[Avodah] Is Panentheism Heresy

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Fri Feb 8 09:57:03 PST 2013

On Fri, Feb 01, 2013 at 03:29:11PM -0500, Jonathan Baker wrote:
: > As I wrote yesterday, I think that the particular area of nistar we tend
: > to call Qabbalah is from the Bahir, not the Zohar.
: That's the first, yes, but the Zohar is the far more developed (library of)
: text(s).
: > The Bahir develops angelology futher. But it also mixes in ideas from
: > peirushim on seifer haYetzirah. Thus, seifer haYetzirah's 10 sefiros,
: > which are only discussed in terms of being a 10-fold count, are identified
: > with 10 high angels / spiritual existences to become the sefiros we
: > later find in the [concept of the] Eitz Chaim.

Saying the Bahir is the first place where we find in print ideas from
Seifer haYetzirah explained in the context of the stream of Merqavah
and Heilkhalos literature was more my point. Whether he drew it from
the Yetzirah itself or there actually was pre-existing commentaries
from Yetzirah in this vein was secondary. (I just assumed the latter.)
And that synthesis is really what we think of as "Qabbalah".

My point was to show that the concept of 10 sefiros -- Keser through
Malkhus -- was even in written circulation before the Rambam published
anything about theology. Thus, one can't simply reject the idea based on
one's understanding of the Rambam -- the Rambam would have been (probably
unintentionally) bucking an existing trend in Jewish theology if he had
said something that would make belief in the sefiros assur.

But I don't think the Rambam does say that. Qabbalah refers to Ratzon
haBorei and doesn't try to describe the Ein Sof Himself. (The Gra says
this explicitly in the first of his Asarah Kelalim.) The whole discussion
occurs in the same realm as the Rambam's discussion of Hashem's middos --
a discussion about how Hashem chooses to show Himself to us through his
Actions. The Rambam can accept the 13 Middos haRachamim, or Chazal's
notion that Havayah is used to denote Hashem when acting in a way that
looks like Rachamim and E-lokus when Hashem is acting in a way that
looks like Din. This is much more of the same.

: Continuous revelation!  Which is how the Reform talk about revelation, and
: how (R' Brill characterizes) the chasidim think.  Since the term was
: floated by the Reform, the Chasidim, who really believe in it, will
: quickly demur that that's what they're doing. I suppose it could be 
: justified in the chasidic system as improving perception of the divine
: reality that underlies the finity of the "real world".

It's the revelation of new explanation of ideas already
understood. (Unlike R, where the alleged constant reformation of Torah
means to them that old ideas chould be overturned.

I think a more useful mashal is RCBrisker explaining a set of rulings
in the Rambam in a way that never crossed the Rambam's mind. If you
believe the Rambam's rulings have objective reality, then why can't a
later thinker find a pattern and a rule behind that pattern that the
original discoverer of these rulings didn't realize? The Rambam reached
this paneh laTorah one way, but that doesn't stop someone else from
finding new implications in another.

: If you're going to believe in the Chasidic system, you have to believe
: in continuous revelation insofar as the system depends on revelations:
: -1275 CE      The Torah
: -1235 - -516  The Na"ch
: c. 140        the Zohar

I think c. 140 through 1558, when the process of redaction and growth of
the library (RJJB's term) concretizes it. One can believe in the Chassidic
system while still agreeing with R Yaaqov Emden about its origins. Existence


Micha Berger             If you're going through hell
micha at aishdas.org        keep going.
http://www.aishdas.org                   - Winston Churchill
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