Thursday, March 05, 2009

Flattening the Mountains (YAWN)

by the Bray of Fundie

In recent posts the Ba’al HaBlog has professed his skepticism in miracle-working Rabbis, of ANY era, and wondered (ad nauseum) about whether during the revelation @ Sinai the Heavens descended or if the mountain was raised.

I’d like to opine that while staunchly maintaining his “belief” in TMS=Torah min HaShomayim=Torah (of divine authorship) given from heaven, his is a mere pro forma belief at best and some fancy semantical footwork at worst. I’d also like to opine that whatever actually happened at Sinai is beside the point. In the DovBearian conceptualization of the event Heaven was brought down to earth.

How did I develop these opinions? By closely reading these revealing comments:

“I don't think Abraham Lincoln could do miracles, and I respected him. I don't think the Vilna Gaon or Rashi or the Ramban could work mofsim and I respect them. Why do you presume that my rejection of the magical ability of phonies and frauds translates into disrespect for anyone who deserves it? ....”

"I don't think Rabbis can perform miracles for the same reason I don't think Einstein can fly.’s possible to respect great people for their genuine talents and accomplishments without also thinking they have magic powers. By denying that Rabbis can perform miracles I am not disrespecting the rabbis; ...."

"I recognize that there is no evidence than so things, but for reasons I've explained millions of time, I choose to make a leap of faith for most biblical miracles....Read my lips: No rabbi had the power to cure sicknesses. Not one."

Here’s the havdala between Einstein’s actual inability to fly and Rav Khanina ben Dosa’a alleged inability to cause vinegar to combust or the Khazon Ish's reputed expertise at neurosurgery:

Einstein was a Scientist. He exerted his brilliant mind to comprehend G-d’s will as revealed in the works of creation AKA the laws of nature. These laws govern the revealed world/cosmos and within the closed system of nature, are constant and immutable. As a human flying is supernatural it would contradict numerous laws of nature and hence, within the closed system, it is impossible.

And so whence miracles?( After all both Dovie and I believe in the historicity of at least some.)The answer is that the revealed cosmos is not the sum-total of reality. There are other (normally) unseen and imperceptible systems that are governed by different laws. When there are fissures in those systems, higher than and transcendent of nature, we have the superimposition of a different set of laws. As the default settings governing nature are suspended we have, right here on terra firma, what we call miracles.

Any Torah worthy of its name derives from these unseen and imperceptible systems. The “S” in TMS does not mean "the galaxy". As something spatially higher than and remote from earth the galaxy does however serve as a useful metaphor for where Torah came from.

When we say that Torah kodmah L’Olam= Torah precedes the Cosmos, we don’t merely refer to a time sequence. We mean that it takes precedence over “reality”. The Ramban famously wrote that empiricism can never be applied to the Torah אין מופת חותך בתורתנו. This is because having created this reality ( אסתכל באורייתא וברא עלמא = "He gazed into the Torah and created Creation") and destined to create a new one (eschatology) , Torah can never be measured or tested against the body of the extant and static “reality”.

This is why I believe in the potential of supreme and supernal Talmidei Khakhamim to work miracles. It is not because I am a credulous naïf. I realize that 95% of contemporary “Mequbalim” are charlatans no better than John of G-d and sadly are sometimes real-life Jewish Elmer Gantrys. I also realize that a large majority of miraculous powers and episodes attributed to Gedolei Torah over the years have been embellished by fevered repetition and even fabricated by over-enthused students or followers. But to paint ALL gedolim with the broad non-miraculous brush that DovBear has IS to disrespect them, and the Torah itself-the stuff of their scholarship, through underestimation.

I agree that it is no knock on Einstein’s scholarship to say that he couldn’t fly. But it IS a knock on RKBD scholarship to say he couldn’t (not didn’t) make vinegar burn. The “stuff” of the two scholars’ scholarship is qualitatively different. Quantum mechanics, for all its cranial abstraction, still analyzes the mundane, extant reality. Lomdus and Pnimiyus HaTorah analyze Qodesh, a system that transcends nature. Familiar with Qodesh-Nivdal mechanics, the very greatest of the Torah’s students can tap into and manipulate the fissures of that transcendent system

But the putative TMS believer Dovie denies all of this. His “Shomayim” is that of Carl Sagan, not of the AriZal. Having denuded the Torah’s source of all of its abstract otherness, of its Qedusha and Havdala, having transformed "heaven" into nothing more than the uppermost crust of the earth, having flattened Mount Sinai to a monotonous prairie, it is easy to profess a belief in TMS. For it makes little difference if the authorship of such a Torah is human or divine. The Infinite Divine Himself has been cut down to limited finite natural human contours and proportions.

There is a beautiful vort from the Khidushei HoRim . Using an apparent redundancy (The heavens are the heavens of ) in a verse in the Psalms he reveals the raison d'être of humanity as follows:
הַשָּׁמַיִם שָׁמַיִם, לַיהוָה; וְהָאָרֶץ, נָתַן לִבְנֵי-אָדָם = "The Heavens are HaShem’s , but He gave the earth to the sons of Adam that THEY might make something heavenly out of it.”

Sadly Dovie turns this teaching on its head and consistently strives to make something earthly, material, flat and mundane out of the Heavens themselves.

NEXT UP: The neurosurgery diagram of the Khazon Ish

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