Saturday, February 18, 2023

G-d's partner?!

 Sanhedrin (38b)A certain heretic said to Rav Idit: It is written in the verse concerning God: “And to Moses He said: Come up to the Lord” (Exodus 24:1). The heretic raised a question: It should have stated: Come up to Me. Rav Idit said to him: This term, “the Lord,” in that verse is referring to the angel Metatron, whose name is like the name of his Master, as it is written: “Behold I send an angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Take heed of him and obey his voice; do not defy him; for he will not pardon your transgression, for My name is in him” (Exodus 23:20–21). The heretic said to him: If so, if this angel is equated with God, we should worship him as we worship God. Rav Idit said to him: It is written: “Do not defy [tammer] him,” which alludes to: Do not replace Me [temireni] with him. The heretic said to him: If so, why do I need the clause “For he will not pardon your transgression”? Rav Idit said to him: We believe that we did not accept the angel even as a guide [befarvanka] for the journey, as it is written: “And he said to him: If Your Presence go not with me raise us not up from here” (Exodus 33:15). Moses told God that if God Himself does not accompany the Jewish people they do not want to travel to Eretz Yisrael.  

Ramban (Shemos 24;1) Come up to the Eternal. In line with the simple meaning of Scripture, the reason for this expression [when it should have said: “Come up unto Me”], is because it is the Scriptural style to mention the proper name instead of the pronoun, such as: And Lemech said… Ye wives of Lemech; and the Eternal sent Jerubaal and Bedan and Jephthah and Samuel. A similar case is the verse, and cause Thy face to shine upon Thy Sanctuary that is desolate, for the Eternal’s sake. In the Talmud, however, we find that they asked, “It should have said, ‘come up to Me,’” and therefore they said, “this refers to Mattatron, whose name is even as the Name of his Master.” That is to say, “And unto Moses He — the Divine Name mentioned at the beginning of this subject, namely, And the Eternal said unto Moses — said, come up to Mattatron, for My Name is in him.” The meaning is thus: “Come up to the place of the Glory where the great angel is,” and the intention was that Moses should come into the midst of the cloud where the Glory of G-d was, but he should not come right up to the Proper Divine Name, for man shall not see Me, and live. The intention of our Rabbis is thus not at all as Rashi had written above. In Tractate Sanhedrin also the Rabbi [Rashi] turned the subject around. Now I have already mentioned the Rabbis’ intention concerning this name [Mattatron], and all their words are true. In that homily, however, [related in Tractate Sanhedrin, concerning the infidel’s question to Rav Idie], the Sages spoke in an abstract manner, since Rav Idie did not want, Heaven forbid, to reveal to that infidel who asked him the question, the matter of the great Mattatron and its secret! Instead, he mentioned to him that the verse speaks of the angel who is “the guide of the road” of the world below; and hence he told him, that “even as a guide we refused to accept him, for it is written [that Moses said], If ‘panecha’ — [literally: ‘Thy face’ or ‘Thy presence’] go not up, carry us not up hence,” for we accepted no messenger, only the Revered G-d. I have already explained clearly the secret of panim (face) and the whole subject to those learned in the secret lore of the Cabala, in the section of the Giving of the Torah.

Rabbeinu Bachya (Shemos 24;1) instruction by the attribute of Hashem. The meaning of the words עלה אל ה' (which obviously cannot mean that Moses was to ascend to the region of Hashem) is that he was to ascend to the level of the angel Mattatron, the angel whom we have already described as the שר הפנים, “the Minister of the Interior,” the angel to whom G’d normally entrusts the running of His universe. 
 This is also what our sages in Sanhedrin 38 meant when they said that the reason this angel is called Mattatron is that this word combines two meanings (in two separate languages). They are אדון and שליח. The reason that this is so is because in the language of our sages (a mixture of Latin and Greek at the time of the Mishnah) a lady who commands great authority is called Matrona. The word also means שליח, “agent, emissary,” as in Greek such a messenger is known as Mentaur. There is still a third meaning which is associated with the word מטטרן which is the Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew משמרת, “custody, guard.” The name of that angel is Mattatron as it is the custodian of the world on behalf of G’d who is also known as the שומר ישראל, “the guardian of Israel.” 
Seeing that we have established from the meaning of his very name that he is the master of all that is below him in rank, all the heavenly hosts as well as those on earth are at his command and under his control. He acts as the agent of the One Who is above him, the One who has given him this authority. His name is אדון לביתו ומושל בכל קנינו, “master of His household and governor of all His possessions.” 
You ought to appreciate that in accordance with the meaning of the word אדון, “master,” the letter ט in the name מטטרון appears twice. The reason for this is that the two letters ט when combined have a numerical value of ח'י an allusion to the חי העולמים an expression of supremacy. Alternatively, the extra letter ט is an allusion to the ninth emanation which derives its potency directly from the highest emanation, the tenth emanation
 It is well known (in Kabbalistic circles) that another description of this angel Mattatron is נער. This is the reason the firstborn of the Israelites have been referred to as נערים in verse 5 of our chapter where the Torah writes: וישלח את נערי בני ישראל ויעלו עולות, “He sent the youths of the Children of Israel and they offered burnt-offerings, etc.” 
It is well to realise that at this time it was not an ascent to G’d which G’d had in mind, as if it had been that there would not have been a point in including Aaron, his sons and the elders in any part of this instruction. When the Torah writes here in verse 2 that Moses was to approach the ערפל all by himself, the meaning is also that he would approach the angel Mattatron who was at that time within the thick cloud described as ערפל. Actually, the Torah should have written: ונגשת לבדך “you are to approach all by yourself,” if the Torah had meant for him at this time to ascend all the way to G’d. At this point G’d’s words were directed only at Moses seeing that what was said about Aaron, his sons, and the elders was in the third person, i.e. quite obviously not intended for their ears at this time. G’d had told Moses that Aaron and the elders were to remain at a distance when they would prostrate themselves.
 We need to understand why the direct form of the speech in verse 1, i.e. עלה אל ה' was changed to indirect speech in verse 2 where the Torah writes in indirect speech “and Moses shall approach theערפל .” We must assume that the words in verse 2 for Moses to approach the ערפל all by himself were not spoken by G’d but by the angel Mattatron. In that event he spoke of Moses approaching himself (the angel) within the thick cloud. The entire verse then was primarily a command for Aaron, his sons, and the elders not to approach but to prostrate themselves from a distance. As a consequence of these instructions, the Torah adds immediately that these people who had not approached beheld what is reported in verse 10 i.e. ויראו את אלו-הי ישראל ותחת רגליו כמעשה לבנת הספיר וכעצם השמים לטוהר, “they experienced a vision of the G’d of Israel in the form of a likeness of bricks made of sapphire under His feet, being as pure as the essence of heaven.” In the interval, Moses alone approached more closely to the ערפל, as he had been told in verse 12 עלה אלי ההרה “ascend to Me to the mountain and remain there, etc.” This additional ascent (additional to what was commanded in verse 1 represented an additional spiritual elevation on the part of Moses until he actually entered the cloud. The next step occurred in verse 18 where the Torah reports Moses as entering the cloud, ascending the mountain and remaining there for forty days. 
You are already aware that this (angel) is the one who was the cause of Elisha ben Avuyah making a grievous error, resulting in his heresy when he formed the opinion that there are two domains of divinity (compare Chagigah 15). The same is liable to happen to anyone who does not exercise extreme care in contemplating these verses. Perhaps the reason that this paragraph has been written immediately after the previous paragraph concluded with the word מוקש, “a trap,” in 23,33, is to warn that this chapter must be read with more than ordinary care. It is a veiled warning that he who is not extremely careful when studying this chapter is liable to fall into a theological trap. The error committed by the people who served the golden calf, by Nadav and Avihu (compare our author’s comments on Leviticus 10,1), may be traced to misreading what is written in our chapter. Of all the great scholars delving into the matter only Rabbi Akiva escaped with his mind and body completely intact (Chagigah 14). How was it that only Rabbi Akiva succeeded where others had failed? This is what our sages meant when they said that Rabbi Akiva realized that there are other powerful angels of the caliber of Mattatron thus precluding the error that because Mattatron was unique he was a divinity. The sages based this on Deut. 33,2 אתה מרבבות קודש, that when G’d gave the Torah “He had come with some of the myriads of holy beings.” The reason G’d is called ה' צבאות is precisely because He is the Master of all these holy beings.

No comments :

Post a Comment

please use either your real name or a pseudonym.