Tag Archives: mystic

A Few Thoughts on a General Soul

Hasidism teaches that while not all are able to attain the highest levels of elevated spirituality, the masses can attach themselves to the Tzadik, or truly righteous one, (in Hebrew: התקשרות לצדיקים) whereby even those of lesser achievement will reap the same spiritual and material benefits. By being in the Tzadik’s presence one could achieve dveikut through that of the Tzadik. The Tzadik also serves as the intercessor between those attached to him and God, and acts as the channel through which Divine bounty is passed. To the early Rabbinic opponents of Hasidism, its distinctive doctrine of the Tzadik appeared to place an intermediary before Judaism’s direct connection with God. They saw the Hasidic enthusiasm of telling semi-prophetic or miraculous stories of its leaders as excessive. In Hasidic thought, based on earlier Kabbalistic ideas of collective souls, the Tzaddik is a general soul in which the followers are included. The Tzaddik is described as an “Intermidiary who connects” with God, rather than the heretical notion of an “Intermidiary who separates”. To the followers, the Tzaddik is not an object of prayer, as he attains his level only by being completely bittul (nullified) to God. The Hasidic followers have the custom of handing pidyon requests for blessing to the Tzaddik, or visiting the Ohel graves of earlier leaders.

from the article “Hasidic philosophy”
Wikipedia.org

I can hardly tell you how the above-quoted paragraph seems to describe how I understand the Messiah.

OK, I know that Wikipedia has less than a stellar reputation as a direct resource, but given that Chasidic and Kabbalistic philosophy can be enormously difficult to comprehend (at least to me), I selected what I thought was the most accessible information source. But why am I posting a quote about bonding with a Chasidic tzadik at all? What possible relevance can it have to a Christian, even one who is trying to view his faith through a traditional Jewish lens?

Last week, as I’ve mentioned numerous times, I attended the First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) 2012 Shavuot conference at the Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship in Hudson, Wisconsin. Among the various teachers and speakers at this event was FFOZ author and staff member Aaron Eby. He said something about the Messiah during one of his presentations that I just had to write down. This probably isn’t word-for-word, but hopefully, it’s close.

Messiah has a general soul and he cannot separate his soul from the soul of Israel.

I’m not sure if the other stuff I have written down on this little piece of paper I’m looking at was said by Aaron or just my interpretation and expansion on what he said, but here it is.

When a Gentile takes hold of the tzitzit of a Jew, he is taking hold of Messiah. He is taking hold of the tzitzit of a Jew and being led to the Temple Mount. Find God in the Jewish people.

I’m obviously referencing Zechariah 8:23 in my notes, but let’s take a look at the verse in it’s context.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going.’ Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” –Zechariah 8:20-23 (ESV)

These events occur in the Messianic age, so thus far, ten men of the nations haven’t taken a hold of the tzitzit of a Jew in the manner described by the prophet. However, we know that this will happen and we know we Christians should get used to the idea that it should happen, and that it is all part of God’s plan for the Jews and for us.

A few weeks ago, I wrote on another meditation something that caused quite a stir:

This is another reason why we Christians, and indeed, the entire world, owes the Jews a debt that can never be repaid. It is their King who will finally come and bring peace for everyone, not just the nation of Israel, but the nations of the earth.

The “push back” I received about those words was that we owe God the Father and Jesus Christ such a debt, not the Jewish people. The idea is that Christians should not glorify a people group but instead, glorify God. As far as that statement goes, I agree wholeheartedly. Our worship and devotion belongs only to the God of Israel. Jesus Christ came and even said that God sent him to the lost sheep of Israel. And we know from the very often quoted John 3:16 and many other scriptures that the scope of the Messianic covenant extends far beyond Israel and indeed, to the entire world.

ShavuotBut what was that thing about a “general soul?”

When Aaron made that statement, I immediately thought of the different ways I tried to explain why we Christians do owe a debt to the Jews. In the best way I knew how, I tried to show that the Messiah as an individual, cannot be separated from his people the Jews. In essense, Messiah is Israel and is their firstborn son. Now I have another way of thinking about Messiah as having a general soul that is inseparably joined to the soul of all his people. But maybe, if we can take a different look at Zechariah 8, the door swings both ways, so to speak. We in church, when we “take hold” of Christ, are also taking hold of Israel and the Jews. But we can also “take hold,” as the prophet said, of a Jew, and by doing so, be joined to Israel and her Messiah.

I want to be very careful here and explain that I’m not talking about substituting Judaism in the place of the Messiah. So many Gentiles in the Messianic Jewish movement have fallen into this trap and abandoned Jesus altogether, choosing instead to convert to a traditional Judaism. This is not what I’m suggesting at all. What I’m saying is that we cannot separate the Messiah from Judaism. Perhaps I’m also saying that we cannot separate Judaism from Messiah. I’m not particularly scholarly in these areas, so I don’t have the means to evaluate the mystical implications of all of this, but if nothing else, I see the Messiah and his general soul as a way for us to continually realize that we cannot say we love Jesus Christ and throw the Jews, Judaism, and national Israel under a bus at the same time.

If we accept Christ as Messiah and Lord, we accept all of him, just as he is and always will be. Totally joined to Israel and to every Jew who has ever existed.

So be careful what you say and how you treat the next Jewish person you meet. You never know if someday it may be his tzitzit you will be clinging to as you cling to the soul of the Messiah.

Since the Divine activating force responsible for the existence of created things must continuously be present within them, they are completely nullified in their source. This means, as the Alter Rebbe explained in the previous chapter, that in reality they do not “exist”.

Why, then, do we nevertheless perceive created beings as enjoying a tangible “existence”? — Only because we are unable to see or comprehend the Divine utterance that is contained within each created thing and that calls it into being.

The Alter Rebbe illustrated this by considering the sun’s rays. When they are not within their source, the sun, but diffused throughout the expanse of the universe, they are perceived as having independent existence. However, when they are contained within the sun-globe they clearly have no such “existence” at all.

From “Today’s Tanya Lesson” (Listen online)
Shaar Hayichud Vehaemunah, beginning of Chapter 4
Sivan 12, 5772 · June 2, 2012
Chabad.org

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Rambling on the Trail of the Temple of God

Shulchan Aruch rules that it is prohibited to tear down a Bais HaKnesses in order to build a new Bais HaKnesses. The reason is out of concern that they will tear down the old Bais HaKnesses and then something will happen that will prevent them from constructing the new Bais HaKnesses. Rather, they must first construct the new Bais HaKnesses and only then may they tear down the old Bais HaKnesses. Mishnah Berurah…presents a disagreement between Magen Avrohom and Taz whether it is permitted to tear down an old Bais HaKnesses if there is a Bais HaKnesses in town that is large enough for everyone to daven so that even if the new Bais HaKnesses is not built they will not be left without a Bais HaKnesses for davening. Taz permits tearing down the old Bais HaKnesses in these circumstances whereas Magen Avrohom prohibits the practice. Biur Halacha…notes that many later authorities cite Taz’s position as halacha and he adds that since tearing down a Bais HaKnesses to build another one is only Rabbinically prohibited one may follow Taz’s lenient position.

Rema rules that it is even prohibited to tear down a single wall in order to make the Bais HaKnesses larger; rather they must first build the new wall and then it is permitted to tear down the old wall. Sefer Tzedaka U’Mishpat…contends that Rema’s ruling is limited to where the construction would make it impossible to daven in the Bais HaKnesses. If, however, they would be able to continue to daven there while the construction
is going on it is permitted to tear down a wall to expand the Bais HaKnesses even before building the new wall. The rationale is that this is no different than having another Bais HaKnesses where they can daven.

Mishna Berura Yomi Digest
Halacha Highlight
“Tearing down a Bais HaKnesses”
Siman 152 Seif 1 (a)

Disclaimer: Everything you’re about to read is provocative and possibly won’t make a lot of sense. I’m engaging in more than a bit of “stream of consciousness” for this morning meditation. Try not to get too offended if I stumble across one of your theologies and describe it differently than you understand it. I’m just chronicling my spiritual journey for today, not telling you what to think or feel. End of disclaimer. Carry on.

I know what I quoted above is applied to the tearing down and building synagogues and not the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, but the “Stories to Share” for the Siman 152 indicates that the ruling for one can be applied to the other.

Shortly after they washed, the rebbe asked, “Chazal tells us that it is forbidden for one to tear down a shul until the replacement has been built. Now, how could Hashem have destroyed the beis hamikdash without building a replacement? This seems to contradict this gemara, which is the basis of the halachah in Shulchan Aruch siman 152!”

I suppose that’s why, when studying this commentary this morning, I was reminded of the following prophecy by the Master:

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. –John 2:18-22 (ESV)

In spite of the rather detailed prophesy we find in Book of Ezekiel, starting at Chapter 40, describing the Third Temple that is to be built by God and descend to Earth from Heaven, most Christians (OK, probably all Christians) don’t believe another physical Temple will ever be built. They believe that any mention of a Temple in the New Testament is strictly a spiritual reference, rather than describing an actual structure. One of the proof texts they cite for this belief is John 2 while another is this:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. –1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (ESV)

The logic is that God caused Herod’s Temple to be destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. never to be rebuilt as a physical structure, both because Jesus declared his body to be raised as a Temple three days after his death, and because the bodies of all Christians are to be considered “Holy Temples”. There’s no need for a Third Temple, because the Temple has been shifted from a physical to a spiritual structure. It’s a simple matter of substitution: the physical for the spiritual; the flesh vs. the spirit.

But if you have been following my blog for any amount of time, you know that it’s not all that simple to me.

On the other hand, if Jesus was to be the substitution for Herod’s Temple, then he was “built” (that is, resurrected) prior to the destruction of that Temple, as required by halacha, so that requirement would seem have been satisfied. In fact, if there is supposed to be a physical Third Temple, according to halacha, the construction should have been started before Herod’s Temple was destroyed. Of course, it’s not like the Jews had a lot of choice in the matter, but if you consider that it was God who allowed the Second Temple’s destruction, then He had all of the choice in the matter. We saw that this question had already been asked in a previous quote. Here’s the answer, according to the Gerrer Rebbe:

The rebbe then answered his own rhetorical question. “This is the meaning of the verse, ‘Hashem has planned to destroy the wall of the daughter of Tzion; He has stretched out a line.’ (Eichah 2:8) This means that from the moment that Hashem decided to destroy the beis hamikdash, He had already laid down the infrastructure of the new beis hamikdash. The beis hamikdash is only waiting for the correct time to descend—it is already built!”

Keeping that in mind, I’ve often interpreted the following as God delivering the Third Temple from Heaven to a mankind desperate to dwell again with their Creator:

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. –Revelation 21:2

I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of arguments (and maybe some hate mail) about my interpretations here, since I’m stringing together Rabbinic commentary and Christian theology with not much more than imagination and tiny strands of sewing thread, but I’m not trying to create a proof. I’m only trying to start people thinking and asking questions. Could this all be possible? Is Ezekiel’s Temple seen descending from Heaven in Revelation 21 “as a bride adorned for her husband?” Did God “build” it for humanity before Herod’s Temple was destroyed? What’s the relationship between the “temple” of Christ’s body and the Temple from Heaven? For that matter, what is the relationship between all of that and the “temples” of our Christian bodies?

I don’t know.

I realize that’s probably disappointing, but I don’t have some secret, mystical, spiritual connection or explanation to give you. All I have are the little bits and pieces of my understanding of the Bible and this “stream of consciousness” I call a blog to try and express my feelings and experiences. I have Ezekiel telling me there will be a Third Temple, I have Jewish commentary telling me God will build it and deliver it to humanity, and I have Revelation saying (possibly) that John saw the actual “delivery” in his vision. Maybe all that hangs together and maybe not, but it is certainly compelling.

But if all that is true, what about us being Temples with the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, much like the Divine Presence dwelt within the Mishkan in the desert and within Solomon’s Temple? Christianity assumes that, except for specific prophets of old, the Holy Spirit dwelt in no one until Pentecost in Acts 2. Now we believe that the Holy Spirit dwells in every Christian starting at the moment when we declare Jesus as Christ and Lord. But is that really true?

Admittedly, you don’t see a mass indwelling event with the Spirit entering each and every Hebrew at the foot of Mount Sinai the moment the Torah is given, but the idea isn’t unheard of in Judaism:

In 1759, about a year before the Baal Shem Tov passed away, there was an incident that illustrated his immense love for his fellow Jew. At that time there was a heretical sect led by a man named Jacob Frank. These Frankists had begun agitating amongst the Christian authorities against the Jews with specific emphasis against the Talmud. (In a previous “debate” in 1757, the Frankists had succeeded in causing the Talmud to be burnt in Lvov.) The bishop of Lemberg decreed that a debate should be held between the Jews and the Frankists. The Baal Shem Tov was a member of the three man delegation that represented the Jews. They were successful in averting this evil decree, and the Talmud was not burnt. At the same time however, the defeated Frankists were then forced to convert to Christianity. While most of the Jewish leaders were happy at the downfall of these evil men, the Baal Shem Tov was not. He said. “The Divine Presence wails and says, ‘So long as a limb is attached to the body there is still a hope that there can be a cure, but once the limb is cut off there is no cure forever.’ And every Jew is a limb of the Divine Presence.”

-from the Biography of
Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov (1698 – 1760)
Jewish Virtual Library

Philip Bimbaun in A Book of Jewish Concepts says, “Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Hasidim, is reported to have said: Every Jew is an organ of the Shekkinah [the Divine Presence]. As long as the organ is joined to the body, however tenuously, there is hope; once it is cut off, all hope is long” (609, 610).

-quoted from
Romans (Randall House Bible Commentary) (pg 47)
Randall House Publications (December 19, 1987)
by F. Leroy Forlines

The use of the term ‘them’ rather than ‘it’ has been interpreted as a message that the purpose of the Mishkan sanctuary was to facilitate the dwelling of the Divine Presence within the heart of every Jew. The role of the Mishkan in the wilderness and during the first four centuries of a Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael was perpetuated by the first and second Beit Hamikdash Temples which spanned a period of nine centuries. All of this is today but a memory to which a visit to the Kotel (Western Wall) gives a special dimension. This does not mean, however, that a Jew cannot build a mini-sanctuary in his heart even today. The Divine Presence is waiting to dwell within the hearts of all Jews if only they will let it enter!

-Rabbi Mendel Weinbach
‘The “Holy Sites”‘
For the week ending 8 February 2003 / 6 Adar I 5763
Ohr Somayach

The obvious objection that a Christian could bring up here, is that these commentaries and interpretations were constructed well after the beginning of the Christian church and could have been “borrowed” from Christianity by the Jews. I can’t say that you’re wrong, if this is your assumption, since I have no way of knowing. I really don’t know if the concept of every Jew being a limb or organ of the Divine Presence predated the birth of Jesus. It would be exciting if it did, and that each Jew at Sinai were a human receptacle for the Divine Presence, but I don’t know.

What I do know is that it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the images of His Spirit, the Divine Presence (which probably isn’t an equivalent concept to the Holy Spirit), the Mishkan, the physical Temples, the Temple of the body of Christ, and the temples of our own bodies as disciples of the Master, are all somehow interwoven in a mysterious and mystical message that has been in the process of being created and developed and expanded for thousands and thousands of years.

I’ve said before that I don’t think of the Bible as this static document containing unchanging, eternal truths. Of course, there are eternal truths to be found between its covers, but it is so much more. There’s a living, breathing experience to be had in the Bible and it changes for each age and each people. Some words, phrases, and books may be more relevant and meaningful now than they were before, while others may not apply in the same way, if at all, as in the time when they were written. Human beings have a tendency to read the Bible, apply a theological meaning to its various parts, and disregard (or completely “spiritualize”) the other bits and pieces that don’t seem to fit. We impose our personalities onto the Word of God and call it the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Far be it from me to deny the Holy Spirit, but it’s not a foregone conclusion that whatever occurs to us in our imagination must be from God. It could be our imagination trying to make the Bible fit the theology we’ve heard from the pulpit, just as a person tries to create a coherent story from the disjointed, hallucinogenic images they experienced in last night’s dreams.

This is very much putting the cart before the horse. We need to try and allow the Bible to tell us its story in its own words and using its own context. This is an enormously difficult task and in fact, it may well be impossible, even with the guidance of the Spirit, if for no other reason, than because of the limitations of the human mind. Add to that our own prejudices and biases, and we even further inhibit the Spirit and our own understanding. I’m just as guilty of this as the next person and I’m just as likely to turn to various commentaries and studies to try and receive an insight into the words God gave to humanity, along with “the Word who became flesh” that God gave to humanity.

By these ramblings, I’m sure you’ve concluded that I’ve been far from successful in acquiring a meaningful insight into the Bible, and you’re probably right. But it’s not the destination that I’m focused upon but rather, it’s the journey. God has scattered these tantalizing little jewels along the path. What do they mean? How can we apply them to our travels? How did those who came before us on the trail understand these shards of treasure? All these questions are like splinters in my mind and if I don’t ask them out loud, they will surely drive me mad. Like Icarus, I must risk destruction by flying too near the Sun in order to find illumination. Like Peter, who utterly failed the Master by denying him on the eve of his execution, I cannot simply tuck my tail between my legs and scurry off into oblivion when confronted with a Holy mystery. I must drag myself back into his presence, humbled and humiliated, begging his forgiveness, seeking his love, and asking to him to appeal to God to give me the strength to do the impossible.

And what seems so impossible? To live in a world with so many questions and so few answers. But God knows what He’s doing. It’s the questions that drive me. If I only had answers, my journey would be done, I would be at peace, and I would “know God” (Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 8:11). We are not to “know God” until the Messianic age and beyond. Until then, we are the Temple, and we are disciples of the Temple, and indeed, we also long for the days when the Temple built by God alone, will descend from Heaven to Earth. How is this all possible? The questions are the journey. Someday, God will be the answer, as surely He already is.

Noach: What We Allow in Heaven

Noah's ArkThe Maggid of Mezritch interpreted our Sages’ statement: “Know what is above you,” as: “Know that everything ‘above’ all that transpires in the spiritual realms is ‘from you,’ dependent on your conduct. Each of us has the potential to influence even the most elevated spiritual realms.”

The Torah alludes to this potential in the opening verse of our reading: “These are the chronicles of Noach. Noach was a righteous man.” The word noach refers to satisfaction and repose. By repeating the word, the Torah implies that Noach and by extension, every one of his descendants can sow these qualities in two different fields, both among his fellow men, and in the spiritual worlds above.

Every person affects his environment. Our thoughts, words and deeds can inspire peace and tranquility in our fellow men, helping create meaningful pleasure. And by establishing such conditions in our world, we accentuate similar qualities in the worlds above. To highlight our obligation to spread these virtues, this week’s Torah portion is called Noach.

-Rabbi Yanki Tauber
“Genuine Satisfaction: Noach’s Legacy”
Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XX, p. 285ff;
Vol. XXV, p. 23ff
Chabad.org

This is the line of Noah. — Noah was a righteous man; he was blameless in his age; Noah walked with God.Genesis 6:9 (JPS Tanakh)

It’s difficult and sometimes even a little dangerous to go beyond the plain meaning of what we read in the Bible and enter hidden or even mystic interpretations. First off, even though Christianity also has its mystic tradition, looking at the Bible through a Chassidic lens can tend to be disorienting, and most people will immediately reject the view rather than attempt to explore the value that might be gained from a radical change in perspective. And yet, this is what “jumped out at me” when studying the Torah Portion Noah (some Jewish sources spell the name “Noach”) this week.

Yesterday, I posted two “meditations” on this blog about how we can have an influence on others. Both messages were, for the most part, grounded in traditional methods of doing good and improving the world, but a Chasid believes that anything that is done on earth is reflected in Heaven. To punctuate this, I previously quoted Rabbi Tzvi Freeman as saying:

For all that is, physical or spiritual or Divine, was only created to be part of the repair of this world of action. And once that repair is done, all that will be true are those things that made it happen.

Even the Master said:

“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. –Matthew 18:18

But what does this mean and what does it have to do, not only with Noah, but with us?

One rather awesome conclusion, as stated above, is that what we do here doesn’t just matter here or to the people around us, but it actually has effects beyond the physical realm.

It has been noted by our Sages that “Torah preceded the world,” i.e., although Torah as studied in this physical world is to be understood in its plain context, it preceded the world. For every letter of Torah also possesses inner and esoteric meaning. Such meaning emanates from the study of Torah in the higher spiritual realms – worlds that transcend physicality.

Understandably, this applies not only to the Torah’s commandments, but to its stories; although all the stories recounted actually transpired in all their detail, still, since Torah preceded the world, we must perforce say that these tales also contain meanings found in the higher, spiritual worlds.

This gives rise to the following inescapable conclusion: Since “No evil sojourns with You,” we must say that even though the Torah contains things that in their simple context seem undesirable – such as misdeeds, punishments, and the like – in the world above, where it is impossible for evil to reside, these selfsame events are understood as being entirely desirable, holy and good.

The Chassidic Dimension: Noach
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson and
Likkutei Sichos , Noach 5747
Chabad.org

noah-rainbowThat probably doesn’t clear things up much, but consider this. For any event that you read about in the Torah, there is a corresponding event or meaning that has occurred in Heaven. There’s a mysterious, mystic, connection between the ordinary document that we study and what God used to create the universe. Extending the metaphor, we might be able to say that whenever we obey one of the Torah mitzvah, there is an impact, not only on earth, but in Heaven. Jesus said as much in Matthew 18.

Going back to this week’s Torah portion, we can apply this metaphor to say that the names, words, and events depicted in this reading is not just a report of what happened to Noah and his family and to the earth during and after the flood, but that there are much larger ramifications. Those ramifications are particularly meaningful to those people who aren’t Jewish. Remember, Rabbi Tauber said that all of Noah’s descendents can affect both the world of men and the spiritual realms. We are all Noah’s descendents.

God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fertile and increase, and fill the earth. The fear and the dread of you shall be upon all the beasts of the earth and upon all the birds of the sky — everything with which the earth is astir — and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hand. Every creature that lives shall be yours to eat; as with the green grasses, I give you all these. You must not, however, eat flesh with its life-blood in it. But for your own life-blood I will require a reckoning: I will require it of every beast; of man, too, will I require a reckoning for human life, of every man for that of his fellow man!

Whoever sheds the blood of man,
By man shall his blood be shed;
For in His image
Did God make man.

Be fertile, then, and increase; abound on the earth and increase on it.”

And God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “I now establish My covenant with you and your offspring to come, and with every living thing that is with you — birds, cattle, and every wild beast as well — all that have come out of the ark, every living thing on earth. I will maintain My covenant with you: never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” –Genesis 9:1-11

The covenant God made with Noah and his sons is the basis for what Judaism calls The Seven Noahide Laws. While Judaism doesn’t consider the full 613 Commandments of the Torah to be binding on a non-Jew, the Noahide Laws are applicable to everyone. In Judaism, any non-Jew who lives a life as a Noahide merits a place in the world to come (in “Christianese” that would mean he’s “saved”).

This doesn’t make much sense to a Christian because we believe that there is only one way to the Father and that’s through the Son (John 14:6). In traditional Christianity, it doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish or not Jewish, you must come to faith in the Messiah to be fully reconciled with God. How the Messianic covenant addresses the Mosaic I’ll address another time, but did the Messianic covenant wipe out the Noahide covenant completely?

In the days of Noah and for ten generations afterward, there was only one people, one language, and one standard by which a man could have a covenant with God. It was the standard God gave to Noah. At the tenth generation, this people united to build an affront to God at Babel and we are told that God “confused their languages” and made the seventy nations (Genesis 11:1-9). At the end of this reading, we see Abram enter the narrative for the first time, but even after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, what was the standard of righteous living for all of mankind until the coming of Jesus?

We can look at the story of Noah and see the story of mankind’s influence, not only upon the world around us but, according to mystic interpretation, the world above. When man defied God and built a tower, God could have ignored them. After all, it wasn’t as if building a structure, no matter how high, really could have reached Heaven, could it? But if not, then why did God react and do what He did?

the-towerNo, I don’t believe you can make a tower to reach up to Heaven, but I do believe that somehow, what we do on earth, for good or for bad, does affect Heaven and it does affect God. Certainly we can’t do anything to adversely affect God but we also have a unique relationship with our Creator that no other creature has, not even the angelic beings. We are special. We matter personally to God. Our actions are not our own and they are not limited to the “nuts and bolts” of life in our own little world.

If even the name “Noach” has meaning, if the stories in the Torah somehow reach beyond the words on a page and resonate in Heaven itself, if what we loose on earth is loosed in God’s realm, then the story of Noah teaches us that we dare not be careless with what we say and do. Noah’s planting a vineyard, making wine, and becoming intoxicated resulted in a permanent curse on Ham, but we don’t know why. The descendents of Noah built a great tower to symbolize their invincibility over God, defying God as man did in Eden, and defying God as the generation before the flood, and God reacted by confusing their language and splitting the one people into the seventy nations of the earth, and we don’t really know why. We say and do things in our lives, sometimes in the service of God and sometimes in the service of ourselves, and yet they have an impact in the Heavenly courts, and we don’t know how or why.

But if what we do matters that much, or even if it just might be possible that it matters that much, do we dare say a careless word or perform a careless act? Are not only our lives, but each thing we say or do that important to God? What are we loosing on earth…and in heaven?

Good Shabbos.

New Genesis

New WorldOn Rosh Hashanah, G-d takes Himself to court. He looks down from above at this world and, as I’m sure you may realize, it doesn’t always look so good.

G-d is within this world as well. He is found in every atom of this world. It may sound strange, but this is what is happening: He as He is above takes Himself, as He is present within this world, to trial.

Only the soul of Man can argue on His behalf. So we do that, as lawyers for the defense. All that is required is to awaken the G-dliness within our own souls.

The spark of G-d within us below connects with the Infinite Light of G-d above. The circuit is complete and the universe is rebooted with a fresh flow of energy for an entire year.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“G-d’s Lawyers”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

This is a very strange Rosh Hashanah meditation but then, Rosh Hashanah is a very strange time. I suppose you can look upon the quote from Rabbi Freeman as midrash, mysticism, or metaphor, depending on which one best fits your personality, but just how can God judge Himself? Isn’t He supposed to judge us?

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. –Revelation 20:11-12

This image is very reminiscent of how Judaism pictures God during the High Holidays. According to the Talmud, the Book of Life is opened on Rosh Hashanah and closed again at the end of Yom Kippur. This event repeats on an annual basis. According to Christianity, the Book of Life is opened only once, as we see in the above-quoted passage from Revelation. While it may be difficult to imagine, I think that Christianity’s and Judaism’s different visions can be reconciled. I’ll get to that part in a minute. Back to my previous question.

How can God judge Himself? Isn’t He supposed to judge us?

When it was the sixth hour, there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And during the ninth hour, Yeshua (Jesus) cried out with a loud voice, “Elahi, elahi, lemah shevaktani?” which is interpreted, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Some of the men standing there heard and said, “Look! He is calling to Eliyahu!”

One of them ran and filled a sponge with vinegar. He placed it on a cane, gave it to him to drink and said, “Leave him alone, and let us see if Eliyahu will come to take him down!”

But Yeshua gave a loud cry and breathed out his life. –Mark 15:33-37 (DHE Gospels)

Here, perhaps we see God judging both Himself and us. If Jesus was meant to bear the sins of all mankind and to take the punishment that was upon us, this then is our judgment. That the judgment falls upon the King of Kings, the Son of God, he who is mortal and sent by the Divine, then in this, we can say that God judges “Himself”. That we are all created in God’s image and that the Divine spark resides in each of us can also be thought of as God “judging Himself”.

But didn’t all this happen only once? If so, why bother (at least from a Christian perspective) observing an annual Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?

Time is not a train of cars hitched one to another, one year dragged along by the year preceding, the present hitched tightly to the past, the future enslaved to the present. Rather, every year arrives fresh from its Creator, a year that never was before and could never have been known before its arrival.

That is why we call Rosh Hashanah “the birthday of the world” in our prayers. The past has returned to its place, never to return. With the blowing of the shofar, the entirety of Creation is renewed. From this point on, even the past exists only by virtue of the present.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Reboot”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Midrash, mysticism, or metaphor…take your pick. From the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s point of view, the Universe is recreated every year at Rosh Hashanah. The “reboot” opportunity for our lives isn’t just poetic imagery, it’s a metaphysical reality. Are you having trouble believing that? Then what about this?

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us. –Psalm 103:11-12

Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”

And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. –Hebrews 10:17-18

Reboot t-shirtOnce redeemed, God not only forgives our sins, it’s as if our sins never existed in the first place. It’s as if our very lives have been “rebooted”, as if the person we were had died and in our redemption, we have become brand new (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Bible allows for a metaphysical reboot in the lives of human beings. Why not in the “life” of the Universe as well? Does the Universe have a “soul”? Rabbi Freeman seems to think so, along with an existence in space and time.

The universe has a soul. All that exists in the soul exists in space and in time.

In the cosmic soul there is a mind, a consciousness from which all conscious life extends.

In space, there is the Land of Israel, a space from where all space is nurtured.

In time, there is Rosh Hashanah, a time from which all time is renewed.

Rosh Hashanah, meaning Head of the Year. Not just a starting point, but a head. For whatever will transpire in the coming year is first conceived in these two days.

Midrash, mysticism, or metaphor…take your pick. From the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s point of view, Creation itself has a distinct and unique existence, not only as a physical reality, but as a mystic and metaphysical presence, expressed as a soul within a specific time and place. Existence is reset and a new life is begun at Rosh Hashanah and given a new heartbeat emanating from Israel and circulating its “blood” throughout the rest of the world. It’s as if Creation were a pool of water. Each year at Rosh Hashanah, God drops a pebble into the pool. The water is so disturbed that the ripples completely wipe away what had existed upon and within the water and everything becomes brand new again. A new universe, a new chance, a new life for each of us. A new relationship with God is offered if we want it. It’s as if salvation were given to us on Rosh Hashanah. For a Christian, it’s like being “saved” all over again.

Do we need to be saved each year? Maybe. I’m not saying salvation expires every year, but consider this, Christian. At some point in your life, you accepted the Lordship of Jesus over your entire being. Chances are, you had no idea what was going to happen next and how much you would have to change who you were and what you were doing. It was exciting at the time but, like your wedding day and the days afterward, what was once exciting and new can become an old, tired routine.

Rosh Hashanah is an opening of the door to the moment of salvation again. We can make a decision not to live within apathy or to settle for a second-best relationship with our Creator. We don’t even have to settle for a renewal of what once was. We can have it brand new, shining and perfect again.

God suspending the worldRosh Hashanah can be many things. When you are in a relationship with the One, Unique, Creative God, that relationship is not limited by physical and temporal boundaries. It exists on levels beyond which any human can experience. Nevertheless, those levels exist. We may not be acutely aware of them, but we can still take advantage of those places in time and space that man has not touched. God is there and God can do wonders. We can be His partner in those wonders and participate in recreating the Universe and recreating us. We can be new again, and the voices of God and man can echo back and forth between the Heavens and God’s footstool, upon which we dwell, as if reverberating between mirrors.

The words we say are spoken in the heavens. And yet higher. For they are His words, bouncing back to Him.

On Rosh Hashanah, we say His words from His Torah recalling His affection for our world; He speaks them too, turning His attention back towards our earthly plane.

We cry out with all our essence in the sound of the shofar; He echos back, throwing all His essence inward towards His creation.

Together, man and G-d rebuild creation.

Judgment is rendered and suspended. God and man together speak the Word in a shofar’s blast, and the Universe is again is new.

Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Wednesday, September 28th.

L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem. May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

The Death of the Tzaddik

Torah at SinaiRav Zalman Sorotzkin, zt”l, taught the extent of the oneness of the actions of all Jews from the prohibition of slaughtering a mother animal and her calf on the same day. “The verse states, ‘It and its progeny you shall not slaughter on the same day.’ The word for ‘slaughter’ is plural to teach that if one Jew slaughters the mother and a second Jew slaughters the child, this violates the prohibition. He explained, “We can learn a very important lesson from this.

We see that there is a very special connection between the actions of one Jew and the actions of his fellow. Our mission as a nation is to be a light unto the nations and we can only do this if we are united. Whether we know it or not, every Jew is part of one collective Jewish soul. This explains the unreasonable tendency of the non-Jewish nations to blame all Jews for heinous acts done by unworthy individuals. It is surely strange that they do not judge other nations this way. But when we consider that every Jew is part of a single whole, this begins to make a strange kind of sense, at least on a cosmic level…”

When Rav Chaim Vital, zt”l, noticed the Arizal saying a tearful heartfelt vidui during davening he wondered about this. “Why are you saying vidui? Surely you have never violated any of the heinous sins mentioned.”

The Arizal admitted that he had not violated the sins listed. He said, “Nevertheless, I must at least repent for all of them. Although I have never transgressed, what about my fellow Jews who have?

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“Parts of a Whole”
Chullin 81

I sometimes despair over the lack of unity in the body of Christ or in the larger collection of people of faith. We seem so fragmented and disorganized for a group of human beings who supposedly all worship the same God and who all long for the coming of the Messiah (for Christians that’s “second coming”). Despite the lesson we see off the Daf, it seems as if even the Jewish people are not unified in their approach to and understanding of God, the Torah, and even whether or not a Jew must believe in God to be a Jew.

Yet if we look at the Sinai event, the Torah wasn’t given to each Israelite individually but to Israel as a single body.

Moses went and repeated to the people all the commands of the Lord and all the rules; and all the people answered as one man with one heart, saying, “All the things that the Lord has commanded we will do!” –Exodus 24:3

Rashi comments that the Egyptians were pursuing the Jews “With one heart, like one person.” This comment is interesting because Rashi makes almost the same exact comment in next week’s parsha, when the Torah describes the Jewish people camping at the foot of Mt Sinai. There too, the Torah used the singular tense to describe the Jewish people, “and Israel encamped there opposite the mountain” (Exodus 19:2). On that verse, Rashi describes the powerful unity the Jews felt as they were about to receive the Torah, that they were “Like one person with one heart.”

-Rabbi Leiby Burnham
Parasha Perspectives
Torah Portion Beshalach – 5769
Partners in Torah

While modern Judaism may not function “like one person with one heart”, at least on the surface, we see that when the nation of Israel was formed and the Torah was given at Sinai, Israel accepted the Law of God “with one heart”. That was God’s intent and I believe that the Jewish people will return to complete unity under God in the days of the Messiah.

But what about Christians? We are sometimes called “the body of Christ”, implying that we are a unified group or collective, but is that really true and was it true from the beginning? Particularly in Western culture, the value of the individual is considered paramount and we tend not to respond well to being treated as a group under the authority of a Pastor, Rabbi, or other governing body. We each demand the right to determine what the Bible says for ourselves, which often results in the Bible saying many different things to many different people.

I won’t quote the various New Testament examples because there are far too many, but Paul’s mission to the Gentiles to preach the Good News of Christ was carried, by necessity, to individual Gentiles, families, or small groups. It would have been impossible to deliver the Gospel message to “the nations” as a unified whole, if only because the world is so big and Gentiles, even in the Second Temple era, were so numerous. There could be no “Sinai event” for us the way there was for the Children of Israel, and maybe that represents a fundamental difference between Jews and Christians.

Even though the various branches of religious Judaism (as well as secular Jews) don’t see eye to eye, when you take away the differences and distill the Jewish people down to their very essence, there is a very basic “Jewishness” that cannot be removed, erased, or diminished beyond a certain point. A Jew will always be a Jew. When push comes to shove, the Jews are a people as established by the will of God.

Not so a Christian.

We are not born, we are made. More accurately, we make a decision; becoming a Christian is a choice. Becoming not a Christian is also a choice. There really is no such thing as an “ex-Jew”. Even for Jews who convert to Christianity, the Jewishness is still there. That isn’t true for Gentile believers. There is a point where you can reduce the Jews down to a common denominator where they are all one (as God is One), but Christians are not “one”, we are many.

I wonder if that’s our problem?

Mount SinaiI can only imagine that, in the end, God will gather the faithful together and we will all be “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15) as, in theory, we are supposed to be right now, but we’re not there yet. In my own little corner of the world, exploring a path rarely traveled by any other Christian, I feel very much alone most of the time. That’s probably by choice as well, although I feel like there’s a bit of wiring and programming inside of me that will not let me seek a different road and will not let me blend in with the masses of the Messiah’s sheep in their Christian sheepfold.

I wonder if that’s my problem?

(Actually, I don’t feel that odd anymore. I just read an article about how Koreans, both in their native country and in the U.S., are fascinated with Talmud and its wisdom. Korean translations of Talmud and books about Talmud are common in Korean bookstores.)

Can we be one? Is Christian unity an illusion? How are we to gather together under the One God and be a unique body, set apart in holiness?

…so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. –Hebrews 9:28

The murder of Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzeira, the “Baba Elazar,” on Thursday night saved the people of Israel from other tragedies, leading rabbis said Friday.

“Harsh punishments were decreed on the people of Israel, and he wanted to nullify them,” said the slain rabbi’s brother, Rabbi Baruch Abuhatzeira, also known as the Baba Baruch, speaking at Rabbi Abuhatzeira’s funeral.

by Maayana Miskin
“Rabbi Abuhatzeira Bore the Burden of Evil Decrees”
IsraelNationalNews.com

God is One and His Name is One. As Christians, we believe that the Son of Man came to die for the sins of many. Although Judaism traditionally does not believe that one person can die for the sins of another, the Kabbalistic perspective states otherwise:

The Bible is clear, and it is consistent. One person cannot die for the sins of another. This means that the guilt from the sins committed by one person cannot be wiped out by the punishment given to another person. First, in Exodus 32:30-35, Moses asks God to punish him for the sin of the Golden Calf, committed by the people. God tells Moses that the person who committed the sin is the person who must receive the punishment. Then, in Deuteronomy 24:16, God simply states this as a basic principle, “Every man shall be put to death for his own sins.” This concept is repeated in the Prophets, in Ezekiel 18 “The soul that sinneth, it shall die… the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”

-Rabbi Stuart Federow
“Jews believe that one person cannot die for the sins of another person”
What Jews Believe

“… suffering and pain may be imposed on a tzaddik as an atonement for his entire generation. This tzaddik must then accept this suffering with love for the benefit of his generation, just as he accepts the suffering imposed upon him for his own sake. In doing so, he benefits his generation by atoning for it, and at the same time is himself elevated to a very great degree … In addition, there is a special, higher type of suffering that comes to a tzaddik who is even greater and more highly perfected than the ones discussed above. This suffering comes to provide the help necessary to bring about the chain of events leading to the ultimate perfection of mankind as a whole.”

Derech Hashem (The Way of God)
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto
As translated and annotated by Aryeh Kaplan
Feldheim Publishers
Jerusalem, 1997, p. 122.
Quoted from Yashanet.com

It’s with a certain amount of irony that I find the only “reasonable” explanation for how a person, a tzaddik, can give his life to avert the “evil decrees” of an entire people (without admitting that God accepts human sacrifice), is within the confines of Jewish mysticism (you’ll find Judah Himango struggling with the issue of Leviticus 27 and human sacrifice at Kineti L’Tziyon).

If Christianity can be said to have a “Sinai event” it is the crucifixion (or can we also include the resurrection?). Not that we were all there. In fact, the vast majority of people who were in the general vicinity were Jews, who came from every corner of Israel and the diaspora for the festival of Passover.

On the other hand, every Jew, even today, is to consider himself or herself as having stood personally at the foot of Sinai to receive the Torah. Why not (and this is just my imagination speaking) consider every Christian and every disciple of the “great Rebbe of Nazaret”, the most righteous tzaddik of all generations; why not consider us all as having stood at the foot of his execution stake personally, each of us as a witness to his bloody, sacrificial death on our behalf?

The Death of the MasterWe sometimes call Jesus our “living Torah” since he embodied the lifestyle of one who was fully human yet fully obedient to God and without sin. If the giving of the Torah at Sinai to the Jewish people unites them as one, does not the giving of the blood of the living Torah at Golgotha, the place of the skull, unite the disciples of Christ?

There’s a problem of two separate people groups under God and two separate events. Do the Jews have Moses and the Gentiles have Jesus? Are there two “Messiahs”? Not ultimately, for we all spring from a single root (Romans 11) and we are all branches on the same tree. More than that, Jesus came for the lost sheep of Israel and Paul went first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. The Jewish Moshiach came for the Jews and also came to unite all of humanity under God.

But every year, when they sound the shofar at Rosh HaShana it is revealed, a new revelation of infinite life is drawn to the world, beginning with the Land of Israel (see Tanya, pg. 239).

That is why the Torah says G-d’s eyes are on the Land of Israel from the beginning of the year to the end; it is referring to this new flow of life begun each Rosh HaShana.

And why will the Patriarchs be revived in Israel? Because as the ultimate Jews they will link and reveal the holiness of the people of Israel to the Land of Israel.

But this will only happen through our efforts to transform the entire world into holiness NOW — that is, to make Israel everywhere and prepare the world for Moshiach.

Because ONLY Moshiach will bring the Jews to Israel when the Great Shofar will be sounded by HaShem Himself.

We just have to do all we can in thought, speech, and action to bring . . .

Moshiach NOW!

-Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
Commentary on Parashat Eikev (5766)
Ohr Tmimim

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. –Revelation 22:1-5

Searching by Ineffable Light

Light at nightGod is not a scientific problem, and scientific methods are not capable of solving it. The reason why scientific methods are often thought to be capable of solving it is the success of their application in positive sciences. The fallacy involved in this analogy is that of treating God as if He were a phenomenon within the order of nature. The truth, however, is that the problem of God is not only related to phenomena within nature but to nature itself; not only to concepts within thinking but to thinking itself. It is a problem that refers to what surpasses nature, so what lies beyond all things and all concepts. (page 102)

The object of science is to explain the processes of nature. (page 104)

-Abraham Joshua Heschel
God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism

He made His world of contradictions, opposites that combine as one.

Being and not being,
infinity and finitude,
light and darkness,
form and matter,
quantity and quality,
giving and withholding.

At their nexus, a world is formed: Neither can exist without the other, all function together as a single whole.

They are mere modalities—He Himself is none of them. He mixes them and matches them at whim.

Paradox is our window to the Unknowable.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Being and Not Being”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

The “mystery” of God is both that He is unknowable and that the attempt to “know” Him is irresistibly compelling. This is probably why I write on the topic so much (my most recent entry being Mystery Story). Yet the mere act of prayer is an attempt to interface the ordinary with the fantastic; the finite with the infinite; the temporal and the immortal. As Rabbi Freeman says, God “made His world of contradictions, opposites that combine as one.” But while God can exist without us, we can’t exist without Him.

In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end. –Psalm 102:25-27

The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more. –Psalm 103:15-16

In touching the hem of God’s garment, we cannot truly know Him; in approaching the throne, we cannot truly comprehend Him. We are like ancient men trying to understand how an airplane flies or how a submarine descends to tremendous depths. In truth, we are much more ignorant than they. But we still have the need to draw nearer to God, and even the secular person searches for Him without realizing it. To again quote from Heschel’s book:

No one is without a sense of awe, a need to adore, an urge to worship. The question is only what to adore, or more specifically, what object is worthy of supreme worship. (page 88)

We are all in search of the One God but people, in our confusion and incomprehension, turn to other objects, stars, trees, and even people, and devote all our adoration to them, rather than to our Creator and in doing so, declare ourselves “free” of the confines of “religion” and accountability to a standard of holiness we do not understand nor desire to emulate.

More’s the pity.

Indeed, secular man considers Biblical man to be the one who is ignorant and even superstitious, and who can blame him?

The prophet is a fool. The man of spirit is mad. –Hosea 9:7

There is a certain madness to this idea of talking to G-d, of saying “You” to the Ground of Reality–as though this is a person. Like the madness of love or of unbounded joy. Not the madness of a derelict mind, but the madness that rides upon the shoulders of reason, with all its qualities, but beyond.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Divine Madness”
Chabad.org

OceanYet what we seek and the faith we grasp so tightly is not without logic but beyond logic. It is not irrational, but super-rational.

I recently attempted to delve into a comparison between Jesus, the Oral Law, and the Talmud, which is a subject far too complex for a single blog post. While there is a tradition in Judaism that says Moses was given both a written and an oral Torah, Kabbalistic adherents believe there is a third, “hidden” Torah as revealed in the Zohar or other mystic writings.

This is certainly controversial and is not accepted among all Jewish authorities. And although Christianity enjoys its own rich, mystic tradition, the vast majority of believers in the church disdain not only the Zohar and any of the Chassidic writings, but even the more rational and grounded Talmud.

And yet, the mystic, in both Judaism and Christianity, exists because of the ineffable nature of the unknowable God, as Rabbi Heschel writes:

By ineffable we do not mean the unknown as such; things unknown today may be known a thousand years from now. By the ineffable we mean that aspect of reality which by its very nature lies beyond our comprehension, and is acknowledged by the mind to be beyond the scope of the mind. Nor does the ineffable refer to the realm detached from the perceptible and the known. It refers to the correlation of the known and the unknown, of the knowable and the unknowable, upon which the mind comes in all its acts of thinking and feeling.

The sense of the ineffable is a sense for transcendence, a sense for the allusiveness of reality to the super-rational meaning. The ineffable, then, is a synonym for hidden meaning rather than for absence of meaning. It stands for a dimension which in the Bible is called glory, a dimension so real and sublime that it stuns our ability to adore it, and fills us with awe rather than curiosity.

No wonder David wrote this:

..what is a human being that you are mindful of him, a son of man that you care for him? –Psalm 8:4

What are we indeed, but the handiwork of the Creator and the clay vessels which contain transformative infinite light. And what Shakespeare said with irony, we can say with conviction:

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god!

-Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, 303–312

Light under the doorWhile not “angel” nor “god”, we do tread on the edge or madness and the abyss at each encounter with the Creator, attempting to touch what is beyond our reach and to know what knowledge cannot imagine. Yet it was for this purpose that God created each of us, and that we even have such a word as “ineffable” in our vocabulary speaks to the need to cross the boundary between the tangible and the mystic and to walk the corridors of a Temple not made by the hand of man.

Reason stands on the threshold, trembling to open the door to her own womb, although a blinding light bursts from between the cracks. For in that place, she knows, there is no reason. She has shown the way, but now she must step aside for madness to break in.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Divine Madness