Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mizrachi staff wrestles with God's immanence (wrong parsha?)

Forwarded conversation

Subject: Anthropopathism (yeah, that's right)

From: Noam Shapiro
Date: Mon, Nov 14, 2011 at 3:36 PM
To: FMS Judaic Staff Meeting

Anyone know of a good source that indicates that God has emotions? (I know many pesukim indicate it. I mean a rishon who says point blank- God does have emotions, and its not a metaphor, like the Rambam would say)

From: Rabbi Aaron Bayer

I feel like kaballa, chassidut, midrash is where you need to go with this. I would check out RAMBAN on some of the psukim that rambam explains metaphorically. Also, check out Eish Kodesh

From: Michael Unterberg

You may have the following problem:

Those who formulate the question philosophically will come to the same conclusion.
Those who are not philosophical will not formulate shittot in that manner. They will just discuss aggada and emotional language literally.

I'm inclined to agree with Aaron that those are the places to look, but it seems unlikely that you will find an articulated statement of belief. (that's what philosophers do)

That being the case, anyone with a philosophical bend can read mystical or literary sources (like kabbala and aggada) as metaphor anyway. So it puts you in a bit of a closed loop.

It is up to the reader to decide if the author intended those anthropopathic statements as literal or as a contribution to metaphorical religious literature. Hard to tell, frankly.


From: Noam Shapiro

Well said, Michael. But here is my problem: how many of us really view notions of God's love and compassion, to name two emotions, only as metaphors which allow us to perceive and relate to God? I would venture to say that many people (me?) think/feel/believe that God truly loves. And to say that God doesn't but that He merely has acted in a way that we humans intrepret as manifesting love, (a la the Rambam) - what are you left with? Is this not at the end of the day just self-deception? (shhh. don't tell anyone- we dont really mean it when we talk about having a relationship with God, its just a facade that we use in order to have....a relationship with God?)
"Meyla" when it comes to God's physicality- I think its easier to say that "dibra torah kilshon bnei adam' and that it is figurative language. But to say that God's emotion is metaphorical...what are you left with then?


From: Barry Kislowicz

On your point about physicality Dr Brill used to say that it's almost impossible to pray effectively without having some image of God in your mind -

From: Michael Unterberg

I think that it is a functional metaphor. By that I mean, a premise that may not bear scrutiny, but its needed to function. So, we use it as our narrative and live with the dissonance. I mean that as a healthy thing.


God loves us.
I have the best Mom in the world.
Israel is the most beautiful country in the world.
MY kids should be models.
My school is the coolest.
I am confident that I can do anything.
"You can choose any career that makes you happy"
My team will win.
I am so good looking.

There is a delicate balance here. And of course, dissonance can be unhealthy and lead to disaster. But we do need them. Its like peer pressure. It has a negative connotation, but actually is a healthy psych/social device that can be misused.

I recommend the book, "LIfe of Pi" by Yann Martel to see how I mean a functional story as a useful narrative.

On another note: Rav Kook talks about Avraham's immanent sense of God being needed earlier in history than Rambam's explication of the transcendent God. You can't have a relationship with the latter, and if we were aware of that first we could never be religious. He compares it to not know that the world spins for the first thousands of years of civilization. If we knew that from the beginning we would never have built tall structures or stand up straight. After we were well acclimated to the immanent sense of God we were ready for the knowledge of the philosopher's God. Both are paradoxically True, and we live in the tension.

I don't know if what I said was different than Rav Kook, complimentary or contradictory. I really don't, but I think its at least similar. Any thoughts?

Anyone mind if post either of these two? Names? No names? Is it shtika kehoda'ah?


From: Noam Shapiro

You have my permission. But I want some of the royalties.

1 comment:

agoldman said...

On this topic, I would recommend this audio shiur:,com_docman/task,doc_details/gid,784/Itemid,13/