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Knowing G-d

Knowing G-d

by Rabbi B. Horovitz;0]

The prophet Moses posed the question, “What is G-d’s name?” (Exodus 3:13) and received the response, “I am that I am.”

This is the root of the ineffable name of G-d, referring to absolute

existence.

Hebrew for “name”, “Shem” from the root “to estimate/measure,” refers to the relationship between observer and the object -. the relativity of all knowledge.

For the truth of the rational processes of the mind, of the existence of the body, of sense-perception and of the physical universe, is based upon unproven postulates. Our rational conception of the universe is limited by time and space, and is relative. Therefore, human thoughts cannot make any claim to absolute truth. However, if everything is relative, there is nothing certain and absolute to which anything can be related.

Fundamentals can, therefore, only be ascertained by the transcendence of reason, by the existential “leap of faith,” which is not a leap in the dark, but a leap into light. Only by breaking through the natural limitations of life can the Absolute, which is the ground of existence, be reached.

If G-d is taken as the starting point of all thought and experience, the homeless spirit finds anchorage. Reason, freedom, values and concrete experience acquire a firm foundation in their relation to the True Absolute One in whose image man has been created. “Vanity of vanities.., all is vanity.., that which has been will be... there is a vicious circle in nature, society and reasoning.., all is governed by relativity... the end of the matter, when all is heard, is: Become aware of G-d and observe His commandments, for this is the whole of man.’ (Ecciesiastes)

“The fundamental of all fundamentals and the pillar of sciences is to know that there is a Prime Being who causes all things to exist. All beings only exist through the truth of His existence. If it could be thought that He does not exist, nothing else can exist, and if it could be thought that nothing apart from Him exists, He alone will exist. All beings are dependent upon, and relative to Him, but He is not dependent upon them. Therefore the truth of His existence is not like the truth of any other being.”‘G-d is truth’ for only He is Absolute Truth, all else is relative truth.” (Maimonides)

Thinkers have stated: “Credo ut intelligam.”“1 believe in order to reason.”“Faith-principles are the foundation of all philosophies.” (Richardson) “All our reasoning reduces itself to yielding to feeling.” (Pascal) Every reasoning process is based upon “a priori” assumptions.

The choice lies between faith in some false absolute, in man, or man-made idols. the construction of our hands, hearts and mind, the service of the self or its projection; or faith in the true Absolute G-d as the measure of all things.

The Ineffable Name of G-d. ‘the Lord” means. that He is the Absolute Being, ‘1 am that I am.’ (Exodus 3:14) Who gives relative existence to all things. Everything has a name. i.e. is related to and caused by other objects, but I, G-d, am the Creator of the Time-Space Continuum. The Hebrew for “to exist,”‘Haya,” is re lated to the root “Haga,” which means ‘to think.” G-d’s essence is absolute existence and thought. Modern philosophy is generally traced back to Descartes, who doubted the truth of all existence. He concluded “cogito ergo sum....! am doubting” everything, the existence of myself. the universe, “it proves that I must exist,” otherwise how could I be doubting? From the truth of his own existence, he came to accept the carol lary - the truth of existence of the universe and of G-d.

According to Judaism, “cogitor ergo sum ““I am thought, therefore I exist;” for man knows that his existence is only relative Absolute existence belongs to the One Who’s existence cannot be related to any other known cause; for He is the cause of all existence. He exists.., because He exists’ am that I am.” He thinks because He thinks His thought has produced human thoucht in man. Man exists because G-d thinks that Hr so exist (Haya). This name means absolute existence, even if there is no world nor man, — The Transcendence of G-d.

The other name of G-d. “El-him “is mentioned in the opening verse of Genesis’“In the beginning. G-d

— El-him — created the heavens and the earth.” The Hebrew word comes from the root “El” meaning a force.” El-him are the non-material forces known to mankind through Nature. This ‘immanence’ of one G-d within the world, is described in the singular Hebrew verb Who ‘created’ (bara’) in the beginning of (time & causality) the heavens (space) and the earth (matter),

Many scientists have declared, “the purpose of science is to find the harmony of nature.” (Einstein) The forces of gravity and electro-magnetism, from nkuement of the galaxies to movement in the subatomic universe, all follow a unified system, for One G-d is constantly creating all.

The iiolvtheists. riot recognizing the unity be- :ween the forces, set up idols that represented power. love, fertility, or wealth. These are the strange Elohim, described with a plural verb, revealed in Nature.

This is the root of Pantheism which existed as a philosophy in Greek times and was developed into its modern form, “De,us sive nattira”. G-d is equivalent to nature,” by Spinoza. It is assumed by the scientific explanations which use the words “the wisdom, laws torcos and harmony of Nature,” with a capital “N’” This is ihe “immanence” of G-d.

It found its religious expression in the worship of nature and the natural inclinations of man in ancient paganism and modern materialism. For if all nature and experience are holy, then the good and bad are equally holy. One can trace a line of descent from Spinoza’s pantheism via Hegel to Marx and Lenin’s communism to modern materialism which exclude any Spiritual Being.

Dualism, which divides the divine spirit from matter, was expressed in ancient times by the doctrine of Zoroaster, which regarded the powers of good and evil as light and darkness which wage an eternal battle. Some eastern religions accept this dualistic nature of the universe and man, opposing body and soul. and pursuing self-abnegation. It is also apparent in the Christian view that man gains redemption by cutting himself off from the influences of the body. The Pope and saints did not marry, in order to be released from the bonds of Satan. The realm of the temporal is divided from the spiritual: — “render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and unto G-d that which belongs to G-d.”

‘Others, Deists, admit that there must be a G-d Who created the world, but He is separate from, and indifferent to his creation. Or, they reject creation and believe in the eternal existence of matter and of

G-d.

Among thinking men, only the most extreme atheistic materialists would describe the world in terms that there is no G-d at all. But there are some base people who do not attempt to think. “The base man says in his heart there is no G-d.” (Psalms 14:1) This expresses ancient and modern atheism. The base person rejects every moral authority by saying to himself, “only I am the power,” as though he were

G-d.

Unlike the complete falsehood of Atheism, these views of Pantheism. Dualism and Deism are deceptive half-truths. Judaism represents the full truth, which is described in recent philosophy as “Panentheism,” a combination of Deism and Pantheism, the Transcendence of G-d with His Immanence.

The Jewish Mystics declare. ‘He surrounds all worlds, but He also fills all the worlds.’‘The world is not His place, but He is the Place of the world.’ This is not in a spatial, materialistic sense, but as a concept. ‘He dwells high up in the heavens, but comes down low upon the earth.” He is both ‘out there’ and ‘deep within.’ (Psalms 113:5) He is the furthest and the nearest, the highest and the lowest. Though beyond us, He is closest to us. “1 am the Lord (transcendent source of existence — the deeper meaning of the Ineffable Name), and there is none else, apart from me there is no G-d (El-him meaning ‘forces” — the immanence of G-d.” (Isaiah 45:5) From both angles. “there is no other”; the unity between the two is produced by constant creation (creationism).

“Hear 0 Israel. the Lord is our G-d; the Lord is One.” (Deuteronomy 6:14) “The Lord,” Whose name is not pronounced because He is above language and experience, is also ‘G-d, El-him,” Who reveals Himself through language, nature and histor. This unity is shown in that He is the cause of all existence. “The Lord is One.”

WHAT IS PROPHECY? Biblical Predictions

WHAT IS PROPHECY?

Biblical Predictions

By Rav B. Horovitz

Some assume that prophecy was purely a matter of Divine Grace, while others hold that it was the highest stage of spiritual self-perfection. It is a combination of both: ‘Prophecy rests only upon a very wise man, strong in moral qualities, whose mind always rules his inclinations. When he enters metaphysical contemplation, sanctifies himself, and trains his mind not to think about temporal matters, but to be bound always to the Throne of Glory, the Holy Spirit rests upon him and he becomes a different man greater than all the sages. Then, as a gift of Grace, while his bodily functions are weakened, he may be shown symbolic prophetic visions in dreams. The highest state of prophetic Revelation was granted to Moses, who was the chief of the prophets, both of those that preceded him and of those that followed him. Moses saw Divinity through a transparent glass while other prophets only had a vision of Him through a mirrored glass — the revelation passed through the personality of the prophets. Hence their variety of style. But G-d spoke to Moses directly, without the above limitations’ (Maimonides).

‘Moses and the succeeding leaders of Israel were outstanding personalities whose moral integrity and love of truth is shown by every word they left behind. They levelled the most acrimonious accusations against the false prophets who dared to present their own words as Divine Revelation. They would never have presented their words or the Torah as coming from G-d if this were not the full truth’ (Biberfeld). The prophets were conscious of the over-mastering pressure of G-d who forced them to speak even against their inclination’ (Gore). ‘The prophet’s message bears the stamp of originality, of opposition to contemporary thought, of a word of G-d forcing itself to find expression through the human instrument. Here we may reasonably claim to have a Revelation from G-d to man, independent of human reflection and discovery; a downrush from the super- conscious rather than an uprush from the subconscious’ (James).

Predictions

Many Biblical predictions have been fulfilled. (This is regarded as a test of the truth of prophecy in Deuteronomy 18:2:1).

The cultural development of mankind was predicted by Noah: “G-d grants beauty to Japheth, but He shall dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan will be their servant.

“(Genesis 9:27) Greece, descended from Japheth, has given the arts to civilization, while the world’s religious ideas have gone forth from the tents of Shem, the Hebrews. The descendants of Ham and Canaan were, for many generations, the slaves of other nations.

The 70 years exile predicted in Leviticus, Ch. 26, was literally fulfilled in the Babylonian Exile (Jeremiah, Ch. 11). The destruction of Judea by the Romans is foretold in all detail in Deuteronomy, Ch. 28. A Jewish king would be led into captivity before the ultimate destruction (verse 36), which happened to Aristobulus. “The stranger that is in your midst shall mount above you higher and higher, and you shall come down lower and lower,” (v. 43) was fulfilled when Herod, the Idumean, became king and maltreated the Jews. “He shall put a yoke of iron upon your neck... The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar... as the eagle swoops down... a nation of fierce countenance, that shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favour to the young. “(v. 50) This is a vivid description of the iron rule of the Romans, the only nation of antiquity that fought under the symbol of the eagle. The war of the Romans, the siege of Jerusalem with its resulting famine, the sale of Jewish captives to Egypt, mentioned in that chapter, were all literally fulfilled. The horror-full exile of the Jewish people was predicted thousands of years ago: “The L-rd shall scatter you among all peoples from one end of the earth unto the other end of the earth.... Among these nations you will have no repose, and there shall be no rest for the sole of your foot. But the L-rd shall give you there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes and languishing of soul.” (Deuteronomy, 28: 64-65)

The extraordinary devastation of the Holy Land throughout the centuries up to recent times, was predicted... “when they see the sickness which the L-rd has laid upon that land, which is brimstone and salt and burning, that is not sown, nor anything grows therein. “(Deuteronomy, 29: 2 1-22)

The predicted survival of the Jewish people. against all odds and despite all efforts to destroy it, with the Torah in its arms, is evidence of the truth of the words of the prophets. “The survival of the Jews, their resistance to destruction, their endurance under absolutely perilous conditions, and the fateful role played by them in history, all point to the mysterious foundation of their destiny” (Berdyaev). We are witnessing today the return of Jews and the revival of Jewish national life in the land of Israel, materially and spiritually:

“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, you will return to your heart among all the nations, whither the L-rd your

G-d has driven you. And you will return to the L-rd your G-d, and listen to his voice, according to all that I command you today.. ..And the L-rd G-d will bring you back from your captivity and have compassion upon you, and will return and gather you from all the peoples whither the L-rd your G-d has scattered you. He will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and He will do more good and multiply you more than your fathers. He will give you increase in the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your land, for good.” (Deuteronomy 30:1-9).

The United Nations and the ideals of universal justice and peace which have become the hope of mankind (Isaiah, 2:4, 11:8; Micha 4:1-5; Zechariah 8) are clearly foretold in the Bible. The Bible has become the religious Book, per se, of hundreds of millions. It has inspired nearly every great man, and has helped to build up the culture of most nations and is the greatest moralizing power of civilization — a fulfilment of “I will bless those that bless you, and through you will be blessed all the families of the earth.” (Genesis 12:3).

The Unity Factor

the unity factor

THE MODERN EDUCATIONAL MANUAL

THE MODERN EDUCATIONAL MANUAL

Before commencing upon the tale of the Deliverance from Egypt, the Haggadah declares : “Scripture speaks of four varieties of children : the wise child, the wicked child the simple child and the child that is unable to ask questions.”
The Seder affords us a first-class example of the methods by which we should educate our children. It is in fact an ultra-modern pedagogical text-book. The purpose of the Seder is to teach the younger generation the story of the Exodus from Egypt.
Formerly most school subjects were taught only according to text- hooks—history was either just verbally presented by the teacher, or the pupils read history-books, and that was that. In modern schools, however, visual and other aids are used, and pupils often re-enact historical episodes.

Concrete Method
The most modern and perhaps the best. although not always an easy, method of education. is to make the subject matter as concrete as possible. In Montessori and kindred schools, the children are taught everything through their five senses—-beginning with the differentiation of colours, tastes. touch, smell and so on: and through these concrete means they are led to an understanding of the abstract.
In learning the history of the Exodus from Egypt, the Jewish family re-enacts the scene. Not only do we hear from the mouth of others and
rend the story ourselves. but we eat the same bread of affliction, we taste the bitterness of bondage in the bitter herbs; we are made to feel concretely the transformation from slavery to freedom, reclining like free men. This is especially important for the child. who grasps abstract and historical matters far better by concrete means.
But this is only one of many points in which the Seder appears to us as a most up-to-date pedagogical manual. Another matter upon which stress is laid throughout this grand night is the asking of questions by children.

Questions
Most children are naturally curious and they soon reach an age when they are always asking “Daddy. why this?” and “Mummy, why that?”
I Jnfortunately. this healthy curiosity is often a bother to teachers and parents, who just have not the time or patience to answer the inquisitive youngsters. But if children do not ask wherefore’s and why’s they will never become wise.
Modern educationalists all agree that on the whole, a child’s questions should never be ignored. On the contrary, children should be encouraged
to ask questions. Teaching by lecture is replaced by teaching by discussion, the more modern method, because it arouses active thought. The four questions at the beginning of the Seder and the elements introduced for the purpose of arousing the child’s curiosity, illustrate this.

Many Types
A further principle of education may be gleaned from the statement concerning the four sons. We must accept the fact that there are all sorts of fish swimming in the sea, and in the same way, there are many kinds of human beings. There are all types in the younger generation, and there should, therefore, also be different approaches to these different types. Solomon in his wisdom said : “Educate the boy according to his way.” Since the attitude of the wise son differs from that of the wicked, the approach towards them should also differ.
As any teacher will tell you, the main trouble about present-day education in large classes is that one has to deal with so many types: at the same time. From a truly educational point of view, these types require different methods. A more individual education is therefore much to be preferred. The latter is possible in the home and the wise parent is well advised not to adopt the same approach to different types of children.
‘The wise son—what does he say ? “What mean the testimonies, the statutes and the judgments, which the L-rd has commanded you?”
This is the real pupil who wishes to know everything. ‘Then shalt thou explain to him all the laws of Pesach, down to the minutest detail, such as the custom to eat nothing after the Paschal meal.’
‘The wicked son—what does he say ? “What do you mean by this service? He says “you,” not “we,” and as he excludes himself from the general body, he offends against a principle of faith. You should turn on him and say, “It is because of that which the L-rd did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.” For me, not for him, for if he had been there, he would not have been worthy to be redeemed.’
More than lies in the words of the wicked son lies in the tone of his voice. He comes with a prejudiced attitude—what is the use of religious services—and feels that it has nothing to do with him. The best thing to do with children who have such an approach to study is to make them feel that they will themselves be isolated and suffer for it if they adopt that sort of attitude.
‘The simple son—what does he say ? “What is this?” “And you shall say unto him. By strength of hand the L-rd brought us out of Egypt.” The simple person requires an equally simple answer, bare of details.
‘And to him who does not know how to ask questions—You should open the narrative to him, as it is said, “And you shall tell thy son in that day saying, it is because of that which the L-rd did for me when
I came forth out of Egypt.” The child that does not yet ask questions, should be told the matter simply, but in such a way as to encourage questioning.

Child and Man
To some extent we are all children. The child is the father of the man, and the man retains the tendencies of childhood throughout his life. In the Jewish community, one also meets with all types—and maybe to some extent we all have a mixture of the characteristics of these four sons. We must learn to form an approach to them all, helping the wise to solve their problems; pointing out to the wicked that their anti-human or anti- Jewish attitude will only bring them isolation and that they will fall into the pit they have dug for themselves; explaining matters in a simple manner to those who are simple, and arousing the spirit of enquiry where it yet slumbers.

As far as Jewish religious questions go, the same attitude should be adopted. Notice that the one who does not know how to ask is given the same reply as the wicked one for he who could really learn how to ask questions, but never bothers to learn, will also never be able to enter the religious community. The attitude towards him should be quite different, but the fact remains the same, that he who does not bother even to ask questions concerning Judaism will in the end also be isolated from the religious community of Israel.

Let us thus make the Seder of Pesach the educational text-book upon which to found the generation of the future. 

The Hesed of Repentance

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