Various Types of Perceptions
Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic
The Great Advantage of Experiencing Miraculous Situations
In this week’s sidra of Eikev, Moshe Rabbeinu recalls all the wondrous miraculous circumstances which had accompanied the Jewish people time and time again from the moment they left Egypt and spent the next 40 years in the wilderness of various deserts. He also reminds them of their many sinful situations which had “angered” G-d and which had been forgiven. They thus had had the great advantage of experiencing from close-up G-d’s divine providence during those 40 years. Under the normal conditions that men live under—lacking the discernible intervention of G-d in the affairs of men -- reaching clear spiritual recognition is much more difficult. Since time immemorial human beings have attempted to understand life’s riddles. Where do we come from? What is our purpose? What does death spell? The human mind is such that it is difficult to maintain equilibrium if at least some of these questions are not addressed. Throughout history they have been addressed by great philosophers basing themselves on limited intellectual analysis. True prophets have had supra-rational experiences of G-d revealing Himself to them. The Jewish people is the only nation who can claim, based on historical evidence, having simultaneously experienced divine revelation at Mt. Sinai, with Moshe at the top of the mountain and three million Jews at the bottom.
The Limitations of (even true) Philosophical Perceptions
We cover our heads to indicate acknowledgment of the limited scope of the human brain, as lofty as it is. Our faith and belief is that G-d is Infinite, without beginning nor end, and that He transcends all limited parameters. As we humans function within limited parameters, man cannot ascend beyond those parameters… unless he is pulled up through divine intervention—which is what happened at Sinai, setting the tone for all future generations. Thus, we believe that the G-d in Whom we fully believe as the Creator of all, has a master plan for the universe He willed into existence. Being philosophically convinced about Creation is not easy, as taking space and matter at face value seems to have us feel that “here it is and here it always was”. Except that there is some logical element: it stands to reason that the One Who has no beginning is the One Who has the ability to generate beings who also seem not to have a beginning. In our inner psyche we feel as if we always were! (Tanya Igeret HaKodesh 20). Thus, the master plan is rooted in divine revelation/prophecy. It is that G-d gives the ability to limited man to connect and bond with Him, our Father and King, and His infinity. How so? By doing actions based on His Will: I want you to do My Mitzvoth/Commandments, which serve as a connecting link to My infinity (the word “mitzvah” means both “commandment” and “connection”).
Is It Possible to Somewhat Understand Transcendence?
Now, is G-d the epitome of divine intellect or does He totally transcend it, as no matter how lofty a definition we might give to divine intellect, we can’t escape the fact it will still fall within some “limited” defined parameters of intellect (i.e. intellect vs. kindness etc..) and as such, where is the element of infinity? And what about our belief in G-d’s Unity? We somehow ascribe various properties to G-d: wisdom, kindness, love, severity, justice etc... Do these spell out some subdivisions and multiplicity? The obvious answer is that whatever channels of divine expression G-d uses, they all fall within His complete unity (in a way we cannot understand but to which we are philosophically led). Thus, Torah is the body of knowledge through which G-d channels His Will and Wisdom and which is thoroughly united with G-d in a state of ultimate unity. In His supreme ability (isn’t He is All-Able after all?!), G-d contracted the body of knowledge vested in Torah so that it be accessible to the human mind and through which an additional state of connection is achieved: through action-Mitzvoth we connect to His Will (who willed that we keep Shabbos, eat Kosher, observe laws of family purity, don tefillin, etc…) ; and through striving to understand Torah concepts and teachings, each one at his and her level, we connect to His Wisdom vested in Torah. How fortunate are we, the chosen Jewish people, who have been given easy access to connect and bond with G-d through properly observing His Commandments and absorbing the divine wisdom of Torah! In a way, this is more comparable to the process of prophecy which a process of “seeing” G-dliness rather than merely a philosophical process This is expressed to the point in this week’s Sidra (Deut. 11:2-7) with Moshe telling the people that he is not talking to their future children who might react by saying “we have not seen nor do we know about all this”, but I am speaking to you “for with your own eyes you have seen the great works that G-d did” and hence there is no way for you to refute this. In our own lives we actually can often see certain undeniable circumstances which likewise should prompt us to “keep the Mitzvoth which I command you today(11:8).