[Avodah] Is Panentheism Heresy?

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Wed Jan 2 18:35:32 PST 2013

I intend to put in my own 2 cents, but before this conversation goes
anywhere, I need to interject R' Jon Baker's definition of terms
from <http://torahmusings.com/2013/01/is-chabad-heresy>:

    Pantheism: God is identical with the physical (finite) universe.

    Panentheism: The physical universe is entirely contained within
    the infinite God, and nullified beside It as any finite number is
    nullified in comparison with inifinity. We as created beings have
    a soul which is chelek Eloak mimaal, a part of God Above, but we
    cannot perceive it.

    Acosmism: There is no physical universe, it is all God-stuff, just
    that because of the (spiritual) tzimtzum, we are effectively screened
    from perceiving the God-nature of ourselves and everything around us.

    The first is clearly incompatible with pretty much any form of Judaism
    that hews to tradition -- it's essentially the god of Spinoza or R'
    Mordechai Kaplan.

    The second and third are simultaneously and "paradoxically" (Rachel
    Elior's characterization in "the Paradoxical Ascent to God") held by
    Chabad. Elliot Wolfson ("Open Secret") uses the terms to translate
    Chabad's concepts of "lower unity" and "upper unity" (yichuda tataah,
    yichuda ilaah).

    Elijah J. Schochet, a Gra einikl, reads the letters about "the Chabad
    will worship the trees and stones" literally to say that the Gra
    disagrees with Chabad acosmism.

    Allan Nadler ("The Faith of the Mithnagdim") claims instead that the
    Gra and the Baal haTanya agreed on acosmism, but the chasidim held
    that the godliness was perceivable by the non-initiate, while the
    Gra held that one needed to be a kabbalistic initiate to perceive
    our God-nature. The letter would thus be interpreted to say that
    the non-initiates, who cannot perceive the God-nature in the trees
    and stones, will worship the trees and stones as trees and stones,
    not as parts of the One God Unchanging.

    This is further complicated by the inter-group brangling ...

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             When we are no longer able to change a situation
micha at aishdas.org        -- just think of an incurable disease such as
http://www.aishdas.org   inoperable cancer -- we are challenged to change
Fax: (270) 514-1507      ourselves.      - Victor Frankl (MSfM)

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