Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Seeing No Image

This is a continuation of my response to the excellent points raised by Rabbi Zukcer. Let me begin with the passuk from this week’s parasha:
“Be extremely cautious for your lives, for you did not see any image on the day that God spoke to you at Chorev from the fire” (Deut. 4:15)

I suggested that a corporealist might read this verse as saying that, for some reason, man did not SEE any image of God, but not that no such image exists. Rabbi Zucker said that he rejects this possibility, without going into details. But there is a very important point to be made here. Whether or not Rashi was a corporealist, we have clear testimony from numerous Rishonim that there were Torah scholars in northern France who were corporealists. I believe that their testimony should be taken seriously. And these Torah scholars surely also had a way of understanding Deut. 4:15. So as long as somebody rejects the possibility of any corporealist reading of this verse, he cannot be fully accepting the reality of the testimony of these Rishonim. Obviously I am not saying that the verse actually has a corporealist meaning; rather, I am saying that it must be possible to read it that way. As long as someone does not accept that, they are not dealing with the topic properly.

Now let me address the verse from Yeshayah 43:12. Rabbi Zucker raised an excellent point about Rashi’s commentary on this verse:
…On the phrase "attem eidai" "you are My witnesses..." Rashi explains that HaShem said to Bnei Yisrael, "I opened up for you the seven heavens, and you saw no image (temunah) whatsoever." ….the passuk, according to Rashi, is "you are my witnesses in that I opened up the heavens for you and you saw no image whatsoever." Now, if there was in fact an image, but we didn't see it, then what kind of witnesses are we? That would be akin to a murderer bringing a group of blind people before a judge and saying, "these are my witnesses; they were present at the time of the alleged murder, and they saw nothing!" …Rashi said explicitly that the fact that Bnei Yisrael saw no image is a testimony about HaShem…

This seems like an excellent point. But if we examine the full context of the verse in Yeshayah, Rabbi Zucker’s interpretation is problematic:

ספר ישעיה פרק מג
(י) אַתֶּם עֵדַי נְאֻם יְדֹוָד וְעַבְדִּי אֲשֶׁר בָּחָרְתִּי לְמַעַן תֵּדְעוּ וְתַאֲמִינוּ לִי וְתָבִינוּ כִּי אֲנִי הוּא לְפָנַי לֹא נוֹצַר אֵל וְאַחֲרַי לֹא יִהְיֶה:
(יא) אָנֹכִי אָנֹכִי יְדֹוָד וְאֵין מִבַּלְעָדַי מוֹשִׁיעַ:
(יב) אָנֹכִי הִגַּדְתִּי וְהוֹשַׁעְתִּי וְהִשְׁמַעְתִּי וְאֵין בָּכֶם זָר וְאַתֶּם עֵדַי נְאֻם יְדֹוָד וַאֲנִי אֵל:
(יג) גַּם מִיּוֹם אֲנִי הוּא וְאֵין מִיָּדִי מַצִּיל אֶפְעַל וּמִי יְשִׁיבֶנָּה:

What is the point that all these verses are trying to make? They are clearly trying to make a single point: That there is only One God, there are no other deities. There is no point being made here about God’s incorporeality. The point being made is about His exclusivity. It simply does not fit the context to explain Rashi as meaning that we are being called on as witnesses to God’s incorporeality. Instead, the context dictates that it means that we are being called on as witnesses to God’s exclusivity.
Given that necessary meaning, the statement that we “saw no image” is not a reference to God having no form, and in fact is not a reference to God at all. It is a reference to the non-existence of other deities.
This in turn sheds light on Deut. 4:15. The reference there too is not to God’s incorporeality, but rather to His exclusivity. And there, too, it fits with the context:

ספר דברים פרק ד
(טו) וְנִשְׁמַרְתֶּם מְאֹד לְנַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם כִּי לֹא רְאִיתֶם כָּל תְּמוּנָה בְּיוֹם דִּבֶּר יְדֹוָד אֲלֵיכֶם בְּחֹרֵב מִתּוֹךְ הָאֵשׁ:
(טז) פֶּן תַּשְׁחִתוּן וַעֲשִׂיתֶם לָכֶם פֶּסֶל תְּמוּנַת כָּל סָמֶל תַּבְנִית זָכָר אוֹ נְקֵבָה:
(יז) תַּבְנִית כָּל בְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר בָּאָרֶץ תַּבְנִית כָּל צִפּוֹר כָּנָף אֲשֶׁר תָּעוּף בַּשָּׁמָיִם:
(יח) תַּבְנִית כָּל רֹמֵשׂ בָּאֲדָמָה תַּבְנִית כָּל דָּגָה אֲשֶׁר בַּמַּיִם מִתַּחַת לָאָרֶץ:
(יט) וּפֶן תִּשָּׂא עֵינֶיךָ הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וְרָאִיתָ אֶת הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ וְאֶת הַיָּרֵחַ וְאֶת הַכּוֹכָבִים כֹּל צְבָא הַשָּׁמַיִם וְנִדַּחְתָּ וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתָ לָהֶם וַעֲבַדְתָּם אֲשֶׁר חָלַק יְדֹוָד אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֹתָם לְכֹל הָעַמִּים תַּחַת כָּל הַשָּׁמָיִם:

If anyone has a better suggestion of how the corporealists read these verses, I would be glad to hear it. But they certainly had a way of reading them.

91 comments:

  1. Thank you for addressing one of my previous comments about Deut 4:15.

    "I suggested that a corporealist might read this verse as saying that, //for some reason//, man did not SEE any image of God, but not that no such image exists. Rabbi Zucker said that he rejects this possibility, without going into details."

    Perhaps if you would offer some theories on the expression "for some reason," (i.e. can you offer some reasons?) then we could address those theories.

    Here's one theory (not that I actually believe it): "Be extremely cautious for your lives, for you did not see any image on the day that God spoke to you at Chorev from the fire, even though God does have form, but the reason you didn't see any image is because God is bigger than the universe (assuming that makes sense), and is simply too big to get your eyes around.” (Deut. 4:15)

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  2. You are still answering like a modern and not entering their world.
    There are bi-theism statements of Hazal of a lower image of God and a higher image of God. In Ashkenaz, it became a lower kavod and a higher kavod, a lower cherub and a higher kavod, or a bluring of Metaton whom we can see and the Ilot HaIlot whom we cannot. One cannot see a higher part of God as the verse says, but other references are to a lower part of God. Even in our Alenu, we have Adon Hakol and a lower Yotzer Bereshit. Or compare the Shir Hayhud about the Divine we cannot see, with the corporeal body of God in Shir Hakavod-Anim Zemirot.
    I recommend you look at
    Moshe Idel, Ben:Sonship
    Elliot Wolfson, Through a Speculem
    Daniel Boyarin, Border Lines
    Joseph Dan, The Unique Cherub Circle

    yaakov

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  3. If you are going to get involved in these matters you have to do your research. You learned that you cannot say sevara in science in the beis medrash but you must actually ask people who study science. You also learned that there is a field of the history of science and that the views of 12th century science can be far from modern views. So too, when it comes to concepts of God, angels, visions, celestial realms, or metaphysics - you need to study the history of these concepts and not figure it out on your own.

    yaakov

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  4. Yaakov - thank you for your references. I did show my article (before submission) to numerous scholars who have particular expertise in medieval Jewish theology.

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  5. "Rashi explains that HaShem said to Bnei Yisrael, "I opened up for you the seven heavens, and you saw no image (temunah) whatsoever." "

    R' Slifkin says that this "is a reference to the non-existence of other deities." The following piece from "the Net" might indeed support this:

    "In the Hechalot tradition, it is the task of the mystical initiate to ascend by meditative techniques through the seven heavens one after another, overcoming angelic challenges in each, and then to pass safely through the seven “palaces” of the seventh heaven in order to reach the base of God’s throne."

    It appears from this that one wouldn't even get the /chance/ to see God (assuming one could) until /after/ he got through all seven heavens. But the seven heavens are all God showed Bnei Yisrael.

    (Surprised to hear this support from me?)

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  6. Rabbi Slifkin, I'm a bit surprised that you didn't bring up Deut 4:35 anywhere. It is quite parallel to the Isaiah 43:12 verse:

    Deut 4:35: You have been shown, in order to know that the Lord He is God; there is none else besides Him. לה. אַתָּה הָרְאֵתָ לָדַעַת כִּי יְ־הֹוָ־ה הוּא הָאֱ־לֹהִים אֵין עוֹד מִלְבַדּוֹ:
    RASHI: You have been shown: Heb. הָרְאֵתָ As the Targum [Onkelos] renders it: אִתְחִזֵיתָא, you have been shown. When the Holy One, blessed is He, gave the Torah, He opened for Israel the seven heavens, and just as He tore open the upper regions, so did He tear open the lower regions, and they saw that He is One. Accordingly, it is stated, “You have been shown, in order to know [that the Lord He is God-there is none else besides Him].”

    This seems to corroborate what you said about the verses talking about God's exclusivity, not incorporeality.

    I could still ask a question about Rashi's words. When Bnei Yisrael were "strolling through" the seven heavens, by not seeing any other gods, how did they know they didn't exist? Maybe they were hiding, or maybe B'Y were looking in the wrong place, or maybe they are incorporeal, too.

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  7. Phil, thank you for your comments! (to be surprised that it is from you, I would have to keep track of each commentor's position/outlook, and I find that too difficult!)

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  8. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Thank you for your response regarding the Rashi in Yeshayahu. I admire the creative ingenuity in your interpretation. However...

    Let us analyze the Rashi clearly, using his own words and concepts. There are three relevant Rashis to look at: [1] Devarim 4:35 - "[You were shown to know that HaShem is the Lord; there is none other than He] - When the Holy One blessed be He gave the Torah, He opened for them the seven heavens, and just as He tore open the upper ones, so did He tear the lower ones, and they saw that He is the only one..." [2] Yeshayahu 43:12 -"[And you are My witnesses says HaShem, and I am the Lord] -- you are my witnesses in that I opened for you the seven heavens and you did not see any image." [3] Yeshayahu 44:8 - "[And you are My witnesses: is there a god besides Me? and there is no rock that I do not know] -- From Mount Sinai I told you that there is no god but Me, and you are My witnesses in that I opened for you the seven heavens and I showed you that there is none else, and you are My witnesses in this matter that there is no god but Me."

    It is clear from these Rashis that they all refer to one and the same event -- that of Har Sinai, about which it is stated in Devarim 4:15 "you did not see any image..."

    Now, your understanding of this last passuk, from Rashi's perspective, is that the meaning is, "you saw no image of God, even though God does in fact have an image." OK -- let's coordinate that now with the 3 other Rashis that refer to this same event.

    If we did not see an image of God, but in fact He does have an image, then HOW CAN WE POSSIBLY BE CALLED UPON TO BE WITNESSES that we saw no other gods when the heavens were opened to us??? Obviously there could have been other gods with images there too, it's just that we didn't see their image JUST LIKE WE DIDN'T SEE GOD'S IMAGE even though it was there. The testimony is meaningless! Now, you could try to wriggle out of this by saying that Rashi means "you didn't see any OTHER image, except that of HaShem," but Rashi (and the passuk) states -- you didn't see "kol temunah" -- ANY image WHATSOEVER.

    Rather, it is clear that the tesitmony is that you didn't see ANY image whatsoever, and therefore you are able to testify that I am the only One. On this last point, you asked an important question: how does not seeing any image testify that HaShem is the only ONE? Well, let's see...where have we heard before that the issues of HaShem Echad and HaShem being incorporeal are related?....Oh yes, it was the first perek of the Rambam's Hilkhos Yesodei HaTorah (1:7 -- it is very important to look this up to see the clear formulation of the argument that if there were more than One God, then those gods would have bodies, images...).

    Thus, the three Rashis are saying that at Sinai we didn't see any image at all -- because there was none to see -- and we can take our experience at Sinai and from it we can testify that there are no other gods. I believe that any other interpretation of the Rashis makes the testimony meaningless.

    Your last line in the post asks how else could a corporealist interpret the pessukim, but for the way that you proposed. This is a question based upon circular reasoning. If Rashi WERE a corporealist, he would never link together the "lo re'issem kol temunah" of Sinai with the concept of "ve-attem eidai" because of the testimony problem. He would, rather, say, at Sinai we saw no image (even though there was one there), and in a completely separate matter, we can testify that throughout our entire history, HaShem is the only God that has helped us -- no other god has (e.g., look at yetzi'as Mitzrayim, Eliyahu at Har HaCarmel, etc.) -- HaShem's word has always come true, etc. -- along those lines.

    This position of the 3 Rashis, together with the Machzor Vitry issue, are, to my mind, clear evidence that Rashi was an incorporealist.

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  9. If we did not see an image of God, but in fact He does have an image, then HOW CAN WE POSSIBLY BE CALLED UPON TO BE WITNESSES that we saw no other gods when the heavens were opened to us?

    See the reference by Phil. It is near impossible for us to understand the conceptual framework that they were using. It depends on why we did not see the image of God. Maybe He is too big. Maybe it's something unique about God. Maybe it's because we were not looking at where He is, only where His voice was manifest (as per Sinai). It could be all kinds of things.

    I also disagree with your linkage of not seeing God with His being one. That is taking a philosophical argument from Rambam - itself almost certainly based on Greek-Muslim philosophy - and transferring it to Rashi. But there is no evidence that the French Rishonim worked with such philosophical frameworks. I think it is much more likely that it has to do with one of the ideas that I raised above.

    By the way, I asked you to explain how a corporealist (we know that they existed!) learned these pesukim. What is your suggestion?

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  10. Rabbi Slifkin,

    You wrote, "See the reference by Phil."

    The reference by Phil (I assume you mean to Devarim 4:35) is one that I used, together with the 2 other Rashis, in proving my point. I don't see at all how it lends support for what you have said; on the contrary...

    Further you wrote, "It is near impossible for us to understand the conceptual framework that they were using. It depends on why we did not see the image of God. Maybe He is too big. Maybe it's something unique about God. Maybe it's because we were not looking at where He is, only where His voice was manifest (as per Sinai). It could be all kinds of things."


    EXACTLY! And those very reasons could just as well be applicable to the other gods that were there but we didn't see, so of what value is the testimony?! This is my very point!

    In addition, your wrote, "I also disagree with your linkage of not seeing God with His being one. That is taking a philosophical argument from Rambam - itself almost certainly based on Greek-Muslim philosophy - and transferring it to Rashi. But there is no evidence that the French Rishonim worked with such philosophical frameworks. I think it is much more likely that it has to do with one of the ideas that I raised above." I am not claiming that Rashi took the argument from the sources that the Rambam may have used; I am merely making a claim that there exists in the realm of logic/Torah the idea of Echad and incorporealism being linked. Rashi could not arrive at this idea on his own without Aristotle or al-Farabi?? There are numerous times that rishonim from different communimties, indeed different worlds, arrive at the same logical conclusion independently.

    Lastly, you wrote, "By the way, I asked you to explain how a corporealist (we know that they existed!) learned these pesukim. What is your suggestion?" I thought I answered this thoroughly in my last post -- I guess I wasn't clear enough. A corporealist would say that at Sinai we did not see an image, even though there was indeed an image present. He would then say that the "testimony" pessukim have nothing to do with the event at Sinai; rather we are giving testimony that there is only one God from our experiences throughout history. Thus, no internal contradiction at all for the corporealist. It is only a severe problem for a corporealist when he links the Sinai pessukim together with the testimony pessukim.

    With all of this, I do not believe that you have addressed at all the substance of my argument. How can one learn the three Rashis together in a reasonable way from a corporealist's perspective?

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  11. When I spoke of the reference by Phil, I didn't mean the pasuk, I meant this quote:

    "In the Hechalot tradition, it is the task of the mystical initiate to ascend by meditative techniques through the seven heavens one after another, overcoming angelic challenges in each, and then to pass safely through the seven “palaces” of the seventh heaven in order to reach the base of God’s throne."

    And those very reasons could just as well be applicable to the other gods that were there but we didn't see, so of what value is the testimony?!

    My point is not that from a twelfth century perspective, any of those reasons could just as well be applicable. My point is that we have little idea as to WHICH of those reasons fit into their conceptual framework and which did not.

    I am not claiming that Rashi took the argument from the sources that the Rambam may have used; I am merely making a claim that there exists in the realm of logic/Torah the idea of Echad and incorporealism being linked. Rashi could not arrive at this idea on his own without Aristotle or al-Farabi?

    It's very unlikely. We don't see any evidence of the Rishonim from Rashi's time and place engaging in such philosophical pursuits. To put it another way - if he could and did, why did Rambam have to get it from Aristotle and Al-Farabi?

    A corporealist would say that at Sinai we did not see an image, even though there was indeed an image present.

    Why not?

    How can one learn the three Rashis together in a reasonable way from a corporealist's perspective?

    Without knowing Rashi's perspective on Hechalot, the nature of the seven heavens, it's all speculation. What are these seven heavens? Is there another realm beyond that? There could any number of ways of explaining it.

    Incidentally, what is your view as to why Rashi says dibra Torah with certain kinds of anthropomorphisms, but not others?

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  12. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I must admit to being utterly perplexed at almost all of your responses to my post. Let's review them one by one. I shall put your responses in quotations (for some reason, my computer cannot copy them and italicize the copy), followed by my comments to your remarks:

    "When I spoke of the reference by Phil, I didn't mean the pasuk, I meant this quote: 'In the Hechalot tradition, it is the task of the mystical initiate to ascend by meditative techniques through the seven heavens one after another, overcoming angelic challenges in each, and then to pass safely through the seven “palaces” of the seventh heaven in order to reach the base of God’s throne.'"

    I have no idea at all why this is relevant whatsoever to anything that I proposed. It makes no difference whether Rashi accepted or rejected "Heichalot tradition" -- the FACT is that Rashi said that HaShem opened up the heavens (in whatever sense is meant) and we saw NO IMAGE WHATSOEVER, and thereby we are called to be witnesses that HaShem is One. The pathway to the seven heavens, the method, the experience, etc. is entirely irrelevant to our inability to be witnesses if other gods can be "invisible" just as HaShem is.

    "My point is not that from a twelfth century perspective, any of those reasons could just as well be applicable. My point is that we have little idea as to WHICH of those reasons fit into their conceptual framework and which did not."

    Huh? I just don't understand how this is a response to my point. I argued that WHATEVER reason made HaShem (who, according to the corporealist, does have an image) invisible to Bnei Yisroel, could just as well have made the gods (who also have images) invisible to Bnei Yisroel, and therefore their "testimony" would be a farce. It matters none WHY we couldn't see an image of HaShem -- WHATEVER the reason is equally applicable to other gods.

    continued in the next post....

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  13. ...continued from the previous post

    "It's very unlikely. We don't see any evidence of the Rishonim from Rashi's time and place engaging in such philosophical pursuits. To put it another way - if he could and did, why did Rambam have to get it from Aristotle and Al-Farabi?"

    The idea that 'HaShem is One' can be connected logically to 'HaShem is incorporeal' is a philosophical pursuit unique to Sefarad, to the exclusion of chakhmei Ashkenaz? Is it not a logical argument about a fundamental principle of the mesorah? Are chakhmei Tzorfas excluded from coming independently to logical conclusions that chakhmei Sefarad, on account of their exposure to Greek and Muslim philosphy, came to? And... the Rambam HAD TO get his conclusion for Aristotle and al-Farabi?! He COULDN'T come up with it on his own?

    "[my prior quote:] A corporealist would say that at Sinai we did not see an image, even though there was indeed an image present. [your response:] Why not?"

    What has the REASON that we could not see God's image even though there is one, from a corporealist's perspective, got anything at all to do with what you asked for? You asked me how a corporealist would learn the pessukim in a consistent manner. I gave a perfectly logical response. The corporealist would say we saw no image at Sinai even though there was one, (why we didn't see it may be a matter of interest and curiosity, but irrelevant to the corporealist's consistent perspective on the passuk), and the testimony issue is separate and distinct from the "image at Sinai" issue.

    "Without knowing Rashi's perspective on Hechalot, the nature of the seven heavens, it's all speculation. What are these seven heavens? Is there another realm beyond that? There could any number of ways of explaining it."

    Again, entirely irrelevant! WHATEVER made HaShem's image invisable to the Jews could also have made other gods' images invisible to them. As a result, their testimony would be meaningless, and thus, Rashi could not be explaining these pessukim as a corporealist.

    "Incidentally, what is your view as to why Rashi says dibra Torah with certain kinds of anthropomorphisms, but not others?"

    I would not presume to know why Rashi wrote his commentary on certain pessukim, but not on others. Incidentally, in previous quotes, you wrote that Rashi "took pains to stress" incorporealism in certain pessukim, and was silent in others -- this being a significant part of your argument. The phrasing "took pains to stress" is a subjective, editorial comment. How do you know that he "took pains?" How do you know that he meant to "stress" this more than other things he wrote? An objective researcher would simply state the facts: Rashi WROTE about certain pessukim that they are not meant to be understood corporeally, and was silent about other pessukim which have anthropomorphisms. The terms "took pains" and "stressed" are value laden without an objective basis. With that in mind, if you ask me to SPECULATE why he wrote about incorporealism in some places but not others, I would offer these (completely speculative) possibilities: perhaps he wrote about certain specific pessukim because were the best forum to establish the category of incorporealism as a whole, and then the reader could apply the principle of that category to other relevant pessukim as well. Or, perhaps in these specific pessukim there is a havva ammina that doesn't exist for the other pessukim. Perhaps, perhaps...

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  14. The pathway to the seven heavens, the method, the experience, etc. is entirely irrelevant to our inability to be witnesses if other gods can be "invisible" just as HaShem is.

    But maybe the idea of God is someone who is somewhere other than the seven heavens? Or maybe we are not concerned with invisible beings (are malachim visible?), just visible deities that were worshipped by others? Or any other possibility.

    I argued that WHATEVER reason made HaShem (who, according to the corporealist, does have an image) invisible to Bnei Yisroel, could just as well have made the gods (who also have images) invisible to Bnei Yisroel, and therefore their "testimony" would be a farce.

    I know that you were arguing that. My point was that without knowing the reason, you can't say that. Maybe the reason is very much relevant only to God and not to other deities.

    The idea that 'HaShem is One' can be connected logically to 'HaShem is incorporeal' is a philosophical pursuit unique to Sefarad, to the exclusion of chakhmei Ashkenaz? Is it not a logical argument about a fundamental principle of the mesorah?

    No, of course not! Otherwise, how do you explain the existence of Torah scholars who were corporealists - did they not believe that Hashem is one?!

    Are chakhmei Tzorfas excluded from coming independently to logical conclusions that chakhmei Sefarad, on account of their exposure to Greek and Muslim philosphy, came to?

    It makes it EXTREMELY unlikely. They just didn't involve themselves with such things. Have you read the history of the period?

    And... the Rambam HAD TO get his conclusion for Aristotle and al-Farabi?! He COULDN'T come up with it on his own?

    Maybe he could have, but he didn't. Which makes it even less likely that Rashi, who is not known at all as a philosopher, would have.

    Look, you are making the northern French Rishonim identical with the Spanish ones - in fact, superior in philosophy, since the Spanish got their philosophy from Aristotle and the Moslems, whereas you are claiming that the French came up with it on their own! This is just not consistent with our historical knowledge of the period. How much have you read about Jewish history in that period? I am referring to academic studies of the history of Jews and theology in the medieval period.

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  15. What has the REASON that we could not see God's image even though there is one, from a corporealist's perspective, got anything at all to do with what you asked for?

    Because that has everything to do with Rashi to Devarim and Yeshayah!

    "Incidentally, what is your view as to why Rashi says dibra Torah with certain kinds of anthropomorphisms, but not others?"

    I would not presume to know why Rashi wrote his commentary on certain pessukim, but not on others.


    I am sorry, but that is a cop-out. When we study Rashi, we try to make these inferences. We might not be able to reach concrete conclusions, but we should be able to list options, in order of likelihood.

    The amazing thing is that whereas you are honestly admitting that you can't account for the discrepancy, some others who are commenting on our exchange are reading you as having accounted for it!

    The phrasing "took pains to stress" is a subjective, editorial comment. How do you know that he "took pains?" How do you know that he meant to "stress" this more than other things he wrote?

    I used these terms with good reason, and I explicitly justified this in my article. I hoped that you had read it carefully! The point is that with other types of anthropomorphisms, Rashi NEVER lets them go without commenting, EVEN when he has ALREADY explained that same concept earlier.

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  16. By the way, I want to stress that I very much appreciate your comments and input, and I hope that I am not coming across as harsh! Yasher koach!

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  17. perhaps he wrote about certain specific pessukim because were the best forum to establish the category of incorporealism as a whole, and then the reader could apply the principle of that category to other relevant pessukim as well.

    But on the contrary - given the corporeal view of God that R Yeshayah de Trani says was held by some Rishonim and some Chazal, one would not extrapolate from these to the other pesukim!

    Or, perhaps in these specific pessukim there is a havva ammina that doesn't exist for the other pessukim.

    That's not a suggestion, unless you specify what the hava amina was.

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  18. Rabbi Slifkin,
    What leads you to say that Rashi's repetition indicates the importance of an idea as opposed to being in response to something in the pasuk which he is commenting on. For example would you say that the meaning of the word "Atirah" is being emphasized by Rashi since he explains it in Breishis 25:21 and in Shemos 8:5, and again in Yechezkel 35:13?

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  19. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Thank you for your kind words. I never thought whatsoever that you were coming across as harsh!

    I appreciate your reaction to my speculations; your reactions are certainly valid -- after all, my response to your question was a speculation -- I emphasized that point. Therefore, to highlight that there are questions emanating from what I wrote is indeed not a chiddush!

    But let's return to the thrust of the argument...I await your response to the substantive matters that I address in the long post (of two parts), as well as to the Machzor Vitry argument as well.

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  20. Sure, that's also a possibility. But in the absence of a specific explanation as to why he repeats it, I would say that it is because he considers the lesson very important. Also, I would think that repeating a comment in the same book is more significant than repeating it in different books.

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  21. (My previous response was to Joshua.)

    Rabbi Zucker - I thought that I had already responded to your substantive points. What did I omit?

    With regard to Machzor Vitry - I recall that R. Moshe Taku said interpreting pesukim non-literally, or saying that God cannot take physical form (I forget which), is heresy. Would you therefore conclude that his teacher could not have held such a view?

    Furthermore, you are saying that if a student considers something heretical, then it is inconceivable that his teacher is of that view. I would say that according to that logic, kal v'chomer that if a teacher considers something heretical, then it is inconceivable that his student is of that view. So if Rashi considered corporealism heresy, how did his talmid R. Yaakov bar Shimshon become a corporealist?

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  22. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Your wrote, "But maybe the idea of God is someone who is somewhere other than the seven heavens?"

    And maybe the other gods are ALSO somewhere other than the seven heavens.

    "Or maybe we are not concerned with invisible beings (are malachim visible?), just visible deities that were worshipped by others? Or any other possibility."

    Again, whatever CAN be applied to God CAN be applied to gods, so the
    testimony would thereby be meaningless.

    "I know that you were arguing that. My point was that without knowing the reason, you can't say that. Maybe the reason is very much relevant only to God and not to other deities."

    MAYBE...MAYBE NOT. The point is that the TESTIMONY that there exists only one God is meaningless if that which CAN account for God's image not being seen CAN ALSO account for the gods' image not being seen. Your responses continuously avoid addressing this issue.

    "No, of course not! Otherwise, how do you explain the existence of Torah scholars who were corporealists - did they not believe that Hashem is one?!"

    As Jacob correctly pointed out already, the trinitarians also believe that their god is one. Now, clearly the Torah scholars who were corporealists reject the Christian deity; instead they accept a deity of another bodily form. Your question about how Torah scholars can learn that 'God is one' is thereby moot.

    "It makes it EXTREMELY unlikely. They just didn't involve themselves with such things. Have you read the history of the period?"

    Really? There are numerous examples of statements of Chazal that are entirely consistent with modern psychological and scientific positions and discoveries. Are those statements also "unlikely"? By the way, I submitted my doctoral thesis at Yeshiva University on the medieval period, so yes...I did study the period rather extensively.

    "[my quote:] ... the Rambam HAD TO get his conclusion for Aristotle and al-Farabi?! He COULDN'T come up with it on his own? [your response:] Maybe he could have, but he didn't. Which makes it even less likely that Rashi, who is not known at all as a philosopher, would have."

    Please demonstrate how you know that the Rambam DID NOT come up with the idea of Echad = incorporeal on his own, but took it from Aristotle and/or al-Farabi. Or are all incorporealists automatically Aristotelians?

    "[my quote:] What has the REASON that we could not see God's image even though there is one, from a corporealist's perspective, got anything at all to do with what you asked for? [your response:]
    Because that has everything to do with Rashi to Devarim and Yeshayah!"

    It has NOTHING to do with Rashi on Devarim and Yeshaya. Rashi is not commenting at all about WHY the Jews didn't see any image; he is commenting THAT they did not see any image. The reason behind it is irrelevant, as I have pointed out before and above.

    "The amazing thing is that whereas you are honestly admitting that you can't account for the discrepancy, some others who are commenting on our exchange are reading you as having accounted for it!"

    I disagree as to the labeling of Rashi addressing incorporealism in some places but not others as a "discrepancy." (And yes, I have read your article carefully). Let me put this another way, since you said that Rashi "NEVER lets them go without commenting, EVEN when he has ALREADY explained that same concept earlier," then if I show you one place where that occurs, your theory is wrong. Am I right in assuming that?

    "But on the contrary - given the corporeal view of God that R Yeshayah de Trani says was held by some Rishonim and some Chazal, one would not extrapolate from these to the other pesukim!"

    Why not? If Rashi had successfully established the category, then we should apply it "universally" to all pessukim, from Rashi's perspective.

    Again, I do not see any of your comments as responsive to the points that I made. I appreciate if you could clarify my lack of understanding here. Thanks so much.

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  23. Rabbi Slifkin,

    "With regard to Machzor Vitry - I recall that R. Moshe Taku said interpreting pesukim non-literally, or saying that God cannot take physical form (I forget which), is heresy. Would you therefore conclude that his teacher could not have held such a view?"

    If R. Moshe Taku said that (he did) and if he quotes his rebbi extensively with high praise, (I don't know if he does at all; we have only fragments of one work of his), then yes, I would say that his rebbi must have held that view. It is inconceivable to me that he would quote his rebbi extensively with high praise while maintaining that that same rebbi is outside of the pale of Judaism.

    "I would say that according to that logic, kal v'chomer that if a teacher considers something heretical, then it is inconceivable that his student is of that view."

    This absolutely does not follow at all. It would follow only if the rebbi extensively quotes the student with high praise. Clearly not the case over here -- so highly irrelevant!

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  24. Rabbi Zucker, I plan to respond to your points next week, although first I would live to resolve the issues over statistics, which I feel may fundamentally reflect on our different approaches here. But there is one thing that you said that I cannot resist responding to now:

    Really? There are numerous examples of statements of Chazal that are entirely consistent with modern psychological and scientific positions and discoveries. Are those statements also "unlikely"?

    If they are consistent with modern positions and INconsistent with ancient positions, then yes, they would be unlikely. Please can you list a single example of a statement of Chazal that is entirely consistent with modern scientific positions and discoveries and is inconsistent with ancient positions.

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  25. Just a quick response to one other point:

    whatever CAN be applied to God CAN be applied to gods, so the
    testimony would thereby be meaningless.


    One can always ask what this testimony was about. In whatever way the Torah means that we perceived that there are no other gods - maybe the other gods are imperceptible! Answer: the Torah is not concerned with remote, imperceptible Gods, which are impossible to disprove. The Torah is only concerned with the pantheon of gods that others were worshipping and were claimed to inhabit the seven heavens - and it is saying that they could not be seen in the seven heavens.

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  26. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I believe that the issue of "statistics" has been exhausted, and at this point I view it as a distraction from the essential issue -- that of Rashi's three statement(s), culminating in Yeshayahu -- that demonstrate his incorporealism clearly and openly, along with the Machzor Vitry issue. I have stated why I maintain that assessing the philosophical position of a given person from what his neighbors are thinking works only if you view all philosophical views of a given geographic location as one big ta'arovess. I have applied the logic from the halakhic system as a basis for what I claimed. It is abundantly clear that you don't accept this. That's OK...the point is moot at any event, because what brought the whole issue to the fore was your claim about Rashi's position being able to be inferred from what you claimed to be the view of the majority of provencal rabbis. You have admitted that you were mistaken on the facts of the issue (about the majority of provencal rabbis) based upon my discussion with Rabbi Kanarfogel, so the statistical assessment issue is no longer relevant to understanding Rashi. At this point I think it wise to stick to the core of the issue and not be distracted by what is now a side point.

    You wrote in your last post, "the Torah is not concerned with remote, imperceptible Gods, which are impossible to disprove. The Torah is only concerned with the pantheon of gods that others were worshipping and were claimed to inhabit the seven heavens - and it is saying that they could not be seen in the seven heavens."

    (Just as an aside -- I would not capitalize "Gods" when referring to idols). What is the basis of your claim here as to what the Torah is or is not concerned with? You are making a HUGE assumption here, that the statement regarding testimony is only about the "popular" gods. Where do you get this from? The testimony, as the pessukim state and as Rashi reiterates, is that HaShem is the ONLY God -- not just that the popular ones aren't God. Further, please remember that the "testimony" statement was made by Yeshayahu. The "popular" gods at his time were not the same "pantheon" as were the popular gods at the time of Sinai, as a cursory review of history, archeology, and anthropology texts about those two eras in the middle and near east demonstrate. So which "popular" gods are we asked to testify against from our vision at Sinai -- those of that time, or those of the time of the commandment about the testimony? Further, was the statement of "VeAttem Eidai" said only about the Jews of Moshe's time or of Yeshayahu's time? Was it not said about Klal Yisrael "eternally"? If the latter is true, then your assumption about the popular gods at the time of Sinai or at the time of Yeshayahu is clearly wrong -- there are many popular gods now that were not dreamed of in those days. Are we not asked to bear witness that these "newly" popular gods are false -- or only to bear witness that Pe'or and the like are false?

    It seems to me -- and please forgive me if I am erring in what I say now -- that you are grasping at some straws in your response here, in order to preserve your view about what you believe Rashi must have felt, in the face of mounting evidence against your assumptions. I do not think that a dispassionate, disinterested view would yield the answer that when God said, "Testify that I am the only One," He really meant only that we should testify that the specific popular gods at that time are false, leaving open the question then and for the future as to whether He is really the only One in terms of other, unpopular (at the time) gods.

    But, of course, I haven't seen the post that you said you would write this coming week, and that post may very well answer the points that I made about the 3 Rashis and the Machzor Vitry in a substantive way; if that is the case, then I am horribly mistaken in this paragraph, and for that I apologize in advance, if that is indeed the case.

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  27. Look, in any case, the idea of testimony is virtually impossible to understand. What did God show us that enables us to testify that there are no other gods?
    And I did not understand your explanation of how corporealists learn the pesukim in Devarim.

    I must strongly disagree with your claim that there is "mounting evidence" against my case. The main new thing you have come up with is putting together a Rashi in Yeshayah with Devarim and relying on him following the same line of philosophical thought as Rambam, which I have countered.

    The other thing you came up with is a stronger statement of Machzor Vitry against corporealism than the one that I had. I should share with you a comment on my article from a Rabbi Dr. with many decades of expertise in medieval Jewish theology. He said that I probably put more thought into Rashi's view of God than Rashi himself ever did. R. Simcha Vitry may not have been consciously disputing his rebbe's view - he may have never known what his rebbe's view was. While this issue is very important to us right now, it's only a tiny fragment of Rashi's commentary, and something that he may not have pursued at all from a philosophical. theological standpoint.

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  28. Rabbi Zucker, the reason why I am not posting your latest comments yet is that I don't have time right now to write a lengthy response, and I consider it inappropriate in the interim to post a very long statement from you which purports to be summarizing the entire issue, but which completely ignores four out of the five categories of evidence that I brought!

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  29. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I totally understand -- and I patiently await reading your response. I had asked for your correction if you thought that I wasn't presenting the picture accurately, and a later complete response is far superior to an earlier incomplete one!

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  30. Please see my comments to the next post. I discussed things with Rabbi Dr. Kanarfogel and I return to my original claim.

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  31. Rabbi Slifkin,

    In my report of the conversation I had with Rabbi Kanarfogel, I posted last week on what I asked him and what he answered, repeating the specifics of the conversation. In your claim now, you don't say at all what Rabbi Kanarfogel said -- i.e., what specifically did he say was a misrepresentation of his views in my report? What does he maintain that is different from what I wrote? Without the details, it is difficult to take your claim here seriously. Moreover, I have sent him an e-mail asking him to confirm his views in writing. As always, I will repeat the response verbatim. Let me close here with a quote from Rabbi Kanarfogel's article which he forwarded to me after his conversation with me of last week (from "Varieties of Belief in Medieval Ashkenaz, page 136): "This study has shown that the impression created ...that many or most of the rabbanei Tzorfat believed in divine anthropomorphism was rather exaggerated, certainly with respect to the leading scholars or the rabbinic elite of the period."
    Now, this cannot be a misrepresentation of Rabbi Kanarfogel's views, as these are Rabbi Kanarfogel's own words, in print. Not only that, we can all assume that you read these very words, since you know about R. Shemuel ben Mordekhai in the first place only from this very article by Rabbi Kanarfogel. Why, then, did you choose to ignore his unequivocal conclusions which were based upon the stacks of evidence that he presented in his article, when you presented the "fact" that most of the provencal rabbis were corporealists?

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  32. I did not present a "fact" that most of the provencal rabbis were corporealists. I presented it as the claim of R. Shmuel b. Mordechai. With regard to the contemporary academic world, there is a dispute as to whether this is the case.

    I asked Rabbi Dr. Kanarfogel if he said that R. Shmuel was only claiming that the majority believed in anthro. vis-a-vis emotions etc. and not vis-a-vis form, and he said no. I don't want to cut-and-paste what he said without him authorizing it, that would be inappropriate.

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  33. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Again, when I hear from Rabbi Kanarfogel I will post the response. Hearsay in this area is easily misconstrued, so the source's own words are best. (By the way, I noticed that you didn't respond at all in terms of the quote that I supplied from Rabbi Kanarfogel's printed article. Any thoughts on the question I had asked at the end of my previous post?)

    So let me now understand your argument -- one of your five pillars for claiming Rashi's corporealism is that statistical assessments suggest that we should expect Rashi to be a corporealist because most of his colleagues were (we've argued the validity of this whole line altogether, and I am awaiting a response from the statistics professors). But wait -- we don't even KNOW that most of his colleagues were corporealists -- "with regard to the contemporary academic world, there is a dispute as to whether this is the case." The whole pillar sounds kind of weak to me.

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  34. 1. I summarized R. Dr. K's position in my article: "On the other hand, R. Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel has recently pointed out that most such evidence of anthropomorphic views
    amongst the medieval Torah scholars of France comes from detractors
    rather than proponents, which therefore creates an exaggerated
    picture of its popularity."

    2. I did not count this factor amongst my five types of evidence. I used it to point out that the idea that without proof, we should assume that Rashi was not a corporealist, is not necessarily true at all.

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  35. Rabbi Slifkin,

    If all you wanted to communicate was that we should approach the question of whether or not Rashi was a corporealist with a clean slate and need to prove either side's claim, then you should have said just that. It seems to me that you have been advancing the CLAIM that since "most" of his colleagues were corporealists, that's what we should expect of Rashi, and so that tilts the argument from the very beginning. If this is not what you were saying, but rather that we should start with a clean slate and not assume anything, then why did you and I get onto the argument of statistics to begin with. Something is awry here....

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  36. It's a dispute. Acc. to some, the default position would be that he was probably not. Acc. to the others, the default position would be that he probably was. I stressed the latter because I am going up against what most people assume, which is that it is ludicrous and shocking to think that he was.

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  37. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Well at any rate, it is, by your statement here, irrelevant to the crux of your argument and claim. It would therefore be beneficial, I think, to get back to the heart of the issue. Although in the interest of truth, I will pursue the Rabbi Kanarfogel point and the professors at Harvard and Columbia, and will let everyone know through this thread.

    Just one important note:

    "It's a dispute. Acc. to some, the default position would be that he was probably not. Acc. to the others, the default position would be that he probably was."

    No...according to your (mis)application of statistics here, "the default position would be..."

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  38. I don't understand your last sentence.

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  39. Rabbi Slifkin,

    The only dispute may be whether or not and to what degree provencal rabbis in any significant numbers were corporealists -- using that as a basis to establish a default position as to Rashi is, as I have argued, illogical and a misapplication of "statistical assessments" -- the default position should be "we don't know" until shown otherwise. (Ironically, the only primary medieval source that we have about Rashi in particular from a provencal rabbi is from R. Asher ben Gershom of Beziers who states unequivocally that Rashi was an incorporealist. I know you've seen that source -- it's in Rabbi Kanarfogel's article; but for some reason you've chosen not to give it serious weight).

    I would, however, qualify my earlier statement about "we don't know" as the default position, with one caveat: If God's incorporeality can be proven logically and clearly, then the default should be that Rashi was an incorporealist, unless demonstrated otherwise. We should assume that he did not err in logic especially on a fundamental principle. That there were some rabbis who did (R. Moshe Taku for example) (again, if it is possible to prove God's incorporeality) does not change this default position. If it were logically proven, then we should have expected R. Moshe Taku as well to have been an incorporealist, unless demonstrated otherwise (which it was).

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  40. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I just got off the phone with Rabbi Kanarfogel. He is away, and does not have access to e-mail right now (he responded to the call I left on his voice mail, rather than the e-mail that I sent him). He reiterated that R. Shemuel ben Mordekhai of Marseilles, in calling the provencal rabbis "magshimim" was labeling them from his own incorporealist perspective, rather than describing them from their own perspective (i.e., not that they viewed themselves as corporealists). Interestingly, he mentioned that in your e-mail to him you framed your question to him along the following lines:

    'did R. Shemuel ben Mordekhai say that the provencal rabbis were "magshimim" or did he say that they viewed God in a way that He had emotions, etc.' Now that is not an accurate question as it relates to the issue under discussion. I mentioned (in my first post that reported what Rabbi Kanarfogel said -- please check the post yourself carefully -- the idea of God having emotions as an EXAMPLE of what might make an incorporealist label someone else as a corporealist even when the latter would not self-identify that way. I never claimed that R. Shemuel specified that,or any, issue in particular. Therefore, to frame the question to Rabbi Kanarfogel about what R. Shemuel said, in the way that you did, is somewhat less than honest. At any rate, I reiterate that Rabbi Kanarfogel unequivocally stated, before and now again, that R. Shemuel was calling the provencal rabbis corporealists from his own incorporealist perspective, and not identifying them as corporealists because of their own self-identification.

    I guess this means once again that you'll need to retract that part of your argument.

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  41. I am still going to rely more on what R. Kanarfogel wrote to me directly than what you claim he said. But I will try to contact him again to clear things up.

    Re. your earlier comment, I still can't understand for the life of me how you don't see statistics as being relevant, and I still maintain that in real life you make use of such statistics all the time. As for why I don't give much weight to Rishonim claiming that Rashi was not a corpoeralist, I explained already that it depends on their reasons, and there are some statements from Rashi that would easily mislead someone in this direction (just like some people arguing that Rashi was a corporealist have been misled by his statement about yad mamash.)

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  42. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I am glad to hear that all is well.

    I am writing this on Wednesday morning before leaving for the airport for a week's trip to Israel, so I don't know if I'll have time to cover everything in this post.

    It's a good thing that your site is active once again. However, I did notice that not everything that I had written to you over the last number of days has made it on to your website. Specifically, I wrote a lengthy 2 part post last week (you referred to it in your post of August 2 8:16 pm on this thread) -- my post contained a long summary of where things stood vis-a-vis the claims and arguments, including the issues surround the Rashi from Yeshayahu and the Machzor Vitry. It also called for an invitation for readers to weigh in. And I believe it contained my reaction to your absolutely AMAZING claim that you have devoted more time to Rashi's concept of HaShem than Rashi himself did. (Before you respond by saying that you didn't originate that statement -- it was made by some [anonymous] "Rabbi Dr." -- if you quote it as supportive of your position and don't disavow it, you "own" it).

    Anyway, in that post of mine that you did not put up on any thread, I listed all the questions and challenges that you had not answered. If you can find it and put it on the website -- along with your response of course -- it would, I think, be illuminating to the readers.

    I understand that you cling to your claim about what Rabbi Kanarfogel told you. After all, you have said openly that once having thought up and written your position you are now biased to defend it. After my second conversation with Rabbi Kanarfogel at the beginning of this week, he did send me a response via e-mail regarding my question to him to clarify his position concerning R. Shemuel ben Mordekhai of Marseilles. The following is a verbatim copy of his e-mail (not a paraphrase or reconstruction, his EXACT words):

    "This is indeed how I responded to you (that he was labelling them as
    corporealists from his perspective, not that this is necessarily how the
    Hakhmei [Zefon] Zarefat saw themselves). Additionally, over the course of my article, I maintain that even if this did turn out to be so to an extent (based on writings that we do not have, or if he and/or others in Provence had 'reports' about/from certain rabbis in northern France), this does not in any way represent the sum total or even the majority of the views on hagshamah from Hakhmei Ashkenaz, and most definitely does not represent the views of the Tosafists [gedolei ha-Torah] themselves, as we have them in their own writings and views in
    any case."

    So again, I guess this means that you will have to "re-retract" your claim regarding this matter.

    continued on next post....

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  43. ...continued from previous post

    The source from the Machzor Vitry is what I posted earlier -- his statement that "one who implies that HaShem has a form is suspected of 'minnus,'" thereby implying that one who maintains that HaShem has a form is a "min"
    is rather self-explanatory, so I don't know how I could be "misunderstanding what he was saying."

    I continue to be amused that for the life of you, you cannot understand why I fail to see statistics as being relevant to determine what we should assume a person's hashkafah to be. You claim that in real life I must make use of statistics in this way, implying that I am thereby violating my own claim. I would ask that you please try to refrain from telling me what I do in my own real life -- I do not, in fact, use statistics in that way. I use the halakhic reasoning of "kol de-parush..." and "kol kavua'..." as I described them -- because the halakhah is a logical formulation that applies to real life, not just to the formation of "legal fictions" in its own isolated world. At any rate, I suspect that your own application of statistics is incorrect even from an academic perspective alone, and I anticipate that the response from my query of the 2 professors at Harvard and Columbia will demonstrate that.

    Lastly, I do not have time now to go into the additional 5 Rashis which will disprove your argument from within its own premises. I hope to do that in detail once I return from Israel.

    Please accept my apologies for my "silence" over the next week -- I do not think that I will have access to any computer while I am away. I do look forward to continuing the discussion after the trip, and in the meantime, I hope you are able to post the "lost" submission of mine from last week. Thanks so much.

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  44. Specifically, I wrote a lengthy 2 part post last week (you referred to it in your post of August 2 8:16 pm on this thread) -- my post contained a long summary of where things stood vis-a-vis the claims and arguments

    I told you already that I didn't think it was appropriate. I didn't see it all as being an objective summary. I don't mind people giving their opinions, but I do mind people giving what is claimed to be an even summary but which is anything but. And I don't have the time to fisk it. If you want to offer a brief list of points that you feel I have not responded to, that would be fine.

    Before you respond by saying that you didn't originate that statement -- it was made by some [anonymous] "Rabbi Dr." -- if you quote it as supportive of your position and don't disavow it, you "own" it

    Actually, I neither agree nor disagree with it - I just don't know. I mentioned it to counter your assumption that obviously Rashi thought long and deep about such things.

    Re. R. Kanarfogel - I think what he meant is that even R. Moshe Taku did not see himself as a magshim, because he did not hold that Hashem always possesses form.

    The source from the Machzor Vitry is what I posted earlier -- his statement that "one who implies that HaShem has a form is suspected of 'minnus,'" thereby implying that one who maintains that HaShem has a form is a "min"
    is rather self-explanatory, so I don't know how I could be "misunderstanding what he was saying."


    Because I think that there is a statement in Machzor Vitri which says precisely the opposite (but which could be misread as saying what you cite), and which was not written by R. Simcha but was an insertion by R. Yaakov bar Shimshon. He says that anyone who interprets tzelem NON-literally is suspected of minnus.

    I continue to be amused that for the life of you, you cannot understand why I fail to see statistics as being relevant to determine what we should assume a person's hashkafah to be.

    OK. I'll make a post on it and we'll see what others have to say.

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  45. Just to clarify further R. Kanarfogel's statement - We have a claim from R. Shmuel B. Mordechai that "rov chachmai Tzarfat magshimim." He may have been given false information. Or, he may have been given information that led him to classify them as magshimim even though they themselves did not see it that way, such as with R. Moshe Taku. Or, they may have been full-blooded magshimim. We simply don't know.

    I would like to reiterate that in my article I made it clear that R. Shmuel b. Mordechai is presenting one view, and that others, such as R. Kanarfogel, disagree. I don't know who is right, I haven't studied it enough. It is interesting that you apparently prefer to follow the view of a contemporary academic over that of a Rishon!

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  46. By the way, Rabbi Zucker, I am still waiting for a response to my question about Deut 4.15, especially in light of the Rashi in Yeshayah. How do we actually perform the stated attestation? What did we actually see, that enables us to note the absence of figures? You can show me that a book is empty of any images, since I understand what a book is and what its parameters are, but how do you show me that the heavens are empty of any corporeal beings?

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  47. Can you explain why you think Rabbi Zucker’s summary was inappropriate? Did he attack you personally? What is inappropriate about giving a summary that attempts to be objective? As an academic, do you not consider it hypocritical to censor other people’s responses? If you think that Rabbi Zucker did not summarize the arguments between the two of you correctly, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to write how he is mistaken (as you are doing) and not just remove the post? I find it rather peculiar that you do not have the time to respond to the “summary post” but you have the time to respond to Rabbi Zucker’s other posts. Doesn’t everyone deserve to see both sides of the argument in their entirety?

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  48. Rabbi Zucker certainly did not attack me personally! I have no problem with people posting comments that provide arguments against my point of view. However an extremely long comment that provides no new arguments, and purports to be an objective summary, but in reality is extremely one-sided, is inappropriate. I cannot imagine that a journal would print such a letter. There's no denial of freedom of speech here; Rabbi Zucker is welcome to open his own blog.

    My goal here is not to have the standard blog, where anyone can say what they want in the comments. Comments have to be constructive, well-written and actually contribute something. If someone submits a comment saying "Great!" I don't let it through. Oh, and I also don't usually let through anonymous comments - next time, please submit a name (it can be a pseudonym if necessary).

    I find it rather peculiar that you do not have the time to respond to the “summary post” but you have the time to respond to Rabbi Zucker’s other posts. Doesn’t everyone deserve to see both sides of the argument in their entirety?

    Responding to his other comments can be done in a few brief sentences. Everyone can see both sides of the argument in their entirety, by going through the comments. His summary post was very, very long and did not contribute anything new. I do not have time, nor do I think it worthwhile, to write a very, very long counter-response showing how his summary is extremely one-sided.

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  49. Rabbi Slifkin,

    With mixed feelings I have returned from my trip to Israel. Again, I apologize for the "silence" while away -- I did not have access to a computer at all.

    Shall we pick up where we left off? I noticed that you have attempted to "reinterpret" Rabbi Kanarfogel's e-mail to me (found in my first post of August 5 in this thread). I leave it to the readers to determine whether this "reinterpretation" is at all plausible. With that, I do note that you stated the following in one of your responses:

    "I would like to reiterate that in my article I made it clear that R. Shmuel b. Mordechai is presenting one view, and that others, such as R. Kanarfogel, disagree. I don't know who is right, I haven't studied it enough. It is interesting that you apparently prefer to follow the view of a contemporary academic over that of a Rishon!"

    That is a rather disingenuous response, at best. Rabbi Kanarfogel is not arguing with R. Shemuel ben Mordekhai; he is explaining him, based upon his (Rabbi Kanarfogel's) scholarly expertise. Now, you point out that I prefer to follow the view of a contemporary academic over that of a Rishon -- no...I prefer to follow Rabbi Kanarfogel's understanding of the Rishon over Rabbi Slifkin's understanding of that Rishon. Let's see -- Rabbi Kanarfogel has impeccable credentials and vast experience as a scholar of medieval chakhmei Ashkenaz, as a rov and a talmid chakham, and he has seen and studied the manuscript in question. I do not believe that Rabbi Slifkin's credentials match Rabbi Kanarfogel's in these areas (please correct me if I am wrong), and Rabbi Slifkin has not seen nor studied the Rishon's manuscript. (Again, please correct me if I am wrong). Now whose interpretation would you choose, given this? I find it interesting that when you thought Rabbi Kanarfogel's position supported yours, you accepted him without qualification. Now that you see that his expert conclusion refutes a point that you made, you refer to him as a "contemporary academic" who is arguing with a Rishon. Fascinating!

    I do not know what you are waiting for in terms of my understanding of Devarim 4:15 -- Bnei Yisroel saw no corporeal image -- because there was none to see -- and yet we experienced the revelation of Ma'amad Har Sinai, and therefore we can attest to the idea that HaShem is absolutely incorporeal, and therefore Echad.

    As far as the Machzor Vitry argument goes -- your response now is to claim that he never wrote the part that presents a challenge to your claim? Hmmmm...can you please let me know the exact source that demonstrates that the quote from the Machzor Vitry is fraudulent?

    Anonymous (of August 6),

    I can well understand Rabbi Slifkin's refusal to put up my post. Self-admitted bias to defending one's published position has consequences. An objective scholar has bias only toward truth -- not toward defending his own position. That being said, I will attempt to post my arguments, citing new points, in smaller, more manageable pieces.

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  50. Rabbi Slifkin,

    You had asked me to review what I thought you had not addressed in terms of my claims. I will attempt to do so over a few, smaller sized posts.

    My first argument was from Rashi in Yeshayahu and Devarim. Rashi links the idea of Bnei Yisroel's not seeing any image to the idea of testimony that HaShem is Echad. I claimed that if there were indeed an image, but that we didn't see it, the testimony would be a farce.

    As far as I understand, your responses to this are fourfold:

    [1] We don't know Rashi's view about heikhalot and therefore we cannot comprehend how they saw whatever they did. Thus, it is meaningless to talk about the whole experience.

    [2] There could very well have been an image of HaShem that we didn't see, and the exclusion of other gods' images that we didn't see was limited only to the popular pantheon of gods at the time.

    [3] The corporealists must have had a way to interpret Devarim 4:15 -- what was their way?

    [4] The linkage between incoporealism and Echad is found in the Rambam who obviously took it from Aristotle and al-Farabi, sources that Rashi did not access, and Rashi could not have come up with that linkage on his own, out of the sources of Torah, since he was from northern France.

    I responded the following, point by point:

    [1] The method of HOW we saw or didn't see at Sinai is irrelevant. What is relevant is THAT we did not see ANY image.

    [2] There is no basis whatsoever to limit the exclusion of gods to the popular ones at the time of Sinai. The statement of Attem Eidai was made by Yeshahyahu, centuries later, and the eidus is eternal, not limited only to that time.

    [3] Corporealists have no problem with Devarim 4:15, as long as it is NOT linked to Yeshayahu. The problem is that once you DO link Devarim with Yeshayahu, you would have a problem as a corporealist. Rashi does link the two, thus he is not a corporealist.

    [4] The idea of incorporealism and Echad MUST originate in Greek or Arabic philosophy, not from the ideas of the Torah itself? Chazal did not nor could not arrive at truths that the Greeks and Muslims arrived at also, independently? Can you prove this point?

    As far as I know, you have not responded to these points that I have made. Please correct me if I am wrong. Without a valid response, the argument stands as it is, and it is clear that Rashi was an incorporealist.

    With regard to the Machzor Vitry argument that I advanced, you pointed out that the quote from the Machzor Virty in question is fraudulent. I await an exact source for that.

    As far as other, new points showing that Rashi was an incorporealist, I will post them in the next quote, in a few minutes.

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  51. Rabbi Slifkin,

    If I am not mistaken, a large part of your argument (from Rashi's silence) is that he disavows corporealism only in limited, specific circumstances -- when the image would be disgraceful to HaShem. Rashi's silence in other areas shows that he accepts corporealism in those areas. A solid refutation of this argument would consist of examples where Rashi did disavow corporealism in places that were not "disgraceful images", or by citing places of disgraceful images that Rashi did not disavow. The reason for the latter is that you claimed that Rashi did not merely establish a category of incorporealism leaving that category to be applied elsewhere, but that he "went out of his way to stress" incorporealism in every place that would be a disgrace to HaShem.

    Jacob Trachtman already pointed out that Rashi speaks about incorporealism with regard to the "right and left" of Him, and this contains no idea of disgrace to HaShem. Thus it refutes your claim. (You addressed this by stating that Jacob's argument is good "but not dispositive" -- without explaining why).

    In addition to Jacob's argument, please take a look at the following:

    In Yoma 3b, Rashi defines for us what the term "k'viyakhol" means with regard to HaShem all throughout the Talmud. Rashi then states in Megillah 21a that HaShem "standing" at Sinai is "k'viyakhol" -- an idea that contains no disgrace whatsoever to HaShem, and thus again, your argument is shown to be false.

    Further, In Shemos 15:8, Rashi gives examples, which according to you, are "derogatory" in nature if applied to HaShem. These include "ruach af" and "'ashan af". Yet, in Tehillim 74:1, 18:16, and Shemuel I 22:16, Rashi does not comment AT ALL despite the fact that the pessukim use "derogatory" terms. According to your theory, Rashi should have "taken pains to stress" the incorporeal notion of these terms. Now, if you respond by stating that Rashi already "covered" the topic by stating in other places that these were incorporeal terms, then I counter that Rashi already "covered" ALL images as being incorporeal by what he wrote about left and right, and what he wrote about HaShem standing at Sinai, (and what he wrote about the seven heavens at Sinai and in Yeshayahu).

    The point is that once there are holes in your theory, it cannot be cited as a working "rule" for us to use in interpreting Rashi, and thus your claim falls apart.

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  52. Rabbi Kanarfogel is not arguing with R. Shemuel ben Mordekhai; he is explaining him

    With regard to his explanation of R. Shmuel’s position, I have no quibble; he is merely pointing out that R. Shmuel’s description of the majority of French scholars as being magshimim does not mean that they agreed with that description. But, in addition, Rabbi Kanarfogel seems to be arguing with him. He says explicitly in the email that you posted from him as follows: “Additionally, over the course of my article, I maintain that even if this did turn out to be so to an extent (based on writings that we do not have, or if he and/or others in Provence had 'reports' about/from certain rabbis in northern France), this does not in any way represent the sum total or even the majority of the views on hagshamah from Hakhmei Ashkenaz, and most definitely does not represent the views of the Tosafists…” Unless he is drawing a distinction between the chachomim of France and those of other places in Ashkenaz, which is a possibility.

    I find it interesting that when you thought Rabbi Kanarfogel's position supported yours, you accepted him without qualification. Now that you see that his expert conclusion refutes a point that you made, you refer to him as a "contemporary academic" who is arguing with a Rishon.

    That is a gross and disturbing misrepresentation. In the article, I made it clear that there are differing views, amongst both traditionalists and academics, as to the prevalence of corporealism in France (i.e. some academics claim that it was prevalent, and R. Kanarfogel disagrees). I did not take sides then, and I am not taking sides now. What I was raising was the interesting point that you appear to be siding with him over R. Shmuel. R. Shmuel says “the majority of Chachmei Tzarfat were magshimim”; R. Kanarfogel does not accept that that is necessarily true. Do you?

    I do not know what you are waiting for in terms of my understanding of Devarim 4:15

    What does it mean that we saw all the seven heavens and there were no deities to see? How did we see the seven heavens?

    As far as the Machzor Vitry argument goes -- your response now is to claim that he never wrote the part that presents a challenge to your claim?

    That is not exactly what I wrote. I wrote that R. Kanarfogel has a long footnote pointing to differing versions of a certain text, one version of which is cited by R. Moshe Taku as proof that R. Yaakov bar Shimshon was a corporealist. I wrote that I have not been able to check the sources that he cites, which discuss it in detail, but my initial impression is that some of them claim that the text in Machzor Vitry was written by R. Yaakov bar Shimshon instead, and that other versions of this text supports the corporealist view. I did not claim that this is necessarily the case – what I did claim is that the text you cite cannot be used as support without investigating the discussion surrounding this.

    Self-admitted bias to defending one's published position has consequences. An objective scholar has bias only toward truth -- not toward defending his own position.

    You have it exactly wrong. Everyone is biased towards defending their published position. An objective scholar admits to this and tries to overcome it as much as possible. I believe that the fact that I recognize that I have to overcome this bias puts me in a better position to do so, as well as the fact that I can point to many places where I was able to admit error in my writings. In contrast, you apparently believe that you are not at all biased against saying that Rashi was a corporealist.

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  53. With regard to your second comment, I was tempted not to post it. It merely repeats material that you have already said, and which I already responded to, at great length, as well as containing misrepresentations of my position, while failing to respond to the questions that I posed to you on that topic. Please go over the comment threads again. In brief, I will add that I did not say that it is impossible for someone to link incorporealism with Echad without Greek philosophy. What I said was that it does take a sophisticated take on philosophy, and we never see that Rashi pursued this interest (at least, not that I know of; I am ready to be corrected). Furthermore, since we know that there were corporealists, who nevertheless did believe Hashem Echad, I pointed out that obviously there are those Rishonim who did not see the two as being necessarily connected. I also asked you to explain how we saw the heavens, such that we were able to testify that there was nothing to be seen in them. You did not respond to that.

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  54. If I am not mistaken, a large part of your argument (from Rashi's silence) is that he disavows corporealism only in limited, specific circumstances -- when the image would be disgraceful to HaShem.

    You are mistaken. What I wrote was that in the first class of cases in my article, where Rashi employs the method of nonliteral interpretation, he does so in order to avoid a specific class of anthropomorphism: the portrayal of God as being subject to exhaustion, physical
    toil, or being secondary in power to His creations. But then I raised OTHER cases, such as the smoking nostrils, where he disavows the literal meaning because he believes it to be incorrect, in that only a flesh-and-blood being actually smokes.

    Jacob Trachtman already pointed out that Rashi speaks about incorporealism with regard to the "right and left" of Him, and this contains no idea of disgrace to HaShem. Thus it refutes your claim.

    Rashi here does not offer any comment about the Midrash, he merely quotes it. You are claiming that it must be taken at face value as opposing corporealism. However Rashi quotes many other Midrashim which support corporealism, where you would not say that Rashi should be taken at face value. Why the selectivity?

    In Yoma 3b, Rashi defines for us what the term "k'viyakhol" means with regard to HaShem all throughout the Talmud. Rashi then states in Megillah 21a that HaShem "standing" at Sinai is "k'viyakhol" -- an idea that contains no disgrace whatsoever to HaShem, and thus again, your argument is shown to be false.

    First of all, as I mentioned before, disgrace is only one reason why Rashi interprets anthropomorphisms non-literally. There can be other reasons.

    Second, you are incorrect that Rashi in Yoma 3b explains k’vyachol to mean “non-literal.” He says that it means that we have to say this against our will, even though we don’t want to say it. The example he is discussing is with Hashem being disgusted with the Jewish People – we hate to say it, but we have to – i.e., because it’s true. Then there are different versions of the girsa in Rashi – according to some, he says that such is possible, and according to others, he says that it is impossible. So we can’t use that phrase without knowing the correct girsa. But from the rest of Rashi, we see that he does not interpret k’vyachol to mean non-literal. So in the case of Megillah 21a, it’s the same thing. We hate to say that Hashem is standing, because it is disrespectful to talk like that. But we have to say it, because it’s true! So in fact, this Rashi provides further support for the view that he was a corporealist! Thank you!

    Further, In Shemos 15:8, Rashi gives examples, which according to you, are "derogatory" in nature if applied to HaShem. These include "ruach af" and "'ashan af". Yet, in Tehillim 74:1, 18:16, and Shemuel I 22:16, Rashi does not comment AT ALL despite the fact that the pessukim use "derogatory" terms

    As mentioned, I did not say that Rashi only interprets non-literally when it is derogatory. Furthermore, this is Rashi on Tenach, not Rashi on Chumash. One cannot extrapolate principles from one to the other; they are different works. His Tenach commentary is much more abbreviated. The fact that he does not comment here does not prove anything whatsoever.

    Thank you, though, for that source on k’vyachol, it certainly adds to the evidence that Rashi was a corporealist.

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  55. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Thank you for your timely responses to what I wrote.

    I do not understand your response regarding Rabbi Kanarfogel's quote. It is almost as if you did not read what I had written. Your response was as follows:

    "What I was raising was the interesting point that you appear to be siding with him [Rabbi Kanarfogel] over R. Shmuel. R. Shmuel says “the majority of Chachmei Tzarfat were magshimim”; R. Kanarfogel does not accept that that is necessarily true. Do you?"

    Rabbi Kanarfogel ABSOLUTELY accepts what R. Shemuel ben Mordekhai wrote as being true. He simply does not accept YOUR INTERPRETATION of what R. Shemuel ben Mordekhai wrote as being true. In Rabbi Kanarfogel's expert opinion, R. Shemuel was stating, as a staunch incorporealist, that the provencal rabbis were magshimim -- not from their own viewpoint, but from his strict incorporealist one. Now, you can certainly disagree with this interpretation, but as I wrote before, in weighing between the interpretations of two people where one has credentials and expertise that the other does not have, and where one saw and studied the manuscript and the other did not, I believe that logic dictates a preference for one interpretation over the other.
    Only a misrepresentation would view this issue as an argument against R. Shemuel by Rabbi Kanarfogel.

    You keep on asking the same question in different forms -- "What does it mean that we saw all the seven heavens and there were no deities to see? How did we see the seven heavens?"

    I do not know; but what does that matter? It is completely irrelevant to the discussion. I have asked you numerous times to explain why knowing HOW we saw the seven heavens devoid of the image of any deity has any relevance whatsoever to the fact that in whatever way we DID see it, we are called upon to give testimony. Apparently HaShem, as reported by Yeshayahu, maintains that whatever way we did see the heavens and saw no image is enough for us to give testimony. I ask once again for a clear answer to my question, an answer that explains why knowing the answer to HOW we saw the heavens impacts on the issue of my argument.

    Again, when you have the exact source that shows that the Machzor Vitry text that I quoted is fraudulent, I will be glad to investigate it.

    "In contrast, you apparently believe that you are not at all biased against saying that Rashi was a corporealist."

    I am not at all biased against saying that Rashi was a corporealist; if there is a logical and/or factual basis to say so, then it is true. To date, nothing suggests that there is; on the contrary, there is a great deal to suggest the opposite. And please allow a small side question -- how do you know what I believe, i.e. in terms of my biases? I asserted what you believe from your own words; on what basis do you claim to know what I believe? (This is the second time you have made such a claim about my beliefs -- I find it somewhat curious that an objective scholar would claim to "know" the beliefs of another without solid basis. Is this, perhaps, the very same modus operandi that you are using with regard to Rashi as well?)

    If you don't want to respond to my summary, claiming that you have already answered my questions, I understand. I reread everything and cannot find your answers to the questions that I listed in my previous post. Could you at least please direct me to where you think you already answered the questions?

    continued in the next post...

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  56. ...continued from the previous post

    "Rashi here does not offer any comment about the Midrash, he merely quotes it. You are claiming that it must be taken at face value as opposing corporealism. However Rashi quotes many other Midrashim which support corporealism, where you would not say that Rashi should be taken at face value. Why the selectivity?"

    I am at a total loss to understand what you are saying here. Rashi quotes the Midrash. You claim that Rashi was a corporealist. Yet Rashi "goes out of his way to stress" that it is not literal, despite the fact that there is nothing derogatory involved. This falsifies your claim.

    "So in the case of Megillah 21a, it’s the same thing. We hate to say that Hashem is standing, because it is disrespectful to talk like that. But we have to say it, because it’s true! So in fact, this Rashi provides further support for the view that he was a corporealist! Thank you!"

    Why, if HaShem has a body, is it "disrespectful" to say that He is standing?! I might be able to understand that claim with regard to smoking nostrils, but I do not understand it with regard to standing. Please explain. And if you cannot explain it, then your conclusion of "thank you" is, at best, specious.

    "As mentioned, I did not say that Rashi only interprets non-literally when it is derogatory. Furthermore, this is Rashi on Tenach, not Rashi on Chumash. One cannot extrapolate principles from one to the other; they are different works. His Tenach commentary is much more abbreviated. The fact that he does not comment here does not prove anything whatsoever."

    I am sorry -- I must have missed a point about your claim. When else does Rashi stress an incorporeal approach to anthropomorphism aside from the "derogatory" issue? If I understand you correctly, you are now positing that Rashi's works should not be taken as a whole entity, but that there is a qualitative difference between his work on Chumash versus everything else. This seems arbitrary and contrived to me. Do you have a basis to make such a claim?

    Because you and I have both mentioned in the past that a clear logical mind must weigh the evidence, I turn to the readers at this point and ask, where do you think the evidence, on the weight of fact and logic, stacks up at this point? A reaction would be instructive and helpful.

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  57. Rabbi Kanarfogel ABSOLUTELY accepts what R. Shemuel ben Mordekhai wrote as being true.

    I am not at all convinced that he does, but if you want to say so, fine, it doesn’t harm my case. If your point is that R. Shmuel’s testimony does not necessarily mean that he believed that the French believed that God has form, fine, I will accept that possible qualification. But I still think that it is overwhelmingly likely that he meant that, and I am certain that R. Kanarfogel would agree.

    You keep on asking the same question in different forms -- "What does it mean that we saw all the seven heavens and there were no deities to see? How did we see the seven heavens?" I do not know; but what does that matter?

    Because without understanding what is going on, you cannot prove that this testimony relies on God not being corporeal. I already explained this.

    Again, when you have the exact source that shows that the Machzor Vitry text that I quoted is fraudulent, I will be glad to investigate it.

    I have pointed you to a footnote which lists exact sources which show that the authorship and nusach of the text is disputed. So far I have only managed to get a quick look at the Torah Shelemah, and it seemed to say that there are conflicting texts, one version of which was used by R. Moshe Taku to prove that the author was corporeal (and was not R. Simcha). I already stated this earlier. Until this is clarified, your Machzor Vitry argument is of no use.

    I am not at all biased against saying that Rashi was a corporealist; if there is a logical and/or factual basis to say so, then it is true.

    I happen to be skeptical of that. You firmly believe that God is incorporeal; you firmly believe that Rashi was a great Torah scholar; you apparently believe that he was also a great philosopher; you apparently believe that a great Torah scholar and great philosopher would not believe that God is corporeal.

    To date, nothing suggests that there is; on the contrary, there is a great deal to suggest the opposite.

    “NOTHING” suggest there is? I am willing to admit that there are arguments against it; I believe that there are arguments in favor that outweigh these. You feel that the arguments against it are more powerful, but you don’t even admit that there are ANY arguments in favor?! This despite the fact that you have no explanation as to why Rashi never states that corporeal descriptions of God’s body are non-literal, even though he does so with many other things?!

    (continued in next comment)

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  58. Rashi quotes the Midrash (Concerning right and left - N.S.). You claim that Rashi was a corporealist. Yet Rashi "goes out of his way to stress" that it is not literal, despite the fact that there is nothing derogatory involved. This falsifies your claim.

    First of all, as I noted, there can be reasons other than it being derogatory.
    Second, in any case, I have figured out what is going on in this Midrash, based on the Saperstein commentary here, pointing to Rashi to Tehillim 118:16. It has nothing whatsoever to do with spatial right and left; rather the question is with regard to the attributes termed “left” i.e. din and guilt. So this Midrash is no argument at all for Rashi not being a corporealist.

    Why, if HaShem has a body, is it "disrespectful" to say that He is standing?!

    It’s disrespectful in the context being discussed – of standing before Moshe. Normally, when a lesser person meets someone greater, the lesser person alone stands, and the greater person sits.

    As is clear from Rashi, k’vyachol does not mean that something is not true; rather, it means that we are reluctantly forced to say that it is true. So this is a further argument for my position.

    When else does Rashi stress an incorporeal approach to anthropomorphism aside from the "derogatory" issue?

    Smoking nostrils. Of course it is possible that this is also due to it being derogatory. I don’t see that it makes a difference either way.

    If I understand you correctly, you are now positing that Rashi's works should not be taken as a whole entity, but that there is a qualitative difference between his work on Chumash versus everything else. This seems arbitrary and contrived to me. Do you have a basis to make such a claim?

    They were not written as a single work. I am pointing to a consistent pattern in the Chumash. You say that there is an inconsistency in Nach. But they are two different works. And furthermore we see that his commentary on Nach is much, much briefer. There are other stylistic differences too. So you can’t raise a question from Rashi’s silence in Nach.

    Because you and I have both mentioned in the past that a clear logical mind must weigh the evidence, I turn to the readers at this point and ask, where do you think the evidence, on the weight of fact and logic, stacks up at this point?

    It is quite obvious that the vast majority of Orthodox Jews will side with you! One would have to take a survey from people without the frum bias.

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  59. By the way, Rabbi Zucker, I have the same question for you that I asked Rabbi Maroof and that he did not answer. How do you understand Rashi's definition of "dykuni" - both translation and meaning?

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  60. I also want to raise another point concerning the testimony in Yeshayah/ Devarim. Maybe there are other gods and they are either invisible or incorporeal?

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  61. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I will address your questions and comments point-by-point in the order that you wrote them (it will probably take two or three posts to do so).

    "If your point is that R. Shmuel’s testimony does not necessarily mean that he believed that the French believed that God has form, fine, I will accept that possible qualification. But I still think that it is overwhelmingly likely that he meant that, and I am certain that R. Kanarfogel would agree."

    Please tell me how you get from Rabbi Kanarfogel's verbatim quote of --

    "This is indeed how I responded to you [Rabbi Zucker] (that he [R. Shemuel] was labelling them [the French rabbis] as
    corporealists from his perspective, not that this is necessarily how the
    Hakhmei [Zefon] Zarefat saw themselves)"

    -- to your conclusion that Rabbi Kanarfogel "would agree that it is overwhelmingly likely that R. Shemuel meant that the French rabbis maintained that God has a form."

    Your conclusion either ignores Rabbi Kanarfogel's very own words, or it requires a very creative reinterpretation of what he said.

    Your next comment, regarding the issue of the testimony was,

    "Because without understanding what is going on, you cannot prove that this testimony relies on God not being corporeal. I already explained this."

    I am truly sorry -- you have not EXPLAINED anything in this regard; you have merely repeated your claim again and again.

    The issue at hand is as follows: I claimed that since Rashi links the Sinai revelation -- wherein Bnei Yisroel were shown the seven heavens opened up and did not see any image whatsoever -- to the fact that Bnei Yisroel are called upon by HaShem to testify that He is Echad -- that this demonstrates Rashi's incorporealism. If HaShem does in fact have an image, but we didn't see it when the heavens were opened up, then other gods who were also there can, as well, have an image that we didn't see, and therefore our testimony is a farce. You claimed, as your quote above states, that unless we know how Bnei Yisroel saw what they did, and what Rashi's view of heikhalot literature is, then we cannot prove anything from the testimony issue. I responded by asking you WHY is that so? In WHATEVER WAY we saw that there was no visible image (of HaShem) in the heavens, if there really was one there but we didn't see it, then there could also be an image of other gods that was there but we didn't see. WHAT HAS THE METHOD OF OUR SIGHT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH CONFIRMING OR REJECTING THIS ARGUMENT??? Whatever applies to one side of the equation (HaShem) could theoretically apply to the other side of the equation (gods), with WHATEVER the method of sight was being the constant on both sides of the equation. I have asked you a number of times to EXPLAIN that, and you simply repeat your claim. Repeating it a hundred more times would still not EXPLAIN it. I am at a loss here to understand.

    continued in the next post....

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  62. Rabbi Zucker:

    Please tell me how you get from Rabbi Kanarfogel's verbatim quote of --

    "This is indeed how I responded to you [Rabbi Zucker] (that he [R. Shemuel] was labelling them [the French rabbis] as corporealists from his perspective, not that this is necessarily how the Hakhmei [Zefon] Zarefat saw themselves)"

    -- to your conclusion that Rabbi Kanarfogel "would agree that it is overwhelmingly likely that R. Shemuel meant that the French rabbis maintained that God has a form."


    There must be some communication gap between us here. What is the problem? When someone says magshimim, does that not normally refer to a belief that God has form? Yes, it is possible that it does not mean that. However, it is most likely that it does. Of course, R. Moshe Taku would not see that as being problematic – he held that of course God does take on human form, but forfend that He is always of that form.

    Whatever applies to one side of the equation (HaShem) could theoretically apply to the other side of the equation (gods), with WHATEVER the method of sight was being the constant on both sides of the equation. I have asked you a number of times to EXPLAIN that, and you simply repeat your claim.

    Let me try again, presenting it slightly differently.
    How can we testify that we didn’t see any gods and therefore there are none – maybe they are invisible? Or maybe they are incorporeal?

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  63. It seems to me that R. Kanarfogel's main point in his article is that just because R. Shmuel says something, it doesn't mean that its true - as an opponent of corporealism, he may have been exaggerating the situation, or otherwise misled.

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  64. ...continued from the previous post

    With regard to the Machzor Vitry issue, I assume that the footnote to which you refer is the one in Rabbi Kanarfogel's article (footnote #52) which itself refers to the Torah Sheleimah volume 16 as a source of variant texts for the Machzor Vitry. I should be able to get a hold of a Torah Sheleimah volume 16 today, so I will check on that, after which we can continue the discussion on this point.

    "[I wrote: I am not at all biased against saying that Rashi was a corporealist; if there is a logical and/or factual basis to say so, then it is true.] [You responded with] I happen to be skeptical of that."

    What can I say? I continue to be somewhat amused at your ability to discern my true convictions, better than I myself am able to discern them.

    "This despite the fact that you have no explanation as to why Rashi never states that corporeal descriptions of God’s body are non-literal, even though he does so with many other things?!"

    On the contrary -- There are at least two fine examples of where Rashi absolutely DOES state that a corporeal description of God's "body" are non-literal: the case of left and right, and the case of standing at Sinai. (I assume that in your quote you meant "why Rashi never states...." except in the case of a derogatory image).

    Now, you raised questions about both of those cases, and I will address them presently. Your quote about the right and left issue was,

    "I have figured out what is going on in this Midrash, based on the Saperstein commentary here, pointing to Rashi to Tehillim 118:16. It has nothing whatsoever to do with spatial right and left; rather the question is with regard to the attributes termed “left” i.e. din and guilt. So this Midrash is no argument at all for Rashi not being a corporealist."

    What you may have figured out about the Midrash is irrelevant to the quote in the Rashi. Rashi on Bereishis 1:26 states, "vekhi yeish yammin u-semmol lefanav?" ("is there such a thing as 'right' and 'left' before HaShem?") Of course there is if you are a corporealist!!! What is Rashi bothered with over here?! If you want to suggest that right and left refer to "rachammim" and "din" -- that's very nice; but Rashi's very question is meaningless if he is a corporealist. According to you, Rashi simply should have said that "right" and "left" refer to "rachammim" and "din" as in the passuk in Tehillim. Why did he raise the question? There is no question if he is a corporealist! Hence, we have one example of Rashi stating that a corporeal description of HaShem is non-literal (and it is not at all derogatory). This refutes your claim that Rashi NEVER states that corporeal descriptions of God’s body are non-literal.

    Next...with regard to the standing at Sinai issue -- I cited the Rashi in gemara Megillah that HaShem's standing at Sinai is "k'veyakhol" thus showing incorporealism, and you responded that

    "It’s disrespectful in the context being discussed – of standing before Moshe. Normally, when a lesser person meets someone greater, the lesser person alone stands, and the greater person sits."

    The gemara in Megillah cites that parshah in Devarim to show that the rebbi and the talmid ought to be in the same position -- and as Rashi states there, they should either both be standing or both be sitting. HaShem "stood" in order to teach this lesson. Much like HaShem consulted with the angels in creating man, in order to teach the lesson of humility. Now, the latter case was certainly not derogatory to HaShem -- nowhere there does Rashi state "k'veyakhol" -- so why is this (standing at Sinai) any different? And if it is to teach a lesson about how Torah should be taught forever, and is therefore not derogatory, then we have another example of Rashi interpreting a corporeal image of HaShem in a non-literal way, thus refuting your claim.

    continued in the next post...

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  65. ... continued from the previous post

    I had written earlier:

    "If I understand you correctly, you are now positing that Rashi's works should not be taken as a whole entity, but that there is a qualitative difference between his work on Chumash versus everything else. This seems arbitrary and contrived to me. Do you have a basis to make such a claim?"

    And you responded, "They were not written as a single work. I am pointing to a consistent pattern in the Chumash. You say that there is an inconsistency in Nach. But they are two different works. And furthermore we see that his commentary on Nach is much, much briefer. There are other stylistic differences too. So you can’t raise a question from Rashi’s silence in Nach."

    I don't think you have answered my question, unless you mean to say that to you, Rabbi Slifkin, there seem to be stylistic differences between Rashi on Chumash and Rashi on Nach, and that it seems to you that they were not written as one work, therefore one may not ask from one on the other. A basis for these conclusions? I have not seen any work, not by academicians or by talmidei chakhamim that draw this qualitative distinction. Now, you are certainly entitled to your own subjective, aesthetic opinion, but that is hardly a basis to confirm or reject an argument.

    "It is quite obvious that the vast majority of Orthodox Jews will side with you! One would have to take a survey from people without the frum bias."

    So...most frum people cannot approach this issue without a prejudiced bias -- only you? Wow.

    You asked how Rashi translates deyyukan. From a number of Rashis the answer is "form" or "image" -- you also asked what the MEANING is (aside from the translation). I would have to know which specific Rashi you mean, in order to answer using the context as well. Please let me know which specific Rashi you were asking about. But in the meantime, let me turn the question to you, how do you think the Ramban -- a known incorporealist, who utilized the the phrase "demmus deyyukno" referring to HaShem's demmus deyyukan in man -- translated that phrase?

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  66. What can I say? I continue to be somewhat amused at your ability to discern my true convictions, better than I myself am able to discern them.

    How about if you tell me which of the following statements that I made is incorrect:
    You firmly believe that God is incorporeal; you firmly believe that Rashi was a great Torah scholar; you apparently believe that he was also a great philosopher; you apparently believe that a great Torah scholar and great philosopher would not believe that God is corporeal.

    Look, obviously I do not believe that someone who is biased is necessarily wrong. However it does bother me when people do not admit that they are biased.

    If you want to suggest that right and left refer to "rachammim" and "din" -- that's very nice; but Rashi's very question is meaningless if he is a corporealist. According to you, Rashi simply should have said that "right" and "left" refer to "rachammim" and "din" as in the passuk in Tehillim. Why did he raise the question? There is no question if he is a corporealist! Hence, we have one example of Rashi stating that a corporeal description of HaShem is non-literal (and it is not at all derogatory).

    Did you see the Rashi in Tehillim? He says, But is there left Above? Does it not say, Yemin Hashem romema? Obviously there the question is about attributes. Since the terminology in this Rashi is of the exact same pattern, obviously it follows the same model. It is not asking about spatial issues, but rather about attributes.
    The funny thing here is that even ArtScroll – and the person who wrote the notes in the ArtScroll does not believe that Rashi is a corporealist – presents this view!

    With regard to the Gemara in Megillah – you are not paying any attention to what Rashi actually says. He clearly explains k’vyachol to mean that we are personally reluctant to say such things because it is hard for us, but Scripture, which wasn’t restricted by such considerations, was able to. Nothing to do with these things not being true.

    I don't think you have answered my question, unless you mean to say that to you, Rabbi Slifkin, there seem to be stylistic differences between Rashi on Chumash and Rashi on Nach, and that it seems to you that they were not written as one work, therefore one may not ask from one on the other. A basis for these conclusions?

    Are you seriously arguing that Rashi’s commentary on Nach is of the same length as his commentary on Chumash?

    So...most frum people cannot approach this issue without a prejudiced bias -- only you? Wow.

    If I also have this bias against Rashi being a corporealist, then the fact that I nevertheless reached the opposite conclusion would give me greater credibility! Of course, you could argue that I have a bias towards maverick views, etc., which is perfectly possible too. But surely you aren’t denying that most frum people are prejudiced against attributing any shortcoming to the Rishonim?

    From a number of Rashis the answer is "form" or "image" -- you also asked what the MEANING is (aside from the translation). I would have to know which specific Rashi you mean, in order to answer using the context as well.

    When the Gemara says that Adam was made in the dmus dyukon of Hashem, what does Rashi understand it to mean?
    Ramban, as far as I know, interpreted it allegorically, i.e. nothing to do with the physical appearance of man.

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  67. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Thanks once again for your timely responses.

    "It seems to me that R. Kanarfogel's main point in his article is that just because R. Shmuel says something, it doesn't mean that its true - as an opponent of corporealism, he may have been exaggerating the situation, or otherwise misled."

    This completely sidesteps the issue I raised. Rabbi Kanarfogel wrote me a very clear e-mail. I have posted it verbatim a few times now. His own words are very clear as to what he (Rabbi Kanarfogel) maintains about R. Shemuel's position. I asked you to please explain how one can go from that e-mail to the conclusion that Rabbi Kanarfogel likely agrees with your assessment, which is contrary to what he himself wrote in the e-mail. Please correct me if I am wrong -- you have not answered my question in this regard; you have instead interpreted what you think he is saying in his article. What about the e-mail?!

    On the testimony issue you wrote,

    "Let me try again, presenting it slightly differently.
    How can we testify that we didn’t see any gods and therefore there are none – maybe they are invisible? Or maybe they are incorporeal?"

    I think you may not realize it, but your comments prove my very point. Let us begin with an illustration. If I take you into a room at 4:00 and ask you to look carefully through the room and see that there is no one there, and that occurs, then I can reasonably ask you to testify later that there was no one in that room at 4:00. The analogy with regard to deities is that there are in fact no corporeal deities -- we can testify to that, since corporeal deities are perceived through the senses. Now the analogy to deities would be disrupted by the following point: maybe there are incorporeal deities, just as HaShem is incorporeal. The logical argument advanced by the Rambam in Hilkhos Yesodei HaTorah perek 1 already takes care of that. Thus, if there are indeed "other gods" they would have to be corporeal. If they are corporeal, then a thorough examination of the "room" -- the heavens -- would reveal them. We had a thorough examination of the heavens and there was nothing there to see. Ergo, there are no other gods, corporeal or incorporeal.

    I anticipate that you may respond (as you have suggested in the past) that this argument is not tenable since it relies on Rashi coming to the same logical conclusion as the Rambam did, which "of course" cannot be the case since Rashi didn't have the great advantage of being exposed to Greek or Muslim philosophy, from which the Rambam "obviously" took his argument -- clearly not from Torah ideas or his own logical formulations. If that is to be your response, please explain how you know that Rashi (or the Rambam for that matter) could not come up with this without secular philosophers.

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  68. With regard to R. Kanarfogel's email - I just don't understand what is bothering you.

    Now the analogy to deities would be disrupted by the following point: maybe there are incorporeal deities, just as HaShem is incorporeal. The logical argument advanced by the Rambam in Hilkhos Yesodei HaTorah perek 1 already takes care of that.

    First of all, maybe they are corporeal but invisible? I specifically differentiated between the two, but you did not respond to that. Maybe there are other gods, and they are invisible?

    Second of all, I repeatedly pointed out that the "obvious logical argument" that connects One God with incorporeality was obviously not obvious and logical to the Rishonim who did maintain that God does/ can assume form.

    By the way, I am still waiting for you to clarify which of the following I am mistaken about: You firmly believe that God is incorporeal; you firmly believe that Rashi was a great Torah scholar and great philosopher; you apparently believe that a great Torah scholar and great philosopher would not believe that God is corporeal.

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  69. Also, as I pointed out, the Rashi to Yoma 3b that you helpfully pointed me towards, makes it clear that every kvyachol means something that is unpleasant for us to say but nevertheless true. So this is evidence that Rashi understood that Hashema actually stands.

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  70. Also, please answer how you understand Rashi's understanding of Dmus Dyukan in the Gemara.

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  71. By the way, Ritva to Yoma 3b also makes it clear that my understanding of Rashi is correct. K'vyachol - it's the truth that's unpleasant for us to say.

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  72. Rabbi Slifkin,

    "Look, obviously I do not believe that someone who is biased is necessarily wrong. However it does bother me when people do not admit that they are biased."

    The definition of the word 'bias' is: "a particular tendency or inclination, esp. one that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question; prejudice."

    I can categorically state that I have no tendency that prevents an unprejudiced consideration of this question. If there were logical or factual evidence that Rashi was a corporealist, I would readily accept it. There is none that I have seen thus far. (Unless you are suggesting that anyone who does not accept your subjective claims is, by definition, prejudiced).

    "Did you see the Rashi in Tehillim? He says, But is there left Above? Does it not say, Yemin Hashem romema? Obviously there the question is about attributes. Since the terminology in this Rashi is of the exact same pattern, obviously it follows the same model. It is not asking about spatial issues, but rather about attributes."

    I had assumed you were talking about the Rashi on Tehillim 118:16. If so, may I ask if you actually looked it up? My edition of Tanakh with Rashi contains none of what you reported. He does not ask there anything like "is there left above...?" The Rashi there just talks about "din" etc. without raising the issue of "how can it be that there is left or right" or anything like that. So Rashi in Bereishis is NOT following the same pattern as in Tehillim, and thus your claim is false. (Unless you were referring to a different Rashi in Tehillim, in which case, please let me know which one).

    "With regard to the Gemara in Megillah – you are not paying any attention to what Rashi actually says. He clearly explains k’vyachol to mean that we are personally reluctant to say such things because it is hard for us, but Scripture, which wasn’t restricted by such considerations, was able to. Nothing to do with these things not being true."

    You have not addressed my issue at all. WHY is it hard for us to say that HaShem stood at Sinai? You claimed that it is because such standing would be derogatory. I have explained why it would not at all be derogatory, consistent with the lesson of humility that HaShem taught us regarding HaShem and the angels in Bereishis, where Rashi does not say "k'veyyakhol" at all. If the standing at Sinai is not derogatory, then why is it hard for us to say? Unless it's hard for us to say because HaShem is not corporeal.

    "Are you seriously arguing that Rashi’s commentary on Nach is of the same length as his commentary on Chumash?"

    Again, I asked you for some kind of source of a serious study that there is a qualitative difference between Rashi's work on Chumash and Rashi's work on Nakh. You have not responded to that request. Further, are you suggesting that if one were to take a quantitative survey of Rashis in Bereishis, Shemos, etc. and find that there is a statistically significant difference between the length of Rashis in Bamidbar versus the other seforim of Chumash that this means that Rashi on Bamidbar is qualitatively a different work from that on the other chumashim?

    "When the Gemara says that Adam was made in the dmus dyukon of Hashem, what does Rashi understand it to mean? Ramban, as far as I know, interpreted it allegorically, i.e. nothing to do with the physical appearance of man."

    So my suggestion to you is that Rashi understood that gemara in the same way that the Ramban did. Now that suggestion will be a problem only if you have a preconceived notion that Rashi is a corporealist. There is no inherent problem with the suggestion on its own merits.

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  73. Rabbi Slifkin,

    "With regard to R. Kanarfogel's email - I just don't understand what is bothering you."

    Well, there's nothing "bothering" me -- it's just that you arrived at a conclusion which is the opposite of what he explicitly wrote, and then claim that he himself likely agrees with that conclusion. I'm puzzled, not bothered.

    "First of all, maybe they are corporeal but invisible? I specifically differentiated between the two, but you did not respond to that. Maybe there are other gods, and they are invisible?"

    I did, in fact, address this very issue. A corporeal being, by definition, has an image. An image is perceivable by the senses. If one were to go into a room at a given time, thoroughly investigate the room, and perceive with his senses that no body was there, then he can testify that there was no corporeal being in the room at that time. The possibility of a body that does not have the attributes of a body being there is not one that a witness is to consider. That is, if a witness were to go to court and testify that no one was at the alleged murder sight at the time of the alleged murder, he would not be examined by the dayyanim about the possibility that maybe he is wrong -- perhaps an invisible body was there.

    "Second of all, I repeatedly pointed out that the "obvious logical argument" that connects One God with incorporeality was obviously not obvious and logical to the Rishonim who did maintain that God does/ can assume form."

    I did not state the the connection between incorporeality and Echad is obvious such that everyone must agree with it. I merely stated that it is logical, and can be arrived at without the Greeks or Muslims. So your point here is not relevant.

    "By the way, I am still waiting for you to clarify which of the following I am mistaken about: You firmly believe that God is incorporeal; you firmly believe that Rashi was a great Torah scholar and great philosopher; you apparently believe that a great Torah scholar and great philosopher would not believe that God is corporeal."

    I do not disagree with any of those points. What has that to do with bias? As I mentioned in my previous post, the definition of bias is "a particular tendency or inclination, esp. one that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question; prejudice." If one has formed an opinion on an issue based upon facts and logic, but is open to clear, rational, and factual investigation which may be contrary to his opinion, he is not biased. Or are you suggesting that any scientist who has a working hypothesis for an experiment, to test that hypothesis, is biased by virtue of the fact that he has formulated an informed opinion? If so, then all experimental scientists are biased, by definition.

    "Also, as I pointed out, the Rashi to Yoma 3b that you helpfully pointed me towards, makes it clear that every kvyachol means something that is unpleasant for us to say but nevertheless true. So this is evidence that Rashi understood that Hashema actually stands."

    Of course it is "nevertheless true." But "true" and "literal" are not synonymous. So your point does not address my claim whatsoever.

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  74. Rabbi Slifkin,

    I have now had the opportunity to look up the footnote that you mentioned regarding the Machzor Vitry. It is found in the Torah Sheleimah of Rav M. Kasher, volume 16, page 310, footnote 3. The footnote mentions 2 girsa'os of the the passage in question of the Machzor Vitry, based upon manuscript copies, BOTH OF WHICH state that R. Simchah MiVitry, Rashi's student, wrote that anyone who suggests that HaShem has an image, we suspect that he is a heretic. The two versions are as follows:

    Version A: "...de-keivan de-ain laTzur dimyon ve-lo temmunah, mi-she-omeir ka-zeh, chaishinnan shemma min hu..."

    Version B: "...ve-khol ha-omeir be-tzalmo shel yotzro, chaishinnan shemma min hu..."

    There is no other version of any other manuscript listed. BOTH versions clearly sustain my claim. We are now back to the problem with your thesis -- how could the student of Rashi, who quotes him extensively with high praise, maintain that his beloved rebbi was a heretic, and yet continue to endorse his writings in an unqualified manner?

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  75. I can categorically state that I have no tendency that prevents an unprejudiced consideration of this question. If there were logical or factual evidence that Rashi was a corporealist, I would readily accept it.

    Obviously, almost everyone would declare themselves willing to accept logical or factual evidence. But honest people will admit to the biases that they possess. It is rare to find someone who has no biases. I will return to this topic later.

    I had assumed you were talking about the Rashi on Tehillim 118:16. If so, may I ask if you actually looked it up?

    Sorry, I meant Rashi in Melachim I 22:19, quoting the passuk in Tehillim. We see the same pattern in Rashi there, and it is clearly not talking about the spatial aspects.

    You have not addressed my issue at all. WHY is it hard for us to say that HaShem stood at Sinai?

    Because, considering the relative status of God and us, He should not have to stand. I already mentioned that.

    Unless it's hard for us to say because HaShem is not corporeal.

    Rashi defines k’vyachol as “hard for us to say but nevertheless true.” So are you admitting that it is nevertheless true that Hashem is corporeal?

    Again, I asked you for some kind of source of a serious study that there is a qualitative difference between Rashi's work on Chumash and Rashi's work on Nakh. You have not responded to that request.

    I’m sure they exist, but it’s not even necessary; the relative length of the commentaries alone suffices. Look, it’s incredibly blatant. We’re talking about a difference of, like, multiple times the amount of commentary on each verse.

    Further, are you suggesting that if one were to take a quantitative survey of Rashis in Bereishis, Shemos, etc. and find that there is a statistically significant difference between the length of Rashis in Bamidbar versus the other seforim of Chumash that this means that Rashi on Bamidbar is qualitatively a different work from that on the other chumashim?

    If it were of the magnitude of the difference that there is in Nach, yes.

    So my suggestion to you is that Rashi understood that gemara (of dmus dyukno) in the same way that the Ramban did. Now that suggestion will be a problem only if you have a preconceived notion that Rashi is a corporealist. There is no inherent problem with the suggestion on its own merits.

    Correct. Now let me ask further. Is demus dyukno a phrase like tzelem Elokim – something that actually MEANS intellectual capacity/ something like that, or is it a phrase like einei Hashem – something that literally means eyes, but is intended to be understood in its allegorical meaning.

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  76. ”With regard to R. Kanarfogel's email - I just don't understand what is bothering you."
    Well, there's nothing "bothering" me -- it's just that you arrived at a conclusion which is the opposite of what he explicitly wrote


    In what way? I really do not understand what you are saying. What did I say that is the opposite of what he explicitly wrote?

    "First of all, maybe they are corporeal but invisible? I specifically differentiated between the two, but you did not respond to that. Maybe there are other gods, and they are invisible?"

    I did, in fact, address this very issue. A corporeal being, by definition, has an image. An image is perceivable by the senses.


    That’s not true at all. Many forms of radiation are not perceivable by the senses. Scientists are already working on bending light to render objects invisible.

    The possibility of a body that does not have the attributes of a body being there is not one that a witness is to consider. That is, if a witness were to go to court and testify that no one was at the alleged murder sight at the time of the alleged murder, he would not be examined by the dayyanim about the possibility that maybe he is wrong -- perhaps an invisible body was there.

    Because people cannot be invisible. But gods can be!

    I did not state the the connection between incorporeality and Echad is obvious such that everyone must agree with it. I merely stated that it is logical, and can be arrived at without the Greeks or Muslims.

    So if not everyone need agree with it, how does proving that there are no corporeal gods prove that there is only one God? Maybe there are other incorporeal gods!

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  77. "By the way, I am still waiting for you to clarify which of the following I am mistaken about: You firmly believe that God is incorporeal; you firmly believe that Rashi was a great Torah scholar and great philosopher; you apparently believe that a great Torah scholar and great philosopher would not believe that God is corporeal."

    I do not disagree with any of those points. What has that to do with bias?


    Everything. Evidence for Rashi being a corporealist goes against your view of what sort of person Rashi ought to be. It’s just like a deep charedi person, with his view of a contemporary Gadol, being biased against the possibility that this gadol’s Daas Torah could be wrong.

    As I mentioned in my previous post, the definition of bias is "a particular tendency or inclination, esp. one that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question; prejudice." If one has formed an opinion on an issue based upon facts and logic, but is open to clear, rational, and factual investigation which may be contrary to his opinion, he is not biased.

    Yes, but it depends how open he is! Merely claiming to be open does not mean that one is open!
    Every creationist claims to be open to evidence that evolution is true. But obviously they are biased against it!

    Or are you suggesting that any scientist who has a working hypothesis for an experiment, to test that hypothesis, is biased by virtue of the fact that he has formulated an informed opinion? If so, then all experimental scientists are biased, by definition.

    Yes, they probably are all somewhat biased. But there are different degrees of bias. For example, the bias of an experimental scientist towards his hypothesis is orders of magnitude less than the bias of a creationist against evolution.

    "Also, as I pointed out, the Rashi to Yoma 3b that you helpfully pointed me towards, makes it clear that every kvyachol means something that is unpleasant for us to say but nevertheless true. So this is evidence that Rashi understood that Hashema actually stands."

    Of course it is "nevertheless true." But "true" and "literal" are not synonymous. So your point does not address my claim whatsoever.


    Excuse me. I have just pointed out that Rashi’s pshat in k’vyachol is the complete opposite of what you thought it was. K’vyachol refers to things that are unpleasant for us to say, not factually incorrect. So why, according to you, is it unpleasant for us to say that Hashem was standing? Not to mention the fact that there is no hint of anything that this is not literal.

    I have now had the opportunity to look up the footnote that you mentioned regarding the Machzor Vitry. It is found in the Torah Sheleimah of Rav M. Kasher,

    First of all, that is only one of the sources cited.
    Second of all, even in Torah Shelemah, it seems that R. Moshe b. Taku’s quote from R. Yaakov b. Shimshon, in support of corporealism, was based on a very similar such quote. And that some say that R. Yaakov b. Shimshon wrote that part of Mavhzor Vitri. Did you not notice the paragraphs discussing that?

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  78. Please, take a minute to open up a Tanach with Rashi. Just flick the pages. Are you really claiming that you don't see a huge difference in the length of Rashi's commentary on Nach vis-a-vis that on Chumash?

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  79. Another question: R. Moshe Taku was a corporealist. Was he not a great Torah scholar, or not a great philosopher?

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  80. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Thank you for your detailed responses to my earlier posts.

    "Obviously, almost everyone would declare themselves willing to accept logical or factual evidence. But honest people will admit to the biases that they possess. It is rare to find someone who has no biases."

    So let me understand your position -- if someone says he is biased, then he is, of course, biased. If someone says he is not biased, he is likely deluding himself, and so he is probably biased. You have created a non-falsifiable proposal here, and in scientific terms that is a "belief" -- completely subjective in nature. I am at a loss as to how to respond to your BELIEFS about my own convictions.

    "Sorry, I meant Rashi in Melachim I 22:19, quoting the passuk in Tehillim. We see the same pattern in Rashi there, and it is clearly not talking about the spatial aspects."

    Ahhh...a highly imprecise reading of the Rashis on your part. Please allow me to elucidate -- you will notice that Rashi in Melakhim asks "is there such a thing as LEFT before HaShem? Do we not find (only) references to HaShem's 'right hand'? So what does 'left' mean here?..." There is no issue mentioned in the question, regarding HaShem's "right hand" -- we know from pessukim that Rashi cites that HaShem "has" a "right hand" -- so no problem about the right, and hence the need to cite those pessukim. The answer that Rashi gives deals with the allegory representing justice.

    However, in Bereishis Rashi asks a different question "is there such a thing as RIGHT and LEFT before HaShem?" He does not cite the pessukim about HaShem's "right hand", and he does not restrict the question to the "left" as he did in Melakhim -- he simply asks, can we speak about HaShem's "right" and "left" hand altogether? His answer to this different question is the same as in Melakhim -- the allegory about justice. There is no problem having the same answer to two different questions -- but THEY ARE IN FACT two different questions.

    Now, you are correct that if Rashi's question was only, how can we speak about the "left", when we know from pessukim only that HaShem is characterized by a "right", then the issue is not a difficulty with spatial characterization. However, the question in Bereishis, unqualified and referring BOTH to right and left, is clearly a spatial issue. Thus, your conclusion is in error, and we have an example of Rashi defining an anthropomorphism in an incorporeal way despite the fact that there is no derogatory issue. This violates your own theory and thus disproves it.

    "Because, considering the relative status of God and us, He should not have to stand [at Sinai]. I already mentioned that."

    Once again, you are not addressing my point at all. There is another clear case where HaShem's "relative status" (to the angels) is such that he "should not have to do something (consult with them)" and no one had a "k'veyyakhol" problem with that case , since it was written to teach a lesson. Here too, the gemara states that from the Sinai episode we are to derive a lesson (about how to teach Torah), so no "k'veyyakhol" is necessary, and yet Rashi insists on it. Why? If there is no derogatory issue, then it must be because of the corporeality issue.

    "Rashi defines k’vyachol as “hard for us to say but nevertheless true.” So are you admitting that it is nevertheless true that Hashem is corporeal?"

    Again, as I explained before "true" and "literal" are not synonymous. It is hard for us to say an anthropomorphism because it suggests corporeality, (which is false -- that's why it's hard for us to say), but the meaning behind the allegory of HaShem standing at Sinai is true, so the anthropomorphism must be said nevertheless.

    continued in the next post....

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  81. ...continued from the previous post

    "I’m sure they exist, but it’s not even necessary; the relative length of the commentaries alone suffices. Look, it’s incredibly blatant. We’re talking about a difference of, like, multiple times the amount of commentary on each verse."

    As we know from numerous experiences, what is "blatantly obvious" can, upon scrutiny shown to be illusory. So I actually would like to see that study that you are sure exists. And upon seeing it, I will then ask you to provide the rationale that quantitative differences in commentary lengths mean qualitative differences in works. I guess that Rashi's commentary on Sidras VaYechi, (specifically birkos Ya'akov) by your reasoning, must be a qualitatively different work from his commentary on the rest of Chumash. After all, the differences in the length of the commentaries is blatantly obvious.

    "Is demus dyukno a phrase like tzelem Elokim – something that actually MEANS intellectual capacity/ something like that, or is it a phrase like einei Hashem – something that literally means eyes, but is intended to be understood in its allegorical meaning."

    It depends on the context. In the Rashi in Chullin that I cited previously, it is actually literal, as it refers to people. When it comes to HaShem it is an allegory. What is your point here?

    [Regarding Rabbi Kanarfogel:] "In what way? I really do not understand what you are saying. What did I say that is the opposite of what he explicitly wrote?"

    I will let his words and yours do the talking here (as I have previously). Rabbi Kanarfogel said

    "This is indeed how I responded to you (that he was labelling them as
    corporealists from his perspective, not that this is necessarily how the
    Hakhmei [Zefon] Zarefat saw themselves)."

    You said,

    "But I still think that it is overwhelmingly likely that he [R. Shemuel] meant that ["that the French believe that God has a form"], and I am certain that R. Kanarfogel would agree."

    Are these two statements mutually compatible in any way?!

    "That’s not true at all. Many forms of radiation are not perceivable by the senses. Scientists are already working on bending light to render objects invisible....Because people cannot be invisible. But gods can be!"

    Let's take a step back for a moment. HaShem opened up all the heavens and showed us that there was nothing there in terms of an image. Based upon that He "expects" us to testify that He is Echad. Whatever "opening up all the heavens for us to examine, and our seeing no image" means, apparently HaShem maintains that that was sufficient for a valid testimony that no other gods exist, (unless you would like to claim that He made a mistake in maintaining that). Now, theoretically, gods can either be corporeal or incorporeal. Regarding the first possibility, when HaShem opened all the heavens and "showed" them to us, apparently that was sufficient for us to be able to testify that there were no corporeal gods there. Regarding the second possibility, we have the logical argument contained in Hilkhos Yesodei HaTorah. Your radiation waves, belonging to the first category, are not a challenge to this, since the "opening up of the heavens and showing us that there were no bodies there" and as a result expecting us to give valid testimony, would mean that we would have had to reasonably eliminate the possibility of any corporeal god(s) there, including in the form of radiation waves. If not, then the testimony is a farce, and HaShem made a mistake. Is that a possibility you would be willing to consider?

    continued in the next post....

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  82. ...continued from the previous post

    "So if not everyone need agree with it [the Rambam's logical argument about Echad], how does proving that there are no corporeal gods prove that there is only one God? Maybe there are other incorporeal gods!"

    Perhaps I was not sufficiently clear. When I said that the Rambam's point was not obvious such that everyone need agree with it, I did not mean that there was any flaw in the reasoning. It is absolutely sound. However, being sound and being obvious are not the same thing. Thus your question above is built upon either a misunderstanding or a false premise.

    "Excuse me. I have just pointed out that Rashi’s pshat in k’vyachol is the complete opposite of what you thought it was. K’vyachol refers to things that are unpleasant for us to say, not factually incorrect. So why, according to you, is it unpleasant for us to say that Hashem was standing? Not to mention the fact that there is no hint of anything that this is not literal."

    I have addressed the substance of this issue (yet again) in my previous post. Here once again, you equate "factually correct" with "literal". They are not necessarily the same. So...no, you have NOT AT ALL pointed out that Rashi’s pshat in k’vyachol is the complete opposite of what I thought it was.

    "First of all, that is only one of the sources cited.
    Second of all, even in Torah Shelemah, it seems that R. Moshe b. Taku’s quote from R. Yaakov b. Shimshon, in support of corporealism, was based on a very similar such quote. And that some say that R. Yaakov b. Shimshon wrote that part of Mavhzor Vitri. Did you not notice the paragraphs discussing that?"

    This is disingenuous at best. If you look carefully at the footnote, there are ONLY TWO variant manuscripts that exist -- BOTH of which clearly indicate that the Machzor Vitry claims that corporealism is heresy. There is no textual or manuscript evidence mentioned WHATSOEVER supporting the idea that the passage was not written by the Machzor Vitry (R. Simchah). Only a supposition suggested by a later scholar, offered to resolve a kushya that he had. Are people's suppositions now to be taken as factual evidence? Until there is paleographic or testimonial evidence that the Machzor Vitry text is fraudulent, I believe that we are bound to accept it (all the medieval manuscripts, which point to the same conclusion about this issue) as authentic. Or are you saying that if someone today, in order to answer a kushya that he has, supposes that Rabbenu Tam did not author a specific Tosfos where he has been known for hundreds of years as the author of that Tosfos, in every manuscript we have, that we must then place Rabbeinu Tam's authorship of that Tosfos in question?

    "Another question: R. Moshe Taku was a corporealist. Was he not a great Torah scholar, or not a great philosopher?"

    I assume that he was a great Torah scholar. Very little is known about him, and we have part of one work of his. The reason for my assumption is that the Ramban quotes him a couple of times in matters of halakhah, favorably. (The Ramban never quotes him in philosophical areas, and there is no evidence that the Ramban knew of R. Moshe's philosophical positions). Was R. Moshe a great philosopher? I will allow the Ra'avad to answer your question. Please see his famous comments on Hilkhos Teshuvah perek 3.

    Now let me ask you a somewhat analogous question. The Ramban states that corporealism is heretical. He quotes Rashi numerous times, with the greatest of praises. You maintain that Rashi was a corporealist. Was the Ramban not able to discern Rashi's position about HaShem's "nature" whereas you are?

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  83. Did you know you can find R' Taku's work, Kesav Tamim, online?
    http://www.teachittome.com/seforim2/seforim9.html See #216 on the list.
    (If the URL gets cut off:
    http://www.teachittome.com/
    seforim2/seforim9.html )

    ReplyDelete
  84. Rabbi Slifkin
    you quote the Rashi in Melachim 22:19
    This Rashi bolsters my point about Rashi not being a corporealist. If God has a body why would there be a problem with having a left side? Anything with a body has a left side to it! The question "is there left in heaven" clearly shows that Rashi is not viewing God physically.

    Of course once the literal meaning has been discarded since God has no body, then the interpretation of the artscroll comes into play.

    (for those interested the www.chabad.org translation of this Rashi is : "On His right and on His left: Now is there left in Heaven? It is not stated, (Ps. 118:16) “The right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly” ; (Ex. 15:6) “Your right hand, O Lord, is mighty with power; Your right hand, O Lord, dashes the foe” ? But rather, the passage means that these would stand on the right and these would stand on the left. Those who stand on the right present the case for the defense and those who stand on the left present the case for the prosecution.")

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  85. So let me understand your position -- if someone says he is biased, then he is, of course, biased. If someone says he is not biased, he is likely deluding himself, and so he is probably biased.

    Let me understand your position. Do you believe that if someone says he is not biased, this gives the slightest reason for others to accept that this is the case?
    Do you believe that most Orthodox Jews, who possess incredible reverence for Rashi, and who consider corporealism heretical, are not biased against arguments that Rashi was a corporealist?
    I find your apparent positions on this to be astounding.

    However, in Bereishis Rashi asks a different question "is there such a thing as RIGHT and LEFT before HaShem?" He does not cite the pessukim about HaShem's "right hand", and he does not restrict the question to the "left" as he did in Melakhim -- he simply asks, can we speak about HaShem's "right" and "left" hand altogether? His answer to this different question is the same as in Melakhim -- the allegory about justice. There is no problem having the same answer to two different questions -- but THEY ARE IN FACT two different questions.

    The fact is that the Sapirstein Rashi, with no corporealist agenda, states that they are the same question, based on the general similarities that exist. I.e., “is there such a thing as right and left, surely there is only right.” You want to point to certain differences to make them different questions. Fine. But others see the similarities as more significant than the differences.

    here is another clear case where HaShem's "relative status" (to the angels) is such that he "should not have to do something (consult with them)" and no one had a "k'veyyakhol" problem with that case, since it was written to teach a lesson. Here too, the gemara states that from the Sinai episode we are to derive a lesson (about how to teach Torah), so no "k'veyyakhol" is necessary, and yet Rashi insists on it. Why? If there is no derogatory issue, then it must be because of the corporeality issue.

    Rashi doesn’t insist on it – the Gemara does. If you want to ask why the Gemara does so here and not with naaseh adam, fine. But that is nothing to do with Rashi.
    See my new post for why you are misinterpreting Rashi on k’vyachol, and how it provides an argument that Rashi was a corporealist.

    Regarding Rashi’s comments on Nach vis-à-vis Chumash:
    So I actually would like to see that study that you are sure exists.

    OK, but you will have to wait till I get to an academic library. However, it is irrelevant:

    And upon seeing it, I will then ask you to provide the rationale that quantitative differences in commentary lengths mean qualitative differences in works.

    The argument here is not about something Rashi wrote in a different way in his commentary on Nach than in his commentary on Chumash, but rather about whether it is significant that Rashi omitted something in his commentary on Nach that he did not omit in his commentary on Chumash. For this, the issue of the brevity of his commentary on Nach is obviously relevant.

    I guess that Rashi's commentary on Sidras VaYechi, (specifically birkos Ya'akov) by your reasoning, must be a qualitatively different work from his commentary on the rest of Chumash. After all, the differences in the length of the commentaries is blatantly obvious.

    Yeah, and if Rashi writes more on one pasuk than on the preceding pasuk, it must be a different work! Don’t be silly, of course it has to be a priori reasonable to consider them as different works.

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  86. [Dmus dyukni] depends on the context. In the Rashi in Chullin that I cited previously, it is actually literal, as it refers to people. When it comes to HaShem it is an allegory. What is your point here?

    The problem arises with the Gemara speaking of the mourner overturning his bed, which relates to death meaning the loss of tzelek Elokim, which Rashi relates to the decomposition of the face. You had said that he has to explain it in those terms because the Gemara speaks about demus dyukno. But according to what you just said, Rashi does not understand dmus dyukno as referring to the face. It is an allegory, like tzelem Elokim. So one need only say that the mourner overturns his bed because his tzelem Elokim has been overturned. Why define the loss of Tzelem Elokim in terms of the deceased’s face decomposing? That would be utterly beside the point and misleading. Rather, instead of misleading us, Rashi is explaining what the dmus dyukni is. And he does not say that it is an allegory!

    Rabbi Kanarfogel said "This is indeed how I responded to you (that he was labelling them as corporealists from his perspective, not that this is necessarily how the Hakhmei [Zefon] Zarefat saw themselves)."
    You said,
    "But I still think that it is overwhelmingly likely that he [R. Shemuel] meant that ["that the French believe that God has a form"], and I am certain that R. Kanarfogel would agree."
    Are these two statements mutually compatible in any way?!


    Are Jews racist? You’ll find some Briton who will say yes. This does not mean that the Jews see themselves as being racist. And it’s possible that the Briton does not mean anything offensive. However it is overwhelmingly likely that he does. Of course, that does not mean that it is true.
    Still, in this case, I asked R. Kanarfogel further, and he said that he does indeed feel most comfortable interpreting R. Shmuel to mean nothing more than that they meet his stricter definition of magshim. But he also said that there is so little information from him and about him that it is quite difficult to know what he meant. Presumably that is why, in his article, he did not mention how he feel most comfortable interpreting him.

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  87. Let's take a step back for a moment. HaShem opened up all the heavens and showed us that there was nothing there in terms of an image. Based upon that He "expects" us to testify that He is Echad. Whatever "opening up all the heavens for us to examine, and our seeing no image" means, apparently HaShem maintains that that was sufficient for a valid testimony that no other gods exist,

    In other words, you don’t have any idea how this works, or how we can testify against the existence of invisible gods, but you have faith that it must work. So obviously you (and I) do not understand what was going on. So how can you possibly base arguments on it?

    Regarding the second possibility, we have the logical argument contained in Hilkhos Yesodei HaTorah.

    Which, as I keep pointing out, was not held to be a logical argument by corporealists such as R. Moshe Taku.

    Perhaps I was not sufficiently clear. When I said that the Rambam's point was not obvious such that everyone need agree with it, I did not mean that there was any flaw in the reasoning. It is absolutely sound. However, being sound and being obvious are not the same thing. Thus your question above is built upon either a misunderstanding or a false premise.

    Are you so sure that R. Moshe Taku never read the Moreh?
    In any case, you are missing an important point. Rambam’s definition of Echad is not the same as the definition used by others. For Rambam, the idea of sefiros contradicted Echad. For others, it didn’t. Sefiros are incorporeal.

    Re. Machzor Vitry – I still do not see you remotely addressing the issue of R. Yaakov bar Shimshon’s text.

    Was R. Moshe Taku a great philosopher? I will allow the Ra'avad to answer your question. Please see his famous comments on Hilkhos Teshuvah perek 3.

    Yes, I know his comments. Please just answer yes or no. Was he a great philosopher or not?

    The Ramban states that corporealism is heretical. He quotes Rashi numerous times, with the greatest of praises. You maintain that Rashi was a corporealist. Was the Ramban not able to discern Rashi's position about HaShem's "nature" whereas you are?


    First of all, when Ramban writes to the rabbis of France who he assumes to be corporealists, he also addresses them with the greatest of praises. So there is no evidence from Ramban's praise of Rashi that he did not believe Rashi to be a corporealist.
    Second of all, even if he did not believe Rashi to be a corporealist, I already gave an adequate explanation, several times over, of why that would be so. I even mentioned it in the article.
    By the way, please could you give me the reference where Ramban says that corporealism is heretical?

    I have made a separate post about k’vyachol. Please post any comments on that topic to that post, and do not include any further comments on it in your comments to this post.

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  88. Rabbi Slifkin,

    "Do you believe that most Orthodox Jews, who possess incredible reverence for Rashi, and who consider corporealism heretical, are not biased against arguments that Rashi was a corporealist?
    I find your apparent positions on this to be astounding."

    Please remember the definition of bias as being "a particular tendency or inclination, esp. one that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question; prejudice." So I repeat that I do not have a bias in this area. As for the majority of Orthodox Jews,
    I would like to BELIEVE that they are able to approach issues such as this without something that PREVENTS UNPREJUDICED CONSIDERATION of the question. But that is only my BELIEF; as an objective thinker, I would have to say that I don't KNOW until a scientific survey is conducted.

    "The fact is that the Sapirstein Rashi, with no corporealist agenda, states that they are the same question, based on the general similarities that exist. I.e., “is there such a thing as right and left, surely there is only right.” You want to point to certain differences to make them different questions. Fine. But others see the similarities as more significant than the differences."

    So let me understand your response. I challenged your claim based upon a factual difference between the two Rashis, and you say that since the Saperstein staff and editors didn't see a significant difference between the two, the issue is resolved, without addressing at all the substance of the question? Fascinating methodology of logical analysis!

    "Still, in this case, I asked R. Kanarfogel further, and he said that he does indeed feel most comfortable interpreting R. Shmuel to mean nothing more than that they meet his stricter definition of magshim. But he also said that there is so little information from him and about him that it is quite difficult to know what he meant."

    So I assume that you have therefore now recanted your claim that based upon the "testimony" of R. Shemuel we should assume that most of the provencal rabbis were corporealists.

    "Rashi doesn’t insist on it – the Gemara does. If you want to ask why the Gemara does so here and not with naaseh adam, fine. But that is nothing to do with Rashi."

    Does Rashi not accept the gemara? If the gemara insisted on it and Rashi does not qualify it, does that not mean that Rashi accepts the gemara?

    "The argument here is not about something Rashi wrote in a different way in his commentary on Nach than in his commentary on Chumash, but rather about whether it is significant that Rashi omitted something in his commentary on Nach that he did not omit in his commentary on Chumash. For this, the issue of the brevity of his commentary on Nach is obviously relevant."

    If your argument here is correct, then Rashi should not repeat something in his commentary on Nakh that he states in the Chumash, in the interest of brevity. Finding examples of these occurences would therefore refute your claim. I'll start looking.

    "But according to what you just said, Rashi does not understand dmus dyukno as referring to the face. It is an allegory, like tzelem Elokim. So one need only say that the mourner overturns his bed because his tzelem Elokim has been overturned. Why define the loss of Tzelem Elokim in terms of the deceased’s face decomposing?"

    I have already address this in the past -- the allegory USES the image of the face because that is what most identifies a man as a man. Why confine the issue to Rashi? The Ramban, an incorporealist, also learned the same Chazal about the demmus deyyukan for the aveil. He also maintains that the literal meaning is the face -- as in the case of Yosef and Yaakov, the image of Yaakov on the kisei hakavod, etc. So in the same way the Ramban learned this Chazal, Rashi did as well.

    continued in the next post...

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  89. ....continued from the previous post

    "In other words, you don’t have any idea how this works, or how we can testify against the existence of invisible gods, but you have faith that it must work. So obviously you (and I) do not understand what was going on. So how can you possibly base arguments on it?"

    Of course I don't know the mechanism of how we saw the entire heavenly sphere. But as I have said repeatedly, HOW we saw is irrelevant -- THAT we saw is the issue. And apparently, HaShem, as reflected in the words in Devarim and Yeshayahu according to Rashi, in His omniscience, knows that the seeing we experienced is absolutely sufficient to give valid testimony. Your insistence on us knowing HOW we saw in order to be able to discuss the entire matter, is incomprehensible. By the same logic, I could ask you, do you understand the nature of God's corporeality according to Rashi? If not, then we cannot even discuss the whole issue. That line of reasoning is clearly fallacious.

    "Which, as I keep pointing out, was not held to be a logical argument by corporealists such as R. Moshe Taku."

    So what? All I need to show in my claim is that Rashi could use the same logical argument as that of the Rambam in order to deal with the issue of "incorporeal gods" that Bnei Yisroel didn't see. The fact that R. Moshe Taku disagreed with the Rambam is irrelevant unless you can prove that Rashi agreed with R. Moshe Taku on this point.

    "Re. Machzor Vitry – I still do not see you remotely addressing the issue of R. Yaakov bar Shimshon’s text."

    Please reread my post; it addresses the entire issue. All the manuscripts that we have contain texts that clearly indicate that corporealism is heresy. There is no paleographic or manuscript evidence that the portion in question was written by anyone other than R. Simchah miVitry; there is only the supposition of some later day scholars in order to answer what some of them saw as a kushya. Claiming that the issue of authorship is questionable based upon some people's suppositions without evidence is hardly the method of an objective inquirer.

    "Yes, I know his comments. Please just answer yes or no. Was he a great philosopher or not?"

    I thought I did answer the question. In the area of corporealism, R. Moshe Taku made a philosophical mistake. Does this mean he was not a great philosopher all around? I have no idea. We don't know enough about him or his works. How can I have the temerity to comment about his mistake? I turn to the Ra'avad. By the way, how would you answer the same question? You have written in one of your comments that of course corporealism is not true. Was R. Moshe Taku, who made a mistake by your own estimation, a great philosopher?

    "when Ramban writes to the rabbis of France who he assumes to be corporealists, he also addresses them with the greatest of praises. So there is no evidence from Ramban's praise of Rashi that he did not believe Rashi to be a corporealist."

    No...he does not ASSUME THEM TO BE CORPOREALISTS, he reacted to a rumor that he heard, and wrote to dissuade them from taking that position IN CASE THE RUMOR WAS TRUE. Further, are the praises that the Ramban had for them and the praises that he had for Rashi similar in quantity and in quality? We should do a study and see if they are indeed so.

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  90. Rabbi Slifkin
    Are you trusting the Saperstein edition as your measure of how to read Rashi properly?! In the very same footnote that you quote, the editors also mention Rashi being an incorporealist. Make up your mind are the Artscroll editors an authority or not?

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  91. JT, my point was that if Artscroll learns it this way, then it can't be that I am only learning it this way because of my "corporealist bias"!

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