Answers from an Orthodox Jew


#73

@Moses613 I have enjoyed reading your reflections.

In your opinion, who are the most important Jewish thinkers living today and why?


#74

Please correct me if I am wrong, but it is my understanding that YHWH promised Abraham that the land in question would be given to his descendants. Wouldn’t the descendants of Abraham also include the tribes of Ishmael ?


#75

Hi Moses613,

Thank you for this thread and to @Meltzerboy2 also!

Maybe this is too broad of a question, but I’m curious to know how Orthodox Judaism views Hasidic Judaism and how the Kabbalah is viewed. Would they consider the Kabbalah to be valid, or even inspired, or just plain wrong.

Thank you :slightly_smiling_face:


#76

I suggest you read Genesis 16-17, and 21.


#77

Along the lines of what Kathleen said: Gen 21:12 וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֜ים אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֗ם אַל־יֵרַ֤ע בְּעֵינֶ֙יךָ֙ עַל־הַנַּ֣עַר וְעַל־אֲמָתֶ֔ךָ כֹּל֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר תֹּאמַ֥ר אֵלֶ֛יךָ שָׂרָ֖ה שְׁמַ֣ע בְּקֹלָ֑הּ כִּ֣י בְיִצְחָ֔ק יִקָּרֵ֥א לְךָ֖ זָֽרַע׃
But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed over the boy or your slave; whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued for you.

Ishmael is driven away and disinherited.

Gen. 27:27-29 Isaac transfers his blessing to Jacob. Prior to this, Esau sold his birthright to Jacob as well.

Gen 28:13-15, God promises Jacob in a separate covenant that only his descendants will inherit the land.

Deut. 2:5 - God excludes Esau from Abraham’s inheritance and gives him Mt. Seir instead.

And many more verses. The Torah and other parts of scripture are full of this theme.

Update: During morning prayers today when I was reciting I Chronicles 16:13-18 it occurred to me that it’s a good example to share. I took a screenshot of the translation for you:


#78

Thank you, Autumn-Smoke.

P.S. I just realized I have several PM’s I am checking for the first time, so thanks to all of you to whom I neglected to respond.


#79

Very, very briefly. Hasidism started as a splinter movement from orthodoxy. Theologically, it was not radically different. It was different much more in the emphasis it placed on certain ideas and practices, as well as more integration of kabbalistic thought and practice into everyday life. There were, and are, some squabbles from a theological standpoint but they are VERY esoteric and few even understand the differences today. In general, non-Hasidim and Hasidim accept each other’s practices as valid and often intermarry, etc. In today’s day, the differences are much more cultural than anything else.
The status of Kabbalah is a huge topic. Mainstream orthodox Judaism today accepts certain books of Kabbalah as authoritative, in the sense that they should be used and studied. But there is a very strong rule in Jewish law that (because Kabbalah has historically been a secret doctrine and Jewish law is a revealed doctrine) Kabbalistic teachings can never change the law in a way that contradicts what is openly revealed tradition. You’ll never take something from the Zohar and say that practice trumps something written in the Shulchan Aruch (accepted code of Jewish law).
Some orthodox groups reject or are at least circumspect about certain parts of kabbalah, or say we can’t really understand what it means. A very small number reject the kabbalah almost entirely, but they are still considered orthodox by most people.
Interestingly enough, because of Kabbalah’s extensive and almost extreme use of anthropomorphic imagery, some Christians have become very interested in it and studied and used it. Needless to say, we completely reject as totally wrong any interpretation that would give literal meaning to multiplicity or corporeality in God.


#80

Yes, Rashi gives this as God teaching us to be humble and consult those lower than us, as He consulted the angels when creating humans. There is a Midrash where Moses questions the Torah’s wording of “let us”, and God says to him, this is the Torah, write it and if someone errs, let him err. Meaning, God’s oneness and indivisibility is fundamental and obvious from the Torah and if someone wants to take one verse and give it a wrong interpretation, it’s his own problem.

In other news, I have lots of work to catch up on today so as fun as this is, I must force myself to take a break!


#81

Thanks for your replies Moses613, and meltzerboy2,I appreciate it.

This is an interesting answer; the idea of God the Infinite Creator consulting His creation on what He is going to create next is a fascinating proposition, especially since the angels are constantly worshipping Him.

Though Gen.1:26 specifically uses the plural Elohim to describe God Himself, so the idea of God consulting with His angels to explain the use of “us” and "we, does not address why the plural word Elohim was used to describe God.

I don’t want to get into a debate about this, but I have found that when reading the Torah there seems to be a theme of plurality sprinkled all over the Scriptures when it comes to speaking about the One True God. For example in In Isaiah 6:3 we see that the Lord of hosts is not merely holy, but “Holy, Holy, Holy.” , or when the Lord appeared to Abraham, it was in the form of three men, not one man or one man with a multitude of angels. In the very first passage of the Torah (Gen. 1:1-2) Scripture describes how “the Spirit of God” moved upon the face of the waters”, describing God, and the Spirit of God, in the same sentence, then there’s Num. 6:22-27, Isa. 48:12-17; Deut. 6:4, Jer. 7:4, Zac. 4:6 etc. And another theme is that of a slow revelation of God Himself to His Creation, for example God revealing His name to Moses, again with the plurality not once but three times: “I AM”.

Anyways, enough said about that. I do have another question:

Why did the late First Century Jews suddenly decide to not include The Wisdom of Solomon (aka The Book of Wisdom) in their canon of Scripture?


#82

Typical Christian apologetics. Perhaps that is not your intent, but I’m detecting a pattern in your comments.

The “Lord” did not appear to Abraham in the form of three men. God has never taken any form, which would be absurd, for He is infinite and perfect; a corporeal body is finite and imperfect. They were three angels in the form of men. Gen. 18:3 says “My lords,” not “my Lord” as the King James Version has it. In 19:1 the verse refers to them as “THE two angels” meaning the previously referenced angels, which were in the previous story called “men”. Where the third one went is a subject of exegesis we won’t get into here.

Elohim takes the singular verb form and is not a plural word when referring to God. Here is an unambiguous example of another place where Elohim is clearly referring to one individual:

The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made thee a god אֶלהִים, (Elohim) to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.”

(Exodus 7:1 KJV)

Can anyone credibly claim that Moses was two, or perhaps three persons?

Examples of plural-form words functioning as singular are well-known in Hebrew, such as “chayyim” - life and “mayyim” - water.

And this, from an honest Christian source:

God created. The Hebrew noun Elohim is plural but the verb is singular, a normal usage in the OT when reference is to the one true God. This use of the plural expresses intensification rather than number and has been called the plural of majesty, or of potentiality.

(New International Version Study Bible, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985, p. 6.)

Verses declaring there is only one God and that God is one can be easily found. It is Christians who say, “well, yes, ‘one’ but but but…” No, there are no buts. Three is not one and one is not three. God says in the Torah “You saw no form,” but Christians say God has a physical form.

As far as the Book of Wisdom, the question is not why they did not include it but rather, why ever would they have included it? First of all, there are no canonical books written in any language besides Hebrew (except portions of Ezra and Daniel are written in Aramaic), and Wisdom was written in Greek. Second, it is our belief that the canon was sealed already several hundred years earlier, and we view the alleged Council of Jamnia as a fanciful creation of Graetz, one of his many examples of creative historical fiction in place of actual history.


#83

My comments are not meant to upset you, they simply reflect my thinking when I read the Torah. And I’m reading Genesis from the Jewish Bible available online. Genesis 18;1 states “And the LORD appeared unto him” [Abraham].

As for the Lord appearing to Abraham, how do Orthodox Jews interpret Gen. 18:1 where it states _“The Lord appeared to Abraham”. Appeared as what? A bright light? What exactly did the Lord appear as to Abraham?

The way I read it, the Scripture itself states that Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them he bowed low to the ground and said “If I have found favor in your eyes, my Lord, do not pass your servant by."

So I am curious what Orthodox interpretation of that is. Interestingly, if you continue to read in Gen. 18:17 The Lord said: “Shall I hide from Abraham what I Am about to do?” Right aight after that In Gen. 18: 20-21 the Lord God specifically states that He Himself will go to Sodom to go see. Next in Gen.18:22 it states “the men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord”.

In Gen. 19 it states that only two of the three angels (descried as men in Gen. 18:3) arrived at Sodom, so when Lot saw them he bowed down his face to the ground.

So this can be easily interpreted in different ways. One thing is for sure from my readings; the Lord seems to be slowly revealing Himself to His creation, and we see this when He reveals Moses His Name: I AM WHO I AM".

As for Elohim, I have heard many explanations, but the word Elohim itself is the plural of the word Eloha. So it is interesting that Genesis begins the Torah using the plural.

God is indeed a Mystery. As for three is not one and one is not three, one could easily use the analogy of your Thought, Word and Action all distinct yet one and the same. For example, you can think of the word “Run” and say the word “Run” and then you can actually run. Three distinct yet one and the same. In other words, your mind begets a word before you speak it. The word only describes what you actually do. So the way I see it, there is no problem as far as conceptualizing three as one and one as three.

As for the Book of Wisdom, I have read that it was widely used by Hellenized Jews. So I find it interesting and curious that in the first century some small group would decide to officially not include it in the canon.

Thanks for your responses. I find these discussions very interesting!


#84

He appeared in a prophetic vision, and we do not know the exact contents of that vision.

I have already explained that the proper translation is “my lords.” If you want to use the KJV translation, then Abraham meant to pray to God to stay with him and help him as he welcomed his three guests, who were not gods.

Yes, God does not need to physically travel anywhere to see anything, it refers to God’s trying Sodom against an application of strict Divine justice, giving Abraham a chance to advocate for mercy before He metes out His judgment.

These men are called angels in 19:1 as I have referenced. Angels are not God.

Funny enough, if you know Hebrew, Genesis begins the Torah in the singular. The first three words of the Torah are: Bereshith - In the beginning - Bara’ - created (sing.) - Elohim - God. So the very second word of the Torah is the singular verb “Bara’”. If it were in the plural form, it would be written Bare’u.


#85

In Jewish theology there is no possibility of any distinct attributes within God. We can relate to God in different ways but the difference is in our state or the relationship, not in God’s essential being, which is absolutely one with a singularity that does not exist in any creation. That’s why Maimonides says that even the word “one” when applied to God is simply a borrowed term, because His oneness is unlike any oneness that exists, which can be divided into parts or classified with various attributes.

Of course, the elephant in the room is that one of your three is a physical man, which is anathema to monotheism.

I’m sure it was used as an instructive or inspirational text by some group. I could quote you a plethora of highly regarded religious works authored in the intervening 19 centuries, none of which have achieved the status of canonization. Surely, the Jews revere and study the books of the Talmud much more than Wisdom ever was, yet these are not part of the Bible. I will restate that there was simply no reason or motivation to canonize a wisdom book composed in the Greek language, several hundred years after the final Biblical books were written. And it was not a small group that decided, it was a default, since there was no reason to canonize it, no one decided to get together and take a vote, so to speak.

Thanks, you’re welcome.


#86

Moses613 has already made most of the relevant points. I would only add that since you claim (not only you but other Christians as well) that there is a slow, gradual revelation of G-d with regard to His nature and personhood in the Bible, how can you also state that Genesis BEGINS with a Trinitarian notion of G-d? That does not seem like slow revelation to me.

Yes, this is interesting, so long as the apologetics portion of the thread remains as a good-natured discussion rather than a more vociferous debate. Still, it seems somewhat unpleasant and disrespectful to me for Judaism or any other religion to have even an apologetics discussion, regarding the Trinity no less, on a Catholic Forum.


#87

I have the most important question ever.

What’s your stances on Fiddler on the Roof

And

Do you enjoy Neil Diamonds music


#88

You are correct! Genesis does NOT say anything about a Trinitarian notion of G-D!


#89

Thanks. Boy, that’s a hard question to answer. There is a rabbi in Israel named Yehoshua Inbal whom I regard as excellent, but to my knowledge all his work is in Hebrew. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is certainly an important thinker, although he is philosophically a lot more to the liberal end of Orthodoxy than I am personally so I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says or the way he says it. Beyond that, I would have to think more about the question.


#90

I am considering a trip to The Holy Land. Is there anything I should be aware of culturally for the Jewish Community? (I understand The Sabbath requirements.) Should I as a woman have my head covered at all times? Etc… I do not want to offend anyone.


#91

80% of Israelis are secular, so you probably don’t have to do anything different to be welcomed, and they love tourists. If you are visiting the Western Wall, there are certain requirements like not going over to the men’s prayer area, but that will really be obvious when you get there. Women are encouraged to dress modestly in that holy place. If you go through an “ultra” Orthodox neighborhood (I don’t like that term) you’ll probably be fine as long as you don’t wear provocative clothing. There are street signs asking women to dress modestly but last time I was in Mea Shearim I saw secular women walking around in pants and no one seemed to care. You definitely don’t need to cover your hair. You might want to avoid wearing like a giant crucifix in a religious Jewish area but even then, most likely no one will pay attention to you. I’d say just use your common sense and there’s nothing to be concerned about. I’m sure you’ll have a great time.


#92

Thank you very much for responding to my question. :blush:
I do apologize for overstepping and answering a question that was addressed to you, earlier.


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