3/30/2005

WWHKBHD?

Now that Purim's over, it's time to get back to Torah. For some reason, there still seems to be some kind of p'tur from Talmud Torah during December 2004, which is where all of the leytzonusdike posts wind up.

A while back, there was some discussion in the comments (which all disappeared when I went to Haloscan, and which I'm slowly republishing from my own email files) about the propriety of talking about God's 'personality'.

Let's start with some psukim from this past week's haftarah:

כב כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה, אַל-יִתְהַלֵּל חָכָם בְּחָכְמָתוֹ, וְאַל-יִתְהַלֵּל הַגִּבּוֹר, בִּגְבוּרָתוֹ; אַל-יִתְהַלֵּל עָשִׁיר, בְּעָשְׁרוֹ. כג כִּי אִם-בְּזֹאת יִתְהַלֵּל הַמִּתְהַלֵּל, הַשְׂכֵּל וְיָדֹעַ אוֹתִי--כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה, עֹשֶׂה חֶסֶד מִשְׁפָּט וּצְדָקָה בָּאָרֶץ: כִּי-בְאֵלֶּה חָפַצְתִּי, נְאֻם-יְהוָה

22 Thus saith the LORD: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; 23 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth, and knoweth Me, that I am the LORD who exercise mercy, justice, and righteousness, in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

WADR to King James, I don't like his translation, but more on that later.

The key word here is the second 'ki' in the second verse. It's suggesting at least that mercy, justice, and righteousness form the content of what it means to know God, and at best gives a reason why it's praiseworthy to know God. Either way, it suggests that it's possible to know God, and that this God-knowledge incorporates a select few key values which God 'desires' for us to embody on Earth.

One implication is that we can only truly become Godlike in action to the degree that we 'know' him. If there's something that we don't really understand about God, then it falls outside of the purview of 'halicha be-drachav'; R' Hutner says s/t very similar in one of his ma'amorim on Pesach.

Granted, there's a pretty severe limitation on the degree to which we can really 'psychoanalyze' God. None of this really tells us who God really is. In a value-driven system of morality (which this certainly seems to be promoting, but lav davka), it suggests that we're capable of discerning and emulating those values - it actually does suggest some type of 'natural morality', at least in some rough form.

A final educational point: we tend to shy away from these types of discussions about God. If we take imitatio Dei seriously, then we really should talk about it, and beyond the elementary levels. I'm not suggesting some kind of WWHKBHD bumper sticker campaign (though that would be pretty funny, no?), but this type of discussion really should be part of the agenda for teaching Halacha and Tanach in particular, but really all aspects of Jewish learning. We really CAN come to know God through the Torah (here's R' Hutner gives way to his antecedents, R' Kook and R' Tzadok), and really ought to keep that in mind during our endeavors in Talmud Torah.

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