Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: HaShem Has No Physicality At All

I got a text from my son-in-law one day asking what I had possibly said to my granddaughter that had her asking about the balloons in her body.  (Note: my kids had no doubt that anything crazy their children said like that could surely be traced to their grandfather.)  I told him that we had been discussing the circulatory system and I had explained lungs to her as a type of balloon.  (Yes; I know the lungs are part of the respiratory system, but she was only five and I didn't want to confuse the issue.)  A few weeks later they sent me a picture of a stick figure my little budding physician had drawn of her (then pregnant) mother; complete with two sets of balloon lungs, one for her and one for the fetus.

I have been listening to a series of shiurim on "Intro to Judaism", by R' Aharon Lopiansky, that (judging from the content) he gave to not-frum-but-definitely-interested-and-receptive college aged boys.  One reason I am listening to them is to learn better how to answer questions.  But I am also listening to them because I didn't grow up frum and I am always looking to fill gaps in my education and mistakes in my outlook.

A critical belief of Torah Judaism, of course, is that the Creator is incorporeal.  It is precisely that central belief, in fact, that is at the core of our deep disagreement with Christianity (much wider and deeper than with Islam) and our general nervousness about any movement within Orthodox Judaism that puts too much emphasis on any spiritual leader (yes, this is a thinly veiled reference to the rebbi, a"h).  Of course, on the heels of any such statement, one must deal with the obvious and frequent anthropomorphic statements in Tanach that refer to the Hand, Arm, Countenance and so forth of HaShem.  How does one, after all, say that HaShem is incorporeal when the Torah HaK'dosha itself, as we quote each day, that HaShem took us out of Egypt with an outstretched arm and strong hand?

There are two basic approaches (which are really two sides of the same coin).  The Rambam says that since we have no experience with anything but corporeal, those anthropomorphisms are the only way we can process anything about the way in which HaShem chooses to interact with us.  This is something like describing colors to someone who is blind from birth; you might tell him blue looks cool, red warm, green energizing, etc.  The words don't fit, but the feelings they evoke are similar.  The Zohar looks from the other side, so to speak.  HaShem has Hands, Arms, Countenance, etc, but it is we who do not have those things.  Therefore HaShem gave us things that are something like the real thing so we can experience something like what hands, arms, and countenances really are.  This is something like using iron filings to visualize lines of magnetic field or isobars on weather maps to help visualize pressure zones and storm fronts.  Not the real deal, imparts something about how the real deal operates.

It is worth noting that the incorporeality of the Creator goes beyond the physical.  Any concept that we can express is automatically not the actual concept associated with the Creator.  That is why the mystical texts refer to the Creator simply as אין סוף -- literally: no end/boundary.  To me, the most poignant example of that is the love one feels for a new born infant.  How much does that infant's concept of my love for him reflect the reality and depth of my feelings?  Essentially none.  Yet that infant's nearly non-existent concept of my real feelings for him are infinitely more accurate than my concept of  the Reality and Depth of the Love that the Creator has for me.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…

Thought for the Day: Hydroponically Grown Humans... I Feel Sick

I am quite openly not at all objective about abortion in particular and the treatment of human embryos and fetuses in general.  I am, after all, the survivor of a failed abortion attempt.  Not "thought about it, but couldn't go through with it"; not "made appointment, but then chickened out at the lost moment"; but, "tried a procedure, but was unsuccessful in attempt to abort".  Nonetheless, I try very hard to listen to the liberal arguments (which I also used to chant as part of the general liberal catechism), and am genuinely empathetic to the plight of women who find themselves in that difficult position.

What I heard on NPR this morning, however, has left me feeling physically ill.  You can read about it, if you like, but here's the bottom line:  Scientists in Cambridge have achieved a new record, they fertilized a human ova and then kept it alive in vitro (that is, in a test tube/petri dish in a laboratory) for 14 days.  The scientist involve…