Tuesday, July 07, 2009

For the Rational Faculty is God’s Glory” – כי השכל הוא כבוד ה

Every time I learn the Rambam I discussed in the previous post, I always find his statement - “for the rational faculty is God’s glory” – כי השכל הוא כבוד ה - fascinating. Rambam in MN 1:64 explains that one of the meanings of the words כבוד ה – is -

Sometimes the term "glory" denotes the glorification of the Lord by man or by any other being. For the true glorification of the Lord consists in the comprehension of His greatness, and all who comprehend His greatness and perfection, glorify Him according to their capacity, with this difference, that man alone magnifies God in words, expressive of what he has received in his mind, and what he desires to communicate to others.”

Rambam then proceeds to interpret the word Kevodo in the verse that we say four times (as Leizer pointed out) daily in our prayers to mean that through understanding creation one can appreciate the glory of God –

ג וְקָרָא זֶה אֶל-זֶה וְאָמַר, קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת; מְלֹא כָל-הָאָרֶץ, כְּבוֹדוֹ.

3 And one called unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory. (Yeshayahu 6:3)

In other words, the glory of God is a human perception. God has no glory per se just as he has no attributes. Glory is only the human verbalization of a perception while using the rational faculty. The perfection of the world and the human being’s understanding of it compel him to appreciate God’s glory.

“The term - מְלֹא –full - is also employed to signify the achievement of perfection in virtue and of the latter’s ultimate end…. In this sense it is said "The whole earth is full (מְלֹא) of His glory" (Isa.6:3); the meaning of this verse being that the whole earth bears witness to his perfection, that is, indicates it.” (MN1:19)

The way to glorify God is to get to know Him. That is only possible through His creation and we, using our rational faculty to understand it. This takes us to the other verse which we also say four times daily –

יב וַתִּשָּׂאֵנִי רוּחַ--וָאֶשְׁמַע אַחֲרַי, קוֹל רַעַשׁ גָּדוֹל: בָּרוּךְ כְּבוֹד-יְהוָה, מִמְּקוֹמוֹ.

12 Then a spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me the voice of a great rushing: 'Blessed the glory of the LORD from His place. (Yechezkel 3:12)

God does not have a place. We place Him in our minds during our meditation as we attempt to apprehend Him. As we develop an idea of God‘s glory by studying His creation we place Him.

“In the verse, "Blessed the glory of the Lord from His place" (מִמְּקוֹמו) (Ezek. iii. 12), makom has this figurative meaning, according to His rank and the greatness of His portion in existence. Wherever makom is applied to God, it expresses the same idea, namely, the rank of His existence; there being nothing like or similar to that existence as will be shown below… For example, we have explained here makom in the sentence "Blessed be the glory of the Lord from His place" (מִמְּקוֹמו). But you must understand that the word makom has the same signification in the passage "Behold, a place (makom) is with me" (Exod. xxxiii. 26), namely, a certain degree of contemplation and intellectual intuition (not of ocular inspection).” (MN1:8)

When we talk about God and his rank, we are talking about a hierarchy in a system of cause and effect. As everything we know is caused by something else if we follow the trail we end up with the First Cause namely God, the unique entity that is not the effect of anything else. That puts God as the first in a hierarchical ranking of cause and effect. This is an intellectual process and it is we, in our minds that we place God in that position. Whenever we use the word “place” – Makom – when we talk of God we are saying that we are positioning Him in our minds in a certain place whether a location or a hierarchy. That explains why we refer to God as Hamakom Baruch Hu – the Place, blessed is He. When we talk about the transcendental God we, humans, can only do so after we somehow place Him in our minds.

Metaphysics deal with the existence of God and how we perceive Him. Just as the contemplation of Creation, triggers in us awe and makes us glorify God, the ability itself He has given us to do that, our rational faculty, glorifies God too.


  1. Trivial comment, but helpful if you ever publish this. We say Kadosh four times a day; morning kedusha, afternoon kedusha, one in birchos kri'as shma, one in kedusha d'm'yushav.

  2. How stupid of me! You areright and I will fix it in the text. I knew there was something wrong as I was writing but could not figure what.

  3. When I make a mistake on my blog, I fix the text and delete the helpful comment. As a deleted commenter later wrote, "He who controls the past controls the present, and he who controls the present controls the future."