Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Prophets and Angels - Ishim and Keruvim.

Before addressing the other differences between Moshe and all the prophets, Rambam makes a very interesting statement that is worth analyzing as it opens a window into his thinking and confirms some of the things I discussed so far. I remind the reader that the Hebrew is the traditional translation found in the Mishnayot while I translate from Rav Kafih’s edition which explains the slight but at times crucial differences.

רצוני היה לבאר זה העניין הנפלא, ולפתוח המנעול ממקראות התורה, ולפרש טעם

פה אל פה וכל הפסוק בזולתו מעניינו, לולא שראיתי שאלה העניינים יצטרכו

לראיות רבות מאוד, והיינו צריכים להצעות רבות והקדמות ומשלים, ושנבאר

בתחילה מציאות המלאכים ושינוי מעלותיהן מן הבורא השם יתברך, ושנבאר הנפש

וכל כוחותיה, ויתרחב העיגול עד שנדבר בצורות שזכרו הנביאים שראוי לבורא

ולמלאכים. ויכנס בזה שיעור קומה ועניינו, ולא יספיק בעניין זה לבדו,

ואפילו יהיה מקוצר בתכלית הקיצור, מאה דפים. ולפיכך אניח אותו למקומו: אם

בספר הדרשות שייעדתי לחברו, או בספר הנבואה שאני מתעסק בו, או בספר שאחבר אותו בפירושי אלו היסודות

I wanted to explain this wonderful subject, clarifying obscure texts in the Torah, explaining the meaning of Peh El Peh – Mouth to Mouth –this text and other similar ones. However, I am aware that these are very delicate subjects and require preparatory remarks, introductions and allegories. I would have to explain first the existence of angels and how their status differs relative to the Creator, the human soul and its various forces and the subject will broaden dealing with the discussion of Forms that the prophets mention in relation to God and His angels. [In the version above, which is Rambam’s original draft of his Pirush, written in his youth there is the following – “the subject of Shiur Komah will also enter into the discussion”. Rambam erased it completely in his later editions of the Pirush – see my discussion below.] This will still not suffice and even if I were to summarize it would require one hundred folios. I will therefore leave the discussion for the books that I plan to write on Aggadot or the one on prophecy that I promised.

I would like to focus on “the existence of angels and how their status differs relative to the Creator”. In the second chapter of Hil Yesodei Hatorah Rambam writes –

כל מה שברא הקדוש ברוך הוא בעולמו, נחלק לשלושה חלקים

ומהם ברואים צורה בלא גולם כלל--והם המלאכים, שהמלאכים אינם גוף וגווייה, אלא צורות נפרדות זו מזו

ומה הוא זה שהנביאים אומרים שראו המלאך אש ובעל כנפיים--הכול במראה הנבואה ודרך חידה, לומר שאינו גוף ואינו כבד כגופות הכבדים

ובמה ייפרדו הצורות זו מזו, והרי אינן גופין--לפי שאינן שווין במציאתן

אלא כל אחד מהן למטה ממעלתו של חברו והוא מצוי מכוחו זה למעלה מזה; והכול

נמצאים מכוחו של הקדוש ברוך הוא וטובו

זה שאמרנו למטה ממעלתו, אינה מעלת מקום כמו אדם שיושב למעלה מחברו; אלא

כמו שאומרין בשני חכמים שאחד גדול מחברו בחכמה, שהוא למעלה ממעלתו של זה,

וכמו שאומרין בעילה, שהיא למעלה מן העלול

Everything created by HKBH is divided into three categories… some are created as Form without any Matter at all and those are the angels. For angels have no body but are only Forms that are differentiated from each other. What then does it mean when the prophets say they saw a winged angel made of fire? This is a prophetic vision in the form of a riddle, teaching that they have no body and have no weight unlike heavy Matter… [In other words, winged is an allegory for weightlessness and fire for lack of body]. Being immaterial, how are these Forms differentiated from each other? Their existence is differentiated. Each one is below the status of the other and exists as a result of the other, one above the other. However, all exist as a result of HKBH and His goodness… When we said “below the status of the other”, we did not mean location wise as when we say a person sits above his friend, but rather as when we talk about two wise men, one being wiser than the other. We then say that one has a higher status then the other. Or as when we say that the cause is above the effect.

When we say “existence”, we mean something that we can touch, feel or locate physically. Even those who believe in a “spiritual” world, see it as tangible entities that permeate and exist within the physical reality. They are just another component of our reality. But if we think about it, everything that exists is the result of an idea, a concept. That idea or concept can be visualized as an intangible out there that is the cause of material existence. That idea that underlies everything can only be conceptualized by our minds. It has no body or location; it is just there. We “know” that there is such a thing and we can only define things that result from it but we do not “know” it. We can look at this “idea” as the cause, in a chain of cause and effect, which brings about material existence, our reality. These “ideas” are answers to a plethora of questions that we pose when we try to understand how things are in reality, why, how, when, and ultimately who or what causes all this contingent existence. As the questions get further away from the tangible object they try to explain, they become more abstract and difficult to answer. This is how I understand angels and what Rambam means when he says, “As when we talk about two wise men, one being wiser than the other. We then say that one has a higher status then the other. Or as when we say that the cause is above the effect”. Angels are sequences of “ideas” underlying material existence in a chain of cause and effect, and as they are further removed from materialism, they are wiser, and require greater abstract thinking. As they are all contingent “and exist as a result of the other”, they have to be “below” the only non-contingent entity thus “all exist as a result of HKBH and His goodness”.

In the next Halacha Rambam enumerates a sequence of ten different levels of angels, all are names that are mentioned by the prophets in Tanach when they describe their visions. The two “lowest” levels are וכרובים, ואישים where אישים are the ones that talk to prophets[1] while כרובים are the source of Moshe’s prophecy[2].

כד וַיְגָרֶשׁ, אֶת-הָאָדָם; וַיַּשְׁכֵּן מִקֶּדֶם

לְגַן-עֵדֶן אֶת-הַכְּרֻבִים, וְאֵת לַהַט הַחֶרֶב הַמִּתְהַפֶּכֶת,

לִשְׁמֹר, אֶת-דֶּרֶךְ עֵץ הַחַיִּים

24 So He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the Garden of Eden the cherubim, and the flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way to the tree of life.

The imagery in this verse now takes on a different form and can be understood as a reference to man’s need to overcome his physicality and cross the whirling sword to reach the ַכְּרֻבִים. Rambam in the introduction to MN describes the prophecy of Moshe as opposed to that of others as follows –

We are like those who, though beholding frequent flashes of lightning, still find themselves in the thickest darkness of the night. On some, the lightning flashes in rapid succession, and they seem to be in continuous light, and their night is as clear as the day. This was the degree of prophetic excellence attained by (Moses) the greatest of prophets… By others only once during the whole night is a flash of lightning perceived. … There are some to whom the flashes of lightning appear with varying intervals. Others are in the condition of men, whose darkness is illumined not by lightning, but by some kind of crystal or similar stone, or other substances that possess the property of shining during the night. To them even this small amount of light is not continuous, but now it shines and now it vanishes, as if it were "the flame of the rotating sword."

This brings us to the next quality that separates Moshe from other prophets - his ability to always be in the presence of God.


Earlier I noted that the Hebrew version of the Pirush Hamishna found in the Mishnayot contained a few words about Shiur Komah – a mystical treatise of questionable origin. Here is the statement in question: ויכנס בזה שיעור קומה ועניינו

The subject of Shiur Komah will also enter into the discussion”. Rav Kafih in a note on this segment says that Rambam erased this statement later in life. Rambam kept the original draft of his Pirush Hamishna next to him all his life, making changes as his thinking developed. Usually he would cross off some words and write the new version below or next to the original without deleing it. In this case, he completely erased this statement. In a Responsa (Blau edition 117) Rambam was asked his opinion on the authenticity and reliability of this treatise. He writes:

שו"ת הרמב"ם סימן קיז

לא חשבתי מעולם, שהוא מחיבורי החכמים ז"ל, וחלילה להם, שזה יהיה מהם. ואין הוא אלא חבור אחד הדרשנין היונים ותו לא. וסוף דבר, למחוק זה הספר ולכרות זכר ענינו (הוא) מצוה רבה. ושם אלהים אחרים לא תזכירו וכו' +שמות כ"ג, י"ג+ והרי מי שיש לו קומה, הוא אלהים אחרים בלא ספק. וכתב משה.

I never thought that it was written by the sages and it would be unthinkable that they could have authored it. It is a book written by one of the Greek preachers and nothing more. Finally, it would be a great Mitzvah to destroy this book and to eradicate its subject from memory. [It says] “And the name of foreign gods you should not mention” – a god that has bodily measurements is a foreign god without doubt. And Moshe wrote. [This is Rambam’s customary signature.]


ומעלה עשירית, היא מעלת הצורה שנקראת אישים, והם המלאכים שמדברים עם

הנביאים ונראים להם במראה הנבואה; לפיכך נקראו אישים, שמעלתם קרובה ממעלת

דעת האדם.


וּבְבֹא מֹשֶׁה אֶל-אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, לְדַבֵּר


וַיִּשְׁמַע אֶת-הַקּוֹל מִדַּבֵּר אֵלָיו מֵעַל הַכַּפֹּרֶת

אֲשֶׁר עַל-אֲרֹן הָעֵדֻת, מִבֵּין שְׁנֵי הַכְּרֻבִים; וַיְדַבֵּר,

אֵלָיו. {פ}

89 And when Moses went into the tent of meeting that He might speak with him, then he heard the Voice speaking unto him from above the ark-cover that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and He spoke unto him. (Bamidbar 7:89)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Moshe as Paradigm of Human Perfection.

Before discussing the other three differences between Moshe’s prophecy and that of the other prophets, I want to work through Rambam’s description of Moshe’s personal achievements. (The quote below is from the online edition available at www.Da’ while I translate from Rav Kafih’s edition which accounts for the slight differences). I will intersperse the translation (italic) with comments. In his introduction to Perek Chelek Rambam writes:

נבואת משה רבנו ע"ה

. והוא שנאמין כי הוא אביהם

של כל הנביאים אשר היו מלפניו ואשר קמו מאחריו, כולם הם תחתיו במעלה. והוא

היה הנבחר מכל מין האדם אשר השיג מידיעתו יתברך יותר מכל מה שהשיג או ישיג

שום אדם שנמצא או שימצא. וכי הוא עליו השלום הגיע התעלותו מן האנושות עד

המעלה המלאכותית, ונכלל במעלת המלאכים, לא נשאר מסך שלא קרעו ונכנס ממנו.

ולא מנעו מונע גופני, ולא נתערב לו שום חסרון בין רב למעט, ונתבטלו ממנו

הכוחות הדמיונות והחושיות והשגותיו, ונבדל כוחו המתעורר המשתוקק, ונשאר

שכל בלבד. ועל העניין הזה נאמר עליו שהיה מדבר עם השם יתברך בלא אמצעיות

מן המלאכים.

The seventh foundation, the prophecy of Moshe Rabbeinu A’H, is that we believe that he is the father of all prophets that preceded him and those that will follow him.

The belief in the uniqueness of Moshe is fundamental to Judaism. A child admires a father and sees him as a model to aspire to and try to emulate. Moshe is the paradigm of what a prophet could be and represents what they all aspire to emulate.

They all are below him in rank, he is God’s preferred member from among the whole of the human species, having apprehended God more that anyone has or will ever apprehend Him. He reached the ultimate level of attainment above all humankind, having apprehended the level of angels and having attained the level of angels.

Moshe is the paradigm of human perfection, a human being that has transcended his physicality and material self to apprehend and conceptualize the transcendental. Underlying this statement of Rambam is the Aristotelian concept of unity between the knower and knowledge. If one apprehends angels, the transcendental concepts, one becomes transcendental, an angel.

No veil remained without him tearing it down and he was not stymied by any physical barrier being without any deficiencies whatsoever, small or large. His imaginative and sensory faculties were non-existent during his state of apprehension, as were his appetites, becoming only Sechel - intellect. That is the meaning of what the Rabbis said of him that he speaks with God without the intermediary of angels.

What is a veil in the context of apprehending the transcendental? Rambam in MN 3:9 devotes a whole chapter to just this theme.

Matter is a strong veil preventing the apprehension of that which is separate from matter as it truly is… However great the exertion of our intellect may be to comprehend the Divine Being or any of the ideals, we find a veil between the two. Thus, the prophets frequently hint at the existence of a veil between God and us. They say He is concealed from us in a heavy cloud, in darkness, in mist, or in a enveloping cloud: or use similar figures to express that on account of our matter we are unable to comprehend His essence.

Bypassing our materialism is the only way to apprehend the non-physical, the immaterial. Rambam in his introduction to Avot, Shemona Perakim, presents the human mind as an integrated unit that both controls and directs bodily function and also is the seat of the intellect. Intellectual perfection comes when all these integrated components of the human mind are perfectly tuned so that each performs its role in a rational and balanced manner. It is only then that the intellectual can apprehend true realities that are not material. Moshe is the paradigm of such a human being. he was not stymied by any physical barrier being without any deficiencies whatsoever, small or large. Deficiencies are related to matter. Matter is transient, good being its coming into existence and bad its demise. Concern with material existence only, means to emphasize the finite. That prevents one from even comprehending that that there is more to existence than matter, that there is a transcendental First Cause. The veil that hides the transcendental is commensurate with how important the material is to us. Moshe overcame that concern, forty days and forty nights he ate no bread and drank no water, tore all possible human veils that stood between him and apprehension of the immaterial, and still could only apprehend “My back but My face will not be seen”. That was more than any other human could.

Prophecy is not a superhuman trait but something that every person can attain. It is synonymous with human perfection. Human perfection means apprehending God to the best of our abilities. Apprehending God means searching beyond the physical and material existence trying to understand how, why and for what purpose we exist and what is our role in the whole of existence as a species and as individuals and acting accordingly. Moshe is the model that we all try to emulate knowing that we will never attain his level of perfection. The prophets among us, those that succeeded in perfecting themselves to the utmost both past, present and future, know that they are not at Moshe’s level.

This understanding of Moshe’s attributes and uniqueness is important in understanding why we believe the Torah is of divine origin.

The question which now remains to be settled is this: Is the person who proclaimed these laws the same perfect man that received them by prophetic inspiration, or a plagiarist, who has stolen these ideas from a true prophet? In order to be enabled to answer this question, we must examine the perfection of the individual, obtain an accurate account of his actions, and consider his character. The best test is the rejection, abstention, and contempt of bodily pleasures for this the first of the degrees of the people of science and all the more of the prophets. (MN2:40)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Visionary States and Visions.

Rambam in Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah 7:10-11 writes –

ו] כל הדברים שאמרנו, הן דרך הנבואה לכל הנביאים הראשונים

והאחרונים--חוץ ממשה, רבנו ורבן של כל הנביאים. ומה הפרש יש בין נבואת

משה לשאר כל הנביאים--שכל הנביאים, בחלום או במראה; ומשה רבנו--הוא ער

ועומד, שנאמר "ובבוא משה אל אוהל מועד, לדבר איתו, וישמע את הקול

Everything we have said so far {about prophecy], apply to all the early and late prophets except for Moshe, our teacher and the teacher of all the prophets. What differentiates Moshe’s prophecy from that of the other prophets? All prophets [prophesize] in a dream or vision while Moshe Rabbeinu is awake and standing as it says “And when Moses went into the tent of meeting that He might speak with him, then he heard the Voice…”

כל הנביאים, על ידי מלאך; לפיכך רואין מה שהן רואין במשל וחידה. ומשה רבנו, לא על ידי מלאך, שנאמר "פה אל פה אדבר בו" (במדבר יב,ח)

, ונאמר "ודיבר ה' אל משה פנים אל פנים" (שמות לג,יא),

ונאמר "ותמונת ה', יביט" (במדבר יב,ח):

כלומר שאין שם משל, אלא רואה הדבר על בורייו בלא חידה בלא משל; הוא שהתורה

מעידה עליו, "ומראה ולא בחידות" (שם), שאינו מתנבא בחידה אלא במראה, שרואה

הדבר על בורייו.

All the prophets [prophesize] through an angel therefore their vision is in the form of allegory and riddle. Moshe Rabbeinu[‘s vision] is not through an angel because it says “I will speak with him Peh el Peh [mouth to mouth]” and it says “and God speaks to Moshe face to face” and it says “he sees the likeness of God”. Namely, there was no allegory. [Moshe] saw it as it was without a riddle or allegory. That is what the Torah attests about him [Moshe], “in a vision and not in riddles”, that he does not prophesize through a riddle but in a vision. He sees things as they are.

Rambam uses the same word במראה in two totally opposed ways. In the first Halacha, he describes with it the prophecy of other prophets as opposed to Moshe; they have visions while he is awake and standing. In the second, he uses it to describe Moshe’s prophecy as in a vision as opposed to riddles. What is going on?

Rambam is basing this Halacha on two verses in the Torah that are close to each other and offer the same contradiction.

ו וַיֹּאמֶר, שִׁמְעוּ-נָא דְבָרָי; אִם-יִהְיֶה, נְבִיאֲכֶם--יְהוָה בַּמַּרְאָה אֵלָיו אֶתְוַדָּע, בַּחֲלוֹם אֲדַבֶּר-בּוֹ.

6 And He said: Listen pray to My words: if your prophet be the Lord’s in a vision to him would I be known, in a dream would I speak through him.


לֹא-כֵן, עַבְדִּי מֹשֶׁה: בְּכָל-בֵּיתִי, נֶאֱמָן הוּא.

7 Not so My servant Moshe; in all My house is he trusted;

ח פֶּה אֶל-פֶּה אֲדַבֶּר-בּוֹ, וּמַרְאֶה וְלֹא בְחִידֹת, וּתְמֻנַת יְהוָה, יַבִּיט

Mouth to mouth do I speak with him, and visions and not in riddles;

Here too we have the same use of the word ּמַרְאֶהin two opposite senses. Sifrei comments on the first Passuk -

ספרי במדבר פיסקא קג

אם יהיה נביאכם ה' במראה אליו אתודע או כשם שאני [מדבר עם הנביאים] בחלום ובחזיון כך [אני] מדבר עם משה ת"ל לא כן עבדי משה.

In other words, this verse is describing the state the prophet is in when he apprehends the prophecy. Unlike other prophets who are either asleep or in a trance Moshe was fully awake when prophesying. בַּמַּרְאָה refers to the prophet and the state he is in, namely a visionary state which is trancelike as opposed to fully awake and standing. (Note the punctuation - a Kametz – see Sforno[1]).

While on the second verse Sifrei comments –

ספרי במדבר פיסקא קג

במראה, זה מראה דיבור אתה אומר זה מראה דיבור או אינו אלא מראה שכינה ת"ל ויאמר לא תוכל לראות את פני כי לא יראני האדם וחי

Here the word וּמַרְאֶה describes the nature of the prophecy that it was perceived as clear words rather than a vision of the Shechinah. (Apparently, the heading of this comment should be וּמַרְאֶה and not במראה. Note the punctuation – a Segol – see Sforno).

Rambam based his Halacha on these verses as understood by Sifrei and used it to present two of the four differences between Moshe’s prophecy and that of other prophets. We also profited in understanding the Sifrei and how to read apparently two contradicting verses. Clearly the Chachmei Hamesora had a similar understanding of the Sifrei and the verse.

(See my article in Hakirah volume 1 for a discussion of the four verses used as proof text in the first Halacha).

[1] Sforno notes the different punctuation on the two words noting the first as Lashon Nekeiva - feminine - while the second is Lashon Zachar - masculine.

The concordance (Even Sasson) lists the two verses as two different meanings. The one with Segol is vision the one with a Kametz is mirror but can also mean vision as a homonym.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Rashi on Prophecy - A pre- Maimonides Maimonidean!

Rashi is generally seen as not philosophical. I have seen some argue that he believed in a corporeal God. I am no great specialist in Rashi on Chumash but I have traced several of his seemingly innocuous comments and found in them incredible philosophical insights. What is even more amazing is that he shares these deep thoughts in a few words and unless we pay attention, we miss them. Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz AH in one of his articles or books, noted Rashi's approach to prophecy which is definitely much more sophisticated than the one currently accepted in the general Yeshivish world.

In Shemot 33:9 we read

ט וְהָיָה, כְּבֹא מֹשֶׁה הָאֹהֱלָה, יֵרֵד עַמּוּד הֶעָנָן, וְעָמַד פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל; וְדִבֶּר, עִם-מֹשֶׁה.

9 And so, when Moshe would come into the Tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stand at the entrance of the Tent; and it was spoken[1] with Moshe.

רש"י שמות פרק לג

ט) וְדִבֶּר עם משה - כמו ומִדַּבֵּר עם משה. תרגומו ומתמלל עם משה שהוא כבוד שכינה, כמו (במדבר ז פט) וישמע את הקול מדבר אליו, ואינו קורא מדבר אליו. כשהוא קורא מִדַּבֵּר פתרונו הקול מדבר בינו לבין עצמו, וההדיוט שומע מאליו, וכשהוא קורא מדבר משמע שהמלך מדבר עם ההדיוט

אונקלוס שמות פרק לג

ט) והוי כד עליל משה למשכנא נחית עמודא דעננא וקאים בתרע משכנא ומתמלל עם משה

Rashi notes the curious Nikud וְדִבֶּר which connotes that something was spoken without being directed at anyone specifically. He confirms that interpretation with Onkelos who uses the Hitpael tense ומתמלל עם משה. Rashi also notes that the same curious Nikud is used in Parshat Naso. Rashi therefore concludes that the prophetic content is being broadcast so to say, and anyone that pays attention and is worthy hears it. In other words, unlike R. Yehuda Halevi and many other thinkers in his school who believed that, prophecy is a gift rather than something one has to earn; Rashi believed that the worthy gets the information rather than receiving it.

וְדִבֶּר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה פָּנִים אֶל-פָּנִים, כַּאֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר אִישׁ אֶל-רֵעֵהוּ

And God spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaks unto his friend (Shemot 33:11)

רש"י שמות פרק לג

ודבר ה' אל משה פנים אל פנים - ומתמלל עם משה


אונקלוס שמות פרק לג

ומליל יי עם משה ממלל עם ממלל כמא דימליל גוברא עם חבריה ותאיב למשריתא ומשומשניה יהושע בר נון עולימא לא עדי מגו משכנא:

In this verse, the Onkelos editions we have translate וְדִבֶּר in the regular Piel tense. Rashi apparently had a different text having Onkelos use the Hitpael tense. He prefers it as it is consistent with his earlier interpretation and notes it to bring it to our attention.

פט וּבְבֹא מֹשֶׁה אֶל-אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, לְדַבֵּר

אִתּוֹ, וַיִּשְׁמַע אֶת-הַקּוֹל מִדַּבֵּר אֵלָיו מֵעַל הַכַּפֹּרֶת

אֲשֶׁר עַל-אֲרֹן הָעֵדֻת, מִבֵּין שְׁנֵי הַכְּרֻבִים; וַיְדַבֵּר,

אֵלָיו. {פ}

89 And when Moses went into the tent of meeting that He might speak with him, then he heard the Voice speaking unto him from above the ark-cover that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and He spoke unto him.

רש"י במדבר פרק ז

מדבר - כמו מתדבר, כבודו של מעלה לומר כן מדבר בינו לבין עצמו, ומשה שומע מאליו

Again, we have Rashi explaining that prophecy is out there and must be heard.

Sforno sees this Rashi as Maimonidean. He explains that to God there is no potential and in-actu (see MN 1:68). Therefore, the flow of goodness, the cause of existence, that emanates so to say from God, is constant. The potential recipient of this flow receives it automatically when ready and prepared. Prophecy is the ability to read and understand that flow and it requires perfection on the part of the prophet.

Rashi makes a similar comment in Yechezkel 2:2

רש"י יחזקאל פרק ב

(ב) את מדבר אלי - את המתדבר עמי וכבוד הוא לכתוב מדבר כלפי מעלה שהאומר מדבר בשו"א נשמע כאדם המדבר לחבירו פונה אליו פנים אל פנים והאומר מדבר (בחיר"ק) משמעו שהשכינה מדבר בפני עצמו בכבודו ושלוחיו ישמעו בורפאלי"ן בלע"ז:

Rashi would have to be quite inconsistent if he was literal about God’s corporeality and have this understanding of prophecy.

Shabbat Shalom.

[1] My tentative translation based on Rashi and Targum Onkelos.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Role of the Imaginative Faculty in Prophecy - Ikkarim 6 and 7.

In my last post, I touched on Ikarim 6 and 7 that respectively deal with prophecy itself and with the prophecy of Moshe. Ikar 7 states that the prophecy of Moshe was in a category of its own. Rambam enumerates four differences between the two prophecies. I will analyze each one in upcoming posts and I believe we will gain insights into Rambam’s understanding of prophecy.

As I explained, prophecy is a natural human capability that certain people acquire by perfecting themselves both intellectually through knowledge and by improving the traits they were born with, their Midot. As a person meditates on transcendental issues which are non-material and non-physical he cannot truly picture these concepts in his mind, as they have no relations to his daily life. For example, even if one contemplates the existence of God, fully aware that He is not knowable and “existence” is equivocal when used in this context, man as a human being cannot escape visualizing “existence” in his mind. The mind translates the incomprehensible by attaching and superimposing it onto past experiences that are closest to the abstract concept in question. When we try to grasp the abstract idea that God “exists”, we append that concept onto how our mind understands what “to be” means. The same applies to all Metaphysical meditation about God and the laws and rules that He put in place to bring continuity to the universe and our existence. The concepts that dictate how nature operates, the ideas that underlie nature – not the forces themselves – are visualized as angels or God’s messengers thus Yeshayahu and Yechezkel saw winged beings. That process of allegorizing is what Rambam refers to as the involvement of the imaginative faculty in prophecy. The prophet as he reaches the deeper levels of cogitation about metaphysics translates those insights into his past experience.

The things that the prophet is told in the prophetic vision are in the form of an allegory and the interpretation of the allegory is simultaneously embedded in his mind. (Hil Yesodei Hatorah 7:3).[1]

What we have is a process of apprehension of an abstract concept which is translated by the prophet’s mind and presented to his listeners in its allegorical form. At times, the prophet will interpret the allegory to his listeners at others, where the interpretation is beyond being understood by the masses, not. This type of prophecy is inevitably contaminated by the prophet’s subjective state of mind and experiences. It is the word of God in an indirect way. And here is the first difference between run of the mill prophecy and Moshe’s. Moshe was able to dispense with the imaginative faculty, the need to allegorize. By having transcended his material self, he was able to grasp abstract concepts as he saw them. There was no need for him to translate them. His prophecy was therefore uncontaminated by human frailty and subjectivity. That is the meaning of Peh el Peh.

All the prophets [prophesize] through an angel therefore their vision is in the form of allegory and riddle. Moshe Rabbeinu[‘s vision] is not through an angel because it says “I will speak with him Peh el Peh[2] [mouth to mouth]” and it says “and God speaks to Moshe face to face” and it says “he sees the likeness of God”. Namely, there was no allegory. [Moshe] saw it as it was without a riddle or allegory. That is what the Torah attests about him [Moshe], “in a vision and not in riddles”, that he does not prophesize through a riddle but in a vision. He sees things as they are.[3] (Yesodei Hatorah 7:11)

To understand the meaning of prophesying through an angel we turn to MN 2:6 where Rambam explains this based on a Midrash.

We may find a confirmation of the opinion that the natural and psychical forces of an individual are called angels in a statement of our Sages which is frequently quoted, and occurs originally in Bereshit Raba (chap. 78): "Every day God creates a legion of angels; they sing before Him, and disappear."… In Midrash-Kohelet (on Eccles. x. 7) the following passage occurs: "When man sleeps, his soul speaks to the angel, the angel [speaks] to the cherub." The intelligent reader will find here a clear statement that man's imaginative faculty is also called "angel," and that "cherub" is used for man's intellectual faculty. How beautiful must this appear to him who understands it; how absurd to the ignorant!”

When we say that the prophecy came to the prophet from an angel, it means that he translated it internally using his imaginative faculty. Angel is the word used when we want to describe concepts underlying the laws and forces of nature. Those concepts are the early cause and precursors of every action in the universe.

Consider how clearly they say that the term "angel" signifies nothing but a certain action, and that every appearance of an angel is part of a prophetic vision, depending on the capacity of the person that perceives it.”(MN2:6)

To “see” these abstract concepts, a normal human has to engage his imaginative faculty. Moshe, because of his ability to transcend his material self, having subjugated his sensory perceptions completely to his rational mind, was able to apprehend abstract concepts without superimposing them onto his imaginative faculty. That ability is metaphorically described as seeing through a “cherub” instead of through an angel.

וּבְבֹא מֹשֶׁה אֶל-אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, לְדַבֵּר

אִתּוֹ, וַיִּשְׁמַע אֶת-הַקּוֹל מִדַּבֵּר אֵלָיו מֵעַל הַכַּפֹּרֶת

אֲשֶׁר עַל-אֲרֹן הָעֵדֻת, מִבֵּין שְׁנֵי הַכְּרֻבִים; וַיְדַבֵּר,


89 And when Moshe went into the tent of meeting that He might speak with him, he would hear the Voice being spoken unto him from above the covering that was upon the ark of covenant, from between the two cherubim; and He would speak to him. (Bamidbar 7:89)

The ability of a human being to attain prophecy as described above is not beyond the limits of our comprehension. The ability to employ all our mental capabilities from the rational to the imaginative and intuitive is something that anyone with a healthy body and mind should be able to develop. Prophecy in its most common and basic sense is a personal state of development that is really very private and internal. When we say that such and such is a prophet, we are saying that he is a human being that we estimate has arrived at a level of advanced development. However, an observer can only conjecture. The individual in question is the only one who knows that he has reached that level if he does not delude himself. It is only when the prophet cannot contain himself and feels the uncontrollable urge to share his prophecy with others, (the story of Yonah describes this urge), that the question of authenticity arises. I will leave that for another discussion. The prophecy that Moshe experienced however is not something that we as normal humans can even try to comprehend. We only know it because the Torah tells it to us. Unlike prophecy itself, it is a belief based on tradition and acceptance thereof. That is why I said in my last post that the sixth Ikar is knowable while the seventh has to be taken on faith partially. That part that Moshe was able to visualize transcendental concepts without the involvement of the imaginative faculty is incomprehensible to us and must be taken on faith. It is that ability that makes Moshe’s prophecy immutable when he gave us the Torah and also is the basic concept that underlies the next Ikar Torah Min Hashamayim.

The difficulty in understanding this type of prophecy is described in the Torah through the story of the interaction of Aharon, Miriam and Moshe at the end of Beha’alotcha. It is also the underlying reason for the conflict with Korach. That is however for another time.

[1] הדברים שמודיעין לנביא במראה הנבואה--דרך משל מודיעין לו, ומיד ייחקק בליבו פתרון המשל במראה הנבואה, ויידע מה הוא

[2] It is fascinating to note that Peh el Peh and dying through a kiss, Missat Neshikah, which was the death described by Chazal for Moshe, Aharon and Miriam, connote a similar imagery.


כל הנביאים, על ידי מלאך; לפיכך רואין מה שהן רואין במשל וחידה. ומשה רבנו, לא על ידי מלאך, שנאמר "פה

אל פה אדבר בו

, ונאמר "ודיבר ה' אל משה פנים אל פנים

ונאמר "ותמונת ה', יביט

כלומר שאין שם משל, אלא רואה הדבר על בורייו בלא חידה בלא משל; הוא שהתורה

מעידה עליו, "ומראה ולא בחידות, שאינו מתנבא בחידה אלא במראה, שרואה

הדבר על בורייו

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Existence of God and Prophecy - Beliefs Based on Reason.

Not all beliefs are equal. Some beliefs are based on rational concepts that one can arrive at through reasoning, deduction or induction. Others are based on faith and acceptance. Knowing how to categorize them and to which category each belief belongs is most important for a person that wants to internalize Judaism in a rational way. Rambam in his listing of the Ikkarim and his other writings has done a lot in clarifying this issue. In this post, and probably a few more thereafter, I will try to address this important issue. Though I have written about it in the past, I feel there is much more to be said.

The existence of God is a belief that stems from the problem of contingency. I believe this has been formulated well by Isaac Franck and my post on this, way back in 2006 does not translate into a belief of a personal God, just that there must be a non-contingent entity. We really cannot even use the words “is”, “out there”, “somewhere” or even the word “exist” other than equivocally when talking about this entity which we call God. All these words connote physical existence in time and place and there cannot be such an “existence” for a non-contingent entity. This insight, the “existence” of such an entity, does not say anything about the essence of God. It tells you what this entity is NOT. God is not physical, multiple, time-bound and cannot really be known at all. The word that most closely describes God is “transcendent” in the sense of “being beyond the limits of experience and hence unknowable”. This makes Him unique. There can only “exist” one non-contingent, transcendent entity.

All of the above is covered in the first four Ikkarim: God’s existence, uniqueness, non-physicality and timelessness. These are not beliefs based on acceptance and faith but philosophically rational answers to the problem of endless contingency. That is why Rambam uses the word “to know” rather than “to believe” when he discusses the Mitzvah of believing in the existence of God. This is not something one has to believe but rather know and understand rationally. We accept it on authority but spend a lifetime to apprehend it as much as we can.

יסוד היסודות ועמוד החכמות, לידע שיש שם מצוי ראשון

(Hil Yesodei Hatorah 1:1)

The fifth Ikar is a natural segue from the first four. Considering that there is only one such non-contingent entity, one may only worship Him and not anything else. If one wants to apprehend as much as possible God, which is what worship in this context means, that should be the sole concern and not anything else. This Ikar is the natural conclusion and practical application that stems from the first four Ikkarim. Like with other Mitzvot, Judaism is not satisfied with apprehension and concepts but requires action. Here the action is worship.

The sixth and seventh Ikarim deal with prophecy and also belong to the category of beliefs that are knowable rather than taken on faith and acceptance, the sixth all the way while the seventh partially as we will see. Rambam’s prophecy unlike Rabbi Yehudah Halevy’s is a natural human capacity. I will paraphrase/translate the way he presents the sixth Ikar in his introduction to Chelek.

The sixth foundation is prophecy. That is to KNOW that within this human species there are people with very developed capabilities and talents and great perfection. Their mind is prepared to the point that it accepts the Form of the intellect and this human intellect joins with the Active Intellect. [1]

I have written about this many times at great length so I will just summarize. Medieval thinkers described the acquisition of knowledge as a process of binding the human mind with the science and general information that is out there. It is the way they visualized the absorption of knowledge into the human mind. The information is always out there waiting to be apprehended. Scientific observations and theories explaining them are only discovered by man at some point in time. This totality of information is the Active Intellect (AI). It is assumed that if one were to absorb or connect with that AI he would know all there is to know about the world past, present and future. A prophet is such a human being at an advanced stage of development. As this AI contains not only physical but also metaphysical truths, the latter can only be apprehended once personal perfection is developed whereby the material part of man is controlled. A person that wallows in materialism cannot apprehend immaterial and non-physical concepts. The greater control a person has over his materialism, the greater is his ability to apprehend these truths. Moshe Rabbeinu’s separation from materialism is symbolized by his separation from his wife. His ability to apprehend transcendental truths was therefore higher than that of any other prophet’s commensurate with his lack of materialism[2]. The fifth Ikar is therefore completely understandable and does not require any acceptance – it requires knowledge or Yediah. The sixth, when dealing with Moshe’s capabilities is also something we can understand logically namely that a person may reach such a high level of knowledge. It takes on the aspect of acceptance and faith when it adds that there never was nor never will be a prophet as great as Moshe. Past can be explored and demonstrated but to say that for the future is a matter of acceptance and faith. (I have an aversion to the word Faith, as it is such a large component of Christianity, so I always try to couple it with another word that is not so obvious hence acceptance). However, the belief in the uniqueness both past and future of Moshe is essential for the immutability of the Torah. There was, is and will be only one lawgiver forever and ever. That portion of this Ikar must be accepted – it cannot be demonstrated.

There is a very important aspect in Rambam’s understanding of prophecy, the fact the prophet learns and knows about physics and metaphysical truths but is only an observer in that sense. He can take advantage of those truths when necessary just as Moshe took advantage of certain events like the splitting of the sea et al. but he does not change the course of nature. Unlike idolatry’s shamans and priests, the prophet does not endeavor to change God’s mind or influence Him. He rather wants to know God’s mind, apprehend God’s will and act accordingly. That is the message in this week’s Parsha where Bile’am is taught and his story teaches that lesson. Bile’am is that mixture of prophet and shaman. Although he learned and understood many of the metaphysical truths to the point that he was considered a prophet, which BTW teaches that one does not have to be Jewish to attain that level, he did not absorb the fact that knowledge does not give license to change God’s mind. He was operating with the shamanistic idea that somehow one can bribe God and change the course of history through “spiritual” manipulation. The Rabbis see the story of the talking ass as an allegorical teaching of that point. They list the talking ass as something created at dusk on the sixth day of creation. In other words, Balaam’s vision of the talking ass came with the realization that even such an abnormal and “miraculous” occurrence is embedded in nature. That is why he wants to turn back but is compelled to continue to teach the important lesson that prophecy means apprehension of God’s will and not its manipulation. In his final prophecy, he comes to the full realization of this fact and this is how he describes it:

טז נְאֻם, שֹׁמֵעַ אִמְרֵי-אֵל, וְיֹדֵעַ, דַּעַת עֶלְיוֹן; מַחֲזֵה שַׁדַּי יֶחֱזֶה, נֹפֵל וּגְלוּי עֵינָיִם.

Word of him who hears God’s speech, who obtains knowledge from the Most High and beholds visions from the Almighty, prostate, yet with eyes unveiled:

He no longer has ambitions to change God’s mind but rather obtain knowledge from Him.

In upcoming posts, I will expand on this issue of beliefs and the categorization thereof. I want to develop further this issue of prophecy especially how it relates to Moshe and Torah. This post has reached and surpassed my limit for length.

[1] . והוא שידע אדם, שזה מין האדם ימצא בהם בעלי

טבעים ממידות מעולות מאוד ושלמות גדולה, ונפשותיהם נכונות עד שהן מקבלות

צורת השכל אחד. כן ידבק אותו השכל האנושי בשכל הפועל, ונאצל ממנו עליו

אצילות נכבד. ואלה הם הנביאים. וזו היא הנבואה וזו עניינה.

Please note that I translate from Rabbi Kafih’s edition/translation while the text I append here is from the traditional one found in the Gemarot available at

[2] וכי הוא עליו השלום הגיע התעלותו מן האנושות עד המעלה המלאכותית, ונכלל

במעלת המלאכים, לא נשאר מסך שלא קרעו ונכנס ממנו. ולא מנעו מונע גופני,

ולא נתערב לו שום חסרון בין רב למעט, ונתבטלו ממנו הכוחות הדמיונות

והחושיות והשגותיו, ונבדל כוחו המתעורר המשתוקק, ונשאר שכל בלבד. ועל

העניין הזה נאמר עליו שהיה מדבר עם השם יתברך בלא אמצעיות מן המלאכים.

We Can Hear the Footsteps of Mashiach

Who can question now that we are getting close to the Mashiach era!

Peres to get hotel in Olympic village so he can keep the Sabbath

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent

The Chinese government has agreed as a goodwill gesture to house President Shimon Peres in a hotel within the Olympic complex so he will not desecrate the Sabbath when he attends the games' opening ceremony on Friday, August 8.

The Chinese government, which has invited Peres to the ceremony, said that in contrast to other heads of state, Peres will be staying in accommodations just 200 meters from the stadium.

The President's Residence on Wednesday informed the Chinese Olympic Committee that the President Shimon Peres would be attending the ceremony, which will also be attended by other world leaders.

Staff members of the President's Residence, the Foreign Ministry and the Israeli Olympic Committee have been working with the Chinese Embassy on the details of Peres' visit to Beijing.

The Israeli Embassy in Beijing sent a communique to the President's Residence stating that the Chinese government views Peres' presence at the opening ceremony as very important "because he is the honorary president of the Israel-China Friendship Society and one of the architects of relations between the two countries."

Chinese President Hu Jintao has invited several world leaders to the opening ceremony and will reportedly be holding an international conference at the same time as the games.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Religious and Observant - The Unifiers of Committed Judaism.

As a follow up to the previous post, I take exception with the labeling - TuM, TIDE, Chareidi and Modern Orthodox as well as with all the other labels that are used in general. I think that there are only two groups in the Jewish religious and observant community; those that understand that the goal is to find and get close to HKBH by learning His ways and emulating them and those that keep the Mitzvot as part of society and emulate their fellow coreligionists. For convenience, I will refer to the first group as “Religious and Observant - RO” and to the latter group as “Just Observant – JO”.

The O component in both groups, the observance, is pretty much the same. Although there may appear to be an endless amount of different opinions about how exactly to perform a mitzvah, the core of a particular Halacha is universal – the way it is presented in the Gemara and the rules of Psak therein.

There is however a great variation in the composition of the RO. People are different. Some are more intellectual while others are more emotional and there is a need for a variety of approaches to allow these different personalities to reach their goals. Some people are action oriented and their need to worship HKBH, their Avodat Hashem is manifested through keeping HKBH’s Mitzvot to their minute detail. Others accomplish that by focusing on their intellect or their emotions. The different approaches are at the core of the different Chassidic and Misnagdic groups that existed in Europe and that have survived, at least in form if not always in content, in our contemporary society as well as among the Sephardic Jews. However, all have one goal, discovering as much as a human being can, about HKBH by observing the results of His actions and emulate Him by doing their part in achieving God’s goals, as they understand them. This verse in Devarim 11:22 summarizes it very well.

כִּי אִם-שָׁמֹר תִּשְׁמְרוּן

אֶת-כָּל-הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה

אֶתְכֶם—לַעֲשֹׂתָהּ: לְאַהֲבָה אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, לָלֶכֶת


For if, you shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do it, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, and to cleave unto Him,

We do the Mitzvot so that we get to love HKBH. They are a tool that HKBH gave us by commanding us to do them. That awareness itself, that they are God’s commands, is a constant reminder that the goal is to use the Mitzvot as a tool to get close to HKBH thinking of Him at all times. That is why we make the Bracha “Asher Kideshanu Bemitzvotav” whenever we do a Mitzvah. As humans, we need physical acts to keep us focused on a goal. We do not do well with intellectual or emotional connections only. We tend to get distracted. That is where Mitzvot come into play, especially the ones that are rituals. Love connotes intimate knowledge of the other person. To love HKBH means getting to know Him. The only knowledge we as humans can achieve is by looking at His creations, the result of His “actions” so to say, His ways. The way we cleave unto Him is by emulating those ways. That is the closest we, as humans, can get to Him. To me that is what I hear every time I read that verse.

That is the goal that RO Jews see and develop methods that fit each person’s character and personality to help them reach that goal. The JO group just emulates these people externally without even wanting to understand the why and how, just do so that they belong. The polarization we see in the community stems from the JO groups which are unfortunately the majority. They include some of the leaders, those regarded as Gedolei Torah and Gedolei Hador. However when one reads the writings of the real ideologues of the different groups of RO, the thinkers of the different sects of Chassidus, TuM, Tide, Ashkenazim, Sephardim etc… it comes through loud and clear that all of them have one goal only – Yediat Hashem, loving and fearing Him. People who have one common goal cannot be polarized!

We see the same thing when we learn the Torah of the Rishonim. Although we find sometimes quite sharp language by one towards the other’s position. That is because they cared and were committed to the truth as they saw it. Ultimately, they all respected each other and saw themselves as partaking in the same endeavor – finding HKBH. One only has to learn Ramban when he argues with Rambam or Ibn Ezra[1], Ibn Ezra against some of his predecessors such as R. Shmuel ben Hofni, Rambam in his undertone of disagreement with Rav Sa’adyah Gaon or R. Hasdai Crescas in his Or Hashem against Rambam to see this phenomenon. We see sharp words but respect and admiration for a fellow traveler.

My point here is that there is no polarization among those that seriously are working towards the common goal. Modern Orthodox, Orthodox, Chareidi etc… are not contradictory and exclusive approaches but personal preferences to arrive at a common goal. In fact I have a hard time with the concept that if one’s parents and family belong to one group, they should remain within it. It is not a matter of heritage but personality – Chanoch Lana’ar Al pi Darko.

Shabbat Shalom.

[1] See Ramban’s introduction to his Pirush al Hatorah

רמב"ן הקדמה לתורה

ועם רבי אברהם בן עזרא. תהיה לנו תוכחת מגולה ואהבה מסותרה.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Is There a Conflict Between Torah and Science?

What is Torah? Is it just the corpus that we customarily refer to as such, Tanach, Mishna, Gemara (Bavli and Yerushalmi) and the commentaries on them followed by the Possekim and their writings? Is that “Torah” an independent kind of knowledge that creates its own reality? Or is Torah a fully integrated system of Halacha, Kiyum Mitzvot, science, philosophy and a way of life and thinking? If we were to ask this question and poll Bnei Yeshivot in Lakewood, Bnei Brak and Yerushalaim, the majority would answer that it is the former. They will say that learning Torah is limited to Gemara, Rishonim, Acharonim and Halacha while science and all general knowledge of the world we live in is “secular”, relative and questionably true. There will be nuances in the exact understanding but generally, the argument will be that whatever Chazal say about the world and its science, verbatim as they say it without any interpretation, is how the world is. When confronted by contradicting empirical evidence, the assumption is that the data is wrong and Chazal knew better or that we are dealing with two different universes or existences, the physical here and now and the “spiritual” which is the “real” existence. Attempting to reconcile Chazal with reality by reinterpreting them or when that is impossible, assuming that they were telling us a philosophical idea based on the knowledge of their time which needs to be rethought and adapted to our current understanding, is considered blasphemy and Kefirah.

I believe that this position is a distortion of what Torah is and is at the root of most ills of our contemporary frum society. It puts people in a state of mind where the Torah and Halachot they learn and their way of life are at odds. We have to live in a physical world that operates on scientific principles which to these poor people are anathema. They therefore build a wall between these two worlds, they become schizophrenic and we therefore witness religious people who do not see that Torah is a way of life. To them all religion is a ritual that has nothing to do with how they live and operate in the outside world. They are two separate and different universes. Mashgichim in Yeshivot and Rabbanim in the community preach, focus on the symptoms which they cannot avoid seeing and reacting to, knowing instinctively that there is something wrong in the behavior of their flock but they themselves do not see the real problem. How many times have we heard the pronouncement that Torah and Yisrael are above or outside nature – Lema’alah min hateva? As long as they will educate, insisting on this flawed understanding of what Torah teaches, they are missing the point and misleading one or more generations. Without integrating the two worlds, seeing them as one, the malady will persist.

I was following a private email list discussion on the subject of the Torah Umaddah (TuM), Torah Im Derech Eretz (TIDE) and Chareidi philosophies, and one of the participants, Dr. Noam Stadlan, made the following extremely lucid and clear statement about what Torah is that I believe needs to be publicized. I post it here with his permission.

I am sorry to say that I had to take a lot of TUMS when I read the discussion [on the thread by one member] of TuM. Nature is Hashem's way of making His world understandable to man. Without the laws of nature (and by definition the science that is necessary to explicate, understand, and apply those laws), we would not know that the apple that fell down off the tree yesterday will still fall down off the tree today, and tomorrow, etc. There would not be any dependable consistency in the world.

There is no inconsistency in believing in evolution to some extent [I am not sure why limit it by “to some extent” – DG] and also in Orthodox Jewish dogma. TuM means believing that there is intrinsic value to science, art, literature, and to many other fields of human endeavor. That understanding the laws of nature is a way to understand HKBH, because He created those laws. TuM mean believing that Torah and nature are all part of what Hashem created, and there do not have to be inconsistencies or conflicts. We may look at nature differently than Chachmei haTalmud, but if they had modern science, they also would look at nature differently than they recorded in Shas. … is finding conflicts where TuM does not find them. This is not a 'science first' approach. It is a belief that they do not conflict, and if they seem to conflict, it is because we do not know enough to realize they do not. It does not mean that we throw out the science, or throw out the belief. We can wait for more information. As they say, no one ever died from a kasha.

The Rambam in Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah (second Perek I think) discusses how to achieve belief in God, and he begins not by recommending Talmud Torah, but by looking at the world. He could be thought of as a TuM kind of person. He studied science, astronomy, philosophy, and tried to apply what he knew of nature. He realized there was value in all of that, to the point he incorporated it in his approach to Yddishkeit. (Obviously Aristotle and Moslem philosophers are prominent influences. Platonic astronomy figures prominently in Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah as well as discussions of spheres, etc)

Finally, if one is viewing TuM, it makes no sense to look at a population of people who barely know the term, much less have an idea of what it means and stands for. Being Modern Orthodox does not automatically mean that one is an advocate of Torah Umaddah. One can be Modern Orthodox and not really have a thought-out philosophy (like me not too long ago). One can legitimately be concerned that a philosophy is not retained by a community, or is not propagated, but the reality is that those who think about TuM, and are advocates of TuM, are likely to produce children who are TuMnicks.

On the other hand, those who are MO in practice but do not think deeply about the philosophy behind their actions, are probably less likely to produce practicing children. Lumping every MO person into the TuM category just because it may be the closest to what he or she practice is not an accurate way of measuring the success or failure of the philosophy.”

Dr. Stadlan has presented what to me is a most lucid description of what Torah and Avodah means. Torah is everything we know about God, starting from His Mitzvot to His world and the existence He gave us. It is the goal of Yddishkeit to integrate all this information, knowledge and actions and use it to worship God – Avodat Hashem – by emulating His ways.