I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Partzufim: A Hebrew Catholic Understanding

Partzufim is a term found often in discussions of Jewish Mysticism. Partzuf means the face (anpin/ panim)or persona. The Jewish term for panim (face) includes not just the outer appearance of the face but represents the inner person who reveals himself through the face. The three highest partzufim are associated with the three heads of the Divine Will and the three Tzachtzachot (sparkling lights) within the Godhead. They are called in Judaism Arich Anpin (or Atika Kaddisha); Atik Yomim;and Zeir Anpin. These partzufim are uncreated and of one Divine essence (atzmut).

Arich Anpin (the Long Face)is also referred to as the uncreated Abba and the source of the Divine Will. Atik Yomim (the Ancient of Days)is associated with the uncreated Mother (Holy Spirit) and Zeir Anpin (Short Face) with the uncreated Son. Adam Kadmon is the uncreated form of the Godhead who is the uncreated Son. Adam Kadmon as Zeir Anpin represents the interface between the uncreated Sefirot and partzufim with the created partzufim and sefirot.

Rebbe Dov Ber of Lubavitch states in Shaar haYichud:-"This is the meaning of the verse [Proverbs 30:4] “What is his name, what is his son’s name – Mah Shmo, Mah Shem Bno”. “What is his name – Mah Shmo” [refers to the aspect of] Ma”H of Adam Kadmon, and “What is his son’s name – Mah Shem Bno” is the aspect of Zeir Anpin..." Zeir Anpin is the son of Arich Anpin (God the Father) according to Kabbalah. The Midrash on Proverbs explains these two questions refer to two different persons. It explains them as follows: "Mah shemo -- Ha-Shem shemo" (Ex. 15:3): This refers to G-d, since the Torah uses the phrase "Ha-Shem shemo -- G-d is his name". "U-mah shem b'no - eilu yisroel, she-ne'emar beni bechori yisroel (Ex. 4:22): Since the "He" in the question "mah shemo" refers to G-d, "His son" refers to the nation of Israel, which is called His son in the Torah: "My first-born son is Israel" (Ex. 4:22)." Thus this reveals that Adam Kadmon is God himself and that Zeir Anpin is the Beauty (tiferet) of Israel. Tiferet is associated with the nose in the Jewish devotion to the Divine Face. The nose and its nostrils are also linked to the Mashiach of Israel through the verse "The breath of our nostrils is the Mashiach of God" [Lamentations 4:20]. Jewish tradition also refers to the soul of the Mashiach as Adam Kadmon.

The created partzuf Abba is the image of the uncreated partzuf Abba- he is Joseph ben Jacob/Israel. The created partzuf of the higher Imma (Mother) is the image of the uncreated partzuf Imma- she is Miriam ha Kedosha. The partzuf Nukvah (female) is the created lower Imma- she is the very little one (Piccarreta). These six are the mystery of Bereshit and the six days. Zeir Anpin also represents the union of the wills of the six that is the mystery of the Sabbath - when God rests in man and man rests in God. This alludes to the mystery of the six-petaled Rose (shoshan). By rearranging the letters of bereshit we get Shir Taeb (Song of Desire)which is the Divine Song of the One Act in which all acts are contained.

Judith Racz's The Creation Story

At the hidden mystical levels the mystery of Arich Anpin as the Eternal Abba is contained in the first day and his virginal nuptial union with Abba Joseph. This is a deep mystery of the Divine Will represented as the Divine Sun. The second day the mysteries of the Holy Spirit and his virginal nuptial union with Miriam are hidden and alludes to the concept of the Mystical Moon and Waters. In the third day the mysteries of the fruitfulness and generating power of the Divine Word (Logos/Memra/Dabar) are concealed. The fourth day is the Day of Joseph as the Viceregent or governor of the Universe (Space/Place /makom). The fifth Day hides the Mysteries of the Divine Man and the mystery of Divine Lives and the Sea of the Divine Will. The sixth Day is the day of 'the face over all the earth' who is 'the very little one' who reveals the mysteries of the Divine will and the rounds. The Sabbath is the Day of the Queen who is God's pure and perfect rest.

Many later Kabbalists became confused about the partzufim due to not seeing them as persons in which one enters into Divine Intimacy (virginal nuptial union) but rather as a machine-like concept that one merely comprehends with the intellect. The solution to the disagreement of Maimonides (Rambam)and Nachmanides (Ramban)about the Sefirot is only made clear in the God-Man Yeshua ha Mashiach. Rambam taught that the Sefirot were created lights and the Ramban that they were uncreated of one essence with the Godhead. Yeshua ha Mashiach in his Divinity is the uncreated Sefirot of one essence (atzmut) with the Deity and in his humanity he has the perfect created lights of the Sefirot. The template (umanuta) or model of the created male sefirot is the concept of Abba Joseph in Eternity and the template or model of the created female sefirot is Imma Miriam in Eternity.

Judith Racz's Song of Songs

Two other parztufim are called Yisrael Saba and Tevunah (Savta/ Safta) who are seem as lower Abba and Imma. They are the spiritual concepts of Joachim (Yoakhim/ Eliakhim/ Jachin) and Anne (Chana) (the Celestial Grandparents) in the mystery of the Immaculate Conception.

In the soul, Tevunah is the power to “assimilate” into one’s heart that which he has “grasped” in his mind. In the terminology of Chassidut, Imma Ila’ah (the higher partzuf of Imma) is referred to as koach ha’tfisa, “the power to grasp” (symbolized as “catching” an arrow in mid-air), whereas Tevunah (the lower partzuf of Imma) is referred to as koach ha’klita, “the power to assimilate” (symbolized by the power of the female womb to assimilate the male seed).

Koach ha’klita, the power of Tevunah, is activated by Yisrael Sabba. Tevunah receives its power to assimilate intellectual comprehension in order that it become experienced in the heart from the inclination inherent within the seminal insight of the mind to impregnate the heart (Yisrael Sabba).

Tevunah is identified in Chassidut with the archetypal soul of Rebecca, the second matriarch, the wife of Isaac. Based upon the deep level of understanding experienced in her heart, she is the one to decide which of her two sons is truly worthy to receive the blessing of his father.
Tevunah arouses love and fear in the heart (it is the mental life-force of love and fear). The word Tevunah possesses the letters ben u’bat, “son and daughter,” which refer to the two emotions of love and fear born from the womb of Tevunah, as explained in Chassidut.

The union of Yisrael Saba and Tevunah is described in the idiom from Sefer Yetzirah: “Be wise (at the level of) understanding.” Our Sages describe this union figuratively (in reference to the Divine revelation at Sinai) as “seeing the heard.” [from Rabbi Yitzach Ginsburgh]

Cardinal Schonborn and the Jewish Roots

Cardinal Schonborn the Archbishop of Vienna a great friend of Israel writes: "...No infidelity on the part of Israel, no sin of the people, not even the misjudgment and rejection of Jesus the Messiah, can ever destroy God’s fidelity to “Abraham and his posterity for ever”. And so Paul writes to the Christian community in Rome: “[A]s regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:28-29). Twice Paul asks the question, and twice he gives the resounding reply: “I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means!” (Rom 11:1, 11).

What does this mean for the Church? It opens up the need for a change of outlook, in fact, a change of heart. The indelible impression left by the Shoah, the Holocaust, teaches the same lesson. It makes us realize that the deadly hatred of Israel is also, deep down, aimed at the Church, in fact at the God of Israel himself, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is much that ought to be said here. Let me mention just three areas in which a change of outlook is necessary and indeed already, to some extent, taking place. The Catechism points the way forward.

1. We cannot find Christ when he is cut off from his roots. The Catechism shows this in its meditation on the Solemnity of the Epiphany (cf. CCC 528). The Wise Men from the East (cf. Mt 2:1-12) represent the “Church taken from the Gentiles”. They show the permanently valid way for the pagans to come to Christ, even in our own times. The Catechism says:

The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews [cf. Mt 2:2] shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be the king of the nations. Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning toward the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament. The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs” [Leo the Great] and acquires Israelitica dignitas [Easter Vigil, Prayer after third reading] (CCC 528).

Mount Zion

The first thing to be noted about this very dense text is this: the ancient promise, that the nations will come and worship God in Israel, on Mount Zion, is fulfilled. From the beginning, the mission of Jesus is shown to fulfill this promise. He fulfills it, not, of course, in the Temple, not on Mount Zion, but in his very person: “He has made ... both one” (Eph 2:14). The pagan religions, the world’s religions, “can play the role of the star that puts men on the path, that leads them to search for the kingdom of God. The star of the religions points toward Jerusalem; it is extinguished and relit in the Word of God, in the Holy Scripture of Israel. The Word of God preserved in Scripture appears as the true star, which we cannot dispense with or ignore if we wish to reach the goal.”

What does this mean? It means that the Gentiles, the nations and religions of the world, can only find Christ, and so can only become Church, when they enter into the promises of Israel, when the history of Israel becomes their history. “Salvation is from the Jews” (Jn 4:22). There is no access to Jesus, and therefore no entry to the People of God, without the acceptance by faith of the revelation of God that speaks to us in the Sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament.

The Old Testament is and will always be God’s great catechesis in preparation for Christ. That is why the Old Testament cannot and must not be replaced by the writings of other religions. We must not try to solve the difficulties of the Old Testament by removing its readings from the liturgy but by learning to read and love and expound it in the light of Christ. A Carthusian lay brother once said to me: “The Old Testament is the love story of God.”

2. The second point concerns this very question of the correct way of reading the Old Testament, in other words, the question of the relationship of the Old and New Testaments. The Catechism regards typology as a privileged expression of their unity. We are talking here, not about one exegetical method among many, but about a deeply theological view of salvation history. Typology is not a method of interpreting texts but a distinctive view of the events of salvation history. It derives from the fact that God’s saving plan is one. The events of the Old Testament foreshadow the events of the New Testament; they are “prefigurations of what [God] accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son” (CCC 128). Just as the ark saved Noah and his family, so even more does baptism save us now (cf. I Pet 3:21).

This does not devalue the Old Testament, as the Catechism insists time and again: "The calling of the patriarchs and the exodus from Egypt, for example, [do not] lose their own value in God’s plan, from the mere fact that they were intermediate stages” (CCC 130). No, “typology indicates the dynamic movement toward the fulfillment of the divine plan” (ibid.). But this also means that the church can never renounce the Old Testament. To do so would be to disown God himself, for he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, a God of the living, not of the dead (cf. Mk 12:26-27).

3. One sore point is the relationship of law and gospel. If the Church is wonderfully prepared for in the Old Testament, in what sense does the law prepare for the gospel? By contrast to the widespread contemporary view that law and gospel are in opposition to each other, the Catechism sees them in a relationship of promise and fulfillment: “The Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, far from abolishing or devaluing the moral prescriptions of the Old Law, releases their hidden potential and has new demands arise from them: it reveals their entire divine and human truth. It does not add new external precepts, but proceeds to reform the heart, the root of human acts” (CCC, 1968).

At this point, in line with the Catechism, which stands in the great Catholic tradition, we need to consider and reflect on why and how Jesus perfectly fulfills the law. The Jewish tradition has its own feast of “rejoicing in the Torah”. One takes the Torah under one’s arm, as if it were a bride, and dances with it in the synagogue.5 The reason why joy in the law of God is so great is that it springs from his very own will, from his heart. According to a Jewish tradition, it is the Torah that is the beginning in which God created heaven and earth. It is the plan of God’s heart, the plan by which he created the world, the plan that he revealed to his people. That is why there is no greater happiness than being totally faithful to God’s law. Jesus will even say that this fidelity is his “food” (Jn 4:34).

Chief Rabbi Israel Zolli

This is all just a hint, a sketch. We can grasp the heart of the matter if we go back to what we said earlier: the mysterious encounter of Israel Zolli with Jesus Christ in the Great Synagogue in Rome. It took place when the Rabbi was standing in front of the shrine of the Torah. Is not Christ “the fulfillment of the law”? Is he not “the beginning” in whom, through whom, for whom God created all things, and in whom God’s plan is carried out: the Church?

Opposite the Great Synagogue of Rome, in Lungotevere dei Pierleoni, stands a small church, San Gregorio. Above the entrance is an inscription in Hebrew and Latin. It calls the Jews to conversion. Here, for centuries (from the time of Pius V to Pius IX), sermons were given to which the Jews were obliged to listen. Is it not now a time of conversion for us? This church, at the entrance to the ghetto, bears witness to the long history of suffering of God’s beloved Chosen People. The Council said that the Church is “wonderfully prepared” (mirabiliter praeparata) in the Old Testament and in the history of the people of Israel. Perhaps today we realize more deeply that this remains valid, through the permanent presence of the people of Israel, until the Lord himself returns to perfect the Church."[Christoph Schonborn "Loving the Church"]

Five Kinds of Hebrew Catholics

The term Hebrew or Jewish Catholics includes a diverse range of people at different levels of understanding. However I think they can be divided into five main categories. Some will not be in any category fully and some will be in transition from one to the other.

Firstly there are those Catholics of Jewish background who have entered the Church and they have totally assimilated to the Catholicism of their local community and have no desire to be identified as Jews or Hebrew Catholics.

The second category are those who enter the Church and are happy to be identified as Jewish or Hebrew Catholics and see the great importance of the Jewish roots of the Catholic Faith. However they see no real collective calling or vocation for Jews in the Church except as a tool for evangelisation and pointing people to the truths of the Church.

A Hebrew Speaking Mass in Israel

A third category are those who are part of the Hebrew speaking Catholic communities of Israel. They celebrate the liturgy in Hebrew and they enculturate certain Israeli or Jewish practices modified for Catholic purposes into their lives. They seek to be culturally Israelis who are Catholic in religion.

Father Elias Friedman Founder of the Association of Hebrew Catholics

The fourth category of Hebrew Catholics are those that believe in the collective role and vocation of Jews in the Church. They also see and teach the importance of the Jewish roots but also seek to gather the Jews of the Church into a community in order to prepare for the collective ingrafting of the Jews into the Church. They also see the value of certain Jewish observances and practices for Hebrew Catholics such as the observance of Passover and other Jewish holy days usually adapted to reflect their Catholic Faith.

A Hebrew Catholic priest from Latin America

The fifth category are those who could be called Torah observant Hebrew Catholics or Catholic Jews. They also believe in the importance of the Jewish roots of the Catholic Faith so much so that they seek to maintain the Jewish traditions as a live thing in the Church rather than just as a teaching tool about a dead and ancient past. They see no opposition between Torah and Gospel, law and Grace. They also believe that the mitzvot are a God given spiritual discipline for Jewish people including those in the Church. They also see the ingrafting as not only the Jews as a people entering the Church but Judaism and its structures entering the Church and finding its home there as the Mother form of the Catholic Faith.

Both the fourth and fifth categories wish to see the Israelite or Jewish status preserved in the Church by the Jew who enters but also preserved for his descendants so that Jewish identity will not be lost in succeeding generations. They seek to end the regime of assimilation that has been in effect for the last 1500 years in regard to Jews entering the Church. These Hebrew Catholics take to heart the insights of Father Louis Bouyer a great Catholic theologian and scholar when he wrote: 

"Judeo-Christianity cannot be considered a transitory phase of abolished Christianity, forever surpassed by pagano-Christianity, which would have triumphed over it. The Christian synthesis must always be renewed by renewing its contact with the primary and, in a sense, definitive expression of the Gospel, in the categories and forms of Judaism. Judeo-Christianity, as Paul and Peter recognized and proclaimed, remains forever the mother form of Christianity, to which all other forms must always have recourse. It is therefore a weakness for the Church that Judeo-Christianity, from which it was born and from which it cannot free itself, no longer subsists in her except in tracings. It can be believed that she will not reach the ultimate stage of her development except by rediscovering it — fully living in her."[Louis Bouyer, L’Eglise de Dieu]

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Spirit of the Law: A Hebrew Catholic Perspective

Certain Christians who attack those believers in Yeshuah who are devoted to the Torah (like the early Jewish Catholics of Acts 21) often use Paul's letter to the Galatians as the basis of their position. Here we read of the concepts of the 'spirit of the law' and 'freedom in the Spirit'. Paul was a great Rabbi and mystic and one cannot fully understand his ideas without knowledge of what these terms meant in Judaism. Paul also refers to Sarah and Hagar and their two sons as an allegory for what these terms mean. The Jewish term 'spirit of the law' is 'lifnim mishurat ha din'. This literally means within the line of judgment or law. It is still an important concept in Judaism today.

"...R. Yohanan said: 'Jerusalem would not have been destroyed, save that they judged Din Torah (by the letter of the Law).' Should they have judged by the brutal laws?--rather, they insisted upon the law, and did not practice Lifnim miShurat haDin (beyond the line of the law)." (BT Bava Mezia 30b). We see that the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD due to those who lived out strictly the letter of the law rather than living by the spirit of the law. We know that Paul is referring to this concept of living Torah at the higher level of lifnim miShurat ha Din as the greek word stoichomen used in Galatians 5:25 has the meaning of standing or being in line. This concept is also what Yeshuah was teaching in the beatitudes. It is to go beyond or within the Torah into the realms of joy, love, peace, harmony, mercy etc.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in "Heavenly Torah" states "The sages knew that one could be a 'scoundrel within the bounds of the Torah', that is, within the bounds of Halakhah; and thus they said: 'Jerusalem was destroyed only because they adjudicated solely on the basis of the laws of the Torah, and they did not practice lifnim mishurat hadin'. Now what distinguishes legality (din) from lifnim mishurat hadin? One can coerce compliance with the law but not lifnim mishurat hadin...The divergence of halakhic and aggadic thinking is illustrated also by the different answers given to the question: whence the principle that the danger to life overrides Sabbath laws? what are the halakhic answers? Rabbi Akiva said:' If the apprehension of a murderer supersedes the Temple service, which in turn supercedes the Sabbath, then a fortiori does a threat to innocent life override the Sabbath.'... But when essentially the same qestion was asked of Rabbi Tanhum of Naveh, while he was preaching in public: "May one extinguish a candle on Sabbath so that a sick person may get to sleep? he gave this answer: 'a candle is called ner, and the human spirit is also called ner [as in the spirit of man is the lamp (ner) of God (Proverbs 20;27)]; better that the ner of a human being [i.e. candle] be extinguished in favour of the ner of the Holy and Blessed One." This is poetic, impressionistic explanation, the product of Aggadah, which lifts the matter under consideration above the four cubits of Halakhah to sublime, heavenly heights. the conceptual category Aggadah thus should not be defined purely negatively [e.g., as scriptural interpretations that are nonlegal]; it encompasses not only a literary style but also a method of thought. It concerns itself with what lies beyond the legal line and aspires to matters of ultimate significance and meaning."
Rav Moshe Taragin

Rav Moshe Taragin in his article called "Midat Sedom" states: "A second basis for lifnim mi-shurat ha-din may stem from a gemara in Bava Metzia (30b) which initially asserts that Jerusalem was destroyed during the Second Temple era because they zealously applied Torah law. The gemara ponders, "Should they have implemented pagan law [that they were punished for exercising Torah law]?" The gemara responds that, in fact, Jerusalem's destruction was caused by STRICT application of Torah law without allowances of lifnim mi-shurat ha-din...A society cannot function solely upon justice or solely upon strict application of the law. Without readiness to sacrifice personal interest or resource for the 'other,' and especially for a needy, impoverished 'other,' society is doomed to failure...Any society is only as strong as its combined ability to respond to, and protect the needs of it weakest members. The thirtieth chapter of Avot De-Rabbi Natan begins with Rabbi Yonatan's declaration that various forms of chesed provide benefit and prosperity to society, again affirming the need for chesed within any society. In fact, the very pasuk in Vaetchanan which serves as the source of lifnim mi-shurat ha-din implies this result, when it concludes, "so that you will prosper and inherit the good land which Hashem promised your fathers." By appending to this command the promise of reward, the Torah is, in effect, underscoring the pivotal nature of extralegal ethics in building a just and sustainable society. Typically, the Torah does not record rewards for mitzva observance or avoidance of aveirot. In this instance, though, as the promise is not a reward as much as a natural consequence, social stability is highlighted. As King David himself avows, "Olam chesed yibaneh" – the world is built through chesed (Tehilim 99:3)." Chesed or Loving kindness is the key to living the Spirit of the Law and Paul in Romans 13:10 states that Love is the fulfillment (pleroma) of the law. The Greek word pleroma can mean fullness, completion, entirety.

Rabbi Moses Movsas writes in his article "Beyond the Letter of the Law":"..."And you shall do that which is right and good in the eyes of G-d." What new instructions does this verse add? Surely, doing what is "right and good" is already a part of the numerous injunctions already presented. If one observes all the commandments and prohibitions set forth in the Torah, does he not accomplish what is "right and good in the eyes of G-d?" What new obligation does this verse apply? Both Rashi and the Ramban understand this verse to denote a level of behavior that is lifnim mishuras hadin, above the letter of the law. To appreciate the full spirit of the law, one needs to read between the lines of the Torah, and one who does this shows a sincere desire to observe Hashem's bidding...A similar precept is encapsulated in the verse, "You shall be holy, for I the L-rd your G-d am holy." It is possible, the Ramban comments, for a person to keep the letter of the law while violating its spirit, thus becoming a naval birshut hatorah--a degenerate within the confines of the Torah. The Torah commands us to be holy, to sanctify ourselves even in those circumstances that are permitted according to the strict interpretation of the law. These two verses complement each other. "You shall be holy" tells us to take a step back in order to uphold the spirit of the law. It tells us that even though a certain act seems permitted, we must nevertheless demonstrate self restraint to prevent the spirit of the law from being violated. In doing so we become holy. At the same time, "You shall do that which is right and good" tells us to take a step forward in order to promote the spirit of the law. Though we may find ourselves in situations where we feel we can sit back and not get involved, the spirit of the Torah demands that we take initiative and get involved. The Talmud states that Jerusalem was destroyed because her inhabitants failed to raise their standard of behavior above the letter of the law."

Paul in Galatians is opposing the teachings of the House of Shammai who were legalistic followers of the letter of the law. Some of the early Jewish believers were of this background. It would seem that there was a priestly faction of the Shammaites or Shamerim (observant ones) known as the Ishmaelis descended from a Sadducean High Priest Ishmael who embraced the Pharisee teachings of the House of Shammai. At the time Paul was writing this letter one such Ishmaeli was High Priest -Ishmael ben Fabi. Paul defends the Hillelite teachings on lifnim mishurat ha din and on the possiblity of Gentiles attaining to the World to come without becoming Jews in his letter to the Galatians. He links these Ishmaeli Shamerim and their ideas with Abraham's slave son Ishmael and his mother Hagar the slave woman in an allegory. Those who live according to the letter of the law are slaves to the curse of the law as there is none who is perfectly righteous without the grace of the Mashiach. However those that embraced the Mashiach Yeshuah (who lived the Torah perfectly) attain to the freedom of the Torah with its blessings. Those who live "under law" (ie legalism) follow Mt Sinai in Arabia alluding to Ishmael and Hagar whereas those that live within and beyond the line of the law are the true sons of Abraham and Sarah and the true followers of the Torah given to Moses on the Mountain in the Sinai desert.

Those laws of Mosaic Judaism that are under the category of judgment laws (din) or laws of judgment in decrees were obeyed literally before the Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Mashiach as a form of discipline and protection (see Ephesians 2:15). Yeshua ha Mashaich takes these laws with him on the Cross and transforms them into the law of freedom in the spirit. In Ephesians 2 Paul is not talking about abolishing the Torah but he abolishes or nullifies the enmity between Jews and Gentiles caused by the laws of judgment in decrees (the 18 laws or rules of the House of Shammai). He as the Messiah also takes his followers into the highest levels of observing Torah that of lifnim mishurat ha din.

Rabbi Yitzchok Etshalom writes: "The Mishnah in Shabbat (1:4) relates that at one time, Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel had a particularly serious and tempestuous session in the court, in which the school of Shammai outnumbered the Hillelites and they were successful in passing a lot of legislation - 18 gezerot. The Gemara in Avodah Zarah (and Shabbat - 17b) associates some of these decrees with "measures of social distancing" - e.g. not to drink wine made by a non-Jew etc. One of the decrees was not to use non-Jewish oil (see the Gemara in Avodah Zarah for two possible rationales for this decree). The Mishna (Avodah Zarah 2:6) records that R. Yehudah haNassi and his court annulled this decree." These 18 decrees could not be annulled except by a better and superior court. That heaven instructed Peter and Paul to abolish these 18 decrees of enmity between Jews and Gentiles demonstrates that the Chair of Peter and the magisterium (Sanhedrin) of the New Covenant are a better and superior court than the Sanhedrin of the chair of Moses. Each has its role and purpose within its jurisdiction but the New covenant authorities have seniority for the baptised Jews and Gentiles.

After the destruction of the Temple and the reordering of rabbinic Judaism by the House of Hillel the principles of lifnim mishurat hadin were accepted and the 18 laws of enmity of the House of Shammai were abolished. This then brought Judaism closer to the teachings of the Jewish Catholic apostles Peter and Paul and the early church of Jerusalem. It would seem that Mohammed and the early Muslims where influenced by these Ishmaeli legalistic Jews who even existed in the Middle East two hundred years after the rise of Islam led by Ishmael of Akbara. Paul's concept of those who are bondsmen or slaves of law refers to those who limit Torah observance to a legalistic narrowness and thus invoke strict justice and the curse resulting from disobedience. Those who are freemen and live in the 'freedom of the Spirit' are those who observe in love the 'spirit of the law' (lifnim mishurat ha din)and thus invoke the blessings of obedience to the Torah and are called the 'sons of God'.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Avadon and Sheol

Zohar 1:62b discusses Gehinnom, Sheol and Avadon (avaddon). The Gemara gives Gehinnom seven names which some consider to be seven levels of Hell or Purgatory. The Zohar states that Sheol is the lowest part of Purgatory and from there souls can still rise to Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden) but Avadon (Abadon)is the bottom and from there souls are lost and cannot rise.

Sheol, Avadon, Beer Shachas (Well of Corruption), Bor Sheon (the Horrible Pit), Tit ha'Yaven (the Miry Clay), Tzalmaves (Shadow of Death) and Eretz ha'Tachtit (Netherworld) - are the seven names of Gehinnom. In tractate Erubin 19a Rabbi Joshua ben Levi refers to these seven names. The Midrash on Psalms refers to these seven realms of the underworld as Sheol, Avadon, Tzalmavet, Eretz haTakhtit, Eretz ha Neshiyah (land of Forgetfulness), Gehinnom and Dumah (Silence).

Zohar Korach states:- "A person should not say, 'When I get to that world, then I will ask the King for mercy and I will repent in His presence,' because "for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom" after the person departs from this world.

However, if a person desires the Holy King to illuminate him in this world and
grant him a part in the World to Come, he should toil in this world to gather
his activities to the right. All his deeds should be for the sake of the Holy
One, blessed be He, for after departing this world to be judged in harsh
Judgment and to be punished in Gehenom, there is no recourse to counsel, wisdom
or understanding to be saved from that sentence.

Another explanation of: "for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor
wisdom, in Sheol." There are levels upon levels in Gehenom, and the lowest level
is "Sheol." An even lower level is "Avadon," and one is near the other. Whoever
descends to Sheol will be put on trial. From there he can rise in a whistle, as
it is written: "He brings down to Sheol, and brings up" (I Shmuel 2:6). Whoever
is lowered to "Avadon" never rises."

And from Zohar Vayelech:-

"We learned that the wicked in Gehenom all go up through certain compartments
and that there are many openings to Gehenom. All the openings correspond to the
openings in the Garden of Eden. When the wicked are taken out after receiving
their punishments, they open the gates and put them outside. All the gates bear
names corresponding to those in the Garden of Eden, and each and every gate is
called by a name corresponding to the gate in Gehenom. The gates in the Garden
of Eden are known, gate for gate.

The last compartment in Gehenom is the lowest. That compartment is an
compartment over an compartment, and is called, "A land of gloom (Heb. efatah)"
(Iyov 10:22). What is gloom? It is as in, "Foursquare it shall be" (Shemot
28:16), which is 'if' in Aramaic. Here too, efatah means double. That
COMPARTMENT is called the bottom of Sheol. Sheol is one compartment and the
bottom is the lower compartment. Therefore it is called the lower land of gloom,
and ALSO called Avadon. Hence it is written, "Sheol and Avadon" (Mishlei 27:20).
Not all compartments are double, and not all are gloomy, except for this one.

And we learned that whoever descends to Avadon, that is called bottom,
never rises. That MAN is called a man who was destroyed and lost to all worlds.
And we learned that to that place are lowered those men who despised saying
Amen. Such a man is punished in Gehenom for the many Amen's that were lost to
him, that he did not consider, and he is lowered to the lowest compartment,
which has no opening, and he is lost and never rises from there. Hence it is
written, "As the cloud is consumed and vanishes away, so he who goes down to
Sheol shall come up no more" (Iyov 7:9). HE ASKS, but no; it is written, "out of
the belly of Sheol I cried and You did hear..." (Yonah 2:3). It is also written,
"He brings down to Sheol and brings up" (I Shmuel 2:6). AND HE ANSWERS, but this
is Sheol FROM WHICH ONE ASCENDS, and there is the bottom FROM WHERE ONE DOES NOT
RISE. We explained that this refers to one who repented BY DOING PENANCE, and
there to one who did not.

Rabbi Yosi said, as for the words, "For My people have committed two
evils; they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters, and have hewn them
out cisterns..." (Yirmeyah 2:13), "they have forsaken Me the fountain of living
waters" is by not wanting to sanctify the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He,
with Amen. What is his punishment? It is as is written, "and have hewn them out
cisterns, broken cisterns," by going to Gehenom one level after another until
they reach Avadon that is called bottom. If he sanctifies the Name of the Holy
One, blessed be He, by meditating properly on Amen, he rises, level after level,
to have delight in the World to Come, that ever flows and does not cease. This
is the meaning of, "for Hashem preserves the faithful, and plentifully repays
him who acts haughtily" (Tehilim 31:24)."

Zohar Noach states:

" Rabbi Aba said that in Gehenom, there are compartments upon compartments,
seconds, thirds, and so on until seven--our friends have already explained this
issue. Happy are the righteous who guard themselves from the sins of the wicked
and do not follow in their paths nor defile themselves. For when a person who
has become impure dies, he passes onto the World of Truth and goes down into
Gehenom. There he descends, until he reaches the lowest compartment.

And there are two compartments close to each other that are called Sheol and
Avadon. Whoever reaches Sheol is judged and punished there and is then raised to
a different, but higher, compartment. This continues until he is released from
there. But those who go down and reach Avadon are never raised from there again.
That is why it is called Avadon (lost), because they are lost there forever."

In Zohar Pekudei it links these seven realms of Gehenna with the seven chambers of the Evil Realm of Satan.

" Rabbi Shimon opened the discussion with the verse: "But they, like Adam have transgressed the covenant" (Hoshea 6:7). Who will remove dust from your eyes, Adam, if the Holy One, blessed be He gave you one precept and you could not keep it, for you were enticed by the wicked things with which the evil serpent seduced you, as is written, "the serpent was craftier" (Beresheet 3:1). Hence you were seduced by it, and brought death to you and all your offspring. Come and see: Whoever is seduced by it, and goes down to it, he will be lost in an instant...There are several aspects and grades to the Evil Inclination, which are the Satan, the Angel of Death, and the Evil Inclination. And we explained that though it is called by those names, it has seven names: the Satan, unholy, foe, a stone of stumbling, uncircumcised, evil, northern. These seven names correspond to the seven grades of its chambers, all of them on the side of defilement, as we said, and to the seven names given to Gehenom, where the wicked are condemned. These are: pit (Bor), grave (Shakhat), Dumah, gruesome mud (Tit haYaven), Sheol, shadow of death (Tzalmavet), a nether land (Eretz takhtit). These are the seven departments of Gehenom corresponding to the seven names of the Evil Inclination.

Here we explained that as there are grades and chambers on the side of holiness, so there are on the side of defilement, all of which abide in and rule the world on the side of unholiness. Seven chambers, corresponding to the seven names of Gehenom. All of them stand ready to condemn and defile the wicked of the world who clove to them, and did not keep away from them, while in this world...

These seven chambers, the seven departments of Gehenom, are called 'twelve months'. As there are twelve months of holy grades on the side of the Faith, so the Other Side has twelve months, to which the wicked are condemned, and their souls are sentenced to. Happy is the portion of the righteous who keep their feet in this world away from their gates, to be saved from them in that world."

Zohar Pekudei then goes on to describe these seven chambers or realms. The first is the beginning of the Yetzer Ahra (Evil Inclination)called the 'the pit empty of everything' in which one meets the demonic Prince Dumah (silence). This pit contains demonic snakes and scorpions that torment the soul. "The second chamber is darker than the first chamber. It is called 'grave', corresponding to the name 'unholy', just as the first chamber is called 'pit' corresponding to the name 'the Satan'. And this one is called 'grave' in relation to the name'unholy'. This chamber has three openings." This second realm is where many sexual sins are punished.

"The third chamber is dark and somber, for there is no light in it whatsoever. It is darker than the first. It is called 'Dumah', corresponding to the name 'foe'. There are four openings to this chamber, one on this side, another on that side, and so on...The fourth chamber is called 'debt'. This is the gruesome mud, corresponding to another name, a stumbling stone, and all is one. It is 'debt', all the sins of the world, the balancing of the sins...The fifth chamber is called 'Sheol', corresponding to the name of the Evil Inclination, uncircumcised, which we explained to be the secret of the foreskin. In this chamber there is one opening, and a chief in charge over it. The duty of this chief is to stir up accusations upon the world. This spirit is called 'enmity', after the name of the opening, enmity. This is understood from the verse, "and I will put enmity between you and the woman...". There is a spirit in this chamber who rules everything. He is called 'robber' (Heb. shoded), and is a "wasting (Heb. shod) and destruction" (Yeshayah 59:7)."

"The sixth chamber stands above the rest of the lower chambers. There are four openings to this chamber: one is called 'death', one 'evil', one 'shadow of death' and the last one 'somber'. These four openings are there to cause evil, and comprise everything...The seventh chamber is the chamber of the dregs of wine, to drink one's fill,as it is written, "and he drank of the wine, and was drunk, and he was uncovered" (Bereshit 9:21). The pressing of the grapes, the bad grapes, is done here, and it becomes foaming wine, the dregs of the wine. There is no one who drinks of them without bringing death to himself. Of this wine Eve gave her husband a drink, thus putting him in this chamber, as we learned that she pressed grapes and gave him to drink, thus bringing death to him, and to the whole world after him.
In this chamber are the unholy souls, who descend upon all those who cleave to this side. The defiled spirit, who descends upon those of this side, comes from here. As for those who strayed from their way in the world and practiced prostitution where they should not have, and shunned the way of truth, when one cleaves to the side of the Evil Inclination by harlotry, a spirit of defilement comes out of this chamber to defile him and the child he begot."

Today many Jewish authorities try to down play the traditional Jewish understanding of Purgatory and Hell. However it is clear from the sources that while Gehenna includes the concept of purgatory - it also contains a realm of eternal loss in fire called Avadon which equates with the Catholic understanding of Hell.