Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


God’s Body? II

posted by David Klinghoffer

Following up on yesterday’s post, here’s an example of why maybe it’s forgivable that Jews reading the Hebrew Bible and its traditional commentators and elucidations could be forgiven for wondering if God at times in fact takes on at least the appearance of physical form. On the Ten Commandments, Rashi explains the first commandment’s reference to God as He “who took you out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 20:2) this way:

The taking [you] out [of Egypt] is sufficient reason for you to be subservient to Me. Alternatively, [God mentions the Exodus] since He revealed Himself on the sea [i.e., at the splitting of the Sea of Reeds] as a valiant warrior, and here He revealed Himself as an old man full of mercy, as it is said: “and beneath His feet was like the form of a brick of sapphire” (Exod. 24:10). That [brick] was before Him at the time of the enslavement [to remember the Israelites' suffering when they made bricks as slaves], “and like the appearance of the heavens” (Exod. 24:10) [i.e., there was joy before Him] when they were redeemed. Since I change in [My] appearances, do not say that they are two [Divine] domains, [but] I am He Who took you out of Egypt and [I am He Who performed the miracles] by the sea.


So not only does God have “appearances” but His appearance changes. If by “appearances” it was only meant that God acted differently at different times, why the need for the first commandment to cement the understanding of His unity nevertheless? It’s not hard to grasp that a Being with no physical manifestation would act in different ways depending on circumstances. In that case, why the need for a separate mitzvah, with all the weight that carries as being one of the Ten Commandments?

Rashi is citing here the Mechilta, a much earlier midrash on Exodus.


Advertisement
Comments read comments(5)
post a comment
Mergatroid

posted August 27, 2009 at 11:04 am


“…here’s an example of why maybe it’s forgivable that **Jews** reading the Hebrew Bible and its traditional commentators and elucidations could be forgiven for wondering if God at times in fact takes on at least the appearance of physical form.”
I thought for sure you’d mention Deuteronomy 4:15. “You saw no form…” Can we forgive these Jews for skipping over that verse?
What would be the purpose of God “taking on” some form temporarily if people can’t even see it?
Also, /which/ Jews are you talking about. Ones who were greater than the Rambam (according to Ravad)?
“Since I change in [My] appearances”
Could it be that the word that’s translated as “appearances” would be better translated as “manifestations”?



report abuse
 

LazerA

posted August 27, 2009 at 6:27 pm


As was clear from the statement of the Raavad, there are many such Rabbinic statements which could be misunderstood in this manner. Yet, the Raavad and the Rambam would both agree that such an interpretation is wrong, even if – perhaps – forgivable.
In any event, the midrash quoted by Rashi is clearly referring to mystical visions that were experienced by the entire nation. The Talmudic and kabbalistic literature is has many warnings on the dangers of misintepreting mystical visions in a corporeal fashion. The Talmud states that it was such an error that led Elisha ben Avuya (the famous “Acher”) to heresy.



report abuse
 

David Klinghoffer

posted August 27, 2009 at 7:03 pm


I don’t think Rambam would find it forgivable at all! On the contrary, and that was the point of the critical comment. On the other hand, you’ve convinced me that spelling it Raavad somehow looks better and more correct.



report abuse
 

LazerA

posted August 27, 2009 at 7:24 pm


I guess what you mean is acceptable or tolerable. Almost any sin is forgivable, if the sinner expresses regret and desires forgiveness.
As for the spelling, I’m not sure where I picked that up.



report abuse
 

David Klinghoffer

posted August 27, 2009 at 8:17 pm


LazerA, I mean literally unforgivable — in the absence of teshuva — since it can’t be worked off after death, in Rambam’s view.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

Another Blog To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Kingdom of Priests. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here is another blog you may also enjoy: Kabballah Counseling Happy Reading!

posted 11:24:22am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Animal Wisdom: The Voice of the Serpent
Our family watched Jaws together the other evening -- which, in case you're wondering, I regard as responsible parenting since our kids are basically too young to be genuinely scared by the film. The whole rest of the next day, two-year-old Saul was chattering about the "shark teeth." "Shark teeth g

posted 3:56:33pm Mar. 16, 2010 | read full post »

Reading Wesley Smith: Why the Darwin Debate Matters
If the intelligent-design side in the evolution debate doesn't receive the support you might expect from people who should be allies, that may be because they haven't grasped why the whole thing matters so urgently. I got an email recently from a journalist whom I'd queried on the subject. "All told

posted 5:07:12pm Mar. 15, 2010 | read full post »

The Mission of the Jews
Don't miss my essay over at First Things on the mission of the Jews to the world. This, I think, the key idea that the Jewish community needs to absorb at this very unusual cultural moment, for the time is so, so right. Non-Jews are waiting for us to fulfill the roll God gave us in the Torah. Please

posted 6:14:16pm Mar. 05, 2010 | read full post »

Darwin at the Mountains of Madness: Evolution & the Occult
Of all the regrettable cultural forces that Darwinism helped unleash, perhaps the most surprising and seemingly unlikely is its role in sparking the creation of modern occultism. Charles Darwin himself could not have been less interested in the topic. But no attempt to assess the scope of his legacy

posted 2:04:11pm Mar. 04, 2010 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.