Thursday, February 26, 2015

Today I Learned Something Interesting About Musician Glen Campbell

My wife and I came across this really sad song written by Glen Campbell, a song he wrote while battling Alzheimers.  It's called "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" because he's facing the sad prospect of forgetting everyone he loves.  See video here.  That was our introduction to his music.  We also liked this one:  Ghost on the Canvas.

Hearing this man's soul was gift enough.

But just now my wife read online that Glen Campbell and his wife are Messianic non-Jews and have been involved in Messianic Judaism for decades!  They attended Beth Emunah out in California.

So now I like him even more.  I assume he's still alive and battling Alzheimers.  So please remember him and his family in a prayer.



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Shutting the Door on Messianic Possibilities: Why Judaism Rejects a Messiah Who is Both Suffering Servant and Victorious King

This is just a musing from today...

There are Messianic prophecies in the Torah where the Messiah comes as a suffering servant who dies for the sins of Israel and then there are Messianic prophecies in the Torah where the Messiah comes as a victorious King riding in the clouds.

The Torah never says that this will be two different Messiahs.  It leaves room for the possibility that there is ONE Messiah who dies and comes back to life.

But non-Messianic Judaism closes the door on that option.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Messiah as Divine Metaphor

"How Does G-d Reveal Unity? ...Consider a teacher and his student.  The teacher knows that the student has a less developed intellect, and that if he presents a concept on the level of his own comprehension, the student will only be confused.  To introduce a new idea to the student, he condenses it and uses metaphors or parables to bring it within the student's grasp.....Using metaphors is not meant to separate the teacher and the student, but to bring them together in a unity that does not compromise either of them.....To allow us to unite with Him, G-d has provided an elaborate trail of metaphors, like stepping-stones across a wide river.  These steps function like a metaphor or a translator.  A translator does not add any new ideas to a conversation--that is not his role--but he unites two parties in communication.  An intermediary does not settle a dispute, but be creates a bridge, a line of communication, that enables the two sides to achieve a common understanding.  In a student-teacher relationship, the teacher is both source and mediator.  The teacher's metaphor is the intermediary, allowing an abstract concept to be translated into one that can be grasped.  The teacher's goal is to create a series of stepping-stones to accommodate the student's intellectual stride, leading him deeper and deeper into the concept.  The metaphor, then, is equal parts 'light,' the teacher's concept, and 'container,' language that makes the ideas accessible to the student," Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Toward a Meaningful Life:  The Wisdom of the Rebbe (Adapted by Simon Jacobson)
It's interesting how the above comment can apply to Yeshua.  He is simultaneously both man:
"For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," 1 Tim. 2:5
And G-d:
"For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," Colossians 2:9
The reality is that Yeshua, as a man, is the physical manifestation of the Word of G-d--and this Word is a metaphor, a translation, for the spiritual reality of G-d which is so transcendent that we can never experience.

We long to touch the face of G-d...but, with our present limitations, the best we can hope for is to touch the metaphor (Yeshua).

If we apply the Schneerson's teacher-student metaphor, G-d is the source that dwells in a "thick darkness" (1 Kings 8:12); yet He sends out His teaching--His Word--which mediates between Him and us, operating like a metaphor for our delicate minds, so that we may experience His light and become one with Him.  The blueprint for this unifying with G-d is, of course, the Torah:

"In describing the wisdom of King Solomon, the verse states, 'And he grew wiser than all men...and he spoke three thousand metaphors.'  At first glance, we might think that this description of Solomon's abilities reflects his fertile imagination rather than any great wisdom.  But the metaphor is far more than an entertaining way to convey an idea; it is the translation of a concept into a lower level of intellectual discourse.  The greatness of Solomon's wisdom lay in the fact that he could take the most profound, sublime thoughts and bring them to life for minds far less developed--three thousand steps less developed--than his own.  This, in turn, enables the recipients to retrace the steps, one by one, until they can achieve the original high level of discourse.
     Solomon's wisdom is itself a metaphor for the sort of wisdom that went into G-d's creation of our physical world.  After the radical 'jump' from a nonexistential reality to an existential one, G-d began creating all existences in their most spiritual, sublime forms.  He then caused them to develop, in many stages, ultimately producing our physical world, the most tangible embodiment of G-d's created realities.  Every material element or force is actually a physical manifestation of a higher, more spiritual one; water, for example, is the physical embodiment of love and kindness, while fire represents the physical dimension of power.
     But as the properties of the world become more tangible, they also become farther removed from their divine source...
     In our universe, this process has reached the point where everyone is able to experience the 'containers' but very few can glimpse even a hint of the 'light' within.  We can see or read the words on paper, but we don't always sense the idea they represent.
     And yet this is precisely what G-d wants:  that our 'dark' and 'lowly' world obscure its connection to the divine, so that man, out of his own free will, would choose to peel back the successive layers of the container to reveal the light.  And to facilitate that process G-d created different steps along the way, a ladder by which man can climb ever upward and unite with his creator.
     To this end, we have the Bible--the ultimate metaphor, for it is G-d's pure wisdom manifested in language that we are allowed to comprehend.  By studying the Bible, we unite with G-d's wisdom, and by performing the commandments as instructed therein, we actualize G-d's will.  This is the means by which we take the first solid steps toward a unity with G-dliness, by which we can cross the divide between our limited reality and G-d's infinite reality.  The first step is to acknowledge the need for such unity, which means understanding how the two realities came into being.
     Light, with all its paradoxical qualities, is our best metaphor for understanding the process of creation.  We speak of 'enlightenment' that dispels the darkness of ignorance, of a 'ray of hope' penetrating the blackness of despair, of a 'divine light' that bathes a soul in virtue.....Everything you do becomes a metaphor for revealing G-d's light.  And that is true unity," (ibid).

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Monday, February 16, 2015

ISIS: "We Will Conquer Rome"


Finding Common Ground with Gene

At what point does an idol become an idol?

In Isaiah chapter 2, we read that in the day of Messiah's return, man's pride will be humbled and (consequently) all the idols will pass away (Isaiah 2:9-18).  

What is this connection between pride and idolatry?

The reality is that there are no other gods and so when man "makes" an idol he is fantasizing both the god and the worship of the god simultaneously--i.e. in the process of imagining a god receiving worship, man fantasizes about what it's like to receive worship.  

Idolatry is therefore a state of mind...that utilizes a physical object.

So what is it that G-d hates about an idol?

The reality is that there is nothing inherent in the object that is evil.  Rather, the evil arises when man infuses the object with false sanctity.

Can G-d become a physical object?  Can He become something palpable?  To my understanding, to be "palpable" means to be a physical object by definition.  

Yet Gene and I share some common ground:


Gene Shlomovich February 15, 2015 at 11:59 AM
"It sounds like you're saying that G-d can never dwell in the Temple."

G-d doesn't literally dwell in the Temple - He cannot be contained either in the Temple, in a human body or any other physical place. Hashem is everywhere in the Universe at once because He's larger than all of His creation, and there's no place where He's not. However, His presence can come to be at a specific location in a way that is palpable to humans. How that works, I don't think we humans know that. However, with that said, Christianity went much farther than that - it claimed that a Jewish man was god who came down to earth as god/slash/man who was a different person from the Father and even prayed to the father and claimed the father to be greater (which is where your G-d in the Temple analogy breaks down). In that regard the man-god of Christianity followed in the footsteps of the previous demigods of history, as Justin Martyr illustrated in his defense of Christianity to his pagan critics.



RE: "His presence can come to be at a specific location in a way that is palpable to humans. How that works, I don't think we humans know that."

This is good common ground to us both then. We agree that He can become palpable and we agree that this is a great mystery.


This may not seem like much common ground but I think it is.  If we both agree that G-d can become something tangible (i.e. a physical object)--as mysterious as that is--then the only thing preventing Gene from believing that Yeshua, a physical person, is G-d is some sort of presupposition that there is something inherently wrong about the human form.

Yet there is nothing wrong about the human form, in my thinking, given that it reflects the image of G-d.

Perhaps I'm being naive but I think the common ground of a palpable G-d is a good beginning.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Paradox of a Divine Messiah (and Other Truthful Paradoxes in Judaism)

"Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them," Exodus 25:8
"But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!...listen in heaven your dwelling place..."" 1 Kings 8:27-30
To say something is transcendent means that it does not exist in the physical universe and therefore cannot be experienced.  Above we read the words of Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, who questioned that G-d could actually dwell in a physical space.  

Why did Solomon question G-d's ability to dwell in the confines of the Temple?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wrestling with the Incarnation: Elliot Wolfson on Incarnational Thinking in the Ancient Israelite Religion

"According to a growing consensus in biblical scholarship, the textual evidence indicates that for the ancient Israelites the burning issue was not God's corporeality per se, but the problem of iconically representing the divine in corporeal images....One must distinguish between the prohibition of depicting God in images and the claim that God cannot be manifest in a body.  One may presume, as indeed the evidence from the Bible seems to suggest, that God is capable of assuming corporeal form, although that form should not be represented pictorially.
     ...many passages in Hebrew Scriptures presuppose an anthropomorphic conception of God.  This conception, moreover, is predicated on the notion that God can assume an incarnational form that is visually and audibly available to human perception.  There is no reason to suppose, as have apologists of Judaism in both medieval and modern times, that the anthropomorphic characterizations of God in Scripture are to be treated figuratively or allegorically.  I will cite here one example of what I consider to be a striking illustration of incarnational thinking in biblical religion.  In the narrative concerning Jacob's struggle with the mysterious 'man,' who is explicitly identified as Elohim and on account of whom Jacob's name is changed to Israel, Jacob is said to have called the place of the theophany 'Peniel,' for he saw Elohim face-to-face, va-yikra ya'akov shem ha-makom peni'el ki ra'iti elohim panim el panim (Gen. 32:30).  The anthropomorphization of God in this biblical text suggests that in ancient Israel some believed that the divine could appear in a tangible and concrete form...In this light, it becomes quite clear that in some cases the anthropomorphisms in Hebrew Scripture do imply an element of incarnation,"  Elliot R. Wolfson, Judasm and Incarnation:  The Imaginal Body of God

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Monday, February 9, 2015

Once More Unto the Breach: Discussion with Gene Shlomovich About Whether G-d Could Ever Take Human Form [COMPLETE]

How long has it been since Gene left the Messianic movement by renouncing Yeshua as Messiah?  It's been a while... and I've missed talking Torah with him.

Well, after his most recent post entitled "G-d can do anything, can't he?", I've decided to re-open a line of communication with Gene.  I will paste the entire conversation here (doing this so that Gene won't delete or modify my comments).  If he responds during the day, I will try to respond this evening.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Only-Ness of G-d (Heschel)

I've always struggled to fathom the Shema.

My frustration is partly due to the fact that Hebrew is not my native language.  Thankfully, Heschel took the time to explain in his book, "Between Man and God", that when Torah says, "Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad," the term "echad", in addition to referring to a compound one-ness (e.g. man and wife becoming "basar echad" or "one flesh), the term "echad" refers to the idea of solitariness or "only-ness".

In other words, when Torah says G-d is "one", it means that His reality is totally unique--He is all that there is and there is none other besides Him.

Without further ado, here's Heschel on this profound idea:

"Furthermore, doubts have been raised whether the term 'one' is at all meaningful when applied to God.  For how can we designate Him by a number?  A number is one of a series of symbols used in arranging quantities, in order to set them in a relation to one another.  Since God is not in time or space, not a part of a series, 'the term 'one'' is just as inapplicable to God as the term 'many'; for both unity and plurality are categories of quantity, and are, therefore, as inapplicable to God as crooked and straight in reference to sweetness, or salted and insipid in reference to a voice' (Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed, I, 57).
God is one means He alone is truly real.  One means exclusively, no one else, no one besides, alone, only.  In 1 Kings 4:19, as well as in other Biblical passages, ehad means 'only'," Heschel, Between God and Man.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Irrefutable Proof That Oral Torah was a Necessary Complement to the Written Torah [Menachem Elon]

I'd like to hear someone try to refute the following analysis:

The 6 Sources of Jewish Law [Menachem Elon]

Oral Torah comes from a variety of sources.  There is the core part of it that doesn't change (what I like to call the Core Oral Torah); and there is another part that does change.  Here again is Menachem Elon:

From Sinai and Yet Not From Sinai: Understanding the Nuanced Jewish Perspective Regarding the Origin of Oral Torah [Menachem Elon]

Some people think that Jews claim the Oral Torah--with ALL of the rabbinic halachah--was given at Sinai.  But the reality is more nuanced.  Here is Menachem Elon on the subject: