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Unread 05-20-2002, 01:59 PM   #1
jjbaker
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Question Bitul, Panentheism and Antinomianism

I've been reading Rachel Elior's "The Paradoxical Ascent to God" preparatory to trying to learn some of the Mittler Rebbe's writings (a friend had recommended Kuntress Hahispaalus). She seems to base her book largely on the works of the Alter Rebbe, the Mittler Rebbe, and the MR's colleague/competitor, R' Aharon of Staroselye.

She makes much of the paradoxes inherent in Habad theology, such as the difference between the world as we perceive it with all its differences and distinctions, and the world as it really is, part of the infinite Divine unity. E.g., from R' Aharon's Shaarei haYichud v'haEmunah shaar I ch 2 :

Quote:
For there exists in the world no entity other than him...for there is no true substance other than Him. For if, because of the vessels and the concealment, other entities appear to be substantial, in reality they are not substantial at all. For He, blessed be He, is the essence of all essences, andthere exists in reality no other substance but Him.
Given this strong panentheist statement, how does Habad protect against antinomianism? Antinomianism was originally a danger in Xtian theology: that if everyone's salvation is predestined, why should we bother to do good works on Earth? It won't have any effect one way or another on our individual destinies.

So too here, if all we do is illusion, and the reality is that we are part of God's unity and divinity, what does it matter what we do here on Earth? All we do, be it "good" or "bad" must be a) part of God's will for himself; b) indistinguishable from any other act we do, since all we do or perceive is illusory.

Why should we keep Torah & mitzvos if we, our souls, etc., have no ontological reality? have no will/action separate from God?
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Unread 05-20-2002, 02:10 PM   #2
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I think any reference to antinomianism there is Sabbatean, as that was one of the fears of the Misnagdim.

The Rebbe answers the question of the performance of mitzvos in a commentary printed in Lessons in Tanya to the 4th and 5th chapters of Shaar HaYichud VeHaEmunah. If you don't have it, I can type it up.
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Unread 05-20-2002, 03:25 PM   #3
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<<Given this strong panentheist statement>>

do you mean pantheism, or is this another term?
pantheism identifies G-d with the universe
Chasidus emphasizes the statement in the Torah, "You were shown to know that Hashem is Elokim, there is nothing but Him."

<<that if everyone's salvation is predestined, why should we bother to do good works on Earth? It won't have any effect one way or another on our individual destinies. >>

because G-d said it would
G-d said, do what I ask you to do, and it will have tremendous repercussions

<<if all we do is illusion, and the reality is that we are part of God's unity and divinity>>

the correct way of putting it is: everything we do is meaningful and simultaneously, ein od milvado (there is nothing but Him)

What we do has value ONLY because G-d assigned it value

Our free choice is granted to us by G-d, because that is what he wants us to have.
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Unread 05-20-2002, 03:29 PM   #4
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Panentheism is distinct from pantheism. Pantheism says that all (generally seen as meaning the universe) is G-d. Panentheism comes from Karl C. F. Krause, and says that all is IN G-d, but is not the entirety of G-d. I don't think Chassidus would strictly hold by panentheism either.
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Unread 05-20-2002, 03:29 PM   #5
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BS"D (I think you mean "pantheistic". If not, please explain the exact definition of "panentheism".)

Ditto, Jude: Mitsvos/good works have meaning because HASHEM invests them with it.

Your specific question is an excellent one. It is addressed at length in that sicha that Lambda referred to.

Please realise the tremendous depth of this subject. To even begin to understand this most profound of all concepts - the Unity of G-d - and the various issues involved, one must study Chassidus in great depth, and with patience, persistence and guidance, you will accomplish.

[Btw, please don't take this the wrong way, but IMHO if you want something to prepare you for study of very deep, complex Chassidic texts, I would suggest study of beginners' Chassidic texts (e.g. Kuntres Uma'ayon from the Rebbe Rashab, which is available in English), or an explanation of such texts written by someone from that perspective and belief. (Have you looked through the Sichos In English catalogue?)

That professor, though well-meaning, cannot possibly give a proper understanding of Chassidus, since she views it as an outsider, like an anthropologist.]
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Unread 05-20-2002, 04:05 PM   #6
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Noahidelaws uses the typical Lubavitcher's ad-hominem argument: "the professor can't know what she's talking about because she's an outsider." Never mind that she uses almost exclusively internal documents, and has evidently engaged in as deep a study of Chabad Chasidus as any other student of Chabad. It's the same argument as is used against Berger. It also helps that she gives Hebrew as well as English forms of key terms/concepts.

In fact, reading the Elior book has helped me to understand other maamorim that I have read, e.g., the recent Chasidus Mevueres pamphlet for Shavuot, "Usfartem lachem".

Kuntress Umaayon was also recommended to me; I may well go into that as well. I've tried looking at it in Hebrew, but as far as I can tell, it uses just as much high-flown kabbalistic terminology as much of the rest of the Chasidic literature. Sure, the English is more understandable, but I need to know/learn the Hebrew terms for all these ideas, if I'm going to delve into the Mittler Rebbe - none of his stuff has been translated.

As for asking through guidance, that's why I posted here. I concurrently emailed a Chabad rov and SIE author/translator of long acquaintance, with the same question.

Jude's comments are simple assertions, and do not resolve the antinomian tension - they simply make the antinomian tension: we have these statements from Chazal that we have to keep Torah and mitzvos, that we have free will, that what we do has value. Combining this with the doctrines of bittul and sovev col almin, mimalei col almin - panentheism, creates the antinomian tension.

I've printed out that section of the Wineberg Tanya, and will look at it IY"H.

It's from the old Chabad Gopher version of the Tanya. Since R' Kazen's petirah, the chabad.org site has been like the Grandfather's Clock - it hasn't worked well, and great features like the gopher text archive have largely vanished. Some of the texts have reappeared on the <http://www.sichosinenglish.com/books/> site, but the full Wineberg Tanya, accessible both by Moreh Shiur date and by section/chapter, is gone.
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Unread 05-20-2002, 04:15 PM   #7
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<<It's from the old Chabad Gopher version of the Tanya. Since R' Kazen's petirah, the chabad.org site has been like the Grandfather's Clock - it hasn't worked well, and great features like the gopher text archive have largely vanished.>>

The reason why the gopher text archive vanished is because... it vanished. Literally.

<<Some of the texts have reappeared on the <http://www.sichosinenglish.com/books/> site, but the full Wineberg Tanya, accessible both by Moreh Shiur date and by section/chapter, is gone.>>

The Wineberg Tanya is being put up on chabad.org according to the daily portion, this time with the Hebrew intact - a great improvement. As time passes, I think there will be a way to index it by chapter.
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Unread 05-20-2002, 04:28 PM   #8
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BS"D <<Noahidelaws uses the typical Lubavitcher's ad-hominem argument: "the professor can't know what she's talking about because she's an outsider." Never mind that she uses almost exclusively internal documents, and has evidently engaged in as deep a study of Chabad Chasidus as any other student of Chabad.>>

I did not mean to argue. I was simply saying that her perspective is critical and thus inevitably affected by her knowledge of other schools of thought, so she cannot claim the right to speak on behalf of Chabad Chassidus, though she is entitled to her personal understanding of it, of course.

<<In fact, reading the Elior book has helped me to understand other maamorim that I have read,>>

I do not doubt that reading such texts could also be helpful in some ways. That does not detract from the fact that there may well be other thoughts and influences expressed in them, whether subtly or overtly.

<<it uses just as much high-flown kabbalistic terminology as much of the rest of the Chasidic literature...As for asking through guidance, that's why I posted here.>>

In order to thoroughly understand terms and concepts, I would recommend learning from the texts themselves one-on-one with someone who has studied Chabad Chassidus for many years.

But keep posting!

(Let us know your thoughts after learning the sicha. Hatslacha!)
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Unread 05-20-2002, 08:49 PM   #9
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Commentary of the Rebbe Shlita on End of Chapter 4 and Chapter 5.

.... The entire fifth chapter of Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah as well as the conclusion of the fourth chapter do not at all appear to advance our understanding of the concept of Divine Unity.

Chapter 4 concludes by explaining that the life-force is termed Or ("light") and the tzimtzum is termed kelim ("vessels"). It goes on to state that the kelim originate from the five consonants [mem nun tzadi peh and chof], and that they have an additional, even higher source: Gevurah of Atik. Correspondingly, Chesed of Atik is the source of the attribute of Chesed [of Atzilut].

At first glance, these seem to be strictly kabbalistic concepts that have absolutely no bearing on our understanding of Divine Unity, especially as the Alter Rebbe endeavors to explain it in a manner that will make it "very near to you."

(Although the conclusion of chapter 4 is enclosed in brackets, the Alter Rebbe nevertheless chose to incorporate it in the body of Tanya rather than relegating it to a marginal note (as with many comments in the first part of the book, as well as in the second part (1). This indicates that even the bracketed text must be directly related to the general theme of this work.)

The same question applies to the whole of the fifth chapter: it deals throughout with matters that seemingly have no connection with the concept of Divine Unity.

The Alter Rebbe first explains a Midrash, then the level of Moses' apprehension of Divinity, and finally the level of Gan Eden. Since none of this seems to be related to Divine Unity, why did the Alter Rebbe include it in Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah?

It is indeed true that many subjects obliquely alluded to in Tanya are not directly related in their simple context to making its stated goal "very near," nor do they appear to be directly related to the subject of "Unity and Faith." (Witness the many points quoted from Tanya and explained in various chassidic discourses at length, whereas in Tanya itself they are only hinted at.)

Nevertheless, these are matters which are only alluded to obliquely. Those topics, however, that are plain for all to see, must clearly be connected to the overall theme of the book.

This is similar to the written Torah in general, and especially according to the commentary of Rashi on the Chumash. Although many interpretations are alluded to there on the homiletical and mystical levels of Remez, Derush and Sod, it is nevertheless a principle sanctioned by law that in the revealed context "a verse does not depart from its plain meaning." And it is this Pshat, this plain or literal meaning, that the commentary of Rashi seeks to explain.

The same is true of Tanya, which is the Written Torah of Chassidut.

Although all aspects of Torah are to be found within it, it always retains its simple meaning (as Pshat is to be understood in the context of the esoteric dimension of Torah).

Hence all subjects appearing in Tanya must be connected with the general theme of the book. They must all be "very nigh"; they must all explain "Unity and Faith"; and they must do so in a manner that enables one to "train a child" in them all.

Those subjects that do not meet these criteria never found their way into Tanya. In the words of the Rebbe Rashab, of blessed memory, (2) "Tanya is like the Chumash ...., which is understood."

Accordingly, it is very difficult to understand how the topics discussed at the conclusion of chapter 4 and throughout chapter 5 found a place in Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah.

We must therefore say that they deepen our understanding of the theme of Unity, as shall soon be explained.

The first chapter of this book explains how each individual
created being has within it letters of the Ten Divine Utterances, which continuously create it and provide it with life.

The third chapter goes on to explain that since these creative letters are constantly found within the created being, it is always in a state of absorption within them, similar to the light of the sun within the sun-globe. The created being is thus completely nullified out of existence.

The reason that the created being perceives itself as possessing independent existence is explained by the Alter Rebbe in the fourth chapter.

Only because of the tzimtzum, by which G-d conceals and contracts His life-force so that the created being should not be aware of it, does that being appear - and perceive itself - to be a separate entity.

"If, however, the eye were permitted to see ..., then the physicality, materiality and tangibility of the creature would not be seen by our eyes at all."

However, this does not suffice.

Although it is true that G-d caused this concealment, yet man, as an intelligent being, should surely use his mind's eye to see through the concealment; his understanding should inevitably lead him to the realization and the sensation that he is completely nullified within his source.

The Alter Rebbe answers this question by stating (in chapter 3) that a created being feels that he exists because "we do not comprehend nor see with our physical eyes the power of G-d and the `breath of His mouth' which is in the created thing."

Thus it is man's very corporeality that blinds him to the Divine life- force contained within every created being.

This whole subject as explained until the end of the fourth chapter poses numerous difficulties regarding fundamental aspects of Divine Unity. And without the explanations furnished at the end of the fourth chapter and the whole of the fifth chapter these questions cannot be answered.

The following are the questions:

(a) Each creature is animated by different letters from among the Ten Utterances, for, as explained in chapter 1, the life-force descends through numerous combinations and substitutions of these Divine creative letters until it is clothed in each particular creature. It would therefore seem that there exists (G-d forbid) a multiplicity of G-dliness, with the number of letters equalling the number of creatures. In fact, the multitude of letters is even greater than the number of created beings, for, as explained in chapter 1, many letters are invested within each creature. This seeming multitude of G-dliness would appear to be the very
antithesis of Divine Unity.

Moreover, the above question specifically arises out of the Alter Rebbe's explanation!

There are those who mistakenly understood the doctrine of tzimtzum in a literal sense, as if G-d actually removed His Presence from this world. If we were to assume their view then there would be no problem, for we could then say (as they do) the following: G-d is indeed a complete Unity, but his relation to the proliferation in the created universe is that of a king who sits in his palace and gazes at a garbage heap outside.

However, according to the explanation in Tanya - that "Forever, O G-d, Your word stands firm in the heavens," i.e., that letters of the Ten Utterances are clothed within each individual creature - there arises the question: how can there possibly be a
multiplicity in G-dliness?

We cannot answer that the multiplicity results from the attribute of Gevurah of the Divine Name Elokim. For as explained in chapter 4 (until the bracketed ending), the tzimtzum which comes from the Name Elokim adds nothing to creation itself: it merely acts as a barrier and concealment so that the life-force will not be felt by the created being. (This prevents the creature from being wholly nullified within its source, enabling it instead to feel its own separate and distinct existence.) The life-force itself emanates strictly from the utterance of the Divine Name Havayah. (This is also why in chapter 3 the Alter Rebbe likens the created being to the sun's rays, and the life-force to the sun itself - for the source of the life-force within the creature (i.e., the letters) is the "sun" of Havayah.)

It would thus seem that the multiplicity in the universe does not result from the Name Elokim, a name which utilizes the plural form, but from the Name Havayah itself. This would seem to imply that in Havayah as well there is multiplicity. This prompts the question: "How many suns (Divine Presences) are there?" [Cf.
Likutei Amarim, end of chapter 35.]

(b) According to the Alter Rebbe's explanation, created beings are in reality found within their source. They perceive themselves as existing separately from it merely because of the concealment of the tzimtzum; in reality, however, they are G-dliness. Therefore, "if the eye were permitted to see," we would perceive that they are G-dly.

This gives rise to a cataclysmic question regarding the entire essence of Torah and mitzvot.

The purpose of Torah and mitzvot is to draw down G-dliness into the physical substances with which the mitzvot are performed.

This is what is meant by the teaching that only by performing a mitzvah does the physical object become holy. Indeed, this
concept is implicit in the recitation of blessings before the performance of mitzvot, for the Hebrew word for blessing-Beracha implies the drawing down of G-dliness within the object with
which the mitzvah is performed.

The mitzvah of tefillin, for example (and so, too, all other
mitzvot, all of which are likened to tefillin), is intended to draw down G-dliness into the physical parchment and ink, etc.

Now, since the parchment is G-dly (even before the performance of the mitzvah), how is it possible for a mitzvah originating in the "Torah of truth" to imply by its effect (and by its
inherent truth) that the parchment is in fact mundane, and only by virtue of what is inscribed on it, and so on, does it begin to become G-dly? In fact it is G-dly even before this; it is only the corporeal eyes of man that fail to perceive it to be so.

We mortals fail to perceive the truth. Torah, however, is truth, and its mitzvot are true. How, then, can there possibly be a
mitzvah (and the very fact that there is such a mitzvah indicates the truth of the matter) of taking parchment and transforming it into G-dliness, when in reality it was G-dly even before it was used for a mitzvah?

This difficulty too springs from the explanation of Tanya.

Were we to say that the doctrine of tzimtzum is to be understood (as its erroneous exponents understand it) in its literal sense - as if G-d literally withdrew His Presence from creation,
thereafter gazing upon creation from a distance like the
proverbial king through his palace window - then there would be no difficulty.

However, according to the concept of Unity as explained here
in Tanya, whereby the King Himself is found in the place of the parchment or whatever, then the difficulty manifests itself. For according to this explanation the place itself and all its
aspects are themselves G-dliness.

If so, what is the meaning of Torah study and performing
precepts? What is the point of studying the law that applies to "one who exchanges a cow for a donkey," what is the point of performing a mitzvah involving parchment and ink, when in reality there is no cow and no donkey, no parchment and no ink, but
everything is G-dliness? What is the significance of Torah and mitzvot?

(c) The question now becomes even greater. The reason we perceive the world to exist as an independent entity is that we view it with "physical eyes," and "the eye [was not] permitted to see," and so on; i.e., our tangible corporeality prevents us from beholding the truth.

It would therefore be logical to assume that tzaddikim, inasmuch as they are not hindered by the concealment occasioned by
corporeal flesh and inasmuch as they transcend materiality,
should be able to perceive the truth - that the world truly does not exist, for everything is G-dliness alone. Those tzaddikim who are at the level of the World of Yetzirah or Beriah, and surely the truly great tzaddikim who have become a "chariot of Atzilut" (as explained in Likutei Amarim, chapter 39), should not be
subject to the restrictions of the concealment. With regard to them the above question becomes even stronger: What is the
meaning of Torah and mitzvot for them? Since the G-dliness
manifest in this world is revealed to them, there would seem to be no need for them (G-d forbid) to perform Torah and mitzvot!

It was in order to answer all these questions that the Alter Rebbe wrote the end of chapter 4 and the whole of chapter 5, as shall soon be explained.

The Alter Rebbe explains at the conclusion of chapter 4 that the tzimtzum and concealment of life-force is termed kelim ("vessels"), while the life-force itself is called Or ("light"). He then goes on to explain that "the kelim are verily the letters."

This seems to contradict what was explained in the previous chapters.

Earlier on, in the first chapter, the Alter Rebbe writes that the letters are the life-force of created beings. Here, however, he says that the life-force is the light, while the letters are the vessels, which contract and conceal the life-force. How is this to be
reconciled with his previous statement that the letters are the life- force that reveal, as opposed to the kelim, which conceal?

But in truth, not only is the present statement not a contradiction to what was stated earlier: it is actually an explanation of the previous statement that the letters are the life-force.

The question was raised earlier that since the letters are the life- force of creatures, it would seem that there is a multiplicity of G-dliness. For since tzimtzum itself is not a party to creation (but only conceals the Creator from the created), the multitude of letters is thus caused not by tzimtzum but by Elokut, by G-dliness Itself.

The question then is: How can there possibly be a multitude of G-dliness?

The Alter Rebbe answers this in the bracketed text by stating that "the tzimtzum and concealing of the life-force is called kelim." One of the novel insights contained in this statement is that tzimtzum is an actual entity.

Just as kelim are more than just a concealment of the light, being entities unto themselves, so, too, with regard to the tzimtzum and concealment which are deemed to be kelim; they too are an entity. And it is this entity that brings about the contraction and
concealment of the light (just as an actual vessel, being an entity, conceals that which is found within it).

We are now able to understand the multiplicity of letters.

The multitudinous letters are not intrinsic to the light itself; they are a result of its passage through the tzimtzum of the kelim.

This is illustrated by the well-known comparison with the sun's rays that pass through white, green or red glass. The light itself remains simple, unaffected by its passage. However, there is an evident change with regard to its effect; after passing through red glass the light functions as red light, through green glass - as green light, and so forth.

This is what the Alter Rebbe means when he says that "the kelim are verily the letters"; i.e., the shaping of the life-force into letters is not a function of the life-force itself, for "the life-force itself is called Or (light)" - and light itself is simple, transcending any particular form or shape. (For light is rooted in the "`sun' of Havayah," and in the Name Havayah there can be no multiplicity, heaven forbid, as has been explained earlier.) The letters contained in the life-force result from the kelim, which cause the light clothed in them to be shaped (with regard to their effect).

Accordingly, the second question, regarding the relevance of Torah and mitzvot, is answered as well. Were tzimtzum to be a non-entity and only constitute a state of concealment, its sole purpose being to hide and act as a barrier to the light, then created beings that emerge as a result of this tzimtzum would in reality not exist at all. (It would only seem to corporeal eyes that they enjoy a true state of
existence.)

Since tzimtzum does, however, constitute an entity - the entity of kelim, it possesses existence. As such, its effect in concealing is similar to its effect when bringing letters into being.

Regarding the latter, it was explained earlier that the effect of tzimtzum on the light was that it caused it to assume the "shape" of letters, even though the light itself is not affected; its effect exists only in relation to created beings. Thus it is similar to the sun's rays which do not really change in themselves, although the effect of the colored glass on them is to produce red or green light, and so on.

The same is true with regard to the effect of tzimtzum in concealing the life-force so that it will not be perceived by created beings. The concealment itself is a real entity. It is true that in relation to the light, the tzimtzum does not conceal at all. From the perspective of created beings, however, the tzimtzum is truly an existing entity. It therefore follows that [since they were created through it] they have true tangible existence as well.

After the Alter Rebbe concludes his explanation that the tzimtzum and concealment of the life-force is termed kelim, which "are verily the letters," he goes on to add that these letters derive from the five letters mem nun tzadi peh chaf, which are the "five degrees of Gevurah." He also states that their source in turn is the supernal Gevurah of Atik Yomin, etc.

What does this have to do with his previous statement that the tzimtzum and concealment is termed kelim, and so on?

By stating the above the Alter Rebbe forestalls a formidable problem:

How is it possible for the tzimtzum to conceal the light? If we were to hold that the tzimtzum merely prevents the light from being revealed within creation, then there would be no problem. However, in the bracketed text the Alter Rebbe's teaches us a novel concept - that the tzimtzum results from the kelim. Now since they are a separate entity distinct from the light, the question arises: How is it possible for the kelim (a distinct and separate entity from light) to effect a change, as it were, in the light?

The question is even greater: Light is the attribute of Chesed; tzimtzum is the attribute of Gevurah.

In the order of the Sefirot, Chesed precedes Gevurah (qualitatively as well). How can Gevurah possibly cause a change in an attribute which is spiritually superior to it?

The Alter Rebbe therefore explains that the root of the letters is the "five degrees of Gevurah that divide and separate the breath and voice...." I.e., the Alter Rebbe is teaching us that the concept of letters is not found only with in the Sefirot of Atzilut, but far higher, until ultimately the source of the Gevurot is the "supernal Gevurah of Atik Yomin," while "correspondingly, the source of [the various levels of Divine] kindness is also Chesed of Atik Yomin."

Thus, both Gevurah and Chesed are rooted in Atik Yomin.

Since both attributes are rooted in Atik Yomin, the meaning of which is "removed (ne'etak) and separated from `days' [i.e., the attributes of Atzilut]," it follows that because of their common source they are indeed not opposites: they are one. For, as the Alter Rebbe will soon explain (in chapters 6 and 7), even in Atzilut "He and His attributes are One." How much more certainly must this be the case insofar as they exist in their source in Atik Yomin, which is far superior to Atzilut. It is therefore possible for the light of Chesed to be modified by the tzimtzum of Gevurah.

In light of the above, we will understand why the Alter Rebbe opens chapter 5 by quoting the Midrashic statement, "Originally it arose in [G-d's] thought to create the world through the attribute of stern judgment." Since this Midrash does not seem to offer any further explanation of the topic at hand, why quote it at all?

One reason the Alter Rebbe does so is that it enhances our
understanding of the entire concept of tzimtzum. This will be understood after several prefatory remarks.

This Midrash is generally thought to be saying that G-d originally planned that the world be conducted with the attribute of Gevurah, stern judgment. However, when He saw that the world could not endure this, He combined with it the attribute of mercy.

The wording of the Midrash, however, is not "to conduct the world" but "to create the world."

Clearly the Midrash refers to G-d's manner of creation - that He had originally planned to create the world solely through the attribute of Gevurah.

The question thus becomes: How is it possible for creation to come about from the attribute of Gevurah, an attribute of tzimtzum? I.e., how is it possible for tzimtzum to bring about creation, when (simplistically) tzimtzum is a non-entity, its function being only to contract and constrain the Divine life-force.

How can the non-entity of tzimtzum create?

This serves to prove that tzimtzum is indeed an entity, for as explained previously tzimtzum corresponds to kelim.

This, then, is what the Midrash means when it says, "Originally it arose in [G-d's] thought to create the world through the attribute of stern judgment." G-d's initial intention was that creation come about by means of the kelim, through the power of the light vested in them - that creation result from the letters that are formed in the light through its being clothed in kelim.

Accordingly, we will also understand the continuation of this passage - that "He associated the attribute of mercy in it[s creation]" refers to "the revelation of G-dliness through the tzaddikim, and through the signs and miracles....."

Why must this necessarily be the explanation of the role of the attribute of mercy?

In light of the above, this is clearly understood: Since the
"attribute of stern judgment" refers to the letters, we must therefore say that the "attribute of mercy" refers to the light as it transcends the shape of letters. This light finds expression in "the revelation of G-dliness through the tzaddikim, and through the signs and miracles ...." - by effecting a change in the course of nature. (The letters cause each individual creature to have its own characteristics and nature; a change in nature must necessarily derive from the
spiritually superior light.)

In explaining that the attribute of mercy refers to "the revelation of G-dliness through the tzaddikim, and through the signs and miracles," the Alter Rebbe adds the words "recorded in the Torah."

At first glance, it is unclear what this phrase means; does the Alter Rebbe refer specifically to the Written Torah, or is the Oral Torah included as well? Furthermore, the miracles that occurred after the forty-year sojourn of the Jewish people in the desert; that occurred after the first Holy Temple (concluding the events and miracles recorded in the Written Torah); that occurred even after the Talmud (the Oral Torah) had been finally recorded; up to and including the miracles (3) "witnessed by our own eyes and not by a stranger," i.e., the miracles that occurred on the 12th and 13th of Tammuz 5687; (4) - all these are "revelations of G-dliness" emanating from the "attribute of mercy." Why then does the Alter Rebbe specify the miracles "recorded in the Torah"?

The Alter Rebbe added this phrase in order to answer two very strong questions:

(a) Since the world was created from the letters (for which reason each individual creature has its own character and nature), how is it possible that there be revealed within the world (through signs and miracles that transcend nature) a light which is
superior to letters? Inasmuch as the world was created through the letters, one would expect it to be incapable of housing a light that transcends letters, which would still continue to
exist as tangible entities.

(b) As mentioned earlier, the Midrash addresses itself not to the manner in which the world is conducted, but to the manner of its creation. G-d first intended to create the world through the
attribute of stern justice. Thereafter - but prior to the
actual creation - G-d combined in it, i.e., within creation, the attribute of mercy. Thus the act of creation is brought about by the attribute of mercy as well as by the attribute of stern
judgment.

This leads to the following question:

"The revelation of G-dliness through the tzaddikim, and through the signs and miracles" took place long after creation. What then does the Midrash mean by stating that "He associated the attribute of mercy in it[s creation]," when this attribute was only revealed long after creation?

It is in order to answer these two questions that the Alter Rebbe adds the words, "recorded in the Torah." One of the meanings of this phrase is: The G-dliness that is revealed through tzaddikim and miracles (which emanate from the light that is superior to the letters, as has already been explained), - this too was first recorded in the Torah.

It follows that it is found in creation as a whole, inasmuch as creation proceeds from the Ten Utterances recorded in the Torah, as explained above (at the end of the first chapter of Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah).

Accordingly, we will also under stand why the Midrash states that "Originally it arose in [G-d's] thought to create the world through the attribute of stern judgment"; it was only in thought that G-d considered creating the world solely with the attribute of stern judgement, that is, from the letters themselves bereft of the light that transcends the kelim. When it came to actual creation, however, i.e., when it came to the speaking of the Ten Utterances that brought about creation, these letters were invested with the light that transcends kelim.

Since the letters contain this light, signifying the negation of the tzimtzum of these letters, it is then possible that at the appropriate time - preordained when the Utterances were first spoken - there occur the signs and miracles that signify the negation of the tzimtzum as found below.

Thus, all these miracles were not something that came about later; rather, they emanate from the light and G-dliness that transcend kelim and that were invested within the letters. This degree of G-dliness is then revealed at a later time through the tzaddikim and through signs and miracles.

This, then, is what is explained here in Tanya - that at the very moment of creation G-d combined and vested within creation the attribute of mercy; that in the letters of the Ten Utterances which are enclothed within every creature there is invested the light that transcends the kelim, this light to be later revealed through the signs and miracles.

One question, however, still remains: What of those great tzaddikim who are on the level of a "chariot of Atzilut," for whom the corporeal eye of created beings does not conceal G-dliness? How do Torah and mitzvot apply to them? It is concerning this that the Alter Rebbe goes on to explain "the comprehension of Moses our Teacher (peace unto him) in his prophetic vision."

The above question applies primarily to Moses. His soul was always in a state of total revelation, and not at all concealed by his body, for it was completely penetrated and elevated by his Divine service. For a person such as Moses, for whom there is no concealment of G-dliness, what is the meaning of Torah and mitzvot?

And with regard to Moses himself, the question stems not so much from his qualities in general as it does from the distinctive nature of "his prophetic vision." Moses was unique among prophets in that not only his soul, but his very body too was equally a fit receptacle for prophecy. His body was not only able to understand G-dliness, it could actually perceive the G-dly prophetic vision. This being so, the question becomes all the more demanding of an answer: What is the meaning of Torah and mitzvot to so lofty an individual as Moses?

The Alter Rebbe answers this by saying: "Even the comprehension of Moses .... in his prophetic vision did not extend to the World of Atzilut." This means to say, that even for an individual as great as Moses the world could be said to exist. True it is that this manner of existence was ever so much higher than our own conception of
existence, but existence it was. Torah and mitzvot thus applied to Moses as well, so that he could transform this existence (of his world) into G-dliness.

Although [Moses was of the World of Atzilut, and] the attributes of Chesed and Gevurah as they exist within Atzilut are G-dly attributes and wholly at one with G-d Himself, and thus Gevurah does not conceal Chesed, nevertheless, Moses' comprehension "did not extend to the World of Atzilut, except through its being clothed in the World of Beriah."

This, however, does not suffice. While it is true that Moses' comprehension of (the Chesed and Gevurah of) Atzilut extended to the degree that it clothed itself in the World of Beriah, it is only in the World of Beriah that creation first takes place . Moses was therefore able to see in prophetic vision the limitlessness of G-dliness (as explained in chapter 4). And surely Moses did not behold creation there with corporeal eyes.

G-d's Gevurah even after being clothed in Beriah still remains G-d's Gevurah. Since Moses was not subject to the concealment inherent in corporeal eyes, he was able to perceive the attribute of Gevurah as clothed in the World of Beriah; he did not perceive a concealing attribute of Gevurah: he perceived a luminous Gevurah. The question thus remains: What was the meaning of Torah and mitzvot for Moses?

The Alter Rebbe answers this by adding that the attributes of Chesed and Gevurah as they were clothed in the World of Beriah were not themselves apprehended by Moses, but "but only insofar as they were clothed in attributes which are of lower levels than themselves, viz., the attributes of Netzach, Hod and Yesod."

Thus when Moses apprehended Chesed and Gevurah of Atzilut, he apprehended Chesed insofar as it is clothed in Netzach, Gevurah insofar as it is clothed in Hod, and both of them insofar as they are clothed in Yesod.

Since his comprehension of Chesed and Gevurah related to them only insofar as they were garbed in the concealing cloak of Netzach, Hod and Yesod, therefore even for Moses the world was endowed with existence. It was, to be sure, a very rarefied form of existence, but it was existence nonetheless. Torah and mitzvot thus applied to him as well.

According to the above it would seem that within the three lower Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, the comprehension of G-dliness is an impossibility: all that there can be is G-dly revelation.

This, however, is not the case. For as explained in chapter 39 of Tanya, the distinctive quality of Gan Eden (whose place is in Beriah; ibid.) lies in the fact that there it is possible to (5) "derive pleasure from the radiance of the Divine Presence"; the Divine Presence itself becomes revealed and accessible to comprehension, making it possible that pleasure be derived from it.

Now according to that which was just explained, how can it be possible to "derive pleasure from the radiance of the Divine Presence" in any of the Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah or Asiyah?

The Alter Rebbe therefore explains that in Gan Eden there is an apprehension of the "spreading forth of the life-force and light which issues from these two attributes, Chesed and Gevurah"; i.e., in Gan Eden one is able to comprehend the life-force as it spreads forth from Chesed and Gevurah themselves, without the intermediacy of Netzach, Hod and Yesod. (The "spreading forth" is to be understood as explained in Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistle 19.) This comprehension, the Alter Rebbe goes on to say, is "the food of the souls"; i.e., it is internalized, like food which is ingested internally.

However, this gives rise to yet another question:

Would we not expect Gan Eden itself to be nullified out of existence, inasmuch as the radiance of the Divine Presence is revealed there?

Moreover, Gan Eden has to do with comprehension.(6) How does it relate to the emotive attributes of Chesed and Gevurah?

In answer to this the Alter Rebbe states: "For from the diffusion of these two attributes, a firmament is spread ..... Within this is the secret of the twenty-two letters of the Torah." Within these letters of the Torah which bring all created beings into existence, was clothed the Divine light which transcends the tzimtzum of these letters, as explained earlier.

From the perspective of Torah, these two attributes - the revelation of Chesed and the concealment of Gevurah - do not contradict one another. This is because Torah encompasses them both, [as the Alter Rebbe goes on to say:] "as it is written, "From His right hand [He gave] unto them a fiery Law." Torah is thus composed both of "right" (Chesed) and "fire" (Gevurah). It is therefore possible for these two opposites to coexist - Gan Eden existing as an entity, and within it, the revealed radiance of the Divine Presence.

The question of how Gan Eden, which is intellectual perception, relates to Chesed and Gevurah, which are emotive, is answered by the Alter Rebbe when he states: "For this firmament is the secret of knowledge (Daat)." This means to say that the one intellectual faculty of Daat encompasses both emotive attributes of Chesed and Gevurah, and yet Daat is a faculty of intellect.

But another matter remains to be understood. Gan Eden comprises two aspects:

(a) In Gan Eden there is Torah study (see Likutei Amarim, chapter 41); (b) Though in Gan Eden there is no performance of mitzvot (as alluded to in the verse, (Bemetim Chofshi), there is, however, reward for prior performance.

Now it is understandable how Torah can be found in Gan Eden, for as explained previously, Torah is comprised of the harmonious conjoining of Chesed and Gevurah. Mitzvot, however, are individualized.

For it is known (7) that Torah is likened to blood and the mitzvot to bodily organs; whereas blood courses throughout all parts of the body, the organs are separate from one another, each with its own individual function.

Since, from the perspective of mitzvot, Chesed and Gevurah are two separate attributes, it would seem that from this perspective Gan Eden could not possibly exist, inasmuch as it is a composite of both Chesed and Gevurah. Furthermore, if the light elicited by the performance of precepts would indeed be drawn down, this light being a manifestation of Chesed, would this not cause the very existence of Gan Eden, whose source is Gevurah, to be completely nullified?

The Alter Rebbe therefore says, "and the commandments are [their] garments." Since the mitzvot comprise both Chesed and Gevurah, which are two distinct attributes, it is indeed impossible for the light elicited by the mitzvot to permeate [the souls in Gan Eden] inwardly, for if it were to do so they would be nullified out of existence.

For this reason, the reward in Gan Eden for the performance of mitzvot is granted only in the protective and auxiliary manner of a garment; this light is not drawn down into the souls in a permeating manner.

Torah, however, which is comprised of the conjoining of Chesed and Gevurah, is truly "food" for the souls in Gan Eden. It permeates them without causing their nullification, unlike the mitzvot, which are merely "garments".

The Rebbe Shlita concludes that according to the above discussion another difficulty (not quite incidental) will be resolved, namely: Where is the concluding bracket at the end of chapter 4? (Even in the first edition of Tanya this bracket is missing.)

According to all the above-mentioned questions, whose answers are provided by the Alter Rebbe beginning with the bracketed text in chapter 4, and continuing until the final bracket of chapter 5, this difficulty finds the following simple resolution:

The bracketed text beginning near the conclusion of chapter 4 extends until the end of chapter 5. The worthy typesetter, however, seeing two brackets at the end of chapter 5, assumed that one of them was surely superfluous - not taking into consideration that one of them possibly marked the conclusion of the bracketed passage beginning in chapter 4.

[The above explanations were] excerpted from a Sichah delivered on Shabbat, Parshat Mishpatim, 5727 [by the Rebbe Shlita].

Last edited by lambda; 05-20-2002 at 08:52 PM.
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Unread 05-20-2002, 09:23 PM   #10
masbir
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<<<Given this strong panentheist statement, how does Habad protect against antinomianism? Antinomianism was originally a danger in Xtian theology: that if everyone's salvation is predestined, why should we bother to do good works on Earth? It won't have any effect one way or another on our individual destinies.

I dont see how this view is particularly Antinomianism, even without the strong panentheist statement the paradox is there, since Judaism (and for that matter any religion) believes in Divine control and everything was created by G-D and controled by him, so how can there be Free Choice. Basicly it is the the paradox between determinism and and free choice which all thinker grappled with in every religion.

However, the problem of antinomianism exists because of a different reason, since according the simple reading of certain Chabad texts which makes strong panentheist statemnets, so the naturul division between the profane and holiness dissipates and is is obliterated, therfore it can bring to fore some antinomian behavours.
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Unread 05-20-2002, 10:17 PM   #11
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I'm not quite sure what masbir's point is. Yes, in the pre-Lurianic view, there is still the problem of God's omiscience which leads to a possible antinomian threat. But this has been dealt with already in the meforshim on Avos where it says "hacol tzafui vehareshut netunah" - all is Seen and permission is given.

I'm concerned with the extra antinomian tension brought in by Habad panentheism. masbir's idea of dissolving the boundary between sacred and profane seems only a manifestation of the panentheism - if all is God, how can anything be profane? - which again restates the antinomianism in terms of holy vs. non-holy, instead of "if we are only part of God, how can our will be different from God's will"? It still sounds to me like something that should be "halacha v'ein morin kein".

I'm still in the middle of the Rebbe's commentary on Tanya II:4-5; so far I still have questions, but maybe they will be resolved later.
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Unread 05-21-2002, 12:28 AM   #12
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There is a ma'mar that the rebbe maharash said several times that deals with this concept. In which he asks. the mishna says concerning picking vegtables on shabbos, if one does it one is chayav if one gives the ilusion of doing it one is patur. Now if the world is only an illusion then how come doing it (which is in reality an illusion) causes one to be chayav. the gist of his answer is that the world is a metzius but it does not have independent existence. The dibur hamaschil is mi kamocha I do not remember if it is 5526 or 5529 (I don't have my sforim with me right now). I recommend this ma'mar to anybody learning sha'ar hayichud v'haemuna.
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Unread 05-21-2002, 12:46 AM   #13
masbir
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<<<I'm not quite sure what masbir's point is. Yes, in the pre-Lurianic view, there is still the problem of God's omiscience which leads to a possible antinomian threat. But this has been dealt with already in the meforshim on Avos where it says "hacol tzafui vehareshut netunah" - all is Seen and permission is given>>>

As was discussed in the Hasgacha protis versus freewill thread the Jewish philoshophers dealt with ditinct questions 1) the common famous one you mentioned from the Mishna G-Ds omnicience versus freechoice, I am not talking about that here.

Then there is another question, dealt by RMBM almost passingly, about the inherent contradiction between the the fact that nothing in the world can function or exist without the Will of G-d, and the idea that man has some indpendence to decide his destiny. They are 2 distinct issues. (see that thread) Now what you see in Chabd philoshphy as undermining freewill is nothing unique to Chabad, I never heard this problem with Chabad theosphy, in the same way you will answer RMBMs dilemma you can answer also solve the problem arising from Chabad philoshophy. As I wrote the Problem of that theoshpy is only in the realm of disolving the borders of reality which the whole structre of Halacha is based on.
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Unread 05-21-2002, 08:27 AM   #14
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Then there is another question, dealt by RMBM almost passingly, about the inherent contradiction between the the fact that nothing in the world can function or exist without the Will of G-d, and the idea that man has some indpendence to decide his destiny. They are 2 distinct issues. (see that thread) Now what you see in Chabd philoshphy as undermining freewill is nothing unique to Chabad, I never heard this problem with Chabad theosphy, in the same way you will answer RMBMs dilemma you can answer also solve the problem arising from Chabad philoshophy. As I wrote the Problem of that theoshpy is only in the realm of disolving the borders of reality which the whole structre of Halacha is based on.
Re the Rambam: agreed.

Re Chabad: I don't see it as the same as the Rambam's difficulty. Why? Because Rambam & Chabad take totally different views of the nature of created reality. For Rambam, as for pretty much everyone before the Ariza"l, created reality has real, independent existence. For the Alter Rebbe, R' Aharon, and the Mittler Rebbe, created reality is an illusion - it is all part of God, and has no independent existence. Do my Islets of Langerhans have free will? Does my insulin have free will? Or, as part of the organic whole of me, do they do their stuff because it is my will to eat?

For the Rambam, it's the question of, say, (IY"H) my infant child, which clearly has free will, but which is totally dependent for its existence on my providing it with food, water, didy changes, etc.

For Chabad, it's a question of reality vs. illusion.

From what I can tell, halfway through the Rebbe's comments on SYE 4-5, he has to deny this total Divine unity in order to get around the problem - he has to posit independent existence of the tzimtzum and the keilim. Maybe he'll resolve it; I hope to finish it today sometime.
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Unread 05-21-2002, 10:45 AM   #15
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jj, just a general comment, seeing that some other people are very ably helping out here:

Contrary to scholarly opinion, the way to find out what a group thinks about something is to study their writings. Which is why I am glad this conversation turned from Elior's book (and there are many like it) to the actual original sources in Chasidus.

Much of the bias and misconceptions about Chassidus come from Martin Buber's and Gershom Scholem's interpretations of Chasidus, which are dispelled by reading and learning the actual Chasidus.

Another pointer: It is much better to use the actual terms of Torah and Chasidus, so that instead of panentheism we get Elokus Mislabesh BeTeva, and instead of antinomianism we get Hashgachah Protis vs. Bchirah Chofshis. I know it sounds better to have one word for it, but on the other hand using words of Kedushah makes a difference both to our Neshamah and to how our Neshamah is affected by the conversation we have.

On the topic: Chasidim have spent their entire lives trying to understand the balance of how the world can be a Metzius, while at the same time Botel to Hashem. And every time they would answer one side of the question, they would be bothered by the other side, and have to find a deeper answer, and then start again from the original question, but on a deeper level and meaning. So, happu hunting!
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Unread 05-21-2002, 11:06 AM   #16
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BS"D Thankyou, Bittul, that is exactly what I was trying to say before.
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Unread 05-21-2002, 11:08 AM   #17
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<<<Much of the bias and misconceptions about Chassidus come from ....Gershom Scholem's interpretations of Chasidus, which are dispelled by reading and learning the actual Chasidus.>>>

Can you cite one example?

Another pointer: It is much better to use the actual terms of Torah and Chasidus, so that instead of panentheism we get Elokus Mislabesh BeTeva, and instead of antinomianism we get Hashgachah Protis vs. Bchirah Chofshis. I know it sounds better to have one word for it, but on the other hand using words of Kedushah makes a difference both to our Neshamah and to how our Neshamah is affected by the conversation we have.

Are you allowed to translate Hasgacha protis into "divine providence"? and an Bechirre into "freewill", or when writing in English you have to use on certain words Hebrew? Where is the border on what the nashama understands and doesnt? If you are not so famaliar with a word it becomes automaticaly a non Neshama word?

I thank the Rebbe in his letters uses all this termonology

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Unread 05-21-2002, 11:27 AM   #18
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Bittul writes:
Quote:
Much of the bias and misconceptions about Chassidus come from Martin Buber's and Gershom Scholem's interpretations of Chasidus, which are dispelled by reading and learning the actual Chasidus.
As Masbir asks, can you cite an example? I haven't seen anyone yet say that what I brought from Elior was *wrong*. Elior consulted with insiders such as Dr. Naftali Loewenthal and R' Adin Steinsaltz. As you say, the way to understand Chassidus is to read its texts - she says almost nothing about Scholem, but quotes extensively from the source texts of the first two rebbes and R' Aharon of Staroselye.

The question about antinomianism was my own, based on what I've read - it arises out of the paradoxes inherent in the whole Chabad theosophy. And it's clear that the question is a natural outgrowth of these ideas, else the Rebbe zt"l would not have felt it necessary to answer.

Quote:
Another pointer: It is much better to use the actual terms of Torah and Chasidus, so that instead of panentheism we get Elokus Mislabesh BeTeva, and instead of antinomianism we get Hashgachah Protis vs. Bchirah Chofshis. I know it sounds better to have one word for it, but on the other hand using words of Kedushah makes a difference both to our Neshamah and to how our Neshamah is affected by the conversation we have.
On the other hand, we see from Chazal and down to the most recent poskim, that adopting words from English or Greek which describe whole concepts is perfectly OK. We say Sanhedrin, not Beis Din Hagodol, epikoros not mi sh'eino ma'amin b'hashgochos Hashem, androginos and tumtum rather than nisht-a-hin-nisht-a-her, etc. The Rav, R' Moshe Feinstein, the Rebbe, ybl"ch R' Hershel Schachter, all used English words transliterated into Hebrew if it expressed the concept more compactly, more precisely.

The only real reason for using these terms is to accustom ourselves to seeing them, so that we can read chassidus &c. in the original.
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Unread 05-21-2002, 11:35 AM   #19
masbir
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I saw one of Eliars books Chabad in the original Hebrew, and the problem I have with it is the limited scope of her sources.In the whole book of 400 pages she doesnt use once the Torah Ohr an Lekute Torah! anf of course not the 20 volumes and more of Mamorei ADHZ!

How much of a view can you get on the whole spectrum of the Alter Rebbes views on the tensions between all those conflicting aspects of Judiasim and Halacah. It si strange to puport to asses an whole world view on only a sliver of information.
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Unread 05-21-2002, 11:45 AM   #20
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I think Scholem's biggest mistake (besides denying the Torah, of course) is his freehand artistry with the Sabbatean paintbrush.
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Unread 05-21-2002, 11:56 AM   #21
masbir
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I am not talking about is works on History, of course, he denied the origins of Kabbalah as comming from Sini, and the Zohar by Rashbi, but his explanations on concepts, he is not known as a distorter of texts in the way Buber was.
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Unread 05-21-2002, 12:00 PM   #22
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And of course, they dont study Kabbalah with prerequiste holiness neded for the esotoric part of Nishmas Hatorah (soul of Torah)

Just, it seems we are dealing with non Chabad or non ultra Orthodox guys, who are getting their info. from those sources, just to throw out derogetory remarks without supporting it doesnt convince anyone.
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Unread 05-21-2002, 10:26 PM   #23
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OK, I finished it. It leaves me with a conundrum, built on a paradox, wrapped in a mystery.

Enough silliness.

It seems to me that the Rebbe solves the problem by breaking the premise. The premise was that God is the only thing, which defines His Unity. Therefore, as corollaries,
a) all of perceivable reality is bitul to him; and
b) physical separateness is only an illusion, the reality is that we are all part of God.

Following from this, we had the problems that the Rebbe raised in question (b) - the antinomian problem.

He answers it apparently by breaking the premise of total Divine Unity: "This serves to prove that tzimtzum is indeed an entity, for as explained previously tzimtzum corresponds to kelim ". That the tzimtzum and the keilim are independent created entities. In which case, why couldn't we be independent created entities? If you can have 2 entities, God and the tzimtzum/keilim, why not zillions?

Is this the answer, then? That the previous generations of Chabad Rebbeim and scholars were wrong about absolute Divine Unity?

The answer raises its own questions.
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Unread 05-22-2002, 09:25 AM   #24
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BS"D The Rebbe does not mean to contradict absolute Divine Unity, nor contradict any of his predecessors, Heaven forbid.
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Unread 05-22-2002, 09:34 AM   #25
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The Rebbe does not mean to contradict absolute Divine Unity, nor contradict any of his predecessors, Heaven forbid.
Care to explain that? Because it's apparently what he *says*. Statements of blind faith like that don't convince anyone except perhaps another believer.

I nami, you don't have an answer/explanation, and so you'll just express faith in the Rebbe. Which unfortunately translates into apparent contradiction of the Rebbe. Mima nafshach: either the Rebbe contradicts his predecessors, or you're contradicting the Rebbe.
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