Saturday, June 3, 2017

Who Is Man? - Who Is A Prophet? - Names Of Hashem

The Kuzari says that man is an intellectual being but defines the intellect in terms of middos ad ethical behavior:

31. The Rabbi: The laws of nature comprise nurture, growth, and propagation, with their powers and all conditions attached thereto. This is particularly the case with plants and animals, to the exclusion of earth, stones, metals, and elements.

32. Al Khazari: This is a maxim which requires explanation, though it be true.

33. The Rabbi: As regards the soul, it is given to all animated beings. The result is movement, will power, external as well as internal senses and such like.

34. Al Khazari: This, too, cannot be contradicted.

35. The Rabbi: Intellect is man's birthright above all living beings. This leads to the development of his faculties [תיקון המידות], his home, his country, from which arise administrative and regulative laws.

The Rambam [Yesodei Hatorah 4, 8-9], in contrast, defines man as an intellectual being [in the sense of being knowledgable]:

8. The soul of all flesh is the form which it was given by God. The extra dimension which is found in the soul of man is the form of man who is perfect in his knowledge. Concerning this form, the Torah states [Genesis 1:26]: "Let us make man in our image and in our likeness" - i.e., granting man a form which knows and comprehends ideas that are not material, like the angels, who are form without body, until he can resemble them.[This statement] does not refer to the form of the body perceived by the eye - i.e., the mouth, the nose, the cheeks, and the remainder of the structure of the body. This is referred to as to'ar (appearance).

It is not the soul found in all living flesh which allows it to eat, drink, reproduce, feel, and think. Rather, knowledge is the form of this [dimension of] soul and it is concerning this form of the soul, that the verse states: "in our image and in our likeness." Frequently, this form is referred to as nefesh or ruach. Therefore, one must be careful regarding these names, lest another person err regarding them. Each name reveals its characteristics.

After basic man comes the level of the great sages and then prophets, as the Kuzari writes:

37. The Rabbi: Which is the next highest degree?

38. Al Khazari: The degree of great sages.

39. The Rabbi: I only mean that degree which separates those who occupy it from the physical point of view, as the plant is separated from inorganic things, or man from animals. The differences as to quantity, however, are endless, as they are only accidental, and do not really form a degree.

40. Al Khazari: If this be so, then there is no degree above man among tangible things.

41. The Rabbi: If we find a man who walks into the fire without hurt, or abstains from food for some time without starving, on whose face a light shines which the eye cannot bear, who is never ill, nor ages, until having reached his life's natural end, who dies spontaneously just as a man retires to his couch to sleep on an appointed day and hour, equipped with the knowledge of what is hidden as to past and future: is such a degree not visibly distinguished from the ordinary human degree?

42. Al Khazari: This is, indeed, the divine and seraphic degree, if it exists at all. It belongs to the province of the divine influence, but not to that of the intellectual, human, or natural world.

43. The Rabbi: These are some of the characteristics of the undoubted prophets through whom God made Himself manifest, and who also made known that there is a God who guides them as He wishes, according to their obedience or disobedience. He revealed to those prophets that which was hidden, and taught them how the world was created, how the generations prior to the Flood followed each other, and how they reckoned their descent from Adam. He described the Flood and the origin of the 'Seventy Nations' from Shem, Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah; how the languages were split up, and where men sought their habitations; how arts arose, how they built cities, and the chronology from Adam up to this day.

So a prophet is someone to whom G-d made Himself manifest [אשר על ידו נראתה לקהל התחברות האלהות בהם], he made known that G-d is guiding us and the future is revealed to him. 

Later on [5, 20] the Kuzari talks about the prophet again:

THE FOURTH PRINCIPLE expresses the conviction that existing beings are of higher or lower degree. Everything that is possessed of feeling and perception is higher than those creatures which lack the same, since the former are nearer the degree of the Prime Cause which is Reason itself. The lowest plant occupies a higher rank than the noblest mineral, the lowest animal is higher than the noblest plant, and the lowest human being is higher than the noblest animal. Thus the lowest follower of the divine law occupies a higher place than the noblest heathen. For the divine law confers something of the nature of angels on the human mind, a thing which cannot be acquired otherwise. The proof is that prolonged practice of this law leads up to the degree of prophetic inspiration, than which there is no nearer degree to God for man. A rebellious monotheist is, therefore, preferable to the pagan, because the divine law empowered him to lead an angelic life and to reach the degree of angels, though it has become sullied and defaced by his rebellion. Some traces will always remain, and the fire of his longing for it is not quite extinguished. If he had his own choice, he would not prefer to remain untutored [במדרגת חסרי תורה], just as a sick and pain-plagued person would not prefer to be a horse, or fish, or bird, which, though happy and free from pain, is far removed from reason which brings near to the divine degree.

Elsewhere [4/3 and 4/15] the Kuzari explains the difference between the name א-דני and the name א-להים. The former name is the name of Hashem himself which can only be understood by prophets while the latter name denotes Hashem being the all powerful creator which can be perceived by all.

.... The God of this essence is only and solely A-dōnāi, and because He established a connection with man, the name Elohim was altered after the creation into Adonāi Elōhim. This the Sages express in the words: A 'full name over a full universe' (Ber. Rabbāh chap. xi.). The world was but completed with the creation of man who forms the heart of all that was created before him. No intelligent person will misunderstand the meaning conveyed by 'E-lōhim,' although this is possible with regard to 'A-dōnāi,' because prophecy is strange and rare in single individuals, and much more so in a multitude. For this reason, Pharaoh disbelieved and said: 'I know not the Lord' (Exod. v. 2), as if he interpreted the Tetragrammaton in the way penetrating light is understood, and was reminded by it of God whose light is intimately attached to man. Moses supplemented his words by adding: 'the God of the Hebrews,' in order to call to mind the patriarchs who testified by means of prophecy and marvels. Elōhim was a name well known in Egypt. The first Pharaoh said to Joseph: 'Forasmuch as Elōhim has shown you all this,' (Gen. xli. 39), and 'A man in whom the spirit of Elōhim is' (ver. 38).... The meaning of E-lōhim can be grasped by way of speculation, because a Guide and Manager of the world is a postulate of Reason. Opinions differ on the basis of different speculations, but that of the philosophers is the best on the subject. The meaning of Adonāi, however, cannot be grasped by speculation, but only by that intuition and prophetic vision which separates man, so to speak, from his kind, and brings him in contact with angelic beings, imbuing him with a new spirit, as it is written: 'You shalt be turned into another man,' 'God gave him another heart' (1 Sam. x. 6. 9), 'A spirit came over Amasai' (1 Chron. xii. 18). 'The hand of the Lord was upon me' (Ezek. xxxvii. 11). 'Uphold me with Thy free spirit' (Ps. li. 14) All these circumscribe the Holy Spirit which enwraps the prophet in the hour of his ministry, the Nazirite, and the Messiah, when they are anointed for priesthood, or for the royal dignity by a prophet; or when God aids and strengthens him in any matter; or when the priest makes prophetic utterances by means of the mystic power derived from the use of the Urim and Tummim. Then all previous doubts concerning Elōhim are removed, and man deprecates those speculations by means of which he had endeavoured to derive the knowledge of God's dominion and unity. It is thus that man becomes a servant, loving the object of his worship, and ready to perish for His sake, because he finds the sweetness of this attachment as great as the distress in the absence thereof. This forms a contrast to the philosophers, who see in the worship of God nothing but extreme refinement, extolling Him in truth above all other beings, (just as the sun is placed on a higher level than the other visible things), and that the denial of God's existence is the mark of a low standard of the soul which delights in untruth.

Unlike the Kuzari, the Rambam [Yesodei Hatorah 8/1 and see also the sixth ikkar in the preface to perek Chelek] requires that a prophet be of high intellectual standing:

It is [one] of the foundations of [our] faith that God conveys prophecy to man.

Prophecy is bestowed only upon a very wise sage of a strong character, who is never overcome by his natural inclinations in any regard. Instead, with his mind, he overcomes his natural inclinations at all times. He must [also] possess a very broad and accurate mental capacity.

A person who is full of all these qualities and is physically sound [is fit for prophecy]. When he enters the Pardes and is drawn into these great and sublime concepts, if he possesses a accurate mental capacity to comprehend and grasp [them], he will become holy. He will advance and separate himself from the masses who proceed in the darkness of the time. He must continue and diligently train himself not to have any thoughts whatsoever about fruitless things or the vanities and intrigues of the times.

Instead, his mind should constantly be directed upward, bound beneath [God's] throne [of Glory, striving] to comprehend the holy and pure forms and gazing at the wisdom of the Holy One, blessed be He, in its entirety, [in its manifold manifestations] from the most elevated [spiritual] form until the navel of the earth, appreciating His greatness from them. [After these preparations,] the divine spirit will immediately rest upon him.

When the spirit rests upon him, his soul becomes intermingled with the angels called ishim, and he will be transformed into a different person and will understand with a knowledge different from what it was previously. He will rise above the level of other wise men, as [the prophet, Samuel] told Saul [I Samuel 10:6]: "[The spirit of God will descend upon you] and you shall prophesy with them. And you will be transformed into a different person."