Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dr. Harkavy and the Aderet - How much we have changed!

I was reading this Shabbat in Kovetz al Yad 17:27 an introduction by Simcha Emmanuel to his article publishing for the first time several responsa of Geonim that were in the Avraham Firkovich collection at the St. Petersburg Royal Library. I would like to share a few snippets.

Abraham (Avraham) ben Samuel Firkovich (Hebrew אברהם בן שמואל - Avraham ben Shmuel; (1786-1874) was a famous leader of the Karaite who had a fabulous collection of old manuscripts which were taken over by the St. Petersburg library after his death. In 1877, the great scholar Avraham Elyahu ben Yaakov Harkavy (18351919) became the head librarian for the Judaica department. Harkavy was known as a Maskil and had misgivings about how accepted his efforts at publishing these manuscripts would be in the circles that could use those most - the world of the Yeshivot. In one of the early publications in scholarly journals, the editor noted that Doctor Harkavy, out of love of the Torah and its scholars has felt responsible to publish these hitherto unknown responsa of the Geonim. Should the Rabbinical population appreciate his work he promises to continue publishing many more manuscripts.

The enthusiastic response of the rabbinical world did not take long to come. Of note is a letter written in 1888 by the great Gaon Aderet, Rabbi Elyahu David Rabinowitz – Teumim, who was also the father in law of Rav Kook and later Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. I will paraphrase/translate the letter.

The scholar Dr. Harkavy of Petersburg wants to know if the Rabbis will support his publishing responsa from the early Geonim. I do not understand the question especially coming from such a great, well-known and recognized scholar? Did not the Rabbis say that the nails of the early ones are greater than the stomach of the later generations? One single drop of ink of one of our early rabbis is as valuable as the multitudes of the pilpulim of the later ones especially nowadays… Of course, we must accept with love the incomparable precious hidden pearls that he is taking them from darkness to eternal light, to bring merit to the many. It is to their beacon of light that we will go forward. It is only up to the Rabbi, the pride of the Maskilim, the great Rabbi Dr. Harkavy, with his great wisdom and knowledge, to verify that they were not yet published. We can rely on his great powers of critical analysis and sharp vision to know if these were not yet quoted in the Rishonim or Beit Yosef… Those that were not yet published we will accept them and drink with thirst their beautiful words. We will remember the name of Dr. Harkavy as a meritorious person who has brought us merits, him being a person that is involved with the work of heaven. This is my opinion and I estimate that many of my colleagues will agree with me.

I hope my blog does not have the same fate that “Making of a Gadol” had because I disclose how different the great of the pre war generation were. (Maybe I should wish to suffer the same fate. My readership will soar) Of course, they disagreed with the philosophy and modus operandi of the Maskilim. However, even a right wing Gadol like the Aderet, who was the head of the Edah Chareidit, who castigated Rav Kook constantly, would still deal respectfully with a Dr. Harkavy.
Harkavy went on to publish many Geonic Responsa that with time penetrated the world of torah and the Yeshivot.

As an aside, the Aderet wrote an autobiography which was published by Mossad Harav Kook under the title Seder Elyahu. It is a fascinating and worthwhile read. Rav Kook also wrote a biography/appreciation of his father in law called Eider Hayakar. Much heavier but also a fascinating read.

Action Oriented Theology - Emulating God.

In my last post, I explained that God is Truth and Unknowable. I also discussed how the intelligent human being, in his quest for understanding his own existence, has the overwhelming urge to find Truth. However, the most he can expect to apprehend is what God is not. Here is how Rambam puts it in MN1:59 -

There may thus be a man who after having earnestly devoted many years to the pursuit of one science, and to the true understanding of its principles, till he is fully convinced of its truths, has obtained as the sole result of this study the conviction that a certain quality must be negated in reference to God, and the capacity of demonstrating that it is impossible to apply it to Him.”

In other words, the approach to finding God is to look at nature, try to understand it, and in the process become convinced why the scientific concepts developed, cannot be ascribed to God. The idea is that the only way we can look for God is by looking at the results of His supposed actions. There is no way to know neither His essence nor therefore, how He performs an action - if He acts at all - that results in what we observe. We therefore look at the results and follow them backwards up the chain of cause and effect, hoping to arrive as close as possible to the original First Cause. Clearly, science is the cause and effect trail that needs to be followed. As we follow that trail, we start perceiving concepts that are almost non-physical such as energy, gravity and quasars and even more astonishing, quantum mechanics and its uncertainty theory, where even the familiar system of cause and effect become blurred. We still have to stop and understand that this too is not God, just something caused by Him. If we can understand it, it must not be God. As man continues to understand the underlying concepts of his environment, he may come across even more sophisticated “non-physical” concepts. He has to know that that is also not God, but even more, understand why it is not. That exercise brings one closer and closer to knowledge of God. However, all it does is bring you closer but that is all. It never will let man “know” God’s real essence.

As we engage in this quest for Truth, we are not satisfied with just thinking or knowing, in the popular connotation of the word “know” (thank you Yehoshua for your comment), about God. We also want to connect with the Divine and become one with it. There develops a strong emotional attraction, a feeling of love and an urge for fusion. At the end of Hilchot Teshuvah Rambam describes the following internal processes that a seeker experiences:

העובד מאהבה, עוסק בתורה ובמצוות והולך בנתיבות החכמה--לא מפני דבר בעולם, לא מפני יראת הרעה, ולא כדי לירש הטובה: אלא עושה האמת, מפני שהוא אמת; וסוף הטובה לבוא בכלל

One worships [God] out of love, learns Torah, performs Mitzvot and walks in the paths of wisdom for no other reason in the world, not out of fear of evil nor to gain any good, other than to “do” Truth because it is Truth. [Truth for its own sake.] The good will come in a general way[1]. [Rambam is purposely not specific. Whether physical or spiritual, good and evil are not reasons enough for this search for God.]

He then expands further:

[ג] וכיצד היא האהבה הראויה: הוא שיאהוב את ה' אהבה גדולה יתרה רבה, עזה עד מאוד, עד שתהא נפשו קשורה באהבת ה', ונמצא שוגה בה תמיד--כאלו חולי האהבה, שאין דעתם פנויה מאהבת אותה אישה שהוא שוגה בה תמיד, בין בשוכבו בין בקומו, בין בשעה שהוא אוכל ושותה.

What is the proper love? One loves God with such an exceedingly great and strong love, that the mind is bound with the love of God and is immersed in it at all times. It is like the person that is suffering of lovesickness, where his awareness cannot free itself from this woman that he is so immersed in at all times, whether lying down or standing up, eating or drinking.

And finally:
[ו] דבר ידוע וברור שאין אהבת הקדוש ברוך הוא נקשרת בליבו של אדם, עד שישגה בה תמיד כראוי ויעזוב כל שבעולם חוץ ממנה כמו שציווה ואמר "בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך" (דברים ו,ה; דברים י,יב; דברים ל,ו): אלא בדעה שיידעהו. ועל פי הדעה--על פי האהבה--אם מעט מעט, ואם הרבה הרבה.

It is clear that God’s love will attach itself to a person’s heart only if he immerses himself in it properly and at all times, leaving aside all else, as ordered “with all your heart and all your mind” dedicated solely to its knowledge. Love is commensurate with knowledge. [The Truth is not an easy find. It requires total dedication and immersion. The emotion (love) is a result of knowledge, of the rational faculty.]

יא לפיכך צריך האדם לייחד עצמו להבין ולהשכיל בחכמות ותבונות המודיעין לו את קונו כפי כוח שיש באדם להבין ולהשיג, כמו שביארנו בהלכות יסודי התורה

Therefore, a person must dedicate himself to understand and comprehend the sciences and concepts that let him know his Owner as far as a man can understand and grasp [Him], as we explained in Hil. Yesodei Hatorah.

Rambam is describing beautifully what this knowledge of God is. It becomes an obsession that eventually takes over your life. It is an intimate cognition of HKBH. It is in the same context as

א וְהָאָדָם, יָדַע אֶת-חַוָּה אִשְׁתּוֹ.
1 And the man knew Eve his wife;

However, I am focusing here more on the method used in this discovery. Rambam describes the tools used as, עוסק בתורה ובמצוות והולך בנתיבות החכמה and ותבונות. Torah sets the goals and provides the Mitzvot which help make the potential seeker into a perfected human. Without that, he will fall prey to his imaginative faculty and arrive at erroneous conclusions. Having started on this path of self-perfection, a person now studies Chochma and Tevunah, science and logic[2], observing his environment and getting a sense of how all this functions. When looked at from a proper perspective, a perspective taught to us by our great prophets and teachers, we perceive the results of God’s will. In this endeavor to “know” God, to cleave to Him, we now want to emulate Him. It is the only way we know that we can somehow feel as one with Him.

I will use one general example to illustrate. We look at nature and we see that HKBH has made it such that it self perpetuates. There is a clear system that allows for the survival of the whole, of the categories and of the sub categories all the way down to species. If a human were responsible for such a system, the emotion, the impetus for creating it without garnering any benefit would be loving-kindness - Chesed. We therefore say that HKBH is loving and kind. A person who wants to emulate Him so that he can cleave and become one with Him - “know” Him - uses that same emotion as an impetus to act.

I believe that one can glimpse an interesting concept that is at the core of Rambam’s understanding of Mitzvot and self-perfection. At first, a person works on combating his narcissism so that he becomes a better person and can get a proper understanding of God. He develops his ability to think of others and do good without reciprocity. That blunts his own personal biases when he contemplates the world in his search for God. It helps him not to confound God with nature, as he no longer is the center of the universe. (There is much more to this but I don’t want to digress). Once he gets an understanding of God and wants to cleave to Him, he now does the same thing as a way to emulate God and become one with Him. The act may be the same - the quality is different. The theology of Judaism is action oriented. It is not just a way of understanding existence; it also in the process requires actions and adds different meanings to them as we progress.

This brings us, just in time for the Yamim Nora’im, to the 13 Midot of Rachamim. But that is for another post.

There is much more to write on this subject and I will. I will however take a break until after Labor Day, as I will be away for a few days.

[1] I translated literally for good reasons. I do not want to digress.
[2] I translate Tevunah as logic. It is really critical analysis the root being Bon from Binah which is differentiating, bein. Chochma is the information and Tevunah is what one does with it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Unknowable God - what we can know about Truth

In my last post, I stated that God, the God of Israel, the Unique God, is unknowable by definition. I also stated that it is the purpose of man to try to understand as much as he can about this unknowable Entity. Paradoxically, once man thinks he knows something about Him, he can be sure that he is on the wrong track. So what is this all about? Rambam starts his Mishne Torah with the first Mitzvah and here is how he puts it.

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.

I will paraphrase/translate with my commentary in brackets:

The foundation underlying all foundations and the column that supports [the core of] all knowledge is to “know” that there is out there a First existent. [In other words, the basis for all knowledge and where it all begins, is to apprehend that there exists a non-contingent entity. Investigating existence one must begin with such an entity. Rambam now explains the meaning of non-contingent.] He brings into existence all that exists. [Rambam is not arguing here that God created the world in time but rather that He is its First Cause.] All that exists whether from heaven or from earth [I understand this in both its connotations, location but also conceptual. Heaven is the abstract, the idea and concept behind the physical and earth is the physical matter] and all that is between them, do not exist but for the “Truth” [more about the meaning of this word later] of His existence. Should one conceive that He does not exist nothing else can or would exist. [He is the cause of all existence.] Should one conceive that nothing else exists, he alone would exist. He would also not cease to exist should all else cease to exist. For all existents need Him while He, the Blessed one, does not need them as a group nor one of them as an individual. [Rambam is defining non-contingency. We can look at it as a hierarchical system. By definition, one cannot be a father without having at least one child, just like there is no child without a father. There is a necessary relativity and interdependence between the two entities, father and child, and a hierarchy. God on the other hand is the only “existent” that is not relativistic. He is independent and exists whether there is something else out there or not. Therefore, hierarchically He is first but also by definition unique; there is nothing else that is conceptually like Him in this sense.]

Therefore, His “Truth” is unlike the “Truth” of all of them. [Rambam is defining here the ultimate uniqueness of God, He being the only non-relativistic Truth. He is also defining “real” Truth. In our relative and interdependent existence, everything depends on something else. When I say that it is true that there is light in this room, I am also saying that there is a light bulb that I have turned on by throwing a switch that connected a wire to a filament, bringing energy from a power plant that… It is also only true now, that I have done all that. If I did not do it, it would be dark. The Truth of the lit up room is therefore not an essential Truth but a truth that is an effect of various causes. It is time and circumstance dependent. It exists because of something else. It is not a standalone Truth. Truth is something that exists independently of anything else. It does not even depend on anyone ‘knowing” it.] That is why the prophet says “And God is Truth” for He is the only Truth and nothing else is as true as His Truth. That is also what the Torah says “there is none beside Him” meaning there is no other Truth like Him other than Him. [God’s uniqueness is His Truth.]

(I capitalize the word Truth. It is defined in the dictionary as “That which is considered to be the supreme reality and to have the ultimate meaning and value of existence” as compared to just truth.)

What defines a man, as I have discussed numerous times, is his ability to think and abstract. It is the essence that makes him what he is. It is this ability that, when actualized, is behind his quest to understand the meaning of his own existence. He finds that meaning when he apprehends Truth. It is by understanding that his existence is the effect of an independent, non-relativistic Existent, a True Existent - the only Truth - it is this understanding that gives meaning to our life. It is like saying that the transient existence that we experience cannot be the only reality. It is after all a contingent reality, existing only because of other things. However, if we somehow apprehend Truth and by doing so connect with it, we have become a part of eternity.

The urge of the intelligent man to understand existence is the sine qua non of man. It is his need to seek out Truth at all costs. No effort is too great in this endeavor. However, if one knows going in that Truth is unknowable, why even try? The answer is that one must be realistic in one’s expectations.

מה הוא זה שביקש משה רבנו להשיג כשאמר "הראני נא, את כבודך" (שמות לג,יח)--ביקש לידע אמיתת הימצאו של הקדוש ברוך הוא, עד שיהיה ידוע בליבו כמו ידיעת אחד מן האנשים שראה פניו ונחקקה צורתו בקרבו, שנמצא אותו האיש נפרד בדעתו משאר האנשים; כך ביקש משה רבנו להיות מציאת הקדוש ברוך הוא נפרדת בליבו משאר מציאת הנמצאים, עד שיידע אמיתת הימצאו כמה שהיא. והשיבו ברוך הוא שאין כוח בדעת האדם החי שהוא מחובר מגוף ונפש, להשיג אמיתת דבר זה על בורייו.

When Moshe Rabbeinu asked God, “show me your glory” he wanted to know the True existence of HKBH to the point that he will know Him as he would know another person whose face he saw and his shape became fixed in his mind. That way that person can be differentiated in his mind from others. That is the apprehension that Moshe was striving to acquire. He wanted to separate God’s existence in his mind from all other existents, thus knowing His True existence as it is. God told him that this is impossible for a man’s mind to apprehend. Living man is a composition of body and soul [physical and mental]. He cannot apprehend such Truth completely.

יב והודיעו ברוך הוא מה שלא ידע אדם לפניו ולא יידע לאחריו, עד שהשיג מאמיתת הימצאו דבר שנפרד הקדוש ברוך הוא בדעתו משאר הנמצאים, כמו שייפרד אחד מן האנשים שראה אחוריו, והשיג כל גופו ומלבושו בדעתו משאר האנשים; ועל דבר זה רמז הכתוב, ואמר "וראית, את אחוריי; ופניי, לא ייראו" (שמות לג,כג).

However, the Blessed One, taught him what no one before him nor anyone after him will ever learn, to the point that Moshe was able to apprehend, a part of God’s True existence. He was able to differentiate, in his mind, God from all other existents, the way a person can differentiate from others a man he sees from behind, apprehending His whole body and clothing as to what differentiates them from that of other people. [In other words, he could only grasp that God is different not what He is.] That is the allegory of the verse “you will see my back but my face may not be seen.”

The idea that there exists such an entity that the word “exist” itself is equivocal when applied to it, that it is just a word we use for lack of another to describe what we perceive in our mind, is very hard for us to accept. It is not only hard for us but the Torah tells us that Moshe Rabbeinu struggled with it very much. Moshe’s revelation was that although by induction we are compelled to accept that such an entity exists, we cannot expect to define that Entity other than what it is not – “apprehending His whole body and clothing as to what differentiates them from that of other people”. Moshe Rabbeinu, the “father of all prophets”, was able to understand this better than any human that came before him or that will be born after him. He had a unique revelatory experience. (For more on this Negative Knowledge concept, see my article Negative Attributes and Direct Prophecy – links on the side panel.) However, we all can arrive at some level of understanding and that is the goal. By apprehending what God is NOT, we can get an idea of this unknowable non-contingent entity that is the only Truth. We will never grasp “what” Truth is, but we can grasp that Truth “is”. It is the ultimate goal for the individual man and for humankind.

But there is more to it. There is a practical side to this endeavor. In addition to this search for Truth, this overwhelming need of the intelligent person to find answers to his existential questions, there is a practical element in this enterprise. It is a natural outgrowth of the methods that we have to use in this search. I will discuss this in my next post.

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Shema and the Apostate Lustiger - The imaginative faculty at work.

In discussions with fellow bloggers who are trying to prove the existence of a personal God empirically with scientific methods, I have tried to get it across that is an impossible proposition. How can one use scientific methods to prove something that is outside the physical realm? The only thing we can do is, using the argument from contingency, argue for the existence of a, by definition, unknowable entity that we call God. That was the argument used by Avraham Avinu to discover God.

[ג] כיון שנגמל איתן זה, התחיל לשוטט בדעתו והוא קטן, ולחשוב ביום ובלילה, והיה תמיה: היאך אפשר שיהיה הגלגל הזה נוהג תמיד, ולא יהיה לו מנהיג; ומי יסבב אותו, לפי שאי אפשר שיסבב את עצמו.
(Hil Avodah Zara 1:3)

When this solid person [Avraham Avinu] grew older though still a youth, he began to think day and night wondering how it is possible that the firmament is constantly moving without a Cause. After all, movement cannot start without a prime mover.

(I will not repeat the details and versions of this argument as it has been discussed in great detail here and elsewhere. See Rabbi Maroof’s expositions on the subject in his many comments at various Blogs.)

Having accepted the existence of such an entity, defining that entity is left to the human mind.

והצורות שאין להם גולם, אינן נראין לעין, אלא בעין הלב הם ידועים, כמו שידענו אדון הכול בלא ראיית עין.
(Hil Yesodei Hatorah 4:7)

The Forms not attached to Matter, cannot be perceived by the eye [are not physical entities] and are only known in the mind just like the Lord of all we know without the perception of our eyes [in other words only in our minds].

So on what basis do we believe in a personal God? What is the meaning of all the descriptions that we append to Him? In fact, what is the meaning of our worship of God?

The answer is that we believe in prophecy. I am talking about the human mind being able to observe its environment, learn all the knowledge and science that is underlying existence and in the process intuit (sense) what God is. In my last two posts, I described the process somewhat. However how does one know that the God he senses is real and not a figment of his imagination? The answer is that we do not and it is our life’s work to try, making sure, we develop a correct understanding. To help us do that we were given the Torah by Moshe Rabbeinu. The Torah is the method that we use to improve ourselves, develop our minds, regulate our habits and actions, concentrate us into working towards the goal; get a correct understanding of God. It starts by defining the goal:

ד שְׁמַע, יִשְׂרָאֵל: יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְהוָה אֶחָד.
4 Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.

(I prefer to translate אֶחָד as unique). The idea here is that it is the goal of a Jew to “hear” [understand and be convinced] that God is unique, not just mouth a mantra. Uniqueness means that He is different from anything we can think or imagine in other words transcendental, a notion. How does one do it?

ה וְאָהַבְתָּ, אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ, וּבְכָל-מְאֹדֶךָ.
5 And thou shall love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Love is a function of intimacy. One has to get intimate with God by getting to know Him. It requires total personal commitment, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ, וּבְכָל-מְאֹדֶךָ and also a multigenerational effort –

ז וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ

7 and thou shall teach them diligently unto thy children

The method is then laid out in the next segment of Shema –

יג וְהָיָה, אִם-שָׁמֹעַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶל-מִצְו‍ֹתַי, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם, הַיּוֹם--לְאַהֲבָה אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, וּלְעָבְדוֹ, בְּכָל-לְבַבְכֶם, וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁכֶם.

13 And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto My commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul,

Keeping the Mitzvot, the commandments, helps us get intimate with God, in other words really know him. Without that process, we are at risk that our imaginative faculty will dictate our perception of God which is the continuation of the Parsha –

הִשָּׁמְרוּ לָכֶם, פֶּן יִפְתֶּה לְבַבְכֶם; וְסַרְתֶּם, וַעֲבַדְתֶּם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים, וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתֶם, לָהֶם.

16 Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;

If I were to summarize I would say that the Jewish commitment at Sinai and taught to us by Avraham, is to dedicate ourselves forever in finding God, making sure that we don’t let our imagination run away with us. Our God is unknowable by definition. We make Him personal and we do it in the process of trying to understand Him. Anytime we think that we have a picture of God we know we are off the right track. We keep Him in our minds, hearts, and daily life but not in our fantasy. Someone who lets his imagination take over gets lost in the tangle of idolatry.

I was reading an obituary for Cardinal Lustiger, the Apostate.

The moment of conversion came at 14, in Orleans, where his family had taken sporadic shelter in a Catholic household during the war. On Holy Thursday, he stole into Orleans cathedral to find it blazing with candles and flowers. The next day, Good Friday, he found the church stripped as a sign of desolation. Christ’s presence, followed by Christ’s absence, impressed him so deeply that he asked to be baptized.”

I believe that this is the most eloquent description of the dangers of the imaginative faculty. An emotion triggered by the imaginative is so powerful that it leads to an action: Idolatry. It is just this that Torah is here to prevent.

Our God is unknowable. When the question is posed why Judaism, why not Christianity, Islam? Are they also not Tradition based religions? Don’t they claim prophecy too? The answer is that Christianity leads to idolatry. It does not accept God’s transcendence in its full implication, notwithstanding what they mouth. The same goes for Islam though to a lesser degree. (Their goal seems to have been the same as ours but they are totally lost in a world of superstition and immorality.)

“Those, however, who think of God, and frequently mention His name, without any correct notion of Him, but merely following a mere imagining or following a belief adopted because of his reliance on the authority of somebody else, are, in my opinion, like those who remain outside the palace and distant from it. They do not mention the name of God in truth, nor do they reflect on it. That which they imagine and mention does not correspond to any being in existence: it is a thing invented by their imagination, as has been shown by us in our discussion on the Divine Attributes.” (MN3:51)

Unfortunately, there are many of our brethren who are also lost in a world of imagination. As long as they keep Halacha, the Mitzvot, though there is a good chance that at some future time they will find their way back to intimacy with God not “ a thing invented by their imagination”.

So you may ask, what is the purpose of finding this unknowable God? Is there a practical implication besides the Mitzvot, which according to this thesis are not themselves the goal?

I will discuss this in my next post.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The relationship of the rational, imaginative and emotional faculties in man. (continued)

In the preceding post, I discussed Rambam’s understanding of the functions of the imaginative and rational faculties. For man to act according to the conclusions arrived to by these two faculties he needs to avail himself of the third component of his Nefesh [psyche] – the emotional faculty. Without emotions, man will not feel compelled to act. Man has to want to act and the wanting itself is an emotion. He uses his body, his hands, feet and his physical abilities to satisfy the emotions triggered in him by either the imaginative faculty or the rational or both, when combined.

שמונה פרקים לרמב"ם פרק א

והחלק המתעורר - הוא הכח אשר בו ישתוקק האדם לדבר מה, או ימאסהו. ומזה הכח יבואו פעולות הבקשה והבריחה, ובחירת דבר מה או ההתרחקות ממנו, והכעס וההתרצות, והפחד והעוז, והאכזריות והרחמנות, והאהבה והשנאה, והרבה מאלו המקרים הנפשיים.

The emotional part: it is the faculty that makes a man desire things or be repulsed by them. This faculty is the cause for seeking out and fleeing, choosing something or distancing from it, anger and reconciliation, fear and courage, cruelty and pity, love and hate and other such feelings.

Emotions are therefore the transitional elements needed to go from cogitation to action. They are not independent but are a tool used by the imaginative and rational faculties in the process of acting on their cogitations. Rambam understand this faculty to be the snake referred to in the allegory in the story of Adam and Chava.

Another noteworthy Midrashic remark of our Sages is the following: "The serpent had a rider, the rider was as big as a camel, and it was the rider that enticed Eve: this rider was Samaël." Samaël is the name generally applied by our Sages to Satan… There is a meaning in this name [Samaël]), as there is also in the name naḥash ("serpent").” (MN 2:30).[1]

Emotions, represented by the serpent, are always “ridden”. The rider, whatever it is, controls them and triggers them. Being ridden by Satan, who represents the physical needs of man, the part of man that is transient these emotions bring about actions that satisfy the urges.

Emotions are therefore a reflection of what triggered them. In addition to the type of action emotions trigger there is a different quality to them depending on where they come from. When the imaginative faculty triggers an emotion, a wish to act, it is limited to reenacting memories. Its creativity is confined to experiencing the past, possibly with new combinations and flavors. On the other hand when the rational faculty triggers an emotion, especially when the trigger is the part that allows for abstract thinking, it can be a completely new experience caused by a new insight. This is the meaning of Rambam that we quoted in the earlier post:

בזמן שאדם מתבונן בדברים אלו, ומכיר כל הברואים ממלאך וגלגל ואדם וכיוצא בו, ויראה חכמתו של הקדוש ברוך הוא בכל היצורים וכל הברואים--מוסיף אהבה למקום, ותצמא נפשו ויכמה בשרו לאהוב המקום ברוך הוא

When a person gets an insight into the beauty of the universe and the great wisdom involved in its existence, he feels a surge of love and a thirst for even more love of God, the cause of all this greatness. This emotion makes one want to know more, learn more and do more.

Similarly, a prophet takes the insight that he was able to abstract using his rational faculty in his contemplation of the way God runs the world and filters it through his past experiences, through his imaginative faculty. In that process, he is able to apply the abstraction and transform it into a practical vision of what should happen. That triggers an emotion which compels him to do something about it, tell his people how to act to forestall a bad outcome or to bring about a good one.

“Prophecy is, in truth and reality, an emanation sent forth by the Divine Being through the medium of the Active Intellect, in the first instance to man's rational faculty, and then to his imaginative faculty; it is the highest degree and greatest perfection man can attain: it consists in the most Perfect development of the imaginative faculty.” (MN 2:36)


“The prophets must have had these two forces, courage and intuition, highly developed, and these were still more strengthened when they were under the influence of the Active Intellect. Their courage was so great that, e.g., Moses, with only a staff in his hand, dared to address a great king in his desire to deliver a nation from his service. He was not frightened or terrified, because he had been told, "I will be with thee" (Exod. iii. 12). The prophets have not all the same degree of courage, but none of them have been entirely without it.”

A prophet uses his imaginative faculty to translate the abstract concept into practical experience and this combined idea triggers an emotion that compels him to act on his vision.

My point is that “spirituality”, or the emotions like love, elation and awe have their place in a rational system of religion. It just depends on what action an emotion causes. When its “rider”, the trigger, is the rational faculty in charge of the other faculties, it can be the cause of great good and creativity. When a person is seeking the ultimate truth, the reason for existence, the emotion brought about by greater knowledge, is love and awe and a need for even more knowledge to get even closer to the beloved, God. On the other hand “spirituality” triggered by the imaginative faculty alone, the past experience of a man, puts him in touch with a mirage. It feels good but is far from reality.

“Those, however, who think of God, and frequently mention His name, without any correct notion of Him, but merely following a mere imagining or following a belief adopted because of his reliance on the authority of somebody else, are, in my opinion, like those who remain outside the palace and distant from it. They do not mention the name of God in truth, nor do they reflect on it. That which they imagine and mention does not correspond to any being in existence: it is a thing invented by their imagination, as has been shown by us in our discussion on the Divine Attributes.” (MN3:51)

[1] (I always had difficulties with this Rambam however, over Shabbat, I was learning Ralbag’s introduction to Breishit at the urging of Rabbi Sacks of and decided to compare him with his quasi-contemporary Rabbi Levi ben Avraham in Livyat Chen and saw that he sees the serpent as the emotional faculty and a light bulb went off.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

The relationship of the rational, imaginative and emotional faculties in man.

I had an interesting discussion last Shabbat while at my son and daughter in law, Aryeh and Orly, about the different components of a human being’s mind – the rational and the imaginative – and their relationship with emotions. The impression that most people have is that a rational approach to religion suppresses emotional expression while the more “spiritual” approach triggers the emotions and is therefore a “deeper” experience. Rambam who is seen as the rationalist par excellence however comes across as a very emotional human being when it comes to his religion. Here are a few quotes from MT:

Yesodei Hatorah 4:12

[יב] בזמן שאדם מתבונן בדברים אלו, ומכיר כל הברואים ממלאך וגלגל ואדם וכיוצא בו, ויראה חכמתו של הקדוש ברוך הוא בכל היצורים וכל הברואים--מוסיף אהבה למקום, ותצמא נפשו ויכמה בשרו לאהוב המקום ברוך הוא; ויירא ויפחד משפלותו ודלותו וקלותו, כשיערוך עצמו לאחד מהגופות הקדושים הגדולים, וכל שכן לאחד מהצורות הטהורות הנפרדות מן הגלמים, שלא נתחברו בגולם כלל. וימצא עצמו, שהוא ככלי מלא בושה וכלימה, ריק וחסר.


Yesodei Hatorah 2:1-2
והיאך היא הדרך לאהבתו, ויראתו: בשעה שיתבונן האדם במעשיו וברואיו הנפלאים הגדולים, ויראה מהם חכמתו שאין לה ערך ולא קץ--מיד הוא אוהב ומשבח ומפאר ומתאווה תאווה גדולה לידע השם הגדול, כמו שאמר דויד "צמאה נפשי, לאלוהים--לאל חי" (תהילים מב,ג).
ב וכשמחשב בדברים האלו עצמן, מיד הוא נרתע לאחוריו, ויירא ויפחד ויידע שהוא בריה קטנה שפלה אפלה, עומד בדעת קלה מעוטה לפני תמים דעות, כמו שאמר דויד "כי אראה שמיך . . . מה אנוש, כי תזכרנו" (תהילים ח,ד-ה).

These are just two examples of how emotionally charged Rambam’s religion was. When I cool off (which is quite often) and feel emotionally lacking, I turn to Rambam in many of his writings and immediately become recharged. So how does one explain this?

Although I am married to a professional in psychology I am no expert in the field and, other than a passing interest and where it affects religion, I do not read much about it. I will however attempt to explain myself and if I come across simplistic please forgive me.

In Rambam’s understanding of how a human mind functions, it has five separate components among which are the rational, the imaginative and the emotional faculties. (Although there are five, I will focus on only three here). When he refers to the imaginative, the Koach Hamedameh, he is talking about the sum total of past experiences. From childhood, we have constant experiences and we store them away in our mind, whether as memories of sensations, images and how we felt when we experienced them. All experiences trigger emotional reactions of like, dislike, happiness, sadness and so on. When we recall these experiences, we usually revive the emotion we felt when we had the experience. Our mind can also take these past experiences and reprocess them mixing one with the other, changing the outcomes and creating new emotions in the process. This is what is called the imaginative faculty. It is repackaging and transforming past experiences. It is used by all of us in our daily life, in our decision making process, where these past experiences and the feelings they generated help us in making decisions about how to act.

שמונה פרקים לרמב"ם פרק א

והחלק המדמה - הוא הכח אשר יזכור רישומי המוחשים אחר העלמם מקרבת החושים אשר השיגום, וירכיב קצתם עם קצתם, ויפריד קצתם מקצתם. ולפיכך ירכיב זה הכח מן הדברים אשר השיגם - דברים שלא השיגם כלל, ואי אפשר להשיגם, כמו שידמה האדם ספינת ברזל רצה באויר, ואדם שראשו בשמים ורגליו בארץ, וחיה בעלת אלף עינים, על דרך משל, והרבה מאלו הנמנעות, ירכיבם הכח המדמה וימציאם בדמיון.[1]

The imaginative faculty cannot create completely new concepts. Its creativity is limited to past experiences though the limitless combination of those may result in a very high creative productivity. As the last two examples of Rambam show this faculty is the source of myths which are a precursor of idolatry.

The rational faculty on the other hand focuses on the abstract. It tries to define in abstract terms what we experience. It breaks down what our senses perceive into its components and thus tries to understand how these things function.

שמונה פרקים לרמב"ם פרק א

והחלק השכלי - הוא הכח הנמצא לאדם, אשר בו ישכיל, ובו תהיה ההתבוננות, ובו יקנה החוכמות, ובו יבחין בין המגונה והנאה מן הפעולות. ואלו הפעולות, חלק מהן מעשי, וחלק עיוני. והמעשי, ממנו מלאכתי, וממנו מחשבתי. והעיוני, הוא אשר בו ידע האדם הנמצאות שאינן משתנות כפי מה שהן, ואלו הן אשר יקראו 'חכמות' סתם. והמלאכתי, הוא הכח אשר בו נלמד המלאכות, כמו הנגרות, ועבודת האדמה, והרפואה והספנות. והמחשבתי, הוא אשר בו יתבונן בדבר אשר ירצה לעשותו בעת אשר ירצה לעשותו, האם אפשר לעשותו אם לא, ואם אפשר - איך צריך שיעשה.

I will paraphrase/translate this segment, as it is important. (If any feel, I should translate the other segments I will do so. Just let me know in the comments. I am a little lazy today.)

The rational is the part [of the mind] man uses to think. He uses it to contemplate and to acquire knowledge. With it he differentiates between the proper and improper actions, [to be precise, the ugly and the beautiful]. These actions are either practical or abstract. The practical may consist of acts [results in action] or in planning [remains in the planning stage]. The abstract man uses to get to know the unchanging existents as they really are. That is called “knowledge”. [The practical] that results in actions is the ability of man to learn how to do things such as carpentry, farm work, medicine and sailing. The planning [ability] allows man to think about what he wants to do, at the time he wants to, whether it is doable or not, and if it is doable how to do it.

In other words, the rational faculty, the abstract part thereof, as defined by Rambam is not involved in doing but rather understanding. It observes and tries to interpret that observation in the context of existence - to know the unchanging existents as they really are. Material existence is not unchanging. It is the concepts, the system of cause and effect, the underlying science and physics and the search for that is defined as the objective of the rational faculty. Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg and the scientists who tried to understand the concepts and systems that are behind our existence used the abstract part of their rational faculty in their search for understanding. On the other hand, the same scientist when he takes the concept he developed and applies it to practical matters uses the practical side of his rational faculty.

שמונה פרקים לרמב"ם פרק א

ודע, שזאת הנפש האחת, אשר קדם סיפור כוחותיה, או חלקיה, היא כחומר, והשכל לה צורה. ואם לא תיקנה לה הצורה - תהיה מציאות ההכנה שבה לקיבול הצורה ההיא לבטלה, וכאילו היא מציאות הבל.

Know that this one [or unified] soul that I described its abilities or parts, is like matter and the rational faculty [Sechel] is its Form. If it does not acquire its Form, the existence of the capability to accept it, is wasted. It is as if it exists for naught.

The two components of man’s rational faculty, the abstract and the practical, together make man into what he is. Using the ability to abstract, he develops an understanding of his existence, the whys and how things function. He shares that information with his practical side that then plans and acts accordingly.

To summarize the imaginative faculty brings experience to the table while the rational explores new areas. Combining these two faculties productively allows man to dominate his environment.

How all this comes together will follow in next post.

(I am a believer that there is a limit to the length of a post beyond which it is difficult to follow.)

[1] The example Rambam uses here, a metal ship flying in the air, which he sees as impossible and pure imagination, really illustrates how inventions are made. I will come back to that later.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Freedom of Choice in Natural Law?

Rambam in MN 2:7 has a very puzzling discussion which at first blush seems to be completely incomprehensible. In scholarly circles and more so with people who have not experienced Rambam in depth, the tendency would be to dismiss this as an Aristotelian comment which has been totally debunked by modern science. My experience with this great man is very different and I am convinced that he was able to transmit ideas that would have meaning even if the science of his day would be shown wrong. In fact, he does every so often suggest that science might change in the future. All he is doing is teach us how to interpret the reality we live in so that it is understood from the perspective of a man of religion who is also committed to the truth.

Rambam discusses the concept of angels and spends several chapters discussing the broad meaning of that word - it includes people, forces of nature, non-sentient and sentient beings, laws of nature and a multitude of other possibilities. Generally, it refers to an agent that is the cause of an effect perceived by people. In this chapter he says that the angels we refer to as the laws of nature, the ones that are the cause of the natural effects we observe in our world, have freedom of choice.

But do not imagine that the Intellects and the spheres are like other forces which reside in bodies and act by the laws of nature and do not apprehend their acts. The spheres and the Intellects apprehend their acts, and select by their own free will the objects of their influence, although not in the same manner as we exercise free will and rule over other things, which only concern temporary beings. I have been led to adopt this theory by certain passages in Scripture: e.g., an angel says to Lot: "For I cannot do anything," etc. (Gen. xix. 21); and telling him to deliver himself, the angel says: "Behold I have accepted thee concerning this thing" (ver. 21). Again: "Take heed before him, and listen to his voice," etc. (Exod. xxiii. 21). These passages show that angels are conscious of what they do, and have free will in the sphere of action entrusted to them, just as we have free will within our province, and in accordance with the power given to us with our very existence. The difference is that what we do is the lowest stage of excellence, and that our influence and actions are preceded by non-action; whilst the Intellects and the spheres always perform that which is good, they contain nothing except what is good and perfect, as will be shown further on, and they have continually been active from the beginning.”

At first blush, this statement seems absurd. Laws of nature that are aware of their actions? Laws of nature that have freedom of Choice? I have struggled with this Rambam for the longest time and almost gave in to the general opinion that he based this chapter on erroneous Aristotelian theory. As I was reading about Heisenberg and his theory of uncertainty, a glimmer of light started to emerge.

Quoting David Lindley in his book Uncertainty (page 146), “An electron flies through space. An observer shines light upon it, then detects the light that bounces off the speeding electron. By measuring this scattered light – its frequency and direction – the observer can try to deduce the position and momentum of the electron at the moment the light hit it…. The encounter between one of these photons (light), is a quantum event. That encounter as Born has proved, does not yield definite outcomes, but a range of possible outcomes, with various probabilities. Reversing the logic Heisenberg now realized that an observer could not infer a single unique event that would have led to the measured outcome. Instead a range of possible electron-photon encounters could have happened.”

With Quantum theory what had been thought of until now as normal predictable cause and effect, has now become unpredictable. There are multiple choices of how things are going to develop. One can calculate the probabilities of one outcome over others but when looking at the individual particle one cannot predict what choice it will make or what will cause it to make that particular choice. All we know is that from the observer’s perspective a generally probable and thus predictable outcome can be expected. It is therefore not so far fetched when one says that a particular particle has the freedom of choice of deciding whether to be in one group or another. I am not implying that there is thought in the particular particle but there is in the randomness itself, in the chaotic process we witness.

The angel that was sent to save Lot had as a mission to produce an end result. How that end result came about, the detail of it, was not preset. Lot escaping to Tzoar was not part of the original plan. His choice to go there accomplished the mission of saving him though he could have made other choices. Rambam astutely points to this story, as he understands this to be a decision Lot made, which is attributable to his Mal’ach (his mind and intuition?). In other words, he compares the unpredictability of human free will to the unpredictability of natural phenomena.

As I have reiterated before my knowledge of physics is very rudimentary. I may therefore be completely off base. Maybe a better-informed reader will straighten me out. However, for now I seem to get a glimpse of what must have been fermenting in Rambam’s mind when he wrote this. At least for now I can translate this Aristotelian based theory and its implication to theology and metaphysics into a contemporary perspective.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Physics as Metaphysics -

I am back from a fabulous trip to Eretz Yisrael. My wife and I had the opportunity to spend a quality time with our son Aryeh and his lovely wife Orly both on a two day trip to the North and the two Shabbatot we spent together. Now I am back to reality and daily routine.

I am in the middle of reading a very interesting book, Uncertainty, by David Lindley. It describes the development of Quantum Theory in the early 1900’s describing the interactions and thought processes of Einstein, Bohr and Heisenberg as they struggled to understand this new science. What to me was so interesting is the difficulty scientists had in accepting that there are things, even in nature, that we know are there but also know that we will never understand their essence. My knowledge of Physics is quite rudimentary and limited but what intrigued me is the similarity of the issues dealing with the Quantum Theory and understanding God. Here is a short quote from the book, and I will leave it to the more scientifically minded to expand on this. In discussing Heisenberg’s insight in developing his theory of uncertainty, David Lindley writes (page 110):

Forever gone now was the old Sommerfeld style of model, with electrons following well-defined orbits governed by classical mechanics. Of course, Heisenberg had nothing yet to put in place of such thinking. But his focus was inexorably shifting. Worry less about what atoms are. Think more about what they do.

And a little further, he continues:

The idea suggested itself,” he [Heisenberg] said in a lecture three decades later, “that one should write down the mechanical laws not as equations for the positions and velocities of the electron but as equations for the frequencies and amplitudes of their Fourier expansion.”

Heisenberg’s bland phrase doesn’t begin to convey the bizarre and radical nature of what he was aiming to do. In classical physics, a particle’s position and velocity are its defining characteristics, the basic elements to which the law of mechanics applied… the central idea of old Quantum theory had been to figure out how electrons move in an atom and deduce from those notions the atom’s spectroscopic frequencies. Heisenberg however turned this logic exactly backward. The characteristic frequencies would be the basic elements of his atomic physics, and the notion of electrons would be expressed only indirectly.

Here we have an interesting parallel. If one cannot understand the atom particle’s essence look at what it does and use inductive reasoning to get a picture of it. Our knowledge of God follows a very similar reasoning as I have written many times.

Einstein’s difficulty in accepting these new concepts was because he compared it to religion rather than science. He told Bohr, “The theory delivers a lot but hardly brings us closer to the secret of the Old One. I for one am convinced that He does not throw dice.” In another comment, he said “The soothing Heisenberg-Bohr philosophy – or religion? – is so nicely contrived that for now it offers the true believer a soft pillow from which he is not easily rousted.”

The defining line between Physics and Metaphysics is again starting to become blurred as it was during antiquity and the middle ages.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


I touched on this in my last post. Man in his natural state is no different from animals. Man is just another category in that genus (I am never good with these terminologies so I hope I am expressing myself correctly). Man has an additional feature that helps him in his fight for survival in his environment; his mind. It makes up for the other deficiencies that he comes with. Man is limited in the foods he can use, is less powerful than other large animals and is slower. His mind and the abilities it has compensates for those deficiencies. A man that uses his brains just for survival is therefore no more than any other animal. He is an evolved monkey!

It is the ability to abstract, to develop ethics and morals, to act against the natural survival instinct when it is the right thing to do which differentiates man. Acting with a view to the long term, sometimes for beyond his personal lifespan is a product of this ability to think and act that makes him into what he is. How does man develop this thinking? What is the process that brings him to this understanding?

Man starts by contemplating his surroundings and environment. He tries to understand the systems that operate in this marvelous world, follows the causes of the observed phenomena to their source, tries to decipher God’s thoughts in creating and setting all this in place. It is in this process that he develops the vision for the future; he becomes a prophet and acts in accordance with the views of a seer.

How does this perfected individual know that he is doing the right thing? How does he know that the conclusions of his meditative state are the truth and reality? How much delusion and wishful thinking, how much narcissism and self interest is mixed in with the good intentions? Even more, maybe he misinterpreted? Maybe he misunderstood God’s will? Maybe he went against the way things were supposed to be? Did he act destructively when he thought he did the right thing?

The answer to all these doubts is the outcome. It is only the successful outcome that will tell if he was right. All man can do is act in good faith and hope that he is doing the right thing. That is the purpose of Torah and Mitzvot.

יב לֵב טָהוֹר, בְּרָא-לִי אֱלֹהִים; וְרוּחַ נָכוֹן, חַדֵּשׁ בְּקִרְבִּי.

12 Create me a clean heart, O God; and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

יג אַל-תַּשְׁלִיכֵנִי מִלְּפָנֶיךָ; וְרוּחַ קָדְשְׁךָ, אַל-תִּקַּח מִמֶּנִּי.

13 Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy holy spirit from me.

Man has to look deeply within himself and make sure that he is pure, that he is truly seeking out God and looking at His ways, His holy spirit. But ultimately, a good outcome is the real proof that he has acted correctly.

The Avot, the patriarchs, and Moshe Rabbeinu set out to create a nation of servants of God. As Rambam puts it in MN3:51 “it was the chief aim of their whole life, to create a people that should know and worship God”. But they were full of doubt. Every single one of them at some point was filled with doubts and God had to assuage their fears. Avraham in the Brit Bein Habetarim, Yitzchak when confronted with the Yaakov- Eisav dilemma and Yaakov during his confrontation with Eisav, they all questioned their actions. The survival of their descendants as a nation of servants of God is the only vindication and proof that they were right. Whenever Klal Yisrael is faced with annihilation, it brings forth the Patriarchs and asks God how He can allow this to happen. Were they all wrong?

Moshe when confronted with the disaster of the Egel, the Golden Calf, and the Jewish people were at risk of being destroyed, whether spiritually or physically, could not accept that possibility.

כו וָאֶתְפַּלֵּל אֶל-יְהוָה, וָאֹמַר, אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה אַל-תַּשְׁחֵת עַמְּךָ וְנַחֲלָתְךָ, אֲשֶׁר פָּדִיתָ בְּגָדְלֶךָ--אֲשֶׁר-הוֹצֵאתָ מִמִּצְרַיִם, בְּיָד חֲזָקָה.

26 And I prayed unto the LORD, and said: 'O Lord GOD, destroy not Thy people and Thine inheritance that Thou hast redeemed through Thy greatness that Thou hast brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand.

כז זְכֹר, לַעֲבָדֶיךָ--לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק, וּלְיַעֲקֹב: אַל-תֵּפֶן, אֶל-קְשִׁי הָעָם הַזֶּה, וְאֶל-רִשְׁעוֹ, וְאֶל-חַטָּאתוֹ.

27 Remember Thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; look not unto the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their sin;

כח פֶּן-יֹאמְרוּ, הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתָנוּ מִשָּׁם, מִבְּלִי יְכֹלֶת יְהוָה, לַהֲבִיאָם אֶל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר לָהֶם; וּמִשִּׂנְאָתוֹ אוֹתָם, הוֹצִיאָם לַהֲמִתָם בַּמִּדְבָּר.

28 lest the land whence You brought us out say: Because the LORD was not able to bring them into the land which He promised unto them, and because He hated them, He hath brought them out to slay them in the wilderness.

Invoking the past is a way of saying that all these dedicated and visionary people cannot and should not be proven wrong.

I could not resist one last post before taking off, especially since it fits so neatly into this week’s Parsha.

וְדָבָר בְּעִתּוֹ מַה-טּוֹב.

A timely word, how good is it!

That and a little insomnia!