Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Corporealism Redux, part I

I would like to respond to Levi Notik's well-written response to my article.

I believe the entire approach underlying this proof suffers from a gross methodological error. The mistake is to assume that we can prove anything from what Rashi didn’t say. There are, theoretically, an infinite number of possibilities as to why Rashi declined to make a particular comment. I will admit that it is interesting to try to understand why Rashi went to lengths to negate anthropomorphic expressions employed in reference to God in certain cases, while he neglected to do so in other cases. But this question, as fascinating as it is, cannot properly serve as a proof for what Rashi held in any positive sense.

We cannot conclusively prove something from what Rashi didn't say. But, amongst the infinite number of possibilities as to why he didn't say something, there are possibilities that are more reasonable and possibilities that are less reasonable. And those explanations that are more straightforward and less complex are more likely to be correct.
I would like to give a mashal (it can be nitpicked, but please take the point!) Suppose one were to pick up a new book about rabbis, and one were to find that all the rabbis who are deceased have ztz"l written after their names, but the Lubavitcher Rebbe does not have that written after his name. There are an infinite number of possibilities as to why. It is possible, but extremely unlikely, that the author wrote zatzal and that when he wasn't watching, someone came to his computer and erased it. It is possible that he was never told that the Rebbe died. It is more likely, however, that he is meshichist Chabad. If we see that the book is introduced with a quote from Tanya, this makes it even more likely.
Thus, I must firmly disagree with Levi's assessment, but simultaneously to stress that what I am talking about is not "proof" in the absolute sense but rather arguments. And from the fact that Rashi takes pains to stress non-literalness in certain instances, the glaring omission in other types of cases makes it likely that he interpreted them literally.

R. Slifkin made the point in the beginning of his article that the onus is actually on those who claim that Rashi was a “non-corporealist” given, as the Ramban points out, the widespread belief in France in the corporeality of God.

That is not what I said. What I said was that ACCORDING to the testimony of Ramban AND R. Shmuel ben Mordechai of Marseilles regarding the prevalence of this view in France, the onus of proof would PERHAPS be upon one claiming that Rashi was not a corporealist. I really dislike it when people quote me inaccurately!
Given Rabbi Kanarfogel's clarification of R. Shmuel ben Mordechai's statement, I don't think that it's possible to conclude either way regarding whether corporealism was prevalent or not. Given this, I don't think that one can have a starting assumption that Rashi was either corporealist nor non-corporealist. Before bringing any arguments, one must simply say that we don't know.

Firstly, it is a tremendous mistake to simply take a historical figure, perform a cursory review of the generally accepted beliefs during his time, and apply that popular outlook to the individual in question.

Actually I would say that it is perfectly valid to say that a person is likely to share the beliefs of his intellectual community. It is perfectly valid to say that a person in Kiryat Sefer is likely to be charedi and that a person in 12th century Spain is likely to value philosophy.

This is even truer for Rashi who was a giant among the Rishonim. The Rishonim are famous for obstinately refusing to follow the prevailing winds. This is in fact the hallmark of the great Rishonim, who guarded the true mesorah without regard for popular opinion.

This forum is not the Yated. What do you mean that Rashi was a "giant"? You can't make such a broad statement without qualifying it. In his breadth of knowledge? Grammatical skills? Philosophical sophistication?

And what do you mean about the Rishonim being famous for refusing to follow popular opinion? Why do you think that most of the early Sephardic Rishonim greatly valued philosophy, poetry, and literature? Do you think that it is mere coincidence that these were the values of Greco-Muslim culture? Besides, we are talking about "popular opinion" amongst Torah scholars, not the illiterate masses.

Secondly, even it were true that Rashi believed God is corporeal, it would still be a preposterous exaggeration/misnomer to, therefore, refer to Rashi as a “corporealist.” The term implies an “ism,” e.g. Rashi subscribed to corporealism. Can anyone seriously believe that, though in all of his comments throughout the Torah, the Neviim, the Kesuvim, or the Talmud Rashi never openly tells that he believes that God is physical, that, nonetheless Rashi is a corporealist? Clearly, even if Rashi did have some sort of physical conception of God, it must not have formed any essential part of his philosophical system such that we could refer to him as a “corporealist.”

Rashi does not teach any sort of philosophical system! The Sefardic Rishonim presented philosophical systems. Rashi did not. He was a French commentator. I brought dozens of his comments from across his commentary which fit well with the notion that he had a corporeal view of God. One would not expect him to write an essay on it; it's just not his style.

If Rashi were a corporealist, which would mean he subscribed to corporealism, then we would expect Rashi to battle the non-believers head on.

That's very strange. Above you were insisting that we can't prove anything from what Rashi DOESN'T say. Now you are doing exactly that!

In any case, the opposite is true. Given that many verses in the Torah give the impression of corporealism, and many people at the time believed as such, then if Rashi were opposed to this view, we would expect him to explain that these verses should not be understood that way, especially since he does so with many other verses that he feels are being grievously misunderstood if interpreted according to their plain meaning.

Throughout the wealth of Rishonic works that make up the core of our Torah
She’beal Peh, we see unanimity regarding the belief in God’s absolute incorporeality.


Absolutely wrong. Have you read all the sources in Shapiro's book? Have you forgotten about Raavad's statement that “greater and better people than Rambam” were corporealists? The reason why we have far more WRITINGS against corporealism than in favor of it is that the anti-corporealists were from Sepharadic lands where there was an emphasis on studying and writing philosophy. To speak about "unanimity" regarding incorporealism means that you are simply avoiding the facts.

Do you really think that R. Avraham ben HaRambam would laud Rashi’s fundamental philosophy was that God is physical? ...And, on the contrary, it is near impossible to imagine that someone who R. Avraham ben HaRambam spoke highly of was a “corporealist.”

Where does he laud his "fundamental philosophy"? Besides, he never met him! I already explained why Rashi's position on this is not something that would emerge unless one were actively studying all of his comments in light of this question.

I will continue my response in another post. Meanwhile, I will make the observation that you appear to be very strongly ideologically biased against the idea that Rashi was a corporealist, as well as ignoring much of the evidence regarding theological attitudes of the Rishonim. The idea that Rishonim were all intellectual giants in every domain, that they were unanimous in their agreement with Rambam's principles, that they were a basically homogenous group, that they were not at all affected by the surrounding culture, is a viewpoint that is prevalent in the Orthodox world, but it is not supported by historical evidence!

68 comments:

  1. "Given Rabbi Kanarfogel's clarification of R. Shmuel ben Mordechai's statement,"

    can you explain this?

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  2. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Once again, I thank you for your openness in debating these issues with an assorted group of people, in public!

    And, once again I must beg that you address a point that I made as an aside to the other issue and that has come up again in your response to Levi Notik. You rebuke Levi for having " forgotten" what the Ra'avad said about " gedolim vtuvim memenu",

    To continually refer to this quote and to use it as a cudgell to try to beat back your questioners , WITHOUT, addressing the a) Kesef Mishna's astonishment that FORCED him to throw out the girsa and b) the Ra'avad's own statements even if you keep the initial girsa that these people had distorted views, is not fair. I would hope that since this issue is continually brought into play that you will shed light on your understanding of the Ra'avad in question! If there are questions on this Ra'avad itself, then how can you so freely accuse Levi of "forgetting" about it? I am sad to see that this has happened in the same breath that you accuse Levi of " avoiding the Facts"!

    Again, to be absolutely clear, you must address the Kesef Mishna's problem with the Ra'avad's statment, clearly Rav Karo thought this statement to be of such dubious nature that he tossed it in favor of a separate girsa of the Ra'avad, and even if you are somehow forced to keep this girsa, how do you answer " Hameshabshim et Hadeot" clearly this is the Ra'avad chastising those who held from the notion of Corporeality,how then is this Ra'avad continually used as a proof of anything against your questioners?

    I hope that in the interest of truth you address my, perhaps minor, questions and the words of the Kesef Mishna.

    Jake Adler

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  3. "I brought dozens of his comments from across his commentary which fit well with the notion that he had a corporeal view of God."

    As long as they can also fit with the notion that God did not have a corporeal body then you haven't succeeded.

    I confess that while I have read the article I haven't had the chance to plumb its depths, but my cursory reading is that Rashi's "decision" on when to comment and not to comment in objecting to anthropomorical language would fit with the Ravaad's position (who was not a corporealist).

    Likewise Levi Notik noted that some of the language that you identify as "fitting" with corporealism is shared with the non-corporealist Ramban.

    More importantly is will your follow up article on they can say it but we can't done and ready to print in the next volume?

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  4. "Given Rabbi Kanarfogel's clarification of R. Shmuel ben Mordechai's statement,"

    can you explain this?


    See the comments on the earlier posts.

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  5. a) Kesef Mishna's astonishment that FORCED him to throw out the girsa

    Is this any different from R. Yaakov Emden's astonishment that forced him to conclude that parts of the Moreh were forged, or Rav Moshe Shapiro's astonishment that forced him to conclude that Rav Hirsch's letters were forged? How much did the Kesef Mishnah know about the theological views of Jews in 12th century France?

    and even if you are somehow forced to keep this girsa, how do you answer " Hameshabshim et Hadeot" clearly this is the Ra'avad chastising those who held from the notion of Corporeality

    Eh? I'm not claiming that Raavad was a corporealist; I am pointing out that he attests that people who were, in his opinion, greater than Rambam, were corporealists.

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  6. As long as they can also fit with the notion that God did not have a corporeal body then you haven't succeeded.

    The question is which they fit better with.

    More importantly is will your follow up article on they can say it but we can't done and ready to print in the next volume?

    It's done; I have to decide whether to submit to Hakirah or simply release it on my website.

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  7. "It's done; I have to decide whether to submit to Hakirah or simply release it on my website."

    Yirmiahu's not the most patient guy, I think that should be an over riding consideration in your decision.

    Of course It would probably make a bigger splash at Hakira

    "The question is which they fit better with."

    High subjectivity added to a what is likely an argument from silence. I think the Rashi/Ramban shared language severely undermines such analysis. Again, only having skimmed the article.

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  8. Try not skimming it, but instead reading it thoroughly, carefully, and objectively!

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  9. "Try not skimming it, but instead reading it thoroughly, carefully, and objectively!"

    I intend to but the bulk of my day I am unable to pursue such matters. I have not seen you make a serious attempt to distinguish between your methodology (at least for most of the quotes) and an argument from silence which is an informal logical fallacy, otherwise I might make it a higher priority. Frankly I highly doubt that you would accept that I read it objectively unless I came to your conclusion.

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  10. Found here:
    http://hitzeiyehonatan.blogspot.com/2007/07/vaethanan-rashi.html

    "Arthur Green, in an extremely interesting article published several decades ago (“The Children in Egypt and the Theophany at the Sea,” Judaism 24:4 [no. 96; Fall 1976], 446-456) discusses a midrash in which the Israelite children thrown into the Nile at Pharaoh’s order were kept alive miraculously by a mysterious, handsome young man who fed them and cared for them; years later, at the splitting of the Sea, they recognized this same figure in the God who redeemed them, and declared “This is my God and I will extol Him” (Exod Rab. 23.8). Green elaborates there upon the more concrete, non-philosophical conception of God, as one enjoying equal validity in the traditional sources. All of which is to suggest that the Maimonidean theology we take so much for granted is not the only option."

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  11. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Thank you for addressing my question, as a point of clarification, I was not accusing you of accusing the Ra'avad of corporealism, I wanted to point out that it seems that there are questions on this Ra'avad, you have now demonstrated why you do not heed these questions, that was my ONLY point, thank you for clarifying your position, I greatly appreaciate it once again. Good shabbos

    Jake Adler

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  12. I have not seen you make a serious attempt to distinguish between your methodology (at least for most of the quotes) and an argument from silence which is an informal logical fallacy, otherwise I might make it a higher priority.

    Well, read the article, and you'll see that it's much more than just an argument from silence.

    Frankly I highly doubt that you would accept that I read it objectively unless I came to your conclusion.

    Absolutely false. What I do believe, however, is that most frum Jews are not objective in this regard. If a non-Jewish or secular scholar of medieval Jewish history were to read my article and disagree, I would see no reason to consider him not objective. But a frum Jew who has been brought up with the idea of Rishonim k'Malachim, and the idea that it is ludicrous and heretical to believe that God has physical form, is obviously very biased.

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  13. Alex, terrific link, thank you!

    (by the way, are you Alex from England?)

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  14. Rabbi Slifkin,
    I have been following the ongoing discussion with great interest. However as there are currently over 100 comments on the various posts I thought it might be worth summarizing where the argument stands at the moment (According to my understanding). Again the arguments contained within are thanks to Rabbi Zucker, Levi Notik and the other thoughtful commentators.
    The original article was based on the following line of reasoning

    Before any evidence was presented the following was laid out as a preparation for the article - A large number of French Rabbis believed God was corporeal (as testified to by Rav Moshe Trani, Rav Moshe Taku, Ramban, Raavad and Rav Shmuel Ben Mordechai); hence it would be reasonable to assume that Rashi was a member of that camp. If anything this would be evidence for Rashi being a corporealist, since if the majority of French rabbis held that view Rashi was probably a member of the majority. However it is not conclusive merely a starting point.

    In response to this a number of issues were clarified, The Ramban had heard rumors of the presence of such a view in France, and marginalized that view as not being held by the main Rabbis of France. Rav Shmuel Bar Mordechai in claiming that the majority of French scholars were corporealists was basing himself on incorporeality in the strongest negative theology sense, hence including views such as God having emotions etc. leaving the number of Rabbis having a view of God as actually having a body undisclosed. The Raavad is subject to numerous interpretations, e.g. see Kesef Mishnah. Hence this testimony as to the state of affairs in France is shaky at best.
    Furthermore it was mentioned that the one actual testimony from province we have concerning Rashi’s beliefs stated that Rashi was an incorporealist. Furthermore we have the statement of the Machzor Vitry (a student of Rashi) that anyone who is a corporealist is a heretic, this same student quotes Rashi constantly leaving it strongly unlikely that Rashi was a heretic in his view. Also all of the ‘evidence’ to the presence of corporealists in France is from after Rashi’s lifetime hence not necessarily a portrayal of French beliefs in his lifetime. In fact the article presents an unclear vision of the state of this position in Rashi’s time since it says Simchah of Vitry (Rashi’s student) denied corporealism since they had become extinct in his time, in addition to his being a contemporary of Rashi, all evidence towards the presence (in some unknown degree) of corporealism was after Rashi and Rav Simcha of Vitry’s lifetime (other then the second hand reference of Rav Moshe Taku about “a student of Rashi”)

    Hence unlike at first claimed the number of Torah Scholars in France subscribing to God having a physical form is unknown, of the ones who maintained this view none are major Rishonim insofar as the Mesorah is concerned and any evidence we have with regard to Rashi in specific points to him being an incorporealist.
    Also the Ramban, Rav Avraham Ben HaRambam and other great Rishonim, all considered Rashi to be an incorporealist even though they knew about the presence of corporealists in France. Hence to claim he was a corporealist means many great minds that directed their attention to Rashi never uncovered this fact.


    continued in next comment

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  15. continuation

    Now we arrive at the actual ‘evidence’ presented

    1. Conspicuous absence - Rashi only occasionally chooses to comment on phrases being metaphorical so he probably takes the rest of them literally. Furthermore he quotes Midrashim, which when taken literally indicate a corporeal view of God without qualification. The cases Rashi chooses to comment on are claimed to follow a pattern based on distancing God from weakness.

    In response to this a number of things were pointed out. First of all judging from an absence is inherently a difficult thing to do. This is doubly true for Rashi since he is often a very sparse writer. The only way to know for sure why he left something out would be to ask him.
    In specific, numerous other explanations of Rashi’s silence were presented. Along with other explanations of the pattern of cases that Rashi decided to comment on; explanations, which would be in line with incorporealism.
    Also the Rashi on Exodus 15:8 and Deut. 29:19 (both quoted in the article) do not fit in with the pattern of removing human weakness thus strengthening some of the other suggestions.
    Also the fact that Rashi quotes Midrashim without clarifying makes sense considering his interest in Pshat as opposed to deep philosophical discourse, he is quoting a midrash to resolve a problem in pshat leaving the reader the job of interpreting the Midrashim.

    2. Euphemisms – Since Rashi explains Onkeles on 33:22 as being Derech Kavod; it must be that Rashi held that there is no problem from a simple point of view in God having a literal hand. Similarly Rashi interprets Onkeles on Exodus 19:4 as also being out of respect.

    In response to this it was pointed out that Rashi on Exodus 19:4 is agreeing with Onkeles, the meaning of changing it out of respect is precisely that a literal interpretation would be disrespectful to God since it would indicate physicality. It was also pointed out the Rambam uses the same phrase “Derech Kavod” to mean exactly this. Also we again would have to assume that Ramban, who endorses these very comments of Rashi, completely misunderstood the meaning of Rashi’s comments.

    3. Descent – Rashi on Gen. 11:5 quotes a midrash about God descending to Sedom without qualifying it, hence he probably takes it literally. He also removed a Midrash from the Haggadah since it indicated that God could be harmed as opposed to taking it out because it indicates God’s corporeality.

    In response it was again pointed out that we do not know when Rashi chooses to make a comment, and when he abstains, furthermore we know his intention is not to interpret midrashim, but only to bring them to resolve pshat, (Ion a side case may point to a noncorporeal view since if God literally descended what is the Pshat problem? However if he did not then we understand the need for the Midrash)
    In terms of Rashi’s removal from the Haggadah for a different reason does not mean he didn’t hold of this problem, rather Rashi mentioned one major problem, which is sufficient cause to have it removed from the Haggadah. Once it is removed from this reason no further discussion is necessary, furthermore Rashi may have read this Midrash like all of the numerous cases in Mikrah that refer to God descending (but can be interpreted metaphorically) unlike Rav Elbo who distinguishes.

    continued in next comment

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  16. continued from last comment

    4. Talmudic Anthropomorphisms – Rashi says on Makkos 12a that angels bleeding is metaphorical, hence since he doesn’t mention it in reference to God on any of the many cases of divine anthropomorphisms he must take the literally.
    4a. In the case of hanging in Sanhedrin 46b Rashi explains the Gemara by saying that man was created “B’Dyukno” of God, by not making any statement to qualify this he indicates a corporeal position.
    4b. Rashi on Chagigah 2a speaks about God’s 2 eyes, even though the Torah also uses this term (and the incorporealists have no difficulty interpreting it figuratively) Rashi uses it in a Halachic context and therefore it probably is literal.

    In response to this it was pointed out again that Rashi’s not commenting could be attributed to multiple causes. For example since angels appear in human form (according to many of the Rishonim) maybe Rashi thought that you legitimately might think that angels can bleed, hence he is explaining pshat in the Midrash.
    In terms of 4a: It was pointed out that all of the incorporealists also learned this Gemara and had no problem learning it metaphorically. Also the term ‘Dyukno’ does not necessarily indicate corporeality as the Ramban (in Torat HaAdam) among others uses the term also without specifically qualifying it.
    In terms of 4b No explanation of why the halachik context means that it is literal. The Rambam learns that Vehalachta Bedrachav is a halachic requirement calling upon the full spectrum of nonliteral, corporeal references to God. Hence Rashi could easily be expressing the mechanism of the Drasha without getting into philosophical issues. Furthermore the quote from Rabbenu Tam which “proves” Rashi meant it literally in fact proves the opposite, why didn’t he object on much simpler grounds that Rashi’s interpretation indicates that God has physical eyes which (according to Rabbenu Tam) is heresy. In fact Rabbenu Tam also learns it refers to God’s 2 eyes and he definitely did not mean that literally.

    5. Decomposing face – Rashi on Moed Katan 15, explains Demut Dyukno as referring to the face decomposing. Hence he takes an overly literal view of this Gemara.

    In response to this it was pointed out that all of the commentators learn this Gemara and hence it is interpretable metaphorically. It was pointed out that Rashi was pushed to focus on the face due to the meaning of ‘Dyukon’ a term, which, again, is used, by Ramban and others, also an explanation of this Rashi along noncorporeal terms was developed.



    At this point the argument seems to rest on the possible presence of large number of corporealits among the French Rabbis, on statements Rashi should have made and on statements he made which the Incorporealists also use.

    continued in next comment

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  17. continued from last comment


    Additionally a number of pieces of evidence were brought to support the idea of Rashi being an incorporealist (in addition to the explicit testimony to this effect stated earlier)

    1. Rashi on Yeshaya 43:12 (in conjunction with Rashi on Yeshaya 43:12 and on Devarim 4:35) which says that we are witnesses to the fact that there is no image, and that we are witnesses to the exclusivity of God. While corporealists might interpret the verse in Devarim to mean you saw no image, even though God has one, they would not be able to tie it to Atem Eidai, Rashi is not subject to such an interpretation since he does tie these two ideas by saying that you saw no image whatsoever and were able to testify, if God could hide his image so could anything else and we wouldn’t be able to testify to either the lack of image or the lack of any other being, however if God is in fact nonphysical then such testimony would be valid. You countered that this is based on the Rambam’s logical understanding of the connection between God’s oneness and his incorporeality and Rashi didn’t think in those terms. As pointed out numerous times Rashi is not writing a philosophy book and this idea does not need mastery of the Aristotelian position but is based on straightforward logic hence it is plausible that Rashi thought of it without studying Aristotle.
    2. Rashi on Vayikra 1:9 interprets the verse “A pleasant aroma” in a nonliteral way, in line with Onkelos. In fact the Sifsei Chachamim gives this very reason for Rashi’s interpretation
    3. Rashi in Shemos 33:22-23 which as mentioned earlier in fact supports a non-corporeal view.
    4. The Machzor Vitry who definitely knew Rashi’s view does not label Rashi a heretic, despite his position that maintaining corporeality is heresy.

    In addition to all of the above it was repeated numerous times that insofar as incorporeality was accepted by all mainstream Rishonim, many of whom held that those who argued are heretics, while those who maintained God’s corporeality were positions of Rabbis who we have no evidence of their acceptance as Baalei Mesorah, claiming that Rashi, one of the greatest of the Baalei Mesorah in the Rishonic period, held by a view which was rejected by the Mesorah needs heavy evidence to support it.

    Again thank you for providing this discussion forum. I hope that you send a follow-up article or at least a letter to be published in Hakirah with the updated evidence based on these discussions.

    Also If I misrepresented yours or anyone else's position please clear it up I am merely trying to summarize the discussion till this point so everyone can have all of the evidence presented thus far in front of them.

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  18. Joshua, you have summarized my opponent's views superbly, but you have utterly failed to do justice to mine. I haven't got time to write everything out again. Please review the comments. For example, in the arguments from silence, it is not stam an argument from silence, but rather conspicuous silence contrasted with stressed commentary in other contexts. And I most certainly did account for Rashi on Exodus 15:8 and Deut. 29:19! In fact, they support my thesis. Your other comments likewise demonstrate a misreading or misunderstanding of my position. Please read carefully what I wrote about Rashi to Exodus 33:22, and contrast it to other Rashis dealing with anthropomorphisms, where he says "dibra Torah." I did not say that Rashi sees himself as arguing with Onkelos! He sees himself as agreeing. But it is the way that he presents it which is revealing.

    And as for your comment that "simple logic" connects incorporeality and oneness - where on earth do you get this from? And what about all the corporealists? Did they not believe that God is one?

    In summary, while you claim to be summarizing the discussion, in fact you are distinctly giving full voice to my disputants and ignoring or playing down my responses. Hardly an objective summary.

    One final comment regarding your final statement:

    "...Rashi, one of the greatest of the Baalei Mesorah in the Rishonic period, held by a view which was rejected by the Mesorah..."

    Please don't take offense, but I find that your terms are very non-rationalist and meaningless from a dispassionate academic standpoint. One of "the greatest of the Baalei Mesorah"? What does that even mean? The greatest of Biblical commentators, yes, but what does that have to do with theology? You seem unaware or unwilling to face up to the enormous cultural differences between France and Spain.

    In general, your comments seem reflective of a general attitude amongst the frum commentors here, which in turn demonstrate what to me is the fundamental problem: discussing controversial issues of medieval theology with people working within a traditionalist framework. Just as many people cannot imagine that Marc Shapiro's basic point could possibly be true, so too even frum people who are a little more enlightened have a deep bias against the idea that Rashi could have held a view that is against our mesorah.

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  19. One more example. You say that "The Raavad is subject to numerous interpretations, e.g. see Kesef Mishnah." This is an objective summary of the discussion?! Did you not see my response to that? It's like including in a summary of the controversy over my books a statement that "the letters from Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam/ Rav Hirsch are subject to numerous intepretations, e.g. see Rav Moshe Shapiro that they are forgeries."

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  20. This Alex (pseudonym) is from America.
    Cheerio!

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  21. I'm suprised that this Rashi wasn't mentioned in the article or in the subsequent discussions. Here's another case where Rashi brings images of G-d as a person to explain pshat when not strongly warranted by the pasuk at hand.


    Exodus 20:2

    2. "I am the Lord, your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

    Rashi:
    Who took you out of the land of Egypt: The taking [you] out [of Egypt] is sufficient reason for you to be subservient to Me. Alternatively, [God mentions the Exodus] since He revealed Himself at the sea as a valiant warrior, and here He revealed Himself as an old man full of mercy, as it is said: “and beneath His feet was like the form of a brick of sapphire” (Exod. 24:10). That [brick] was before Him at the time of the enslavement. And [He also revealed himself as] “like the appearance of the heavens” (Exod. 24:10), when they were redeemed. Since I change in appearances, do not say that they are two domains. [Rather,] I am [both] He Who took you out of Egypt and [He Who was] by the sea (Mechilta).

    אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים: כדאי היא ההוצאה שתהיו משועבדים לי. דבר אחר לפי שנגלה בים כגבור מלחמה, ונגלה כאן כזקן מלא רחמים, שנאמר (שמות כד י) ויראו את אלוהי ישראל ותחת רגליו כמעשה לבנת הספיר, זו היתה לפניו בשעת השעבוד, (שם) וכעצם השמים, משנגאלו, הואיל ואני משתנה במראות אל תאמרו שתי רשויות הן, אנכי הוא אשר הוצאתיך ממצרים ועל הים.

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  22. Rabbi Slifkin,
    Anyone who knows me will be very amused to hear that I was labeled 'frum'.

    I am sorry that you did not agree with my summary, I chose not to elaborate on your position since it is very clearly laid out in the article and hence does not need elaboration, the comments on the other hand lacks the ordered presentation which the article presents and hence there is a benefit in placing them in the context of the article.

    In terms of the specific points you raise, you accounted for Exodus 15:8 and Deut. 29:19 as not contradictory to your position however you did not explain how they fit into your theory of the general pattern of when Rashi comments on the nonliteralness of pesukim.

    Likewise you gave an explanation for the Rashi in Exodus 33:22 in line with your view. However as Levi pointed out the Ramban definitely had a way of understanding that Rashi as he accepts it, Levi also presented a possible approach to explaining it. Hence while it is not a strong proof against you it can definitely be read either way.

    What I meant by the comment about "simple logic" I did not mean that the corporealists do not have a way of explaining God's oneness but rather that one doesn't have to be an Aristotelian to see a connection. (also worth pointing out the christians see the idea of the trinity as being completely in line with God's oneness, something whic the Ramban famously points out the foolishness of)

    In terms of the Raavad, while the Kesef Mishnah does prefer an alternate text (of the Sefer HaIkarim) he says that even according to our text it means the same thing as the alternate text, hence to bring the Raavad as proof of the state of affairs in France is difficult since his comment AS WE HAVE IT is subject to interpretation. Hence this is not comparable to someone claiming that the Rav Avraham Ben HaRambam or Rav Hirsh's letter is a forgery.

    In term's of my labeling Rashi as one of the great Baalei Mesorah, I was pointing out that the consensus of the Rabbis of the Mesorah over the generations was that Rashi was not a corporealist otherwise he would have been rejected as a heretic. To overturn this conclusion reached by many experts in Rashi we need strong evidence. In general none of the Corporealists of France have been accepted by the mesorah in any simiar manner (for example how many people would have heard of Rabbi Moshe Taku except for his view on God's corporality)

    In terms of the difference of France vs. Spain I have only minimal awareness of the differences although I am aware of the different attitude towards philosophy and different style of writing. However with regards to corporeality I was under the impression that Rabbi Kanarfogel, who you based your claim of widespread acceptance of corporeality in france, clarified that in fact there is no evidence that the idea that God has a body was in fact widely accepted in France. Hence the differences between France and Spain do not seem relevant.

    In general you have shown that many of Rashi's comments could be an expression of corporeality however you have not shown any quotes which are not explainable as being expressions of incorporeality. (Just as the Pesukim could be read as indicators of Corporeality But the Rambam, Ramban, etc. do not take them as such.)

    Again thank you for providing this forum for open discussion and taking the time to respond.

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  23. I chose not to elaborate on your position since it is very clearly laid out in the article and hence does not need elaboration

    Ah. In that case you should have made it clear that you were summarizing my opponent's views rather than give the impression that you were providing an objective summary of the discussion.

    you accounted for Exodus 15:8 and Deut. 29:19 as not contradictory to your position however you did not explain how they fit into your theory of the general pattern of when Rashi comments on the nonliteralness of pesukim.

    Yes, I did!!!

    the consensus of the Rabbis of the Mesorah over the generations was that Rashi was not a corporealist otherwise he would have been rejected as a heretic.

    As I said, I doubt that anyone ever explored the topic and compared Rashi's comments in various places to reach a conclusion.
    You might as well say that the consensus of the Rabbis of the Mesorah over the generations was that Rambam believed in hashgachah pratis. That is true; however there is a very, very strong case for saying that he didn't (in the way that they understand it).

    Hence the differences between France and Spain do not seem relevant.

    They are enormously relevant for how one approaches the entire topic. In fact I think that there is nothing more important.

    In general you have shown that many of Rashi's comments could be an expression of corporeality however you have not shown any quotes which are not explainable as being expressions of incorporeality.

    I made it clear in my article that every single quote COULD, in theory, be reconciled with incorporeality. But I am concerned with what is more likely and what is less likely; what requires more of a kvetch and what requires less of a kvetch.

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  24. "you accounted for Exodus 15:8 and Deut. 29:19 as not contradictory to your position however you did not explain how they fit into your theory of the general pattern of when Rashi comments on the nonliteralness of pesukim.

    Yes, I did!!!"

    I apologize if I missed it in the multitude of comments, however in the article itself this is all you said on these two verses:

    "One might think that Rashi is telling us that the “nostrils” are allegorical;
    that God has no nose and thus no human form. However,
    careful reading indicates that the emphasis appears to be on the
    breath emerging from the nostrils, not the nostrils themselves: “when
    a person becomes angry, wind emerges from his nostrils.” Furthermore,
    if Rashi wished to tell us that God does not possess actual nostrils,
    why does he not make the same point when the Torah speaks of
    God’s hand, feet, face, back, etc? It therefore seems that Rashi does
    not say that the nose is figurative; rather, he says that the idea of
    breath emerging from the nostrils, as with a flesh-and-blood human,
    is figurative.35"

    You explain why it is not full evidence for the incorporeal view of Rashi but not how it fits with your general approach to when Rashi explains a reference to God figuratively (i.e. "when it portrays God as being subject to exhaustion, physical
    toil, or being secondary in power to His creations.")

    Rereading the article I also noticed that your quotes from Rashi on Leviticus 17:10 and Rashi on Deuteronomy 32:40 also don't seem to fit with Rashi only distancing quotes which make Him appear weak or subject to toil. Would you explain how these 4 comments fit into your general approach?

    Again if I missed a comment where you already explained this I apologize, please point me to that comment.

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  25. Sorry, I wasn't explicit. What I meant was that according to the corporeal view of God described by Rid, God is of ethereal form - not made out of flesh-and-blood - so his nostrils would not smoke. Saying that his nostrils actually smoke would imply that He is made of flesh-and-blood, ch'v.

    Re. the other quotes - I did indeed explain them in the article, explicitly, on p. 92, in the second paragraph. In those cases, Rashi is not at all dealing with the issue of anthropomorphism - rather, with the issue of translation. Just like when Rashi talks about yad mamash, which has nothing to do with corporealism.

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  26. If you could have an "Ethereal body" why can't you also have "ethereal smoke" coming from the "Ethereal nostrils" ?

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  27. That was the source of my confusion, On pg. 92 you attributed it to translation whereas on pg. 91 you indicate that these two pesukim are a part of the pattern of Rashi avoiding "insulting" phrases about God.

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  28. Did you ever theorize how big God is according to Rashi?
    As big as mountain?
    Bigger than the universe? (which would make Him impossible to see, even if one /could/ see ethereal stuff)

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  29. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I have just two thoughts to contribute to the discussion at hand:

    1)Rashi's comments on "let Us make man in Our image, after our likeness" strongly suggest an incorporeal conception of God.

    As I am sure you know, he renders "our image" as "bidefus shelanu", in other words, not the image of God but an image fashioned by God in which to mold man. And he translates "after our likeness" as "to comprehend and to understand".

    If he were in fact a corporealist, why would Rashi go to such great lengths to sidestep the plain meaning of these words, which is easily reconcilable with a corporeal notion of God?

    2) You commented as follows:

    You might as well say that the consensus of the Rabbis of the Mesorah over the generations was that Rambam believed in hashgachah pratis. That is true; however there is a very, very strong case for saying that he didn't (in the way that they understand it).

    This may be a poor example, or it may prove the opposite of what you intend to demonstrate. In fact, the Rishonim were well aware of the Rambam's views on providence.

    The Ramban cites the Rambam's theory approvingly in the former's commentary on Iyov, and it goes without saying that the rationalist Rishonim and their intellectual heirs among the Aharonim understood his position quite well.

    Indeed, while many disagreed with or rejected the Rambam's approach to these issues, the content of his approach was well known both to his supporters and his detractors.

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  30. Jacob - a body is a shape.

    Phil - no, I never theorized. Maybe that's what Shiur Komah is about.

    Rabbi Maroof - there is a much simpler way to learn that Rashi. "bdfus" means in our form, and "lehavin" is to explain the second term of dmus, as distinct from tzelem.

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  31. I would like to expand a bit on the option I brought up regarding Rashi. I said that Rashi does not address corporeal-seeming verses because that is precisely how Hashem wants us to envision Him while recognizing that it is false.

    Rabbi Slifkin asked:

    Are you suggesting this as a possibility, or saying that Rashi believed it to be false?

    Since this is a view of some Rishonim, I don't see a reason to radicalize Rashi.


    Consider: The Gemara in AZ 43 says that the prohibition of making an image of man is based on לא תעשון אותי. The Ran, (followed by the Beis Yosef, Shach and Taz in Yoreh Deah 144) explain that this means כדמות שאני מתראה בו לנביאים. Considering that the Beis Yosef/Kesef Mishneh went haywire on the Raavad for even raising the possibility that G-d has a form, it is curious that he would quote the Ran as is. It is also quite impossible for the Ran, who lived after the Rambam, to be unaware of the severity of a position of G-d having form. Se we see that Rishonim have no problem with the option of Hashem showing some human form of Himself as a depiction for the Neviim, and, hence, for us to relate to, while knowing it to be false. (See, e.g. Yechezkel 1:26.) See Keli Yakar to Bereishis 1:26 בכל אלו הדמיונות רגיל הוא יתברך להתראות... אע"פ שבאמת אין לו יתברך דמות

    This follows very well with the Rashi to Shemos 20:2 regarding appearing like an old man etc.

    All of the Rashis that refrain from commenting are due to the fact that this is the image shown to the prophets and He wants us to imagine Him, and the reason for "the decomposing face" is not due to G-d actually having a face, but because it is disrespectful to our imagery of Hashem.

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  32. R' Slifkin,

    I don't understand your explanation of the Rashi in Beresheet.

    A "defus" - both in general and the context of the Rashi in question - is an artificially produced mold, like a cookie-cutter, which is designed to impose shape on other entities, and Rashi's introduction of this descriptive term is obviously a way of side-stepping the attribution of a corporeal tzelem to God Himself.

    Moreover, if Rashi had been a corporealist, there is no reason why he should explain "demut" as l'havin ulehaskil, he should have mentioned the purported similarity in bodily form between man and God.

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  33. Thanks for the reference!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shi'ur_Qomah

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  34. Rabbi Maroof - is that how the word defus was used in the times of the Rishonim? In any case, we are talking about the wrong Rashi. The critical Rashi here is to Gen. 1:27-

    “In the image of God He created him” – It explains for you that
    that image which was established for him was the image of the appearance of his Creator.

    Yes, he is using the phrase from the Gemara, but where is the explanation that it is k'vyachol, lesabber es ha'ozen?

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  35. This is a comment from long ago on an earlier post, but I wanted to take it up:

    The clear impression one gets from the Ramban’s letter is that in his view G-D’s incorporeality was held by scholars from ALL Jewish communities, France, Spain and has been a longheld view.

    I checked it again and I see no such thing. On the contrary; while Ramban stresses that the non-corproeal view was standard in other communities, he only cites one or two French scholars as holding this view, and is clearly concerned that there are significant numbers of French scholars who are corporealists.

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  36. Rabbi Slifkin,

    One important correction from the Ramban -- I urge the readers to look up the source in the original -- the Ramban was "clearly concerned because of a RUMOR that he had heard that there may be a number of French scholars who are corporealists." Nowhere does he allude to the fact that he is concerned that there may be a SIGNIFICANT number of French scholars who are corporealists. The interpolation of the word '"significant" number' is something subjective, not contained in anything that the Ramban actually wrote. For an incorporealist -- the Ramban -- even one person maintaining what in the eyes of the Ramban is a heretical view is too many.

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  37. Another verse to consider:

    Ex 24:11. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand, and they perceived God, and they ate and drank.

    Rashi: (and they perceived God) They gazed at Him with levity, while [they were] eating and drinking. So is the [interpretation of] Midrash Tanchuma (Beha’alothecha 16). Onkelos, however, did not render [this clause] in this manner...

    Question: Let's assume Rashi takes the Midrash Tanchuma as referring to God's corporeality and Onkelos as not. Does Rashi normally put the view he agrees with first or second?

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  38. One important correction from the Ramban -- I urge the readers to look up the source in the original -- the Ramban was "clearly concerned because of a RUMOR that he had heard that there may be a number of French scholars who are corporealists." Nowhere does he allude to the fact that he is concerned that there may be a SIGNIFICANT number of French scholars who are corporealists.

    I, too, urge people to look it up in the original. Ramban does not use the word "rumor", with its trivializing connotation. He says that he has heard that "they" attacked Rambam for saying otherwise. He takes this report very seriously and argues against them at great length, whilst still maintaining great respect for them. While it is impossible to know how many people he thinks he is addressing, it is very clearly more than one!

    I have something very important to report. I asked Rabbi Dr. Kanarfogel about what you claim he said, and he says that he has been misrepresented. So I return to my original claim, that according to R. Shmuel ben Mordechai of Marseilles, the majority of Torah scholars in northern France believed in a corporeal God.

    Rabbi Zucker, I would like to ask you a frank question. Do you find it deeply disturbing that a scholar of the caliber of Rashi could be a corporealist?

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  39. I would like to expand a bit on the option I brought up regarding Rashi. I said that Rashi does not address corporeal-seeming verses because that is precisely how Hashem wants us to envision Him while recognizing that it is false. - Mark

    Mark, your suggestion is ingenious. However I see some problems with it. First of all, your description fits much better with those Rashis that do address anthropomorphisms. Hashem wants us to envision Him as resting on Shabbos; that's why the Torah said it that way, lesabber es ha-ozen. If He didn't want us to envision Him that way, He could have used different words.

    Second, according to your approach, why does Rashi need to say that smoking nostrils are not literal?

    Third, claiming that "that is precisely how Hashem wants us to envision Him while recognizing that it is false" begs the question of how are we to recognize that it is false? How could Rashi not mention this very important point anywhere?

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  40. a few further responses to Jacob Trachtman's extremely inaccurate and very one-sided "summary":

    In response to this it was pointed out that Rashi on Exodus 19:4 is agreeing with Onkeles, the meaning of changing it out of respect is precisely that a literal interpretation would be disrespectful to God since it would indicate physicality.

    I pointed out that I was not claiming that Rashi believes himself to be arguing with Onkelos - he doesn't - but a study of the terminology and a comparison to other Rashis that oppose anthropomorphisms clearly shows that your explanation is incorrect.

    It was also pointed out the Ramban uses the same phrase “Derech Kavod” to mean exactly this. Also we again would have to assume that Ramban, who endorses these very comments of Rashi, completely misunderstood the meaning of Rashi’s comments.

    No, this is a basic misreading of Ramban, who is actually not at all commenting on this, but rather on a different part of the passuk. See it inside.

    ...Furthermore the quote from Rabbenu Tam which “proves” Rashi meant it literally in fact proves the opposite, why didn’t he object on much simpler grounds that Rashi’s interpretation indicates that God has physical eyes which (according to Rabbenu Tam) is heresy.

    How do you know that according to Rabbenu Tam this is heresy?

    In fact Rabbenu Tam also learns it refers to God’s 2 eyes and he definitely did not mean that literally.

    How do you know?

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  41. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I am happy that you too confirm the need to look up the sources in their original. In your argument, you claimed the Ramban to be one of the sources for the notion that most of the provencal rabbis were corporealists. In your latest post you wrote,

    "I, too, urge people to look it up in the original. Ramban does not use the word "rumor", with its trivializing connotation. He says that he has heard that "they" attacked Rambam for saying otherwise. He takes this report very seriously and argues against them at great length, whilst still maintaining great respect for them. While it is impossible to know how many people he thinks he is addressing, it is very clearly more than one!"

    The Ramban is addressing his readers about incorporealism because he heard from "others" that the addressees were corporealists. He does not claim this to be a fact -- he is writing as a result of hearing a rumor. Were the "others" who reported it to the Ramban accurate? Who were they? We have no way of knowing. But we do know that it was NOT the Ramban himself who claimed that the addressees were corporealists. And yes, of course he took the rumor seriously. Corporealism to the Ramban is heresy, so if it MAY be true, he has an obligation to correct their mistaken view. Further, as you yourself admit, we have no way of knowing how many he was writing to -- yes, more than one, but five people are more than one, and still not an indication of corporealism among the "majority of provencal rabbis."

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  42. I myself made it absolutely clear in the article that Ramban is responding to a claim about the French scholars, not giving his own testimony. So I don't understand what your point is. Also, I don't understand why you keep referring to it as a "rumor" rather than a "report."

    Also, please could you respond to my question for you: Do you find it disturbing that a scholar of the caliber of Rashi could be a corporealist?

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  43. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I do not understand your question. Falsehood disturbs me. Is that what you mean? I maintain that it is clear from Rashi, for the reasons that I have argued, as well as the five sources that I will post after I have seen your response to my lengthy post which you haven't yet put up, that Rashi was an incorporealist. Does it disturb you that Rashi was an incorporealist?

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  44. Come on, you know what I mean. Is the idea that a great Rishon was a corporealist disturbing to you? That is the distinct impression that I receive from your comments - not merely that you conclude that Rashi was not a corporealist, but that the proposal that he was a corporealist is not only false, but also disturbing.

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  45. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I meant exactly what I said. Falsehood disturbs me.

    I don't see how the question is relevant to the issue at hand in any event, so I won't press you on your answer to the very same question that I posed back to you.

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  46. My answer is simple. Of course I am now biased towards defending my article, but a priori it didn't bother me if Rashi was not a corporealist - after all, lots of Rishonim were not corporealists!

    My question to you is very relevant. It is clear that many people are very, very biased against the idea that any Rishon could be a corporealist. I am trying to establish if you fall into that category.

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  47. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I have no emotional bias -- only a "bias" toward rationality. I must point out, however, that whether or not I am biased emotionally should be irrelevant to your argument and to your responses to my argument. If the claims that I make are factual and rational, then you must deal with them regardless of whether I am biased or not. And if my claims are not factual and rational, then all you need do is to demonstrate that they are factually untrue and do not follow the rules of logic. But again, to reiterate, I have no emotional bias in the area.

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  48. Correct, arguments should be based on arguments alone, not on allegations of bias. It's just when one comes to assessments of relative strengths of two positions, which are hard to quantify, that it is also worthwhile thinking about bias.

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  49. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Your site has been inactive for a couple of days now, and I was just getting a bit concerned. Is everything OK? Do you need help with something?

    There are (I think) four posts that I sent a couple of days ago, for different threads on the site, and you haven't put any of them up, nor any posts from any one else (there must be others who have sent in as well, as they have in the past), nor have you posted anything yourself, and, as I said, I was just getting a bit concerned.

    I do have some more sources to present from 5 other Rashis, which I believe will add strongly to the proofs I have already put forth from Yeshayahu and the Machzor Vitry, and I believe that to the objective reader, the argument will soon come to a close. This, in addition of course, to reading your responses to challenges and questions about issues I have posted about, to which you have not yet responded.

    I look forward to your getting the site active again. I hope it is soon, as I am leaving for a week's trip to Israel tomorrow, and I don't think that I will have too much, if any, internet access during my trip.

    Again, I do hope all is well.

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  50. Rabbi Slifkin,

    in regard to the Rashi on Shemos.
    You are correct that I had mistaken the meaning of the Ramban, in my attempt to summarize I did not check all of the sources myself. However the fact that the Ramban is on the second half of the pasuk does not change the essence of the argument, the Ramban is saying that onkelos (on the other part of the pasuk) is changing it "Derech Kavod" which for the ramban reasonably means to distance corporeality . Rashi uses the same phrase on the first change of onkelos. My point is that it is reasonable to read rashi as saying that onkelos changed the pasuk "derech kavod shel maalah" as meaning to distance corporeality. The fact that the Ramban is on the same pasuk is convenient but not the essence of the point.

    If the Ramban uses the phrase derech kavod shel maalah in this way i.e. to mean onkelos changed the phrase to distance corporeality out of respect for God, it is reasonable to say that Rashi used the phrase in the same way.

    As to why Rashi chose to comment on this pasuk, it s an interesting question but not evidence that Rashi normally maintains corporealism, in fact the ramban a know incorporealist also chose the second phrase of onkelos to specifically focus on. Why? we don't know but we wouldn't say that it is because the Ramban does not old by this principle in other pesukim.

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  51. Rabbi Slifkin,
    With regard to Rabbenu Tam,
    I was basing my argument on your treatment in the article which indicated that you view Rabbenu Tam as a strong incorporealist (the word heresy was my own interpretation of your words but it is not significant to my point) since that was how you explained Rabbenu Tam's rejection of Rashis's view.

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  52. Rabbi Zucker - all is well - I am just very busy. Could you please summarize what you want me to respond to.

    I believe that to an objective reader, the argument from Yeshayah is not substantial at all, and while the argument from R. SImcha of Vitri is a good one, I don't see it as being dispositive, especially in light of the fact that one of Rashi's other talmidim was a corporealist. But I look forward to your new citations from Rashi, please post them. Also, someone else posted a good counterargument from Rashi's citation of there not being any right and left before God.

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  53. the Ramban is saying that onkelos (on the other part of the pasuk) is changing it "Derech Kavod" which for the ramban reasonably means to distance corporeality.

    I am not at all convinced that this is Ramban's point. If it was, why not say it on the earlier phrase? I am not sure at all what Ramban's point is, I plan to study it when I get back to my sefarim at home!

    Rashi uses the same phrase on the first change of onkelos. My point is that it is reasonable to read rashi as saying that onkelos changed the pasuk "derech kavod shel maalah" as meaning to distance corporeality.

    Not based on a comparison to other Rashis discussing anthropomorphisms. This Rashi takes a totally different style. It is similar to the Rashi on Ex. 33:22, where the kinnuy is Onkelos, not the Chumash.

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  54. Rabbeinu Tam states that the Shechinah is everywhere. I am not sure that this necessarily rules out his being a corporealist. I am not sure what the reference to "shechinah" is, as opposed to saying that God is everywhere.

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  55. Also, acc. to R. MOshe Taku, Rabbeinu Tam's teacher was a corporealist.

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  56. Rabbi Zucker: Regarding the quote that you once brought from Machzor Vitry referring to corporealists as heretics - I think that you might have misunderstood it. Is it the quote referred to in note 52 of R. Kanarfogel's article?

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  57. I don't know if my prior response made it through, but here it is again:

    First of all, your description fits much better with those Rashis that do address anthropomorphisms. Hashem wants us to envision Him as resting on Shabbos; that's why the Torah said it that way, lesabber es ha-ozen. If He didn't want us to envision Him that way, He could have used different words.

    Second, according to your approach, why does Rashi need to say that smoking nostrils are not literal?

    Again, there is a major difference between the anthropomorphisms and the corporealist image. The former is ONLY to allow us to gain some understanding, but the image itself is completely dispensable and immaterial. The imagery that G-d wants us to retain of Him has lasting meaning and value. For example, כל הסוטר לועו של חבירו כאילו סוטר לועו של שכינה is an imagery wants us to retain for posterity, to recognize that the noble face of humankind bears within it some semblance to the imagery that we have of Hashem, while recognizing that is false.

    Third, claiming that "that is precisely how Hashem wants us to envision Him while recognizing that it is false" begs the question of how are we to recognize that it is false? How could Rashi not mention this very important point anywhere?

    While the corporealists would need some kind of interpretation for לא ראיתם כל תמונה, the simple Pshat is that there was no sensual vision because there was nothing to see. Rashi's silence on this Pasuk is evidence of not seeing any need for elucidation.

    [See Teshuvos HeGeonim for the distinction between ראיית הלב which the prophets experienced and ראיית העין which is what this Passuk is negating.]

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  58. The former is ONLY to allow us to gain some understanding, but the image itself is completely dispensable and immaterial. The imagery that G-d wants us to retain of Him has lasting meaning and value.

    But smoking nostrils DOES have lasting meaning and value... it conveys the anger and power of God.

    While the corporealists would need some kind of interpretation for לא ראיתם כל תמונה, the simple Pshat is that there was no sensual vision because there was nothing to see. Rashi's silence on this Pasuk is evidence of not seeing any need for elucidation.

    But we know that one can't rely on people getting it from that pasuk, since there were corporealists at that time, and furthermore even Rambam and others in the more sophisticated region of Sepharad saw a need to rule out corporealism.

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  59. But smoking nostrils DOES have lasting meaning and value... it conveys the anger and power of God.

    It conveys the MEANING but the imagery is not usefel BEYOND simply conveying meaning by way of the comparison to allow us to relate to it in some way. It is like saying "Hashem roared like a lion." Does Hashem care if I recognize that there was a LOUD voice without relating to the lion anymore? (Of course not, it could just as easily be a plane engine.)

    Hashem's smoking nostrils just mean He was VERY incensed, and if I have some other imagery of intense anger that is also fine.


    In the case of the human imagery of G-d, Hashem WANTS us to RETAIN that imagery CONSTANTLYm while recognizing it to be false.

    But we know that one can't rely on people getting it from that pasuk, since there were corporealists at that time, and furthermore even Rambam and others in the more sophisticated region of Sepharad saw a need to rule out corporealism

    This is making a HUGE assumption about Rashi commentary. You're assuming that he must be coming from a mindset that he needs to combat corporealism and is bound by that in his commentary. I don't accept that unless you can prove that there are other philosophical trends he is clearly coming to uproot.

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  60. Is your argument dependent on Rashi never using two different styles when addressing similar issues?

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  61. Rabbi Maroof - is that how the word defus was used in the times of the Rishonim?

    Yes, it is.

    In any case, we are talking about the wrong Rashi. The critical Rashi here is to Gen. 1:27-

    “In the image of God He created him” – It explains for you that
    that image which was established for him was the image of the appearance of his Creator.


    Right, but this certainly needs to be understood in the context of the other comments of Rashi, which clearly avoid any attribution of corporeality to God.

    Yes, he is using the phrase from the Gemara, but where is the explanation that it is k'vyachol, lesabber es ha'ozen?,

    Trying to prove things based upon what someone does not say is very faulty methodology.

    There are multiple reasons why one might not say something, especially if it has already been sufficiently clarified in one's writings elsewhere (ex., in the Rashis that I cited).

    Your assertions about Rashi's motives or what he "should have" done are both intrinsically speculative and highly questionable.

    You are projecting a specific modus operandi onto Rashi and then attempting to infer significant conclusions from his deviations from this purported MO.

    The approach seems flawed and convoluted to me.

    Incidentally, the comment threads here certainly disprove your statement in Hakira that no one has offered a single cogent argument against your thesis, unless you believe that, by definition, any argument that disagrees with your thesis is not cogent.

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  62. Rabbi Maroof - I just looked at the Rashi again and we both missed the obvious. The reason why Rashi defines bezaltmeinu as "with the mold that we made" is that the word is in the plural and refers to both God and the angels. Since they do not share the same form (whether one is a corporealist or not) the word had to mean something else. Hence, "with the mold that we made." And what image was the mold of? This is what the later Rashi explains - "the image of the appearance of his Creator."

    Right, but this certainly needs to be understood in the context of the other comments of Rashi, which clearly avoid any attribution of corporeality to God.

    Um, no they don't, that was the whole point of my first line of evidence.

    Trying to prove things based upon what someone does not say is very faulty methodology.

    I went over this already with Levi. One can try to place different possibilities along a hierarchy of plausibility. Also, if I recall correctly, you yourself used such an argument from silence, in claiming that if Rashi was a corporealist, he would have said so with regard to Naaseh Adam.

    There are multiple reasons why one might not say something,

    Fine, let's hear some.

    especially if it has already been sufficiently clarified in one's writings elsewhere (ex., in the Rashis that I cited).

    Which Rashis were those?

    Incidentally, the comment threads here certainly disprove your statement in Hakira that no one has offered a single cogent argument against your thesis, unless you believe that, by definition, any argument that disagrees with your thesis is not cogent.

    Eh? I wrote that statement before anyone had offered any cogent counterarguments. Incidentally, the only counterarguments I have seen that are (a) not in my article and (b) which I would consider cogent is the Rashi about there being nothing to the right and left of Hashem, which I think is an excellent counterargument and which I plan to further investigate. Regarding the stronger statement of R. Simcha Vitry, which I had not seen before, I think it may have been misquoted; I am looking into it, apparently there is a lot of discussion about the nusach and authorship of that quote.

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  63. Whoops, missed something out:

    You are projecting a specific modus operandi onto Rashi and then attempting to infer significant conclusions from his deviations from this purported MO.

    The approach seems flawed and convoluted to me.


    Why is it flawed or convoluted? Rashi says "dibra Torah" in many places and in many other places he does not. I have a theory that perfectly accounts for every single instance where he does and does not employ this principle. In addition, my theory is consistent with many other aspects of Rashi's commentary, as well as with his intellectual setting. It may be incorrect, but methodologically, it is certainly not flawed or convoluted!

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  64. Rabbi Maroof, I have a question for you. How do you translate AND define dyukni and demus dyukni?

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  65. Rabbi Maroof, I have a question for you. How do you translate AND define dyukni and demus dyukni?

    Exactly as Rashi does - "to comprehend and to understand."

    You still have not accounted for this unusual interpretation of "after our likeness", which clearly seems like a purposeful avoidance of corporealism.

    Invoking the malakhim is problematic, since ostensibly the corporealist believes that both God and the angels partake of some kind of humanlike form, so tzalmenu and demutenu could still be literally understood by a corporealist as a reference to, for example, eyes, ears, a mouth, etc., yet Rashi eschews this reading in no uncertain terms.

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  66. With regard to why Rashi defines dmuseinu as "to comprehend and to understand" in place of a corporeal definition - I thought you don't like arguments from silence? In any case, I can think of two answers immediately. One is that since it is speaking in the plural, and referring all celestial entities, they are not all humanlike in form; some are shaped like lions, vultures, etc. Second is that the term demus has to mean something different from tzelem, which Rashi later defines as dmus dyokno - appearance of image.

    Now I have two objections to what you wrote:

    1. Rashi defines dmus as "to comprehend and understand." That is the definition of demus; what does he define dyukni as? And what is demus dyukni? Deyukni is not synonymous with demus!

    2. If dyukni refers to intellectual abilities, then the "overturning of demus dyukni" reflected in mortality refers to some kind of corruption of intellectual abilities. Why does Rashi say that it refers to a person's face being corrupted?

    In any case, as in 1., dyukni clearly does not mean "to comprehend and to understand." Nor is it synonymous with dmus. According to Rashi, dmus clearly means a semblance, and dyukno clearly means an appearance.

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  67. With regard to why Rashi defines dmuseinu as "to comprehend and to understand" in place of a corporeal definition - I thought you don't like arguments from silence?

    That is not an argument from silence. It is an argument from the fact that Rashi is clearly deviating from the simple meaning of the word "demut", which would typically imply physical similarity.

    In any case, I can think of two answers immediately. One is that since it is speaking in the plural, and referring all celestial entities, they are not all humanlike in form; some are shaped like lions, vultures, etc.

    And how do you know all these entities are intellectually similar in Rashi's view? Your approach seems forced.

    Second is that the term demus has to mean something different from tzelem, which Rashi later defines as dmus dyokno - appearance of image

    I think this interpretation is closer to the mark. Tzelem and Demut would otherwise be repetitive. But they could have been taken as two kinds of physical similarity rather than invoking something metaphysical.

    In the Gemara in Megillah the story of the creation of the Septuagint is recorded. The Talmud mentions how, in place of b'tzalmenu kidemutenu, they substituted "b'tzelem u'videmut".

    According to the theory that either some Rabbis of the Talmud or Rashi was a corporealist, why didn't the translators substitute "b'tzalmo uvidemuto", since ostensibly their only concern was to avoid the implication of multiple deities?

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  68. Rabbi Maroof, you didn't answer my questions!

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