[Avodah] Is Panentheism Heresy?

Lisa Liel lisa at starways.net
Wed Jan 2 08:33:06 PST 2013

On 1/2/2013 9:56 AM, Prof. Levine wrote:
> From http://tinyurl.com/bah5lbo
>     Oh how the generation lifted its eyes and spoke words directed
>     above: "This is your god, Israel" (Ex. 32:8), every tree and rock.
>     They reveal the Torah contrary to law in the verse: "Blessed is
>     the glory of God from His place" (Ez. 3:12) and in the verse: "And
>     you preserve them all" (Ne. 9:6).
> As Willensky points out in his footnotes, these are accusations of 
> heresy. The Vilna Gaon charges Chassidim with believing in panentheism 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panentheism>, that God is present in 
> everything, even inanimate objects. The Tanya (2:Yichud Ve-Emunah:1) 
> states that God is present in inanimate objects and in this next 
> chapter explains Ne. (9:6) similarly. It also explains (1:42) Ez. 
> (3:12) in this manner.

Saying that they reveal the Torah contrary to law refers to the decision 
of Chassidim to teach Kabbalistic concepts publically, which was 
prohibited by the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah.  It isn't that panentheism 
(or something similar) is heresy; it's that expressing it publically, 
when it can so easily be misunderstood, is forbidden.

> We see that the Ba'al Ha-Tanya accepts the Vilna Gaon's description of 
> his views as panentheism. However, he defends this theological view as 
> authentically Jewish while the Vilna Gaon rejects them as heresy.

I don't think he rejects them as heresy.  I think his objection was to 
publicizing them, contrary to halakha.

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