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C O N T E N T SWeekly Journal on Jewish ThoughtJan. 25The Jewsihtimes ispublished every Fridayand delivered by email.Subscriptions are FREE.To subscribe, send anyemail message to:subscribe@mesora.orgSubscribers will also receive ouradvertisers' emails and our regularemail announcements.____________________________ContactsWe invite feedback at this address:office@mesora.orgPh(516)569-8888Advertisinghttps://www.Mesora.org/AdvertisingDonationshttps://www.Mesora.org/Donate____________________________Content at Mesora.orgJewishtimes Archiveshttp://www.Mesora.org/JewishTimesPhilosophy Archiveshttp://www.Mesora.org/PhilosophyWeekly Parsha Archiveshttp://www.Mesora.org/WeeklyParshaAudio Archiveshttp://www.Mesora.org/AudioInteractive Classeshttp://www.Mesora.org/TalkLiveSearchhttp://www.Mesora.org/Search___________________________Articles may be reprinted without consent of theJewishTimes or the authors, provided the contentis not altered, and credits are given.3 LettersRABBI MOSHE BEN-CHAIMWhy we don’t accept all claims ofmiracles, even within observant circles.4 Zohar’s FlawsRABBI MOSHE BEN-CHAIMFrom the very method of thought, tovital truths of Judaism, a reader’squestion leads to a thorough presentationof the flaws in Zohar’s view ofsephiroth.Disbelief in “Miracles”Reader: Why are you biased against supernaturalphenomena? It seems from most of your articles, miraclesare only possible in the biblical ages, but miracles recordedin the talmudic and currently in Chassidic circles arescoffed at as superstitions by you. ThanksRabbi: God can make miracles at anytime. But we are notto accept stories of miracles, unless there are masswitnesses. This is why God created Revelation at Sinai. Hewants man to accept only what is proven. And proof of ahistorical event requires mass witnesses. If however, we12 Who is LIke You?RABBI DR. DARRELL GINSBERGFrom the verses of this week’s ParshasBeshalach, Rabbi Ginsberg uncovershidden gems concerning fundamentalsof God.15 Saw You at SinaiRABBI REUVEN MANNWhy did Moses interrupt the Exodus toretrieve Joseph’s bones? What profoundlesson does this simple act teach?LETTERSare to accept any story anyone says, we will be withoutproof, and also, we must equally accept Jesus, Mohammed,and others. The unique nature of Judaism, is that it alonepossesses proof of God's only religion given to man viamass revelation, at Sinai – an event where 2.5 million peoplewitnessed God's intervention. No other religion possessessuch an event, which is why they are not validated. Godorchestrated Sinai for this reason; that this become the solecriteria for accepting what is miraculous. We also rejectclaims that Rabbis or mystics performed miracles, since nomasses corroborate it. The question is not on my position,but on others who accept stories without proof. ■WWW.MESORA.ORG/JEWISHTIMES JAN. 25, 2013 | 3


MysticismKABBALA: THE FLAWS OFZOHARRABBI MOSHE BEN-CHAIMINTRODUCTION"Listen Israel, Adonai is our God,Adonai is One (Deut. 6:4)."God is perfectly clear: God is one. Heis not many. There is a single, indivisiblecause of the universe. Yet, despite thisclarity, and as demonstrated by theGolden Calf worshippers, man hasdifficulty worshipping a metaphysicalGod. His insecurities catapult himtowards idol creation, worship, and theinvention of theories and practices thatconflict with God's words. Trinitarianism,polytheism and all forms of idolatryare additional expressions of man'sfantasies; not the Torah's words.Even when God tells Moses to Hisattributes of mercy (Exod. 34:6,7) theseattributes are not independent beings,God forbid. God refers to His "mercy,appeasement, long-suffering, abundantkindness and truth…etc." as attributes,not as "separate beings." God holds nodiscourse with these attributes, for infact, He is One. These references to actsthat man calls "mercy" and "kindness"are merely concessions to man's feeblenature. We need to know that God is notcruel, so He tells us He is "kind." Weneed to understand that God does notseek quick punishment, so He tells usHe is long-suffering, offering man timeto repent prior to punishment. And wemust know that these are not positivetraits, "for man cannot know God whilealive (Exod. 33:20)." There is nothingpositive we can understand about God.Maimonides and other great mindshave discussed this.In contrast, Zohar attempts todescribe God, despite God's words toMoses above that He is unknowable.Zohar pays no attention to God'swarning, and corruptly invents "sephiroth"(godly emanations) and viewsthem as independent beings: "The king(Abba) said to Imma: 'Did I not say toyou that Adam is destined to sin?' Atthat time he (Abba) drove man away,and he drove away Imma with him(Zohar, Genesis 22)." Here, Zohardepicts God's emanations or sephirothas both Abba and Imma, two distinctbeings with their own opposing wills.But sephiroth are not found in God'swords, or in the words of His Prophets.Therefore, sephiroth is an invention ofhuman fantasy, with no reflection onTorah or on reality.Kabbalists attempt to gain credibilityfor the Zohar by attributing it to RavShimon bar Yochai, as if anything anyRabbi says is a validation of reality. Infact, the Rabbis themselves arguethroughout the Talmud, admitting theerrors of their peers. Therefore, thetactic of attribution is of no value, astruths must be proven based on theirown merit, and fallacy rejected by thesame token. Furthermore, the attributionto Rav Shimon bar Yochai hasalready been rejected. Chassam Sofer,who was not an anti-kabbalist, said thefollowing to the students of his Yeshiva:"Of the vast Zohar, only a small portionthat would make up a very small book offew pages, is attributable to R. Shimonben Yohai." (Quoted by talmidim of theChassam Sofer, as stated by Gaon haRavEliezer Lippman Nizetz, "MeiMenachot", daf 43 ammud 2)(continued on next page)4 | WWW.MESORA.ORG/JEWISHTIMES JAN. 25, 2013


MysticismAn even stronger statement is foundby Rav Eliezer Pilklush, the outstandingtalmid of the Nodeh BeYehudah, andsubsequently the Rav of Prague:"I swear by Hashem's Torah that in theZohar there are many forgeries anddestructive statements that have beenadded. One page of the Talmud Bavli[containing] the discussions of Abaye andRava is more holy than the entire Zohar --the [authenticating] seal of R. Shimon benYohai is not affixed to them (i.e., to thewords of the Zohar). ... Anyone with halfa mind must admit this, for a number ofTannaim and Amoraim are mentionedwho lived many years after R. Shimon benYohai ... [This has been] explained by theGaon Rabbi Yaakov Emden who declaredthat [unidentified] hands have been atwork on it (i.e., the Zohar)."The Rivash wrote:"I have also informed you that myteacher Harav Rabbi Peretz Hakkohennever at all used to speak or think of thoseSephiroth. I also heard from his mouththat Harav Rabbi Shimshon of Chinon(the author of Sefer HaKerithuth), whowas greater than all others of his generationused to say: I pray with the intent ofthis child, i.e., in rejection of the opinion ofthe kabbalists, who pray sometimes to oneSefirah and sometimes to another Sefirah,according to the subject of the prayer ...And all this is a very bizarre thing in theeyes of those who are not kabbalists as theyare, and they (i.e., the non-kabbalists)consider this a belief in dualism (i.e., beliefin two or more deities). I once heard one ofthe philosophical (i.e., non-kabbalistic)persons denigrate the kabbalists by saying:"The Christians believe in trinity, (i.e., theunion of three), and the kabbalists believein the union of ten [Sephiroth]."Kabbala cites the order of the progressiveemanation of the ten Sephiroth,generally presented by the kabbalists asfollows: Kether, Binah, Hokhmah,Gevurah, Hesed, Tifereth, Hod, Netzah,Yesod, and Malkhuth, also calledShekhinah. According to Zohar III, llb,70a: "He is they, and they are He." Thistrinitarian/polytheistic approach doesnot explain sephiroth, but incoherentlysays a plurality equates to a singularity.However, God said, "God is one." UnlikeZohar, we have these words as part ofour Mesora. And unlike Zohar, God'swords make sense.PURPOSE OF THIS ESSAYThe purpose of this essay is todetermine what God said, to make itclear that God's words are limited, andthat we must accept His words overman's words. To this end, I intend tooffer arguments to bolster your intellectualconviction and courage in thistruth, so it overpowers your emotionalneed to be accepted by your peers, whomay deviate. Please be sensitive to yourfeelings as you read on. No doubt, youwill read ideas that conflict with yourpresent views, and the views of many ofyour peers and perhaps teachers andRabbis. I urge you be open to acceptingthat you may harbor incorrect ideas.Torah study requires a commitment tohonesty first, not to men, Rabbis, books,no matter how old or widely acceptedthey might be. Clearly, throughout time,Zohar and Kabbala have met withstrong opposition. Both sides cannot becorrect. The only method to arrive attruth, is first, to desire it and search for ituntil it is found, to be diligent in yoursearch, and to follow reason and proofover emotional tendencies or followingwhat is familiar or popular. If you candedicate yourself to this search, toseeking a conclusion and not abandoningthe search or tiring…please read on.But if you have already made up yourmind, you need not waste your time.WHATS IS TRUEAND WHAT IS NOTWe are not bound to accept as Torahtruths, any matter, except those foundin Moses' Five Books (Chumash),Prophets, Writings and the Oral Law.For these alone did God give to Moses atSinai; these alone are absolute Torahtruths. Therefore, notions located in theZohar, Kabbala or other human works,do not impose obligatory acceptance. Inall works other than the four mentionedabove, we must agree only to what isproven and true, regardless of itsauthor. Everything false, or unproven,must be rejected, regardless of itsauthor. Regarding this, Maimonideswrote:"Know, my masters, that it is not properfor a man to accept as trustworthyanything other than one of these threethings. The first is a thing for which thereis a clear proof deriving from man’sreasoning—such as arithmetic’ geometry,and astronomy. The second is a thing that aman perceives through one of the fivesenses—such as when he knows withcertainty that this is red and this is blackand the like through the sight of his eye; oras when he tastes that this is bitter and thisis sweet; or as when he feels that this is hotand this is cold; or as when he hears thatthis sound is clear and this sound isindistinct; or as when he smells that this isa pleasing smell and this is a displeasingsmell and the like. The third is a thing thata man receives from the prophets or fromthe righteous. Every reasonable man oughtto distinguish in his mind and thought allthe things that he accepts as trustworthy,and say: “This I accept as trustworthybecause of tradition, and this because ofsense-perception, and this on grounds ofreason.” Anyone who accepts as trustworthyanything that is not of these threespecies, of him it is said: “The simplebelieves everything” (Prov. 14:15)."("Letter to the Community of Marseilles","Letter on Astrology")We accept as our "Mesora" only thoseauthentically-proved transmissions,that are traceable to Sinai. However,what is not in our Mesora from Sinai, isnot obligatory. Something withoutproven origin from Sinai is not part ofthe Mesora. Zohar and Kabbala are nottraceable to Sinai, and is less than 1000years old. This of course does not meaneverything in Zohar or Kabbala is false.If an idea is true, it does not matterwhere it is found. The same applies ifthe notion is false. Thus, calling an idea"part of Zohar or Kabbala", does notvalidate it as true. Certainly, when anidea in Zohar or Kabbala, or any work,contradicts the four works above, wereject it.(continued on page 7)WWW.MESORA.ORG/JEWISHTIMES JAN. 25, 2013 | 5


Is Torah mystical…or rational, just likeGod’s natural laws?It’s time a book unveiled the truth.Is Torah a set of incomprehensible mystical beliefs, as kabbalistssuggest…or perfectly reasonable and brilliantly insightful?Finally learn directly from Torah texts and our greatest Rabbis,precisely why mysticism is false, not Torah, and not God’s will.Religion of Reason unveils widespread “Jewish” mystical beliefsas false, and prohibited. Torah is presented in its rational andprovable nature…just like God’s natural laws. There are nopowers besides God, and He prohibits belief in mysticism.Cryptic Talmudic stories are explained metaphorically offeringastonishing insights as intended, and beautiful insights into manyParshas are revealed. Finally, Jews can understand the falsehoodsthey have accepted, and abandon them in place of true Torah.RELIGIONof REASONby JewishTimes’ publisherRabbi Moshe Ben-ChaimREVIEWSRABBI REUVEN MANN — Rabbi, Y. Israel of PhoenixRabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim has written extensively on Jewishphilosophy for many years. His ideas are rooted in a rationalapproach. He follows the great philosophers like Rambam andSaadia Gaon. He is opposed to all forms of “mysticism” and seeksto debunk all practices and beliefs which are rooted in superstitionand contrary to reason. This work covers a wide variety of topics, ofinterest to contemporary; insightful analyses of Biblical narratives as well as thesignificance of many mitzvot. Rabbi Ben-Chaim demonstrates that Judaism canbe harmonized with human reason. He is not afraid to ask the most penetratingand challenging questions as he is convinced that Torah is the Word of God andbased on the highest form of wisdom. Jews who have a profound desire to makesense out of their religion will benefit greatly from reading this book.RABBI STEVEN WEIL — Executive Vice President, The Orthodox UnionRabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim asks critical, crucial and defining questionsthat any thinking Jew needs to ask. His method enables thereader to explore and engage our theology in a meaningful andserious way. Following the Rishonim, he forces us to define, weighand analyze each phrase of chazal, showing there is no contradictionbetween an investigation of Science and an investigation ofJudaism. Rabbi Ben-Chaim has written a work that addresses the thinking personof all faiths. This work speaks to the scholar and lay person alike and will helpyou gain insight into how the great Rishonim define how we view the world.Rabbi Ben-Chaim’s website, Mesora.org is a very serious tool and resource forthinking human beings who want to engage and explore the Almighty, theAlmighty’s universe and do so within the realm of wisdom, rationality andintellectual honesty.Free 33-pg Preview:PARTIAL CHAPTER LISTAstrologyReincarnationPraying to the DeadSuperstitionDemonsBashertEvil EyeRebbe WorshipSegulasSatanAngelsWestern Wall Prayershttps://www.Mesora.org/ReligionofReasonRed BendelsKabbalaMysticismMiraclesWhat is God?“Jewish” SoulsTalmudic StoriesMetaphorsBelief vs. ProofDo Rabbis Err?Gentile EqualityMan’s Purpose


MysticismALL COMMANDS ARE NOTEQUALLY VITALYou must understand that Torahideas are not all on the same level ofimportance. This explains the differentlevels of punishment for violations, andthe varying levels of sacrifices. Truthsabout monetary damages are not asvital as our idea of what God is. Thisexplains why the Ten Commandmentscommence with the command to knowGod, and why monetary laws aretowards the end. Observing all thecommands while possessing anincorrect notion of God, we might forfeitour souls.It is not as we think, that all God asksis that we attend shul, daven three timesdaily, give tzedaka, celebrate holidays,send kids to yeshiva and attendsimchas. Without the diligent search tounderstand God's Torah, to learn whatwe can and cannot know about God, wemiss the core of Judaism, and no otheract can compensate for this loss. Iunderstand this is rarely discussed, andwhy you must be thinking, "Does thisreally matter?" since it is unpopular.However, Torah says this is both centraland vital. This explains why our greatestminds like Maimonides and RabbiBachya (Duties of the Heart) wroteextensively on our notions of God: whatHe is, and what He is not. And theyderived their ideas of God from God'swords, not man's words. They adheredto the four works stated above,Chumash, Prophets, Writings and theOral Law.Today, unfortunately, Judaism hasbeen steered off the focus of God's fouronly works, towards the popularity of aman-made work called Zohar andKabbala, 2500 years after God'scomplete Torah was given at Sinai andaccepted as His undisputed, entiretransmission to mankind. Until theinvention of Zohar, no Prophet, Rabbior Sage would heretically suggestedGod's Torah was incomplete. UntilZohar, no mention of "sephiroth" wasever heard, the notion that God has ten"emanations." But like all movements,with enough followers, the remainingmembers of that culture feel obligatedto accept the movement, lest they beostracized and lose popularity, as ifpersonal fame outweighs following God.Many Rabbis, from Zohar's rise, andthroughout time, vocalized oppositionto its writings, and for good reason.Here are Zoharic quotes, and I willfollow by quoting God's words toillustrate the deviant nature of theseportions of Zohar:Zohar: Genesis 22"When coming to the world of separationwhich is the world of separatedthings, the builder said to the master ofthe edifice: Let us make man in ourimage, according to our likeness. Themaster of the edifice said: 'Indeed itwould be good to make him, but he isdestined to sin before you, for he is afoolish son,' as it is written (Proverbs10:1): A wise son maketh glad a father,but a foolish son is the grief of his mother.Whereupon she (Imma) said: "Since hissin relates to Imma, and not to Abba, Iwant to create him in my image," as it iswritten: And God created man in Hisimage; but Abba did not want to participatein man's creation. At the time thatman sinned what is written: and for yourtransgression was your mother sent away(Isaiah 50:1). The king (Abba) said toImma: "Did I not say to you that he isdestined to sin?" At that time he (Abba)drove him (man) away, and he droveaway Imma with him."The portion of Zohar quoted above"Let us make" surely was said of twobeings, and goes on to explain thatImma said to Abba "Let us make man",and she did as she wished and createdman without the agreement of Abba.This is the heretical view that there aremultiple divinities, and each does ashe/she wishes. Zohar includesadditional corruptions stemming fromit's author's inability to extricatehimself from a physical understandingof God, the source of all idolatry.Zohar's author rejects Maimonidesclear explanation in his 13 Principles,that God is not comparable to Hiscreations. His creations are subject todivision and parts, while He is not: "Towhat shall you equate Me, so that Ishall be similar (Isaiah 40:25)". Yet,Zohar suggest God has ten parts,which sinfully equates God to Hiscreations.PHILOSOPHY IS WILLFULLYACCEPTED, NOT COERCED ORMANDATEDA wise Rabbi once commented, “psak”(ruling) is inapplicable to philosophy.”"Majority rule" (the halachik mechanismof following the majority ofRabbinic opinion; "rove") cannot serveto render some philosophy part of theMesora. Majority rule does not apply tohistorical verification, since majorityrule is a principle applicable only to thesphere of halacha - Jewish law - nothistorical fact or philosophical ideas.Based on a vote, the Torah never sayssomething is historically true, orimposes acceptance of philosophicalprinciples.Jews and Rabbis have erred whenapplying rules of Halacha – how to act –to one's beliefs, or "philosophy." InHalacha, we follow the majorityopinion. But this cannot be applied toone's beliefs. And belief in the notion ofsephiroth are "beliefs". Beliefs can onlybe accepted on our own, and notthrough a majority rule. A majority rulecannot coerce one to "believe" he isstanding in Ashkelon, when in fact hestands in Jerusalem. Majority rulecannot make a person believe in sephiroth,if his mind tells him otherwise, orif he fails to comprehend how God beingOne, can simultaneously be 10 sephiroth.Therefore majority rule or "rove",cannot be applied to philosophicalmatters. It is therefore incorrect to say,"Since many Rabbis yesteryear or todayaccept Zohar or Kabbala, Zoharbecomes Torah or Judaism." Majorityrule does not apply.Some wish to claim that Meilli,Rivash, Ran, R. Alkafih who rejectedZoharic Kabbala as heresy, have been"overruled by a majority." This claim isequally inapplicable, as we said, majorityrule plays no role in belief. Majoritycannot render ideas, to suddenlybecome false. Ideas of truths andfalsehoods are not subject to how manypeople accept or deny them. Truths andfalsehoods are determined, asMaimonides accurately said above: 1)you realize a truth with your mind; 2)you witnessed some phenomenon; 3)the Mesora includes the idea. But aphilosophical truth cannot bemandated, certainly not by a rule of(continued on page 9)WWW.MESORA.ORG/JEWISHTIMES JAN. 25, 2013 | 7


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MysticismHalacha, i.e., majority rule.In philosophy, anything any Rabbisays is not binding, as we see the Rabbisargued on each other. Now, if everyRabbinic statement was binding, howcould one Rabbi oppose another? Wenever see any Rabbi throughout time,waiting for a "majority rule" (rove) toagree with him before he voiced hisopinion! In the Chumash, for example,Ramban argues on Maimonides, whoargued on others. Ibn Ezra constantlyvoices opposition to many Rabbis. Thesame applies to all thinkers. Had majorityrule been obligatory in philosophy,no Rabbi would have been able to voicehis "sole" opinion. But, they all do.Majority rule applies only to Halacha.Agreement can only take place by anindividual who actually agrees, and thiscannot be coerced. Halacha can becoerced, since the courts and Bet Dincan coerce men to act. But force isinapplicable to one's convictions. Andwhile one thinking God is physical, canhave Halachik ramifications, the"belief" of any notion is outsideHalachik jurisdiction.GOD DESIRES WE EACHTHINK FOR OURSELVESIt is for this very reason, that God gaveeach human being an intellect. Godclearly desires that each person engagehis/her intellect, so as to arrive at truthsindependently. Rabbi Bachya, author ofDuties of the hear says the following:"If, however, you possess intelligence andinsight, and through these faculties you arecapable of verifying the fundamentals ofthe religion and the foundations of thecommandments which you have receivedfrom the sages in the name of the prophets,then it is your duty to use these facultiesuntil you understand the subject, so thatyou are certain of it - both by tradition andby force of reason. If you disregard andneglect this duty, you fall short in thefulfillment of what you owe yourCreator."“Devarim 17:8-10 states: "If a caseshould prove too difficult for you injudgment, between blood and blood,between plea and plea, between (leprous)mark and mark, or other matters ofdispute in your courts, ....you must act inaccordance with what they tell you."Regarding this passage, Rabbi Bachyastates:"the verse does not say,.....simply acceptthem on the authority of Torah sages,...andrely exclusively on their tradition. Rather,(Scripture) says that you should reflect onyour own mind, and use your intellect inthese matters. First learn them fromtradition - which covers all the commandmentsin the Torah, their principles anddetails - and then examine them with yourown mind, understanding, and judgment,until the truth become clear to you, andfalsehood rejected, as it is written: "Understandtoday and reflect on it in your heart,Hashem is the G-d in the heavens above,and on the Earth below, there is no other".(Ibid, 4:39)"Again, "…examine them with your ownmind, understanding, and judgment, untilthe truth become clear to you, andfalsehood rejected." Therefore, whenconfronted with that which the mindcannot explain, and which has not beenproven to form part of the Mesora, wedo not accept such a notion, but wereject it. Suggesting an imposed acceptanceof Zohar, contradicts thisself-evident reasoning that God desireseach person to apply their mind andreject falsehood. Even when about togive His Torah, God first gave Moses anumber of laws, of which the Jewsaccepted. God wished the Jews acceptthe Torah system, but only after reviewingit. This does not mean Torah wasoptional. It means God wished the Jews'minds be engaged in what they were toaccept.ZOHAR & KABBALA:NOTIONS ALIEN TO TORAHIt is clear; Zohar presented newnotions not found in Tanach. For hadTanach contained references to sephiroth,our Rishonim would not viewZohar as "new." What did these objectingRishonim find so distasteful inZohar, that they did not find elsewhere?It is the discussion of matters onecannot prove, and the heretical notionsof divisibility of God into many sephiroth;praying to varying sephiroth; andthe gross humanization of God (Zohar,Vayeitze 106b).ZOHAR VIOLATES TORAH'SRESTRICTIVE NATUREThe approach to determining truthsabout God's essence must be relegatedto the Mesora, since God Himself fallsoutside, 1) what our mind can grasp,and 2) what we can perceive. Yes, weperceive "evidence" of the Creator in Hisworld, but we never perceive "Him." Tomake statements about what God is, i.e.,sephiroth, when not having found suchstatements in the Torah, is an incorrectapproach, for it cannot be validated.Furthermore, God told the wisestman, Moses, the following: "For mancannot know Me while alive (Exod.33:20)." If Moses cannot know whatGod is, a discussion of "sephiroth" as"parts of God" falls outside humanknowledge.Torah shuns the very notion that mancan know God at all. It is for this reasonthat the Rabbis who crafted our prayers,included these words to be repeatedmany times daily: "Kadosh, Kadosh,Kadosh, God of hosts, His honor fills theworld (Isaiah 6:3)." On these words, thegreat intellect Rabbi David Kimchi(1160–1235) (Radak) states, "God isdistinct, elevated and totally incomprehensible(ibid)." The word kadosh doesnot mean holy, but rather, "distinct," asin God is distinct from all else andunknowable. Thus, we cannot knowwhat He is. The suggestion of sephirothexceeds Torah's boundary, that God isunknowable. Note also that the Torahsays God's "honor" fills the world, notthat "He" fills the world. For God is notrelated to the universe in any way. Hecannot occupy space, for even space wasHis creation, and He predates space.Thus, He existed, and exists, withoutspace. Unrelated to physical creations,God has no parts. Sephiroth must befalse.And who recited these words, thatGod is unknowable? It was the angels;beings of far greater knowledge than us.(continued on next page)WWW.MESORA.ORG/JEWISHTIMES JAN. 25, 2013 | 9


MysticismAnd yet, they admit they know nothingabout God! How then can humans whowrote the Zohar depict God, in anyway?Why do both God and the Rabbisdepict the angels in the Torah? We mustunderstand this lesson: if higher-levelbeings cannot fathom God, certainly wecannot. God also tells us that angels,and Moses could never know what Godis. But Zohar claims its does. You mustappreciate Zohar's claim as directlyrejecting God's Torah.TORAH WAS COMPLETE ATSINAIIbn Ezra Exod. 13:9: "Kabbala's wordsare strong and don't need to bestrengthened." Ibn Ezra says that ourtrue Kabbala (literally, "received" Torahtransmissions) predate ZoharicKabbala. Nothing needs to be added(i.e., "strengthened") to what God gaveMoses.SEPHIROTH:BEREFT OF WISDOMAll of God's Torah reflects wisdom. Incontrast, the polytheistic notion ofsephiroth imparts no wisdom andsubscribes to idolatrous influence,thereby opposing Torah at the core.Worse, sephiroth truly confuse themind, forcing physical characteristics ofpartss onto our indivisible, metaphysicalGod. Again, to truly comprise Torah,an idea must be intelligent, not anempty statement, like sephiroth.TODAY'S BLOGS AND EMAILLISTS: NO SOUND IDEAS ORARGUMENTSZohar proponents often need topersonally attack those rejecting Zohar.A recent email list discussion found itacceptable to reprint the exact words oftoday's Zohar defenders, who stripped"Rabbi X" of his title, calling him "Mr.X" for arguing against Zohar. This canonly be explained as a weakness in theirarguments defending Zohar itself,thereby needing to resort to a personaljab. Rabbi X could not have known hisattackers, they being part of such a largean undisclosed email list. Thus, Rabbi Xdid not attack others, but wrote solelyagainst Zohar. Personal attacks weretherefore unprovoked, and unveiled anemotional bias for Zohar, not an intelligentbasis for accepting it.Other defenders of Zohar respondedwith a list of Rabbis praising Zohar orKabbala, but without any explanation ofsephiroth or any of Zohar's views. Thismakes one question their beliefs, astheir defense of Zohar remains withoutexplanation. Their defense boils downto, "The more people repeat something,the truer it becomes", which is notrational. Even if the many people areRabbis.One person voiced this sentiment: "Itis an important part of our rich intellectualand spiritual heritage", but again,without explanation. And a finaldefense of Zohar was the familiar,"Some things in life are just beyond ourunderstanding." This admission thatZohar is inexplicable should bewell-heeded.On the other hand, God's Torah is saidto be that which the other nations willmarvel at:"And you shall guard the commands andperform them for they will be yourwisdom and understanding in the eyes ofother nations, for when they hear all thesestatutes they will say, "What a wise andunderstanding people is this great nation".For what great nation has God close tothem, as the Lord our God whenever wecall upon Him. And what great nationpossesses statutes and laws so righteous asthis Torah that I place before you today(Deut. 4:6-8)?"These verses make it clear thatunintelligible (and heretical) notions ofsephiroth cannot be part of Torah. TrueTorah ideas can be understood by allnations, as God says. And those ideas(i.e., what God is) that are beyond ourcapacity to grasp, is where Zoharfraudulently and irresponsibly hasventured to speak.SUMMARYIn conclusion, it is more reasonable toreject the view that many Rabbis agreedwith Zohar, as it contains unintelligentand heretical positions. So we need noteven engage the inapplicable use of"majority rule". It's defenders have notvoiced any explanations for sephiroth orother claims. And Rav Eliezer Pilklushand Rabbi Yaakov Emden's positionthat Zohar is a forgery, retains ourancient Rabbis in an intelligent light,which maintains Kavod Hatorah.God gave each of us intelligence.Rabbi Bachya explained in Duties of theHeart so clearly, that this gift demonstratesGod's desire that we each use ourintelligence. Our opinions of what Godis and is not, are at the core of our life'spurpose. To leave this area unexamined,and merely follow the crowd, is againstGod's will. If you strive to follow God'sTorah, you must start with a clearunderstanding of God Himself, as far ashumanly possible. You must be clearabout the guidelines for accepting anddismissing beliefs, and these rules areall within your grasp, if you engage yourintellect.Can God truly equate to His creation,by having parts? What did God say?"To what shall you equate Me, so that Ishall be similar (Isaiah 40:25)"What makes sense to you, is God one,or many? What did God say?"Listen Israel, Adonai is our God,Adonai is One (Deut. 6:4)." ■10 | WWW.MESORA.ORG/JEWISHTIMES JAN. 25, 2013


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Weekly ParshaWho isLike You?Rabbi Dr. Darrell GinsbergThe splitting of the sea, and in manyways the exodus from Egypt, culminatesin the shira (song) composed by Mosheand the Jewish people. Containedwithin this epic work are deep andimportant ideas about God and Hisrelationship to mankind. We even seethis part of the Torah included in ourdaily tefilah, both in its entirety, and intwo verses strategically placed by Chazalin the tefilah of “Ezras Avoseinu”. In asense, these two verses summarizemany of the ideas set forth in the shira.In this article, we will take a look at oneof these two famous pesukim.The renowned verse goes as follows(Shemos ):“Who is like You among the powerful(baeilim), O Lord? Who is like You,powerful in the holy place? Too awesome(norah) for praises, performing wonders!”In understanding the ideas containedwithin this verse, it is important to viewthe verse in two parts: the first being the“questions” and the second dealing withGod being “too awesome for praises”.Rashi, in tackling the first part of theverse, explains that the question of Godin comparison to the powerful is justthat – recognition that God is strongerthan anything. Therefore he understandsthe “comparison” as askingrhetorically who is more powerful thanGod. As he offers no insight into thesecond part of this first statement, wecan assume Rashi takes the simplep'shat (explanation) that there isnothing as powerful as God in the “holyplace”.Ramban, though, takes issue withRashi’s explanation. Rather than“powerful” referring to God’s strength,Ramban maintains that the allusionhere is to the angels who are called“eilim”. He proceeds to bring differenttextual proofs supporting his position.One would think this type of debate tobe benign; after all, they are just arguingover the interpretation of one word.However, when we look at the verse inthe context of the entire shira, the differencebetween the two opinions is widerthan first imagined, as we will soon see.The first step we can take involves thenature of the rhetorical differentiationbeing set forth in this verse. One of themajor themes demonstrated in theverses prior to this one has to do withGod’s dominion over the natural world.Through God’s splitting of the sea, theEgyptians were drowned and the Jewswere saved. At first glance, it wouldseem that Rashi continues with thistheme in the first part of the aboveverse. The question being raised is infact a complete realization of how God’sdominion and control over the naturalworld demonstrates His qualitativedifferentiation from said world – “whois like You”. What about the second“question”? We first denote God’sdifferentiation from the physical world.This logically leads us to the nextdistinction. The “holy place” wouldseem to be referring to the world of themetaphysical, as the term “kadosh”generally means something distinct orseparate. As such, after denoting God’sdistinction from the natural world, onemakes the declaration that God isseparate from the metaphysical worldas well. The overall theme of the firstpart of this verse then is quite clear.There is first the recognition of God’sdistinction from the physical world, andthen from the metaphysical world.Ramban’s seemingly minor changegives us a completely different view ofthis part of the verse. It would seemaccording to Ramban that the entirefirst part of this verse is focusing onGod’s differentiation from the world ofthe metaphysical. The focus on theangels demonstrates how God isdistinct from those created within themetaphysical world. We then move to,as Rashi notes, God as being separatefrom the entire metaphysical realm. Inother words, and similar to Rashi, thereis a progression in abstract ideas here,moving from one notion of God’sdistinctness to the most abstract. Thus,(continued on page 14)12 | WWW.MESORA.ORG/JEWISHTIMES JAN. 25, 2013


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Weekly Parshathe debate at this point between Rashiand Ramban would seem to be whetherthe ideas being revealed here are aprogression from God’ differentiationfrom the physical world to themetaphysical, or from within themetaphysical world to beyond it.This leads us to the second half of theverse, and the explanations offered bythe above two commentators is quitesurprising. Again, this part of the verseis divided into two parts - “too awesomefor praises” and “performing wonders”,and the focus of the commentators is onthe first part. In essence, Rashi writesthat the meaning of “too awesome” isthat we are afraid to give praises to Godas they definitively will be too few.Ramban, as he does quite often, offers adifferent explanation. He agrees thatrather than translating the word“norah” as “awesome”, it refers to fear.In this case, thought, it means “fearfulwith praises”. What does this denote?He continues: “for He does fearfulthings and He is praised for them, aswhen He wreaks vengeance on thosewho transgress His will and therebyhelps those who serve Him. Thus He isfeared and highly praised”.What point is being brought out byeach of these different opinions? Rashi’sexplanation of “norah” being fear wouldseem to be zeroing in on the reactionone has to the ideas reached in the firsthalf of the verse. When a person trulycomprehends God’s qualitative differentiationfrom everything, he is instilledwith a realization of how insignificanthe actually is. He comes to realize thatthere is no possible way he can verbalizesufficient praise of God. Any praise will,by definition, be deficient and lacking.This in fact is one of the most difficultstruggles man faces in his pursuit ofyediyas Hashem, knowledge of God. Ashe begins understanding God, he isfaced with the reality that any praise hegives will be incomplete.Ramban, as we have seen, offers amore cryptic explanation. God’s actionsare defined by both fear and praisesimultaneously. We must understandwhat makes this wondrous; after all,man is also capable of acting in amanner where vengeance against oneleads to salvation of another. It could bethat Ramban is alluding to an importantfundamental idea in hashgachasHashem, God’s relationship tomankind. It is true that man can – inone action – produce vengeance andsalvation. However, there is a limit tohis control within and of these actions.There are always unintended consequences,a ripple effect from any eventthat affects the causal world in a waythat is incomprehensible. Not so withGod’s hashgacha. When He acts, Hisactions have no unintended consequences.There is never a “random”effect of happening to be both negativeand positive, nor is there any detail ofthe plan that is haphazard. This conceptis the result of God’s complete knowledgeof the universe, every single causalevent. Therefore, Ramban sees theprogression in this verse in a differentway than Rashi. It is not a reaction tothe first half of the verse. Instead,Ramban sees it as being imperative todetail the greatness of God through Hishashgacha after verbalizing the mostabstract concept of God we have. Why isthis imperative? It could be that afterthis initial praise, one is left (similar toRashi) somewhat speechless, recognizingthat we are so far removed fromGod. And with this realization comes aswell a sense of futility – how is man torelate to God? The answer lies in theevidence of the hashgacha, when Godchooses to reveal Himself to mankind.Those moments and events provide usthe means of relating to God, openingup worlds of ideas for us to explore.Rather than leave man in a dumbfoundedstate, God creates a vehicle forman to enunciate his praises to God.It is quite clear, then, how this oneverse captures the themes laid out in theshira and takes them to the mostabstract conclusion. ■14 | WWW.MESORA.ORG/JEWISHTIMES JAN. 25, 2013


Weekly ParshaWhy did Moshe take Joseph’s bones? What was their significance?Saw You atSinaiRABBI REUVEN MANNIn describing the Exodus from Egyptthe Torah mentions that “Moshe tookthe bones of Yosef with him for he hadforsworn the children of Israel saying,“Hashem will certainly remember youand you shall take my bones with you.”The question arises, why does theTorah include this piece of informationas a central part of the narrative of theExodus? Of course it is important forthe Torah to emphasize the significanceof fulfilling one’s oaths. Yosef’s oathwas very unique. He did not obligateany particular person. Rather, heforeswore the entire Jewish people.When the brothers, whom he enjoined,accepted the responsibility, they did soon behalf of the Jewish Nation includingfuture unborn generations.Between the time of Yosef’s death andthe Exodus, every generation of Jewsconfirmed and accepted the obligationof the oath. It, thus, assumed the statusof a national responsibility and it wasthe obligation of the leader to fulfill it.On that hectic night, with so much todo, Moshe put everything aside andpersonally saw to the securing ofYosef’s bones. Why is this action socentral to the redemption from Egypt?This week’s Parsha, Beshalach,describes the hasty departure ofthe Jews from Egypt. The Rabbis say“the salvation of Hashem is like theblink of an eye.” In other words itcomes suddenly and quickly and not asa natural result of a lengthy process.Thus a defining feature of Geula(Redemption) is that it is instantaneous.One minute the Jews wereabject slaves completely under thetotalitarian domination of Pharaoh.With the advent of Makkat Bechorot(slaying of Egyptian first born) thesituation changed immediately as theslave masters couldn’t push the Jewsout of the land quickly enough. Indeed,the Egyptians actually wanted the Jewsto leave that very night. However,Moshe refused, as he was now incontrol and could set the terms bywhich his people would depart.According to the Rabbis, the spiritualredemption of the Jews took place bynight when they brought the Passoversacrifice and witnessed the completecollapse of the Egyptian politicalapparatus. Moshe did not want theJews to slink out of Egypt like, “thievesin the night.” Rather, they would leaveby day in an organized fashion, thetriumphant “Hosts of Hashem,” in thesight of all. Rabbi Soloveitchikexplained that the significance ofMatzah is related to the haste of theredemption. Anything which is part ofthe natural order requires time. Theleavening process needs time and forthat reason is prohibited on Passover asit symbolizes the natural order.Matzah, however, is baked immediatelybefore the dough has had time to riseand thus represents Divine providencewhich overpowers the natural orderwhen Hashem determines it. We eatmatzah and avoid chametz to proclaimthat the freedom we achieved with theExodus was not due to any naturalhistorical development but only to themiraculous intervention of the Creatorof the Universe.In my opinion it was not just a matterof fulfilling a national responsibility,however significant. G-d had toldMoshe that when he took them out ofEgypt, “they would serve Him on thisMountain.” In other words, the reasonwhy G-d was taking them out of Egyptwas because the Jews would accept theTorah on Mt. Sinai. However, the Jewsdid not just accept the Torah for themselvesbut for all future generations.This is the meaning of the Rabbinicdictum that the souls of all Jews whowould ever be born were present atSinai. Every Jew is obligated to keepthe Torah because he is foresworn fromSinai. The ability of this people toassume a national responsibility whichis binding on all future generations, isat the heart of why Hashem chose themto be His people and perpetuate HisTorah. That is why it was so importantfor Moshe to personally assumeresponsibility to take the bones of Yosefon the journey to Canaan. Thisreminded everyone that Yosef was theinstrument of Divine Providence inbringing the Jews down to Egypt. Theirenslavement and ultimate redemptionwas all part of Hashem’s plan to createa special nation that would be “A lightunto the nations” and the means bywhich mankind would eventually beredeemed. That could only happen ifevery generation of Jews would viewthemselves as bound by the oath takenat Sinai. Moshe set the example byassuming responsibility for the oathtaken by Yosef’s brothers and passeddown by every generation until theExodus. May we always regardourselves as sworn to keep the Torahfrom Sinai.Shabbat Shalom ■WWW.MESORA.ORG/JEWISHTIMES JAN. 25, 2013 | 15


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