Letters July 2008
Reader: Two questions.
Genesis 22, 13: “And Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering.”
Why didn't Abraham tell Yitzchak to go and fetch the ram, so he could have been a more direct participant in the mitzvah?
Mesora: Good question. At that moment, God rescinded His decree that Abraham slaughter Yitzchak. But Abraham did not recoil in gladness over having his son back. He loved God more than Yitzchak, and although prohibited from slaughtering Yitzchak, Abraham still yearned to serve God. Therefore, he offered the ram. Yitzchak was not part of the equation regarding Abraham’s devotion to God. Abraham desired that his abbreviated act of worship still be performed via proxy. It was his act, not Yitzchak’s act.
Reader: Question #2: In last weeks Parsha, Numbers 24, 5, “Balak,” we read how Balaam, after observing the Israeli encampment, is swept away in rapt admiration, and says: “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, Thy dwellings, O Israel!” Every morning, when we enter our synagogues, we read the above statement, which begins the prayer “How Goodly are your tents?” Further on in this prayer we say, “As for me, may my prayer to You, Hashem, be at an opportune time” (69:14). It is this reference to an “opportune time” that has me confused. Isn't it true that Hashem dwells in His Realm, which has no time? This approach sounds like how a man might approach another man of a higher rank or higher degree of notoriety, not to Hashem. It sounds too common, “I am sorry Hashem, did I catch you at a good time?” Is it possible that Hashem has good times and bad times?
Maybe I am looking at this situation too critically.
“Exalted be the living G-d, and praised, He exists-unbounded by time is His existence.” (Psalms 69:14)
This song summarizes the “Thirteen Principles of Faith” expounded by Rambam (Maimonides), his commentary to the Mishnah, Sanhedrin, chapter 10.
Mesora: Of course, God is above time, since time is His creation, as Maimonides taught. Time only applies to us.
This prayer – “Mah Tovu” – which you quote, is recited upon our entrance to the synagogue…God’s Temple. We first cite prophetic words praising the Jews, “How good are thy tents Jacob”. We thereby remind ourselves that Israel has real worth before God, as only God’s prophecy can validate, and as these words to Bilam proved true. This worth of the Jewish nation thereby entitles us to approach God. King David said, “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You should engage him?” This wise king expressed this very sentiment that man is really worthless before God, not a being worth God’s engagement. Nonetheless, God validates our worth through Bilam’s prophecy. But that was in the past.
What we have addressed thus far, is that Israel “can” have worth before God. But, do “we”, “currently” have such worth? One must be arrogant to feel he does matter so much. We therefore pray that our prayers reach God at a “desirous time”, for us. “Desirous time” means that “we” are desirous before God as we now approach Him beseeching our needs. That is, that we hope we are “now” fit (are at a good time or state of being) so as to receive a favorable response from God.
Reader: First, I would like to thank you for
your dedication to the truth in face of all the distortion and so-called
Judaism prevalent in our day. Your website has helped me greatly and I could
not thank you enough. Secondly, I have a question, which has been
bothering me for some time. How would you prove to someone that God
couldn’t have any emotions, without using any verses from the Bible?
Mesora: If the questioner accepts God created everything, then this means before He created something, it did not exist. Hence, God created everything, including man; this includes emotions, as emotions are only found in man. So before God created man, there were no such things as emotions. Thus, God does not possess emotions.
Secondly, emotions are clearly tied to the physical world, while God existed prior to the physical world. Thus, He is not physical. Therefore, emotions cannot relate to God.
Furthermore, it is unwise to suggest something about a being of Whom we know nothing. Just as I would not say that John – a man I never met – is a crook, it is even more foolish to suggest anything about God’s nature.
Thank you for your kind words.