agree on the most basic and central idea of the whole system.


    R Tzadok also likes to say that after the Arizal it all changed and that the arizal did not believe in the divinity of the sefiros, though I doubt that the Ari treated is as a similar creation to the angels of the Rambam as R Tzadok claims - Ari and others treat it as emanations of some sort that are G-dly but not quite G-D but definitely not the angels of the Rambam (which would present no problem at all)...so rav tzadok believes that after the zohar, for a few hundred years most of the mekubalim did not get it right and believed in A"Z until the Ari who heard it straight from Eliyahu Hanavi and corrected the false beliefs.

    It is interesting because in effect R Tzadok is admitting that for a long period of time many if not most mekuballim got it wrong. I guess Hashem allowed that but R Tzadok can not imagine that Hashem would allow us to get it wrong on the authenticity of the Zohar itself. Interesting.

    Is it possible that Rav Tzadok is right? Perhaps but certainly impossible to prove and in no way should such a sevara make it incumbent on all of klal yisroel to believe in anything the Zohar says no matter which gedolim have believed in it.

    As to Rabbi Ben-Chaim, I agree that he looks at things very superficially and avoids any in depth discussion. Taking it off this site was a cop out. In addition, he has not been honest on certain issues. Take R Yakov Emden. He clearly had issues with various parts of the zohar and I believe had his harshest words for the Raya Mehemna and with some other parts which he said were writen after the geonim, but he also does believe that a good part of it was early and was written perhaps 3 hundred years after RASHBI. Yet, within the main corpus of the zohar, he finds 300 critical points which he rails against. However he clearly did not say that Zohar was a forgery. He was a great mekubal and he includes the Lshaim Yichud in his siddur with a pirush.Personally, I have always felt that R Yakov Emden was such a big mekubal that he never contemplated that perhaps the entire zohar was not authentic and instead focused on finding the parts that were impure because he had an open mind, but that is just my opinion. SO R Ben Chaim is totally wrong. However I should add, so are the apologists who claim that R Emden did not mean anything he wrote and only wrote it because of shabtai tzvi.

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    1. so rav tzadok believes that after the zohar, for a few hundred years most of the mekubalim did not get it right and believed in A"Z until the Ari who heard it straight from Eliyahu Hanavi and corrected the false beliefs.

      It is interesting because in effect R Tzadok is admitting that for a long period of time many if not most mekuballim got it wrong. I guess Hashem allowed that but R Tzadok can not imagine that Hashem would allow us to get it wrong on the authenticity of the Zohar itself. Interesting.


      I am doing no such thing. I am saying that you and the Shadal, and anyone else who thinks that the Sephirot are anything ohter than creations are most horribly misunderstanding the texts and have not properly learned Kabbalah.

      The Rivash makes it clear in his Teshuva that the Mekubalim did not believe such foolishness, and he would have been in a position to know.

      Yes I ignore the Shadal, first because I have never read it entirely, and second because as you present it, it is simply a polemic against Kabbalah, which chooses piecemeal it's quotes.

      I reiterate once again, that there is no Kabbalistic sefer, that if taken in it's entirety, says that the Sephirot are anything other than a creation, and in fact angels. I can demonstrate that from the Zohar, which you so horribly try to malign(in fact Rav Eliyahu Mani already did), and I can demonstrate it from any other Kabbalistic Text that you would care to mention.

      So please to do presume to say what I believe, about the matter, because quite obviously you have yet been able to wrap your head around it. Namely that all of your polemic is simply smoke, mirrors and deception.

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  9. "when truly and accurately delved"
    one would possibly argue that this then opens the way to creative reinterpretation. something Shadal argues that kabbalists did all the time with the words of Chazal.

    but regardless, you wrote above:
    when all of the Kabbalistic seforim make it perfectly clear that they are creations, also disturbingly dishonest
    from your perspective, can you now attribute this to a disagreement or misinterpretation, following the lead of Shadal (and Shadal's rebbe) rather than disturbing dishonesty?

    By the way, in a post regarding Shomer Emunim you write:
    There is not a single question that can be raised against Kabbalah which has not been answered by Rav Irgas in this wonderful sefer.

    Perhaps you should take some time to read through Shadal's Vikuach in full. He believes that the questions raised in that 'wonderful sefer' were not forceful enough, and writes:
    And the man laughed and said: Forfend for us to waste our time reading that disputation, for the love of the author for the wisdom of kabbalah brings him to pervert the line, and to hide under his tongue bundles and bundles of claims that one can claim against the kabbalists, as well as answers that exist upon their dreams and their words.

    And you should know that in truth I read and learned in it, but many times I needed to raise my voice as I read in it, to say: How great a pauper was this Shealtiel, and how many answers he could have answered and did not answer!


    kol tuv,
    josh

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    1. from your perspective, can you now attribute this to a disagreement or misinterpretation, following the lead of Shadal (and Shadal's rebbe) rather than disturbing dishonesty?

      In the Rivash it seems apparent that such a misunderstanding was indeed unintentional. Citing the Shadal's bio from the Jewish encyclopedia:
      At the age of thirteen Luzzatto was withdrawn from school, attending only the lectures in Talmud of Abraham Eliezer ha-Levi. While he was reading the "'Ein Ya'aqob" by Jacob ibn Habib, he came to the conclusion that the vowels and accents did not exist in the time of the Talmudists, and that the Zohar, speaking as it does of vowels and accents, must necessarily be of later composition. He propounded this theory in a pamphlet which was the origin of his later work "Wikkuaḥ 'al ha-Ḳabbalah."
      So as seems apparent left to his own devices, lacking a proper Rav and studying Kabbalah before the appropriate age, it seems perfectly reasonable that he would have honestly come to many errant conclusions.
      However when we are talking of the Tohar HaYichud, which quotes selectively from sources(as I demonstrated above from the Rivash), and ignores entirely the statements of works such as Kise Eliyahu and Shomer Emunim, while pulling other bits from them. That seems to me to be distubingly dishonest.

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  10. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 24, 2013 at 10:50 AM

    What R Michael Tzadok misses big time, is that it is far better NOT to open the Pandora's box of trying to foist his own personal "love affair" with Kabbalistic stuff on everyone else because the world at large has no appetite and no real interest of all the Kabbalah claptrap and mumbo-jumbo.

    Most Orthodox and Charedi Jews will find more than enough to learn and enjoy and even some exposure to some occasional esoteric embellishments via Midrashim or Divrei Agada, but it is quite another matter to start a virtual jihad to toot about the Zohar and then launch into details of Kabbalah that then results in arguments, misunderstandings and the kind of situations we are now seeing develop on this blog with basically most people getting disgusted with the delving into esoteric teachings and others making vaguer comments that no one can even fathom what they mean.

    That is why it's best to stay away from subject and leave it to private discussions and individuals who may want to learn more about it, but to make this into some sort of grand public debate, with R Michale Tzadok making matters worse every time he comes with yet more elaborate details to defend his personal hobby.

    Hey Michael, if you want to learn Kabbalh then that's your private business, it's a free world after all, but why are you persisting in making this a public crusade on this blog. Quit whilst you are ahead and leave everyone alone and do not try to teach kabbalah openly to the public because as I have said many times, the RAMBAM says you mustn't do what you are doing or it will have bad consequences for you like the four who entered PRDS...one went crazy, one became a heretic, one died, and even the one who came out died a bad martyr's death on the torture rack in the end.

    So Michael do yourself and everyone else a favor, CUT IT OUT ALREADY and maybe it's time for you to learn the oldest lesson of all when it comes to real Kabbalah, that "those who know don't talk, and those who talk, don't know" and right now you are doing an awful lot of talking about the Kabbalah that you should NOT be doing buddy!

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    1. And so we come to the inevitable ad hominem, a logical fallacy and last desperate resort of a person who's arguments have all failed.

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    2. @RaP - "That is why it's best to stay away from subject":

      The subject of Yichud HaShem addresses the most crucial and fundamental issues of Torah monotheism. The Zohar is one "Kabbalistic" source that discusses that subject, but even if one is not a kabbalist, a Jew must understand and accept the correct principles of Torah monotheism, and reject the incorrect principles.

      "I found the complete acknowledgement of God's unity to be the root and foundation (of our religion)...its the central truth of our religion, whoever deviates from it will be unable to practice (Judaism) and will not be able to maintain his belief."
      Chovos HaLevavos, Shaar HaYichud.

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    3. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 24, 2013 at 8:34 PM

      "Rabbi Michael Tzadok said...And so we come to the inevitable ad hominem, a logical fallacy and last desperate resort of a person who's arguments have all failed."

      Your so-called "success" in promoting the public teaching of Kabbalah topics is a failure because you have obviously made up your mind and you are determined to preach your new gospel of Kabbalah for all when that is not what is happening in the world around you, especially not in the Litvish yeshiva world. You make it seem that I have no clue, and that only "you" know what is going and what is best for the mainstream Litvish yeshiva world. I cannot stop your addiction nor can I stop these kind of topics being posted or on any other kind of blog or public forum. But I have made the required legitimate protests and macha'os. Feel free to go on your merry way, you obviously think that you are smarter and better-informed and have better insight than everybody else.

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    4. Your so-called "success" in promoting the public teaching of Kabbalah topics is a failure because you have obviously made up your mind and you are determined to preach your new gospel of Kabbalah for all when that is not what is happening in the world around you, especially not in the Litvish yeshiva world. You make it seem that I have no clue, and that only "you" know what is going and what is best for the mainstream Litvish yeshiva world. I cannot stop your addiction nor can I stop these kind of topics being posted or on any other kind of blog or public forum. But I have made the required legitimate protests and macha'os. Feel free to go on your merry way, you obviously think that you are smarter and better-informed and have better insight than everybody else.

      First I am not promoting teaching Kabbalah in public. Nothing that I have written here would by any means amount to teaching Kabbalah.

      Kabbalah is throughout the Litvish world. It has been taught in the Mir Yeshivah in Brooklyn since 1970(at least that's the first students from there that I know learned Kabbalah in it's halls). It is taught in Chevrot in BMG, Ponevyzh, the Mir Yerushalayim, Hevron ect. It is just that you are clueless to what has been going on. The GR"A said plainly that if one did not know and understand Kabbalah one could not understand Pshat(halakha) so every Gadol and Posek needs to know Kabbalah. Rav Moshe Feinstein said that we resort to the Zohar to settle halakhic disputes, thus posking would need to be Baki in the Zohar.

      As far as being better informed... as far as what is going on Kabbalitically, I am obviously better informed than you. As far as everybody else, you are assuming, once again in error, that I am not running these answers before Rabbanim, so as to be sure that I am not putting anything forbidden in the public sphere.

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  11. There is another failure int he logic of the "revelation" of the Zohar.

    Why, was it unknown to much greater rabbis such as Saadia, Rambam, but revealed to later generations?

    There is some Chabad missionary in Israel called Ginsburg, who lectures and writes about kabbalah. He once mocked the Rambam and pointed out that he lived in the "dark ages", i.e. prior to the light of the Zohar being revealed.

    If the Zoha was not known to previous generations, then there is no mesorah for it. you cannot invent a mesorah.

    R' Margulies z'tl recognises this problem, that is why he attempts to show the Rambam knew about it!


    I previously mentioned the book of mormon, which was "found" in N. America, and claimed to be a lost "sefer" of the Xtian New testament. Now of course, I disagree with all of that NT stuff, but the analogy is clear.

    And furthermore, what is to stop us finding an unheard of book today?


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    1. Why, was it unknown to much greater rabbis such as Saadia, Rambam, but revealed to later generations?

      How do you know that it was unknown to them? Absence of public discussion of a thing, does not of necessity mean that it does not exist. It just means that they have not discussed it publicly.

      Likewise we can ask where is the mention of the Mishnah or Gemarra in the generations predating their composition. The Karaites make this point quite forcefully for the entire Torah Sh'Baal Peh.

      In the end your arguments only work if we apply a standard to them that is not applied to any other Torah literature. If even only a single daf was written by the Rashbi himself, and the rest was from later generations until the date of the Geonim, which is how even the Zohar's most vociferous early opponent, Rav Elijah Delmedigo viewed it.

      Delete
    2. Some works were known to Geonim and early Rishonim, eg Sefer Yetzirah, the Hekhalot works. Shiur Komah etc. Saadia knew of reincarnation concepts and condemned it. Actually, I recall Scholem pointing out that some of Saadia's rationalism was a response to Karaite polemics on some of the absurdities in mystic practice. Rambam knew of Shiur Komah, but wasn't keeping it secret. As a young man he accepted it, but then wrote it should be expunged!

      This whole argument of "How do you know that it was unknown to them" is really a fallacious argument. As I have said there are 2 ways of responding to a dilemma, and you take one horn, whilst Ginsburg and his ilk take another.

      The argument is technically the same as that which the Karaites make. That doesn't mean it wrong. Karaites work on a pshat system of learning TeNaKh only. BTW, Haredim use the same argument when they oppose innovations in Halacha, and I like to refer to Hatam Sofer as a latter day Sadducee. He was a "sadducee" or "Karaite" of the Orthodox canon of his time, hence "Hadash assur min haTorah". This is technically the same argument that the Sadducee made 2000 years earlier.

      "In the end your arguments only work if we apply a standard to them that is not applied to any other Torah literature."

      No, because the opponents of the Zohar stated explicitly they never heard of this book. Meili wrote his letter with approval of R Meshullam. What you are claiming is that the Gedolim all knew Zohar secretly,but just didnt publicise it. But quite a few publicly attacked it, so this proves your argument to be incorrect.

      Now, I will concede that the Zohar is a brilliant piece of work, and has captured the hearts of many people. That in itself is not prof of its authenticity.

      Delete

    3. What you are claiming is that the Gedolim all knew Zohar secretly,but just didnt publicise it. But quite a few publicly attacked it, so this proves your argument to be incorrect.

      Now, I will concede that the Zohar is a brilliant piece of work, and has captured the hearts of many people. That in itself is not prof of its authenticity.

      First I am not claiming that all of the Rishonim knew of it. However, it seems likely that it was known to some.

      Second, authenticity(i.e. was it written by the Rashbi or at the end of Geonic era) doesn't bother me one wit. I have no concern for authenticity, only for authority.

      Very few mekubalim today claim that the Rashbi himself authored anything but a few pages of the Zohar, and that the rest grew out of that system as it was handed down generation to generation until it met it's final composition was around 960-1100 as Rav Elijah Delmedigo claimed. Honestly I wouldn't care one whit of Moshe DeLeon authored it all entirely himself based on his own understanding of texts that preceded it(it seems quite unlikely as many of his own views contradicted what was found in the Zohar, but it is a possibility).
      Again that would make it no different than any other Rabbinic work that preceded it. It's authority would still be the same.
      As far as authenticity(meaning whether it was actually authored by the Rashbi) frankly I don't care.

      Delete
    4. "Again that would make it no different than any other Rabbinic work that preceded it. It's authority would still be the same."

      Well it would make a difference. Consider the Sefer Kuzari - based on some earlier works, but also haLevi' insights. It is a classic work, but it doesn't have any authority. Also , nobody is called an apikorus if they reject this book, or say its ideas are wrong.
      Not so the Zohar.

      Was the Talmud really finally redacted in 96o-1100? I thought around 500 years earlier.

      Delete
    5. Rabbi Triebitz did a series of shiurim on the history and development of the Talmud. It really is quite interesting and he makes the point very clearly that it was not Rava and Ravina that wrote the Talmud, but that it was finished around 960, at the end of the Geonic era.

      Sefer HaKuzari is quite different. Namely you don't have a claim that it came down from a school of Tannaim. Secondly you don't have a Rishon(Yithak D'MinAcco in this case) who is known to have investigated it, and settled, at least in his own mind it legitimacy.

      Delete
    6. it is near impossible to track replies earlier in the thread. even though blogger allows this "feature", it is better to reply in a new comment on the bottom.

      surely you mean rav ashi, not rava?

      Delete
  12. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 24, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    "And furthermore, what is to stop us finding an unheard of book today?"

    It HAS been found a few years ago, I think it was called "Star Wars" and became quite a cult! People go around quoting from it and its characters are role models, for good or ill, and are quite well-known. Everyone knows who Yoda is and surely everyone knows who Darth Vader is?! Does "Help Me! Obi One Kenobi" mean anything to you?...It should! It is a "posuk' from a "tefila" from a latter day 'princess' Leah as she "davened" for salvation. Quite a moving scene in the annals of Star Wars! It's actually quite easy to invent new hokey and phony "religions" with their own "mystical" texts. (B"H Chasidim already have an all new religion, it's called "Chasidus" and they love it -- while that other "religion", Star Wars, is not known in Charedi sectors where the philosophy of "what you don't know won't hurt you" reigns supreme, since they think it's a ma'aleh to talk Hebrew or English as if they just came from the shtetels of the Pale of Settlement, and they are still running from the Czars and the Cossacks, and would love to milk a heimishe cow and drink some raw cholov yisroel milk with Tevye the Milkman...)

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  13. While I sympathize and agree with Rabbi Moshe Ben Chaim's contention that there is no need to follow the majority when dealing with hashkafa, I nevertheless contend that his article is predicated upon a mistaken notion: that the basic Kabbalistic idea of the sefirot originated in the Zohar. This is self-evidently incorrect, as this Kabbalistic idea is cited by authorities who predate the publication of the Zohar. (The Ramban's commentary on Chumash clearly predates the Zohar's publication, yet the sefirot are cited therein repeatedly.)
    Moreover, although I believe that his reading of certain passages of the Zohar is simplistic, he has the right to read them as he chooses. Nevertheless, a bit of humility is in order before rejecting everything involving the sefirot because - as he sees it - they contradict the concept of G-d's unity. The Ramban, the Chatam Sofer, the Vilna Gaon, and countless others believed that this was an authentic tradition. Rabbi Ben Chaim is free to disagree with them, but he should at least acknowledge that the argument against the Zoharic ideas is more complicated than he makes it appear.

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    1. The sefirot are mentioned in Kuzari, for example, but they are just numbers and numerology. Also that is how Saadia understood them.

      They evolved into higher beings. Not all opinions - such as the ones you mention - claimed them to be actually Divinities.

      Ben Chaim relies a lot on attacks made by Rishonim as his source. Actually, the Book tohar Yihud is anonymous, so it could be MBC or colleagues of his.

      Delete
  14. "Again that would make it no different than any other Rabbinic work that preceded it. It's authority would still be the same."

    of course its authority would be different! If it was written by Tannaim and Amoraim, then those Zoharic texts which shed light on / interpret the meaning of ambiguous (and debated by Rishonim) gemaras indeed shed light. If it is a text by a Rishon, then it is stam another Rishon, and we wouldn't necessarily pasken like it. Meanwhile, if a forgery and inauthentic, then many later authorities have granted the Zohar this undue authority, and it has had undue influence. (see here for a possible example, about Rabbotai Nevarech and the need for hazmana.)

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    1. How would it differ from the Talmud which was written in 960? A mere 140yrs between them in final redaction(considering most of the critics of the Zohar amongst the Rishonim had it being written/redacted in 1100) shouldn't make that much difference.

      Continuing in that thought, it clearly is a text that predates the Rishonim alone. Does redaction of a tradition make it less authoritative in your view? If that is the case should we not then follow the Talmud Yerushalmi instead of the Bavli? Would it not be more authentic and authoritative in your perspective?

      Delete
  15. From critic:

    R Tzadok,

    I am not trying to insult you but you are very ignorant in this matter. The noda beyhuda disagrees with you and specifically states that the zohar is far different than the talmud in that the talmud has a mesorah that can be TRACED all the way back to SInai while the same can no be said of Zohar, so please stop trying to confuse the matter by comparing apples to pears.

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    1. I'm not comparing apples to pears. You like the Noda B'Yehuda, at least what you think he says and means. Good for you. However, his opinion is not universally accepted, and so I do not have to accept it. There are valid opinions that say that the teachings in the Zohar do go back to Moshe m'Sinai.

      Considering that the majority opinion of the Gedolim holdss that particular position, thus leaving opinions such as the Noda B'Yehuda's as the rejected opinion, the burden of proof is on you to show, prove that these Gedolim are wrong.

      Delete
  16. "How would it differ from the Talmud which was written in 960?"

    Hah! Say the same about Rashi (1040 – 1105), then! But we do NOT treat Rashi as the gemara, and people were not *fooled* into thinking that Rashi was the gemara. And so, Tosafot argues on Rashi's interpretation, and thus pesak, all the time.

    Meanwhile, the *attributions* in the Talmud are to authentic Tannaim and Amoraim. In an instance in Ketubot where our gemaras have an insertion from R' Yehudai Gaon (the head of the yeshiva in Sura from 757 to 761), some Rishonim note that fact, and indeed, don't all agree with his interpretation of the gemara.

    "it clearly is a text that predates the Rishonim alone"
    I am not so convinced about that, despite your use of the word clearly.

    And please note that you are changing the goal-posts. You write above "Honestly I wouldn't care one whit of Moshe DeLeon authored it all entirely himself".

    Now, all of a sudden, in the course of your argument, you are asserting that it was merely redacted.

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    1. And please note that you are changing the goal-posts. You write above "Honestly I wouldn't care one whit of Moshe DeLeon authored it all entirely himself".

      No I am not. To arrive at your point of reference there are four things that you have to definitively prove, and for which the burden of proof lies upon you. Since the Gedolim for the last 500yrs have mostly universally accepted the Zohar, to the point that it does clarify arguments in the Gemarra(as Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled), you have to prove that these Gedolim are wrong on four points:
      1) That the Zohar is not a textual tradition stemming from the Rashbi. If you can do that then you would have to prove:
      2) That it's later redaction is somehow qualitatively different than that of the Talmud. If you can do that, still to arrive at your point you would then have to prove:
      3) That it was a Rishonic text(or forgery). Further you would have to prove:
      4) That is not deserving of the authority given to it despite it's lack of authenticity.

      While you can quote various opinions by a minority of Rishonim and an even smaller minority of Acharonim to support your view, you still have to make the case that the rejection of those opinions was in error. Rabbi Yossi HaGalili held that we could eat chicken with milk, however you aren't going to be able to get a hekhsher for a restaurant serving chicken parm sandwiches. His opinion was rejected, and if you want to resurrect it, the burden of proof lies with you. The same is here with the various opinions that rejected or doubted the Zohar. Those opinions were rejected. To the point that many Gedolim today say that it is apikoros to think that way. Therefore if you want to resurrect those opinions you have an uphill climb in proving that they were rejected in error.

      Delete
    2. r Yosi HaGalilli was not rejected, it was a valid view. However, halacha developed to forbid milk + fowl, as a stricture. But this is a haalchci issue, and the mechanics of a Gezera.

      You are comparing chalk and cheese. The Kabbalah and Zohar in particular are philosophies and ways of thought, not halacha. There is not a strict requirement on thought. Even Maimonides 13 Principles, which are quite dogmatic, are not fully accepted by other rishonim.

      I give you again the example of Shiur Komah. the French rabbis called Rambam a heretic for rejecting it, just like today some people will Dor deim heretics for rejecting Kabbalah.

      Would you, dear Michael, then call the rambam a heretic, since he was a minority, and that French gedolim rejected his views and burned his books?

      Delete
    3. Would you, dear Michael, then call the rambam a heretic, since he was a minority, and that French gedolim rejected his views and burned his books?

      Heretic no. However, his view on Kabbalah was clearly rejected.

      Delete
  17. sorry, change ref to Ketubot above to Bava Metzia 3a.

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  18. "No I am not. To arrive at your point of reference"

    Sorry, at this point I forced myself to stop reading.

    It is not MY point of reference. It is YOUR point of reference. That is, you explicitly granted it above when you wrote "Honestly I wouldn't care one whit of Moshe DeLeon authored it all entirely himself". Meaning that you are asserting that your position about authority, as divorced from authenticity, works with de Leon as sole author in the late 13th century.

    If you want to back away from that assertion, do so. Otherwise, you are (implicitly) changing the goalposts that you yourself have set.

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  19. Daas Torah,

    Thank you for posting this. I can converse here as well now. I saw where to log in.

    Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

    ReplyDelete
  20. I am very sorry to say this, but I have read an earlier post by R M Tzadok, where he contradicts himself every 2 steps he takes. I will quote form his post, then point out the fallacies:

    "and he is them and they are he which is to say that the Ein Sof and the Sephirot are one thing in the sense of a soul that is dressed in a bodylike a flame clinging to an emberthat is to say that the light of the sephirot clings to its source in the Ein Sofand there is no divisionbetween the Ein Sof and the Sephirot that clothe it
    Once again when left within the sugya, we see that the Sephirot are only a creation, and even then only clothe the Ein Sof, which as we have said before, is itself not G-d. Even then the unity of the Ein Sof with the Sephirot is only that of a soul to a body, meaning that the soul can exist without the body, but the body cannot exist without the soul. The Ein Sof(which still is not G-d) can exist apart from the Sephirot, but not the other way around."

    ------------

    So the Sephirot are the same as the Ein Sof, but then the are also separate.

    Michael goes on to say that even the Ein Sof is not G-d.

    So Michael is admitting that there is a trinitarian hierarchy:

    The Sephirot - which are and aren't teh Ein Sof,

    The Ein Sof, which is a creator of the Sephirot.

    Above the Ein Sof, Michael claims there is another being, he refers to as "G-d".

    All of these are , in Michaels demented imaginarium, deities and demigods. This is the pantheon of the Kabbalah he is claiming to be from Sinai.

    There are 2, or perhaps 3 "gods", unless we have missed out a few others, like the shechina, kdsha baruch hu, etc.

    Perhaps Michael says the "le shem yichud" to unite this different demigods , and thinnks he is casting a big kabablsitic spell.

    In Torah terms, Michael is participating in good old fashioned idolatry, or polytheism. however, he is a frum Jew in every other respect, and would not even consider the possibility that in King David's time, a chicken and cheese sandwich was kosher.

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    1. Above the Ein Sof, Michael claims there is another being, he refers to as "G-d".

      All of these are , in Michaels demented imaginarium, deities and demigods. This is the pantheon of the Kabbalah he is claiming to be from Sinai.


      No. They are not. There is the creator, G-d, and the created(everything else).

      You can try to make this stuff up, but it is simply not true. Why is it that you feel the need to enter into this sort of dishonesty in this debate?

      Delete
  21. We are human with limited capacity to understand. This means that however we understand things, our understanding is imperfect. The critical posts above are pointing out some of the problems with a Kabbalistic approach.
    However, their understanding is also imperfect.
    A strictly rationalist approach tends to lead to the conclusion that the Creator is now removed from His creation, more or less the "watchmaker" metaphor, in which the Creator did His work, "wound up the watch" and left it to run on its own, R"L. This is not what the Torah tells us, which tends to lead to apparent contradictions between what science tells us and what the Torah tells us. This is clearly problematic. Not everyone has the capacity to completely ignore that sort of thing; one can ignore it. This is the isolationist approach common to some parts of the Jewish world today; as is well known, this too has problems.

    The question then is: if one is (as I am, and as I think Rabbi Tzadok is) unable to ignore that sort of contradiction, what then? How can we simultaneously hold God's unity and perfection and His involvement with this imperfect world which appears to be governed by immutable and increasingly well understood physical laws? How is free choice even possible? Rambam had one approach; some do well with it, others have had problems with it from the get go. Kabbalah is another – also necessarily imperfect* – attempt to grapple with this. It also has a substantial Mesorah behind it, and, as Rabbi Tzadok points out, enough substantive authorities have relied on that Mesorah that we should likewise feel comfortable in doing the same.

    While my mathematical abilities have atrophied with disuse and were never good enough to derive all of the arguments found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncertainty_principle it is interesting to note the formal similarities between the necessarily imperfect plain language descriptions of the mathematics there and the type of paradox various Kabbalistic approaches employ and which Eddie disparages above. Of course that doesn't prove anything.

    * The Ben Ish Chai z"l wrote an introduction (Da'at uTevunot) to the Arizal's approach. He adjures us to learn the introductions seven times before entering the sefer itself. Very crudely put, the theme of the introduction can be stated like this: "It's all a mashal. By the way, it's all a mashal. Have I told you it's all a mashal?"

    ReplyDelete
  22. From Petech Eliyahu

    "You are He" "You" refers to G-d's Immanence, while "He" is His Transcendence. By addressing Ein Sof as "You" (i.e. You whom we recognize from within the prism of creation), Elijah is also speaking, indirectly, to "He" (i.e. He who is beyond all categories).

    http://www.chabad.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/380739/jewish/Elijahs-Prayer-Meditation-Part-1.htm

    This is from Tikkunei Zohar

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    1. No. That is from Chabad.

      I can't answer for how Chabad understands this piece from the Zohar. I have already brought(as a main post here) a word for word translation of the Petach Eliyahu, along with Rav Eliyahu Mani's commentary.

      Delete
  23. This Petach Eliyahu , which is in Sephardi siddurim, is a worthy subject for study.

    Firstly, it contradicts R MTz's claims that Sefirot are distinct from EinSof, which is not actually G-d himself.

    Next it is clearly pan/polytheistic.

    The claim that it is all a parable, well Maimonides mentions that even the idolaters didn't really believe their idols to be real, and were just means by which to connect to Hashem. A buddha is precisely that, just a physical parable.

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    1. It does nothing of the sort. You are simply making things up now.

      Delete
    2. The article that you posted is only an exercpt, and why should I rely on Mani in any case? Chanad are quite knowledgeable about Kabbalah, and all Hassidim accept the Alter Rebbe.

      However, here is a translation you can accept, since it is Sephardic:

      http://www.thezoharinenglish.com/PDFs/PatachEliyahu-WebVersionReducedSize.pdf

      On P 9 of this pdf version, the Ein Sof is being prayed to, and it is within the Sefirot.

      If you claim the Essences is not the Ein Sof, we have a serious problem, in that there are more than reshuiot.

      Delete
  24. Chevra,

    There's an 800 pound gorilla in the room that nobody seems to be addressing - the kabbalistic "partzufim" known as Abba, Ima, Zer Anpin etc. These "partzufim" are supposedly configurations of sefirot, (and even if they are created entities as R. Tzadok claims), they do seem to exhibit some type of independent powers characteristic of polytheistic deities.

    From the book Inner Space by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, p.101-105:
    "Idol worship is defined as praying to intermediaries...There seems to be a very fine line between Judaism and idolatry...As the Ari describes it, there's an entire process by which Zer Anpin is born. It starts with a kiss between Abba and Ima, which then develops into a Zivug...Ima becomes pregnant with Zer Anpin..."

    From http://www.mesora.org/ZoharsDeviation.html :
    "Zohar: Genesis 22
    "When coming to the world of separation which is the world of separated things, the builder said to the master of the edifice: Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. The master of the edifice said: 'Indeed it would be good to make him, but he is destined to sin before you, for he is a foolish son,' as it is written (Proverbs 10:1): A wise son maketh glad a father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother. Whereupon she (Imma) said: "Since his sin relates to Imma, and not to Abba, I want to create him in my image," as it is written: And God created man in His image; but Abba did not want to participate in man's creation. At the time that man sinned what is written: and for your transgression was your mother sent away (Isaiah 50:1). The king (Abba) said to Imma: "Did I not say to you that he is destined to sin?" At that time he (Abba) drove him (man) away, and he drove away Imma with him."
    (END Zohar)

    (ZoharsDeviation.html continued)
    The portion of Zohar quoted above "Let us make" surely was said of two beings, and goes on to explain that Imma said to Abba "Let us make man", and she did as she wished and created man without the agreement of Abba. This is the heretical view that there are multiple divinities, and each does as he/she wishes."

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    1. Another of your supposed Gorillas. This one because you refuse to read the Zohar as a Mashal, but rather want to read it literally.

      Delete
    2. There is an 800lb gorilla in the room but it is not partzufim, it is blatant dishonesty.

      From the book Inner Space by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, p.101-105:
      Check again, Leonard(Aryeh) Kaplan who was a conservative Rabbi until 1970, did not write Inner Space. It was written from taped lectures he gave to a group of students. The person who wrote it was also, at the time, not Orthodox. Thus neither the man giving the Shiurim nor the book that came from them were from a Kosher source.

      From http://www.mesora.org/ZoharsDeviation.html :
      "Zohar: Genesis 22
      "When coming to the world of separation which is the world of separated things, the builder said to the master of the edifice

      Admittedly a seemingly damning find. However, once again Rabbi Ben-Chaim has to resort to dishonest half quotes. This sugya, in fact the very paragraph that he lifts this from starts:
      פתח ואמר משל He(Rabbi Shimon) opened and said a mashal

      Now as a given we typically take the Zohar as a Mashal, and not literal. However, I can understand how someone might be confused and think that parts of the Zohar are meant to be taken literally. However, when the Zohar itself states that what it is saying is a Mashal, to then insist on a literal reading is simple dishonesty.

      Our literature from start to finish is filled with such metaphors. We have Hashem waking from a druken stupor(Tehillim 78), Putting on armor and going out to battle(Isaiah 59), HaShem laying bets with the Satan over Job(Job 1).
      We have HaShem donning Tefillin and needing to stop Moshe Rabbeinu from praying lest he be forced to cave into Moshe's will(Gemarra Berakhot).
      Nevermind all of the interesting things that happen in the Midrashim.

      The only way you come to finding error in the Zohar is by refusing, despite all the warnings from our Rabbanim to the contrary, to read it metaphorically and insisting on reading it literally.

      Now as far as partzufim, stop by Nahar Shalom(Shilo 6) any day Sunday-Thurs between 900-1300, and I will gladly talk to you in depth about them, however b'kitzur for what can be given over publicly, the Zohar does not, in any place, talk about partzufim. The first person to expound upon the partzufim was the Ari. So to try to project those back onto the Zohar is anachronistic and dishonest as well.
      So please let us deal with the real gorilla in the room. Why is it that those who seek to denounce Kabbalah need to resort to dishonesty to do so. In the article above we have a half quote from the Rivash, making the Rivash sound like he is saying something that he is not. Then we have a half quote from the Zohar, obviously meant to imply that the Zohar is saying something that it is not. So if the case against Kabbalah is so ironclad why do those seeking to make it need to resort to blatant dishonesty? That is the gorilla in the room.

      Delete
    3. How convenient that none of Kaplan's books were written by himself. Perhaps he didnt exist, and was just a metaphor.
      His Handbook of Jewish thought is actually a book of pantheism, where he claims that G-d fills all of the world.

      Whilst Kaplan may have served in a Conservative shul, he was educated by Orthodox Rabbis. Yet, Baruch Spinoza was also educated by orthodox rabbis, and their pantheism was quite similar.

      I heard once from someone who was close to R' Kasher ztl, that Kasher had stated that Spinoza was right about pantheism, and wrong abut halacha. This is the difference between someone who is intellectually honest, and many whop delude themselves , and make up fancy words like "panentheism" which is still pantheistic.

      There are varying interpretations of Zohar and Cabalistic concepts, so it is difficult to nail down any particular concept, since you can always define it differently.

      I have quoted earlier the alleged Patach Eliyahu, in the Tikkunei Zohar. Here, it claims that above the Ein Sof, is the "Essence" of G-d, who has no name.
      Thsi statement is a lie, defamatory, kefira, and a denial of the Torah. The Torah tells us that Moses asks G-d's Name, and G-d replies, and tells His holy Name.

      Saadia Gaon commented on another pantheistic work, Shiur Komah, saying it is not clear whether it is original or not, since a lot of pseudodepigraphic works have been produced.

      The RAMaTz (R' Michael Tzadok) argues that too many greats have accepted the Zohar, for it to be "wrong". Torah is not a democracy, i.e. you do not vote for what is authentic or not. If a book says that g-d has no name, the book is lying. End of story. Shavua Tov.

      Delete
    4. Thsi statement is a lie, defamatory, kefira, and a denial of the Torah. The Torah tells us that Moses asks G-d's Name, and G-d replies, and tells His holy Name.

      Why don't you check the Rashi there. Any name is by nature a defining and confining thing, thus limiting G-d, which is in contradiction to the Rambam's 13 principles.

      Eddie you keep using the word Pantheism, but I don't think you know what it means. Pantheism means everything from the smallest grain of sand to the largest planet is divine and worthy of worship. No Kabbalist or Chasid believes that. So it is not pantheism however much you would like to make it so.

      You say that Saadia Gaon says something, then link an actual source. Your side of this debate has already lied too much here to be taken seriously otherwise.

      Oh and I only said that Kaplan didn't write Inner Space, the rest of them... it would appear that he did, contrary to halakha, but he did.

      Delete
    5. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pantheism/

      "At its most general, pantheism may be understood positively as the view that God is identical with the cosmos, the view that there exists nothing which is outside of God, or else negatively as the rejection of any view that considers God as distinct from the universe."


      The English word "God" is not holy in the same sense as the Torah name we refer to as the tetraGrammaton, that i will not write out here.

      you are particular to use a hyphen between G and D, but I fear you have no idea what you are talking about.

      The same G-d you refer to , you claim has no name. Yet We know he does. If you claim that there is another created /emanated entity with the name, then you have classical dualism. It doesn't really matter if you put all the Gedolim you like on one scale, they cannot justify dualism.




      Delete
  25. http://ramchal.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/you-mean-its-all-a-metaphor-duh/

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  26. When you have guys like "Eddie" who are willing to say that Gedolim such as the GR"A were closet Pagans. Or others that abuse and selectively quote texts in oder to prove their point. Rational debate has ceased. So I think I am going to step out at this point.

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    Replies
    1. Guys like "Eddie" also rely on what the same Gra taught his student R Haim. That the teacher isn't always right, and that by virtue of being a Gadol, he is not infallible.

      I may not be making friends among the Livtish world, but anyone who says there are 2 or more gods is finished. I don't care how "big" they might be.

      Delete
    2. Eddie you seem to be suggesting that you are perhaps the only true monotheistic Jew - a rather absurd idea. Alternatively you indicate that you seriously believe the possiblity that gedolim might belief in multiple gods.

      It might be a nice debate technique but it really is totally unacceptable here. you could have just as well said, "any gadol who believes in Jesus is finished I don't care how 'big' they might be." You have in fact failed to show that there are gedolim who consider polytheisim acceptable. Why do you feel a need for this witch hunt?

      So if you stop using "when did you stop beating your wife" techniques - we might be able to have a productive discussion.

      Contrary to your agenda, I am working with the idea that gedolim are the source of our knowledge of Judaism. What religion do you belong to?

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    3. DT,

      you miss the sequence of the argument, thus leading you to the conclusion you take.

      I have pointed out that if you have a named G-d in one place, and another un-named entity elsewhere, which you say is the real 2G-d", then you have a problem of polytheism.

      Since the RamaTz cannot argue logically, he retorts to the defence by citing authorities.
      Now, this is disingenuous, since whenever i cite the Rambam , for example, he simply says the Rambam's view was rejected.

      "Contrary to your agenda, I am working with the idea that gedolim are the source of our knowledge of Judaism. What religion do you belong to?"

      This statement could be more acceptable if you were to include Rambam and Saadia, whose Theology is pretty much enshrined in Judaism. The Ramazt rejects every theological position put forward by the early Gedolim.

      It is clear that even such Gedolim as the Gra, The Alter rebbe, and R Chaim Volozhiner, had differing views on Unity, the Tzimtzum etc.

      It is also important to be intellectually honest about Judaism, i.e. has the "revelation" of Kaaballah changed the fundamentals of Judaism, eg 13 ikkarim of Rambam?

      The issue is not about me or my ego, or me being the truest Jew, that is nonsense.

      Now, you use the term monotheistic, but you need to define that exactly. My understanding of the term is that there is only One indivisible Deity, with no material form, whose name was made known to Moses. I don't care who an authority is if they deny or contradict that.

      Delete
    4. Your assumption that the Rambam had the last word in theology was very wrong. Moreso than R' Yehudah haLevi (who preceded him)? Or R' Chasdai Crescas or Rabbeinu Yonah? You presume your conclusion with that assertion. Besides, the Leshem's entire project is showing the unity of [his understanding of] the Gra's qabbalah and ideas in the Moreh.

      Second, you should really really look up the Gra's first klal. The sephiros and partzufim are no more problematic than the Rambam's notion of attributes that describe how Hashem's actions appear to us or R' Saadia Gaon's concept of attributes of Hashem's relationship with us in contrast with those of Hashem Himself.

      Third, look up the word panentheism, in contrast to pantheism.

      Last, when judging the beliefs of the majority of the observant community, try to be less ignorant of the topic first.

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    5. Now, you use the term monotheistic, but you need to define that exactly. My understanding of the term is that there is only One indivisible Deity, with no material form,
      So far so good.

      whose name was made known to Moses. I don't care who an authority is if they deny or contradict that.

      What was the name that G-d responded to Moshe Rabbeinu when he asked? It was אהי"ה אשר אהי"ה. Not the tetragramatron, not any other name.
      וַיֹּ֨אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֜ה אֶל־הָֽאֱלֹהִ֗ים הִנֵּ֨ה אָנֹכִ֣י בָא֮ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵל֒ וְאָמַרְתִּ֣י לָהֶ֔ם אֱלֹהֵ֥י אֲבֹותֵיכֶ֖ם שְׁלָחַ֣נִי אֲלֵיכֶ֑ם וְאָֽמְרוּ־לִ֣י מַה־שְּׁמֹ֔ו מָ֥ה אֹמַ֖ר אֲלֵהֶֽם׃
      14 וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה וַיֹּ֗אמֶר כֹּ֤ה תֹאמַר֙ לִבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה שְׁלָחַ֥נִי אֲלֵיכֶֽם׃

      Now if you are going ot insist that אהי"ה is God's one and only name, you are going to run into a problem when you read on a few chapters
      וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֵלָ֖יו אֲנִ֥י ה'׃
      וָאֵרָ֗א אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶל־יִצְחָ֥ק וְאֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֖ב בְּאֵ֣ל שַׁדָּ֑י וּשְׁמִ֣י ה' לֹ֥א נֹודַ֖עְתִּי לָהֶֽם׃

      So which name is it? We have three different names here. Oh and while you are at it, was it Hashem speaking to Moshe or an Angel? See Shemot 3:2.

      Even the Rishonim, long before the Zohar came upon the scene commented that these names only equate to different revelations of G-d, whether mercy or din ect. They do not define G-d in his essence.

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    6. Firstly, let me thank the RamaTz for addressing my question.

      You write, rhetorically "What was the name that G-d responded to Moshe Rabbeinu when he asked? It was אהי"ה אשר אהי"ה. Not the tetragramatron, not any other name. "

      However, you ignore the following verse in Shemot 3,

      "15 And God said moreover unto Moses: 'Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you; this is My name for ever, and this is My memorial unto all generations. "

      I use the English translation to avoid typing the Hebrew Tetragrammaton.

      In v14 14, H' uses "Eheyeh", and in v15, he uses Y' the Tetragramamton.

      This powerful verse is completed with זֶה-שְּׁמִי לְעֹלָם, וְזֶה זִכְרִי לְדֹר דֹּר.

      Now, in Ch.20 of Shemot, there is a code which you may have overlooked. One of the Statements in that code says the following:

      2) I am the LORD thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.

      I do not believe that you are a wanton "polytheist", since you claim Monotheism. however, you seem unable to see the logical consequences of the claim that above the Lord who commanded this Torah, there is an essence, without this or any other name. And this is because you accept with perfect faith the contents of the Zohar, as many great rabbonim have done for the last 800 years.

      But the torah clearly states that we cannot have any other deities other than H'.

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    7. @Wheelie, I might take your comments more seriously if they did not contradict each other.

      On the one hand, you claim that the Leshem unified the Gra with the rambam, whilst on the other, you claim the Gra was in total opposition to the same rambam!

      As for ignorance, I suggest you check out the 10 commandments.

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    8. I do not believe that you are a wanton "polytheist", since you claim Monotheism. however, you seem unable to see the logical consequences of the claim that above the Lord who commanded this Torah, there is an essence, without this or any other name. And this is because you accept with perfect faith the contents of the Zohar, as many great rabbonim have done for the last 800 years.

      But the torah clearly states that we cannot have any other deities other than H'.


      So what do you do with the Rambam in his Yesodei HaTorah when he says G-d is ultimately unknowable to man? If you have a name, that Hashem is G-d and G-d is HaShem, not that HaShem is simply the way we perceive HaShem to the extant of our limited abilities, than you negate the Rambam's statement.

      Thus the Rambam in the Moreh(where he says explicitly we can only talk about G-d in the negative) and in his Yesodei HaTorah is also by your reasoning a Polytheist, just not a wanton one.

      It must be nice being the only Torah True Jew in the world.

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    9. I'm sorry, but it seems to me you are squeezing something out of the Rambam that isn't there, unless you can quote me a reference.

      Having a Name doesn't make H' knowable. And it doesnt mean there is another god upstairs who doesnt have a name. This is just your own misguided perception, with no basis in Rambam.

      Do you recall how Rambam opens his letter on Reincarnation? He says that if even Shema Yisrael can be misread to mean 3 -in - one, how much more so can his own words. How them do you interpret Shema Yisrael ? Does each mention of H' refer to a different level in the schema espoused in Patach Eliyahu?





      Here is what Rambam says in הלכות יסודי התורה פרק א:

      א יסוד היסודות ועמוד החכמות, לידע שיש שם מצוי ראשון. והוא ממציא כל הנמצא; וכל הנמצאים מן שמיים וארץ ומה ביניהם, לא נמצאו אלא מאמיתת הימצאו. [ב] ואם יעלה על הדעת שהוא אינו מצוי, אין דבר אחר יכול להימצאות. [ג] ואם יעלה על הדעת שאין כל הנמצאים מלבדו מצויים, הוא לבדו יהיה מצוי ולא ייבטל הוא לביטולם: שכל הנמצאים צריכין לו; והוא ברוך הוא אינו צריך להם, ולא לאחד מהם.

      ב לפיכך אין אמיתתו כאמיתת אחד מהם. [ד] הוא שהנביא אומר "וה' אלוהים אמת" (ירמיהו י,י)--הוא לבדו האמת, ואין לאחר אמת כאמיתו. והוא שהתורה אומרת "אין עוד, מלבדו" (דברים ד,לה), כלומר אין שם מצוי אמת מלבדו כמותו.

      ג [ה] המצוי הזה--הוא אלוה העולם, אדון כל הארץ. והוא המנהיג הגלגל בכוח שאין לו קץ ותכלית, בכוח שאין לו הפסק, שהגלגל סובב תמיד, ואי אפשר שיסוב בלא מסבב; והוא ברוך הוא המסבב אותו, בלא יד ולא גוף.

      ד [ו] וידיעת דבר זה מצות עשה, שנאמר "אנוכי ה' אלוהיך" (שמות כ,ב; דברים ה,ו). וכל המעלה על דעתו שיש שם אלוה אחר, חוץ מזה--עובר בלא תעשה, שנאמר "לא יהיה לך אלוהים אחרים, על פניי" (שמות כ,ב; דברים ה,ו); וכפר בעיקר, שזה הוא העיקר הגדול שהכול תלוי בו.

      ה [ז] אלוה זה אחד הוא--אינו לא שניים ולא יתר על שניים, אלא אחד, שאין כייחודו אחד מן האחדים הנמצאים בעולם: לא אחד כמין שהוא כולל אחדים הרבה, ולא אחד כגוף שהוא נחלק למחלקות ולקצוות; אלא ייחוד שאין ייחוד אחר כמותו בעולם.

      ו אילו היו האלוהות הרבה--היו גופין וגווייות, מפני שאין הנמנין השווין במציאתן נפרדין זה מזה אלא במאורעין שיארעו הגופות והגווייות. ואילו היה היוצר גוף וגווייה--היה לו קץ ותכלית, שאי אפשר להיות גוף שאין לו קץ. וכל שיש לו קץ ותכלית, יש לכוחו קץ וסוף.

      ז ואלוהינו ברוך שמו, הואיל וכוחו אין לו קץ ואינו פוסק, שהרי הגלגל סובב תמיד, אין כוחו כוח גוף. והואיל ואינו גוף, לא יארעו מאורעות הגופות כדי שיהא נחלק ונפרד מאחר; לפיכך אי אפשר שיהיה אלא אחד. וידיעת דבר זה--מצות עשה, שנאמר "ה' אלוהינו, ה' אחד" (דברים ו,ד).

      Delete
    10. If the Gra and the Rambam only said one thing about all of aggadita, it would be a contradiction to say that they agree and that they disagree. However, of course they didn't.

      The Rambam can't be taken as the final word on Jewish Thought because of things he said elsewhere. The Vilna Gaon attacks his rejection of sheidim, kishuf, astrology, etc... Rav Hirsch (letter #18) considers the Rambam's emphasis of knowledge over ethics to be indicative of the latter's embracing of Greek Thought to the extent of distorting the Torah. Rav Yehudah haLevi, the Raavad, Rabbeinu Yonah, the Ramban, Rav Chasdai Crescas.... most rishonim rejected the Aristotelian approach of R' Saadia and the Rambam.

      But that doesn't mean they disagree on the theological point of the relationship between Divinity and His creation. Ibn Rushd (Averroes) included parts of Plotinus's Enneads in his translation of Aristotle's Metaphysics, and that's what the Rambam had in front of him. I think this is the source of those neo-Platonic elements of the Rambam's thought that show consistency with Kabbalah. Such as Yesodei haTorah 2:5, Moreh Nevuchim 3:51, and his identification of Cause and Agens (ie G-d as Maker / Borei / Yotzeir vs G-d as Emanator / Mamtzi) in MN 3:49. It is also in his explanation of prophecy. It is this element in the Rambam's thought that the Leshem draws on most heavily.

      As for checking the 10 Diberos... If the Gra places all of Kabbalah in the realm of the Rambam's notion of attributes that describe Hashem's interactions with us, it's either irrelevant, or it is just as much of a problem in the Rambam's space.

      Delete
  27. http://www.mechon-mamre.org/i/1102.htm

    הלכות יסודי התורה פרק ב

    יג [י] הקדוש ברוך הוא מכיר אמיתו, ויודע אותה כמות שהיא. ואינו יודע בדעה שהיא חוץ ממנו כמו שאנו יודעין, שאין אנו ודעתנו אחד. אבל הבורא--הוא ודעתו וחייו אחד, מכל צד ומכל פינה: שאלמלא היה חי בחיים ויודע בדעה, היו שם אלוהות הרבה--הוא וחייו ודעתו; ואין הדבר כן, אלא אחד מכל צד ומכל פינה ובכל דרך

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  28. What Chabad chasidut teaches, based on the Arizal, is that nothing in the universe could exist without Divine action or at least tolerance. The Ba'al Shem Tov was fond of the Tikkunei Zohar's phrase: לית אתר פניו מיניה.
    Not pantheism. That Platonic definition Eddie cites states "God is identical with the cosmos." The current scientific consensus is that the cosmos began at some specific moment in time. Rambam, the Zohar and the Ari all agree – and all agree that the cosmos is a creation of the uncreated Creator. Rambam prefers to finesse the details, Kabbalists grapple with them. Any Kabbalistic approach is going to say that when the Torah says "hand" or "anger" it is freighted with greater meaning than Rambam ascribes to it in the Moreh.
    Partzufim? A mashal for that mashal: In mathematical physics such as quantum mechanics, (at least back in the chalk and chalkboard days) when the professor was discussing very long and complex equations, whole chunks or "phrases" would be expressed as a single character. Sometimes an equation might look as if it was only a line or two long, but if each of those dummy terms was fully expanded it could cover a lot of blackboard. Or paper when taking notes.
    In order to really understand it you had to be able to comprehend each term in the equation and then the working relationships as well. Not the kind of thing most people, even very bright ones, can grasp intuitively.
    Anyway, those chunks of equation expressed with a dummy were generally somewhat freestanding, maybe were another equation pulled in from somewhere else. Sort of like in discussing political philosophy, one would tend to say "the Declaration of Independence" rather than saying "When in the course of human events, etc." every time. Or might say "Zeir Anpin" in discussing Kabbalistic ideas.

    I agree that there is a serious problem with the Arizal's Kabbalah, though: it was given over at an extremely high level to students who were stellar Talmidei Chachamim themselves and had minds capable of holding the whole "equation" in their minds at once. My teacher once said that an easy Zohar is on the comprehensibility level of a hard Tosafot. YMMV.

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  29. @YoelB - "What Chabad chasidut teaches, based on the Arizal, is that nothing in the universe could exist without Divine action or at least tolerance. ":

    This teaching, and many others did not originate with Lubavitch as some Lubavitchers seem to believe. A Jew who does not learn any Lubavitch or Chassidic seforim can still learn a complete Torah theology in other Torah sources.

    "Rambam, Principle I. To know the existence of the Creator
    To believe in the existence of the Creator, and this Creator is perfect in all manner of existence. He is the cause of all existence. He causes them to exist and they exist only because of Him. And if you could contemplate a case, such that He was not to exist…then all things would cease to exist and there would remain nothing. And if you were to contemplate a case, such that all things would cease to exist aside from the Creator, His existence would not cease..." (http://www.mesora.org/13principles.html)

    "Rambam, the Zohar and the Ari all agree": This is a great chidush to me. In fact the Rambam's theology in Moreh Nevuchim is quite incompatible with the Tanya's teachings.

    "He grasps all and none can grasp Him…. He encompasses all worlds…and no one goes out from His domain; He fills (or permeates) all worlds..."
    http://www.chabad.org/library/tanya/tanya_cdo/aid/7993/jewish/Chapter-7.htm (Tanya, citing the Zohar)

    "...there being nothing in what exists besides God, may He be exalted, and the totality of the things He has made. For this totality includes everything comprised in what exists except only Him." (MN I:34)

    "God, may He be exalted, is not a faculty subsisting in the body of the world, but is separate from all parts of the world." (MN I:72)

    Why do certain Lubavitchers continue to fantasize that the Tanya is consistent with the Rambam and other Rishonim like Chovos HaLevavos, all the while avoiding learning the Moreh Nevuchim and Chovos HaLevavos Shaar HaYichud?

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  30. @R. Tzadok - "Now as a given we typically take the Zohar as a Mashal":

    OK, so if we are going to take that Zohar as a mashal, please explain the meaning of the "mashal".

    Why would an authentic Torah "Mashal" suggest that man was created by a deity or goddess called Imma?

    Before the Zohar, when were such "mashalim" that refer to independent deities ever employed in Torah literature?

    If you claim Imma is not Hashem, then she must be either an intermediary or an independent deity.

    Moreh Nevuchim I:36:
    "Whoever performs idolatrous worship does not do it on the assumption that there is no deity except the idol...rather is it worshipped in respect of its being an image of a thing that is an intermediary between ourselves and G-d. Scripture makes this clear saying "Who will not fear You, O King of the Nations" (Yirmeyahu 10:7) ...We have made this clear in our great compilation (Mishneh Torah). No on one among the people of our Law disputes this."

    (See Redak on Yirmeyahu 10:7-Hashem should be feared by the Nations since He is King over their idols.)


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  31. A while back Rav Tzaddok suggested that Aryeh Kaplan had a dubious past, since he served a conservative or non ortho congregation.
    However, he was orthodox and corresponded with R Moshe Feinstein on specific issues in this situation, as noted below:

    http://kavvanah.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/lost-rabbi-aryeh-kaplan-part-iii/

    In the 1980s and 90s he was very highly regarded in the Haredi community (and MO).


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    Replies
    1. Interesting. Thank you for the clarification.

      Delete

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