Thursday, November 15, 2012

The centrality of Redemption

In discussion with my friend David Guttman an extremely important topic came up, one I would like to clarify my thoughts about and receive feedback from others. See here . The discussion emerged from reading Jim Holt’s new book “why does the world exist”.  As the ambitious title implies, the book deals with the question known today as: “why is there something, rather than nothing”?

The central tenant of Judaism is that nothing but God is a “first existent”, necessarily existing without need of any cause. Attaining deep knowledge of the contigency of Creation upon God the ‘first existent” is therefore the very foundation of the Mitzva system- it is the ultimate goal the Torah guides us to attain.

But how do we reach this lofty goal? Rather than meditating on the Cosmos' need for His causal force, as Avraham Avinu did, our interest in “needs” is self-centered.The focus of our prayers is our material security, as individuals and as citizens of the Jewish nation and the world. We seek his Kingship, his powerful Hand acting to decimate our enemies and secure Israel’s well-being.

This preoccupation with material well being starts from the earliest times, from the sojourn of our forefathers in Egypt. We did not cry out to Hashem the Lord of our father’s to aid us in solving Father Abraham’s question “why there is something rather than nothing”. Our interest was much more material than that, we called out only when our personal existence was in crisis.

23 And it came to pass in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died; and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.25 And God saw the children of Israel, and God took cognizance of them. {S}

Our forefathers in Egypt came to believe in God through illustrations of Yad Hashem, His beneficent power to sustain us in material security and to deliver Israel from crisis.This interest in Hashem's mighty "hand" reaches its height at yam Suf, instigating the song of Az Yashir.

28 And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, even all the host of Pharaoh that went in after them into the sea; there remained not so much as one of them.29 But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.  30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore. 31 And Israel saw the great hand which the LORD displayed upon the Egyptians, and the people feared the LORD; and they believed in the LORD, and in His servant Moses. {P}
Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spoke, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider has he thrown into the sea. 

This central fact, that our service is centered on Hashem’s "hand", is canonized in the culmination of Keriat Shema. We conclude Shema and enter tefilla focused upon recalling the event of Yam Suf, the quintessential illustration of His power. 
Shira chadasha shibechu geulim... the redeemed ones sang a new song (az yashir). All together they gave thanksgiving and recognized His Kingship saying : Hashem will rule for all eternity!
How is one whose service to Hashem centers on attaining security ever to be led to seek the "First Existent"?  How are we to move from focusing on the mighty hand of the Goel Yisrael, to seeking the cause of the Cosmos / Boreh Shamayim V'Aretz?

I will attempt to answer this in the next post exploring the centrality of the notion of "Redemption" as a preliminary stage in service to Hashem.


moonlight1021 said...

The question that perhaps we should ask is: is the nature of the material needs that Klal Yisroel has purely material all the way or rather, this is two-fold, material on one hand, but on the other hand, a way to be connected to the spiritual realm since when they cry out for material things, HaShem hears them?

24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.25 And God saw the children of Israel, and God took cognizance of them.

My Torah daddy in one of his shiurim said to the class, "Your material needs are my spiritual needs."

moonlight1021 said...

If we take into consideration Maslow's hierarchy of needs, perhaps HaShem knew if the material needs of Klal Yisrael are not satisfied, they will get caught up in this conundrum and be unable to focus on the spiritual also due to the material things they lacked.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said...

My method is to avoid language that in common parlance is associated with anti scientific trends of thought. For this reason I do not use the word "spiritual".

One could perhaps find a sense of "spiritual" which is useful, but the general thing people are thinking of when they say the word is a non starter for intelligent discourse.

moonlight1021 said...

You say "Our interest was much more material than that, we called out only when our personal existence was in crisis"

So I said "spiritual" as opposed to "material" since it seems you are implying that people were to focus on much more than the material. And I used spiritual for lack of a better world. So what term would you substitute instead of "spiritual" to describe that which you would've preferred that people focus on so they don't focus so much on the material?

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said...

Maslow is a very good language for talking about redemption. As he properly notes, human development begins with survival needs and attaining a sense of security. With maturity man moves toward "self actualization" or self transcendence".

Self transcendence presupposes a framework greater than the self. It is in formulating this greater framework, that one must be vigilant in scientific rigor of theoretical thought. The reality of the greater world must be subjected to strict scrutiny of observation and careful consideration and reconsideration of arguments.

It is all too tempting to create an imaginary "greater world" of spiritualism, founded on warm feelings toward myth and trite sayings.

moonlight1021 said...

I personally believe that Maslow hierarchy of needs holds to some extent, but not for everyone. That is there were great Rabbis who lived in poverty and who achieved so much in spite of the fact that they did not necessarily have a sense of security or their basic needs were not met. For some people, lacking what lies at the lower level of Maslow's pyramid becomes a stimulus to get to higher levels in spite of the challenges. However, this is not a desirable situation to be in.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said...

We do not believe in asceticism. Honor to ascetics comes from other religions.

moonlight1021 said...

I didn't say we have to honor voluntary ascetics but sometimes people even Rabbis have to deal with poverty but don't let it bring them down and grow anyway. It's not about voluntarily adopting ascetism but being confronted with circumstances they can't control.

Such as this story:

"Hillel, who came to Israel from Babylon, was very poor. The Talmud tells some interesting stories about how poor he was and how much he loved learning Torah. For example, he was so poor that he couldn't even afford the couple of grushim that it cost to enter the Beit HaMidrash, "the House of Study." So in order to learn, he would sit up on the roof and listen through the skylight. One day, he was doing this in terrible cold and became so frozen he passed out. The students down below were suddenly aware that something was blocking the light, went up onto the roof, found him and revived him.(1)

Despite his poverty, which had no impact in how much people respected his wisdom, Hillel achieved the position of Nasi; at that time, Shammai held the position of Av Beis Din."

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said...

It is true that in time of exile, it may appear that Rabbis such as Hillel are poor.

I say "appear" because there are two aspects to financial standing.

1. The first aspect of poverty is having less material resources than are needed to live well. Obviously, what Hillel would need to live well is very small, well within what the salary he actually earned. In this sense, his poverty was irrelevant to himself personally.

2. The second aspect of poverty is in ones social class and standing- "kavod". In the case of Hillel, a salary well within his personal needs might still stand in the way of his kavod perception in the eyes of the people and be an impediment to his power to help others.

It was for this reason that Rabbis were made rich when they assumed leadership positions. Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi was such a case. He made clear that his wealth was purely an educational / political vehicle. It enabled him to have impact on the community, in the sense of being taken seriously and in terms of helping others with his wealth.

This aspect of wealth as a dimension of the Kavod needed to wield political power is clear in the laws of Kings of Rambam, Chapter 3.

moonlight1021 said...

If Hillel could not afford the money to enter the Beis Medrash, would you say that defined him as "poor" or would you say that the Beis Meddrash shouldn't have charged in the first place because otherwise Hillel was not "poor"? And by "poor", I mean lacking basic necessities. But perhaps the issue was that the beis meddrash was charging too much and they shouldn't have. Why were they charging anyway? Perhaps they should've charged only people afforded, but not Hillel.

Hagyan said...

Deot are not speech forms; as a human makes progress on them the speech (and action/orientation) forms progress from "no! hurts!" to "not fair!" to apparently-political subjects to ... manifestly metaphysical subjects. In the case of Abraham, it suited the context of the Rambam's discourse to name the deah according to the metaphysical range of the progression.

Consider, as an example which points to "scientific regions" of the progression, the episode of 'Deutsche Physik' (, in light of the remarkable fact that Philipp Lenard, one of its proponents, far from being a jackbooted beerhall brawler, had earned the 1905 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Hagyan said...

(Quite tangential)

Looking at Physics Nobels +/- 2 years of Lenard (from: leaves one speechless.

1907: Albert Abraham Michelson
1906: Joseph John Thomson
1905: Philipp Eduard Anton von Lenard
1904: Lord Rayleigh (John William Strutt)
1903: Antoine Henri Becquerel, Pierre Curie, Marie Curie, née Sklodowska

The award speech ( gives some context:


The discovery of the cathode rays forms the first link in the chain of brilliant discoveries with which the names of Röntgen, Becquerel and Curie are connected. The discovery itself was made by Hittorf as long ago as 1869 and therefore falls in a period before that which the Nobel Foundation is able to take into account. However, the recognition which Lenard has earned himself by the further development of Hittorf's discovery (which is becoming of increasing importance) shows that he too deserves the same reward as has already come to several of his successors for work of a similar nature.


Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said...


Help me approach your meaning slowly, as I currently react to it from my own sense of things.

Within a society of any given generation, there are a variety of social groups, united around civilizational life purpose. This life purpose defines the pursuit of happiness, simcha, as the society speaks about it.

In Israel for example, the Zionist enterprise points to a civilizational yearning for "redemption" a distinct way of seeking simcha from all other nations.

ברוך אתה ה' אלוהינו מלך העולם, אשר קידשנו מכל עם, ורוממנו מכל לשון, בחר בנו ויגדלנו, רצה בנו ויפארנו; ותיתן לנו ה' אלוהינו באהבה, מועדים לשמחה חגים וזמנים לששון, את יום טוב מקרא קודש הזה, את יום חג המצות הזה--או חג השבועות, או חג הסוכות--, זמן חירותנו--או זמן מתן תורתנו, או זמן שמחתנו--, באהבה, זכר ליציאת מצריים

In this enterprise the various social groups each participate, using the same language, in a sense, though deep communication gaps exist.

A case in point is the creation of Nuclear capacity in Dimona.

In a sense, this accomplishment is conveyed in a shared language by all in the Zionist community. The scientific community of course shares in the sense that the nation building has shifted from drying swamps, to bringing Human scientific thought into the redemptive enterprise.

Yet, there is an important sense in which the scientific community sees building a reactor in a totally different light, in a sense of "redemption" and "Simcha" that cannot be shared with the public at large.

R Kook the Elder, would perhaps have related to this notion of "redemption" / "simcha". It is within reason to say his sense of Jewish thinking concretely expressed in a reactor coming into being in an independent nation state could be put in terms that would in some sense begin communication with the Jewish scientist at Weizman or Hebrew U.

Hagyan said...

Human-to-human: What hurts you?

A few hours ago I spoke to my aunt. She is 85 years old, the last living member of my parents' generation. She has lived in Tel Aviv for 66 years.

Before that she was a teenage survivor of Birkenau. And the 'death march'. And Ravensbrück.

Her children have suffered war. One of her children lies in the military cemetery.

Her grandchildren have suffered war. One of them suffers permanent, painful diability from a battle injury.

In just a few years her great granchildren will enter the army. Do you think they will be spared the suffering of war?

In the last few days several of her grandchildren have been mobilized. Some are staging for a ground war in the south. Others have been sent to strengthen the north.

There's nothing special about my aunt's story. Doesn't that make it even more dreadful?

The 'Iron Dome' isn't perfect. The 'Iron Dome' can't be perfect. My aunt is too frail to repeatedly climb the stairs from her apartment to the bomb shelter. She has to live in her building's bomb shelter continuously.

How would you explain "ברוך אתה ה', גואל ישראל.", the "centrality of redemption", to my aunt? She's such a sweet elderly lady.

Hagyan said...

RS: "This preoccupation with material well being starts from the earliest times, from the sojourn of our forefathers in Egypt. We did not cry out to Hashem the Lord of our father’s to aid us in solving Father Abraham’s question “why there is something rather than nothing”. Our interest was much more material than that, we called out only when our personal existence was in crisis." [Then you cite Shmot 2/23:]

I believe I've illustrated that the צעקה ("crying out") (and the suffering of עבדות) is not essentially about a material lack at all.

Why does my aunt suffer? Rationally it appears as though her great-great grandchildren, etc., will suffer a higher-tech version of the same interminable exile. She is anything but "preoccupied with [her] material well-being" and "personal existence"!

That's the suffering that is addressed in Isaiah 2/1-4 []:

1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 And it shall come to pass in the end of days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established as the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many peoples shall go and say: 'Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 And He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Ikar #12 (Messiah) facilitates an "initial reality-contact" with what is, in principle, eventually knowable as one of the direct causal consequences of the existential issues substantiating Mitsva #1.

(The experiencing of apparently interminable suffering also afflicts the orphan, whose צעקה is of especial significance. [Shmot 22/21-23;]) The Kadish Yatom might be the best-known articulation of this.)

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said...


Your Aunt sounds a lot like my Grandmother, who escaped the Shoah by a matter of minutes, her family was not so fortunate.

She also sounds a lot like the people of my Moshav growing up, survivors of the death camps who moved to Israel after the war.

What I would say to these people about Geula? Before even beginning to formulate an answer I must establish context.

In fact,the overwhelming experience of conversation with this generation was about the very topic of Geula and the "mighty Hand". Almost every aspect of life was spoken of through this prism.

My generation were listeners in this conversation, not speakers. We were told about the experience of humiliation and endless suffering in Europe.

We were told that the nation building going on in Israel was the end of that suffering, the solution to the age old problem, the fulfillment of a hope of 2000 years.

Hagyan said...

RS: "We were told that the nation building going on in Israel was the end of that suffering, the solution to the age old problem, the fulfillment of a hope of 2000 years."

I struggle to believe what you report, because all of my elders -- religious and secular, Israeli and American, modern and Haredi -- communicated uniquivocally that this was a pleasant hope (perhaps what you would call a "spirituality") for which they could percieve neither an empirical nor a causal basis. When, around '73, they encountered Kol Dodi Dofek and discussed it among themselved, they "read me the riot act", and would have been prepared to do that to Rav Soloveitchik himself.

Also, I wrote about my aunt considering her as a human "registering" the phenomena impinging upon her, not as some kind of cultural-generational archetype.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said...

My experience with the Zionist spirituality of the previous generation was much different than what you describe. It was of a R Tzvi Yehuda Kook variety, a very clear confidence in the clear self evident reality of living in a time of Geula and the end of the History of Galut.

It is for this reason that I am struggling to relate to the phenomenon of your Aunt, or such Zionists of the last generation.

I simply have no experience with Israelis, Shoah survivors or otherwise, whose message was the question "why are we suffering in an Israeli extension of Exile"?

This seems very alien to me.

Hagyan said...

P.S. 'Astonishing' doesn't begin to capture my shock. Few of my elders were "intellectuals". Most never completed their educations that had been interrupted in the late '30s. But for all of them the Shoah had made it impossible to wish-away דין.

Hagyan said...


Conversation between David Ben-Gurion and Nahum Goldmann, c. 1970 (!):


"I don't understand your optimism," Ben-Gurion declared. "Why should the Arabs make peace? If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it's true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been antisemitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations' time, but for the moment there is no chance. So, it's simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army. Our whole policy is there. Otherwise the Arabs will wipe us out.
"I'll be seventy years old soon. Well, Nahum, if you asked me whether I shall die and be buried in a Jewish State I would tell you Yes; in ten years, fifteen years, I believe there will still be a Jewish State. But ask me whether my son Amos [b. 1920], who will be fifty at the end of this year, has a chance of dying and being buried in a Jewish State, and I would answer: fifty-fifty."
"But how can you sleep with that prospect in mind and be Prime Minister of Israel too?" I responded.
"Who says I sleep?" was Ben-Gurion's simple reply.


Quoted in The Jewish Paradox : A Personal Memoir (1978) by Nahum Goldmann, pp 99-100

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said...

I realize the vantage point I have on Zionist spirituality is not everyone's experience. I was raised in a particular community with an Elder generation with its own particular message. It is difficult for me to relate to your experience and vice versa.

A good example of this mentality I am familiar with is here

By Rav Tamir Granot

Lecture #21: Divinity and History
in the Holocaust Teachings of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook

In the previous lecture, we saw that Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook views the Holocaust as a necessary operation performed on the national body of Am Yisrael with the purpose of severing the nation from exile and creating the conditions for its full physical and spiritual redemption. Rabbi Zvi Yehuda's position is between the traditional option - discussing the Holocaust within the framework of the usual categories of reward and punishment and personal justice - and its polar opposite – remaining humbly silent and awestruck and opposing any sort of explanation. He views the Holocaust within a system of historiosophic coordinates, with a position on the significance of history in general and of recent history in particular, and he views the Holocaust as an event that finds its significance within a comprehensive perception of history. The primary concepts comprising this discussion are exile and redemption, nationalism and individualism.

Hagyan said...

Could you look again at my comment about my aunt?

Which of my statements suggested to you the world-view you attributed to her?

(I'd like to understand how I can improve such a narrative in the future. Sometimes they help me to "push aside" abstractions and communicate about the phenomena of being-human-in-the-world.)

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said...

There was nothing in what you said about your Aunt in particular that fit in with my experience of her generation.

It is just difficult for me to relate to the particular kind of individual you are describing.

I find it somewhat jarring.

Hagyan said...

RS: "I find it somewhat jarring."

Do you find Ben-Gurion jarring?

(correct date is '56, BTW.)

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said...

Ben Gurion is more in line with my experience of the post Shoah generation. Though war with the Arabs was a constant affront to pure Zionist spirituality, it by no means removed "redemption" as the organizing theme.

Consider the Declaration of independence, read by Ben Gurion to the people.

May 14, 1948

On May 14, 1948, on the day in which the British Mandate over a Palestine expired, the Jewish People's Council gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum, and approved the following proclamation, declaring the establishment of the State of Israel. The new state was recognized that night by the United States and three days later by the USSR.


ERETZ-ISRAEL [(Hebrew) - the Land of Israel, Palestine] was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.

After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.

Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, ma'pilim [(Hebrew) - immigrants coming to Eretz-Israel in defiance of restrictive legislation] and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country's inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.

In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.

This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.

The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people - the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe - was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations.

Hagyan said...

That takes me back to my memory of having the "riot act" read to me. I was told the story of the impasse between Shapira and Mapam over the clause that became "מתוך ביטחון בצור ישראל". After that, with unforgettable anguish:
"The trouble with the religious is that they think they can have 'אלוקי ישראל' before they have 'צור ישראל'. The trouble with the secular is that they think the goyim have 'צור ישראל'. They refuse to learn from the Shoah."

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said...

There is something very suggestive about that interpretation of "צור"

The sense of "צור" relates to a conceptual thread I am pursuing in R. Kapach's lectures on the Moreh Nevuchim (both his accent and his presentation of Rambam are unbelievable btw).

Hagyan said...

RS, Could it be that we have been miscommunicating over a kind of "figure-ground" -- or soma-soul -- difference in the possible meanings of 'material security' ('MS')?

MS-1: The fantasy that drives Wall Street.

MS-2: What I hear from investment bankers over a cup of coffee about what they lack that pains their souls.

The MS-1 Gestalt instates a "world" in which there could not possibly be Yad Hashem, so it can't be what your psukim refer to.

MS-2 is what my aunt wants, but she finds no-one credibly offering it.

Hagyan said...

P.S. Possibly this comes back to moonlight1021's first comment about the "the nature of material needs"?

Hagyan said...

RS: "[T]here is an important sense in which the scientific community sees building a reactor in a totally different light, in a sense of "redemption" and "Simcha" that cannot be shared with the public at large."

The sense can most definitely be shared. No-one is born a scientist; not even Avraham avinu could have been born a scientist. Virtually everywhere the chasm is narrowed or bridged, it is by sustained personal contact of a specific kind, as it was in my case, notwithstanding several of my disabilities. I observe that mere cultural attachment to a priori categories -- in particular the strange belief that scientists are good only for "science" -- usually trumps the mitsva:


ג [ב] מצות עשה להידבק בחכמים, כדי ללמוד ממעשיהם: שנאמר "ובו תדבק" (דברים י,כ), וכי אפשר לאדם להידבק בשכינה; אלא כך אמרו חכמים בפירוש מצוה זו, הידבק בחכמים ותלמידיהם. לפיכך צריך אדם להשתדל שיישא בת תלמיד חכמים, וישיא בתו לתלמיד חכמים, ולאכול ולשתות עם תלמידי חכמים, ולעשות פרקמטיה לתלמידי חכמים, ולהתחבר להן בכל מיני חיבור--שנאמר "ולדובקה בו" (דברים יא,כב; דברים ל,כ; יהושוע כב,ה). וכן ציוו חכמים ואמרו, והוי מתאבק בעפר רגליהם, ושותה בצמא את דבריהם.


These needlessly limiting control-beliefs appear to be as tragically prevalent in the irreligious and non-Jewish communities as they are in our own community.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said...


I think the mitzva of "bo tidbak' presupposes a man who can translate his yedia into a form of dvarim that is in lashon bnei adam.

To me, this means he can and does communicate to Jews in the language of pesukim and mitzva, as the people currently understand the language of pesukim and mitzva.

Rambam is an example of such a man.

I do not see how the current scientific community as such men.

Before there can be a community which responds to the Chachamim with ubo tibbak, there must be a leadership led awakening as in David's statement. Ma ahavti toratecha kol hayom hi sichati. The translation of yedia in sicha of David in tehillim and other places awakened the people, then they sought bo tidbak.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said...

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, הָאֵל, אָב הָרַחֲמָן, הַמְהֻלָּל בְּפִי עַמּוֹ, מְשֻׁבָּח וּמְפֹאָר בִּלְשׁוֹן חסידיו וַעֲבָדָיו וּבְשִׁירֵי דָוִד עַבְדֶּךָ נְהַלֶּלְךָ
יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ בִּשְׁבָחוֹ וּבִזְמִירוֹ בִּשְׁבָחוֹת וּבִזְמִירוֹת , וּנְגַדֶּלְךָ וּנְשַׁבֵּחֲךָ וּנְפָאֶרְךָ, וְנַמְלִיכְךָ וְנַזְכִּיר שִׁמְךָ מַלְכֵּנוּ אֱלֹהֵינוּ

Hagyan said...

RS: "To me, this means he can and does communicate to Jews in the language of pesukim and mitzva, as the people currently understand the language of pesukim and mitzva."
[emphasis added]

The physicist should change how the people understand the language of psukim and mitsvot, insofar as his knowledge of physics and knowledge of veritable reasoning apply; he's the only one who can do that. Lashon bnei adam has to be constantly -- in every generation -- superintended by those who grasp the causal order; this superintending is the principal function that fails under conditions of galut, such as the present day.

This superintended system of meanings is what Plato calls the nomos, which is a necessary co-condition for having a system of laws at nation-scale (the nomoi) that guide the citizenry-at-large toward the causal order.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said...


You say about the relationship of the political role of the physical scientist to Talmud Torah:

The physicist should change how the people understand the language of psukim and mitsvot, insofar as his knowledge of physics and knowledge of veritable reasoning apply; he's the only one who can do that. Lashon bnei adam has to be constantly -- in every generation -- superintended by those who grasp the causal order.

If you mean by "Physicist" one like Rambam and if you mean by "changing" Lashon Bnei Adam, the explanation process of Mishne Torah and the system of selecting the true sense in equivocal meanings of Moreh Nevuchim, then I agree.

I do not think it is possible to do any more than illustrate in the unique example of Rambam.

Trying to root the meaning of your statement in any person other than Rambam or in any context other than Rambam's system of Talmud Torah texts, will move us in the wrong direction.

Hagyan said...

WRT the mitsva ("ובו תדבק"; I addressed earlier ...

Please reflect on the following question: What can a sub-Einsteinian, or sub-sub-Einsteinian, but living physicist offer you that a dead physicist cannot?