Kabbala & Polytheism II

According to kabbalists the emanated Divine Attributes are not metaphorical. They are hypostases, i.e., they are regarded as objective, existing entities. Moreover, they are arranged in a number of Configurations. These emanations, in this view, are considered actual Divinity as can be seen from Ramchal quoted below.

This is in response to Jessie Fischbein's following fine points entitled "Kabbala & Polytheism" printed in the Letters section of the JewishTimes Dec. 26, 2008 issue: 

"I do recall the idea of "sefirot" which is described as "emanations," and I recall for example, some were "netzach" (eternity), "hod" (glory), and one was "melech" (king). It is my opinion that these can be related to in a similar manner to the way we describe Hashem "having" attributes.  If Hashem is One, then He has no attributes.  And yet He is described as "rachum" (merciful), "erech apayim" (slow-to-anger), "keyl" (power), "shakai" (sufficient). I do not think that today's Jews worship the sefirot.  It is my understanding that they regard Hashem as "ein-sof" (infinite and unknowable), and that the sefirot can be understood similar to the attributes."

Below is an exact extract from Tohar Hayichud http://www.mesora.org/ToharHayihud.pdf (pp. 69-73) which I feel address Jessie Fischbein's position:

"The outstanding latter-day apologist for kabbalism, Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto (l707-47), wrestles with this problem in his "Philosopher and Kabbalist", a dialogue between a classic, orthodox Torah philosopher and a kabbalist, as follows:

Philosopher: If Atsiluth is Godhead, then how can you say that Godhead derives from Godhead? Is this view different from the view of the Christians, who propound the trinity, saying he is three and He is one? ... Thus far I have spoken only of Atsiluth. When we come to Beriah, Yetsirah and Asiyah, the objections and perplexities increase greatly. ... For you assume the derivation [from Atsiluth] of Beriah, Yetsirah and Asiyah, and you call them, too Godhead, and you make distinctions -- one part being called by this name, and another part not so called, and so on. Tell me, in the name of your faithful friendship, and by your life, whether an intelligent person can conceive of a distinct part of G-d, of a half, of a third, or of a tenth -- and direct his service sometime to this part and sometimes to another? ... It would indeed have been better to believe along with the entire congregation that the Cause of all causes is One in an absolute sense. ...

I have heard you kabbalists say that the Sefiroth evolve by degrees until this physical world emerges. This is an impossibility which I cannot accept -- namely, that Godhead, evolves and develops until the murky world of matter emerges. ... If you say that the Sefiroth are an emanated radiation of En Sof, I have already raised the objection at the beginning: How is it possible to cause the derivation and the emanation of Godhead from Godhead? Furthermore, if they are emanated from Him -- then they are outside of Him! And if you say even a hundred times: 'like the flame which is connected to the coal’ -- these are only words said by the mouth, that do not pass through the ear. How much less do they enter the heart to be accepted concurrently that its essence is not Godhead, and yet, at the same time, Godhead. Certainly this is impossible and entirely inconceivable. Now I have heard that your service relates to the Sefiroth. I see no way to permit this, if they are not Godhead in essence. And if you answer that Godhead cleaves to them to such an extent that they are called by His name, what, then, will you say to the Christians, for you have no justification to answer them.

I am telling you what I have read and heard concerning these things that you explain as development [i.e., emanation]: how the created evolved from the Creator, as though the Creator were primal matter for the created, which evolves from Himself, and that matter continues to be acted upon gradually until it reaches the created themselves -- which are the Sefiroth; all that you kabbalists expound is along these lines. For you say that the Creator, blessed be His name, caused Himself to be acted upon until He became the radiance of Himself, which continues to be acted upon by evolving until there emerge the lower forms of existence. ... But I have already objected that it is impossible for His light to evolve. And you have already admitted this -- that no characteristic of corporeality applies to Him, blessed be He. 

Kabbalist: I admit all this. Indeed it is the foundation of my entire structure that the Emanator possesses no characteristic of corporeality at all, G-d forbid; and it is impossible to say in any way that His light is acted upon and evolves so that the Creator becomes something created. For as long as I have lived I have never heard concerning creation anything else than that it was effected from nothing. Consequently, how can one speak of evolving and being acted upon? ... I will now start you on the road to understand what you have never understood.

Philosopher: Speak!

Kabbalist: Know that the Emanator is One who is possessed of will. Now understand; He and His will (emphasis added).

[Note: In his work Milhemeth Moshe, Rabbi M.H. Luzzatto makes this point more clearly: "That is to say, you must distinguish between 'Him' -- the Essence of G-d -- and His 'Will', that they are two [distinct] things (emphasis added) (page 8). Further: For example, when speaking about a man, the man is called the 'subject,' while what is said about him, his characteristics, are called the 'predicate,' or 'predicates.' Thus in speaking of a man, we can speak of a predicate of him: that he is a man of Torah, or a man of charity or that he is wise. All these are distinct predicates, so that we are able to speak of each predicate separately."]

Philosopher: I understand you to mean that we can speak of Him in two aspects: in the aspect of Himself, and in the aspect of His Will.

Kabbalist: Do you admit this or not?

Philosopher: Certainly. Every subject can be discussed in the aspect of each of his predicates separately.

Kabbalist: Know that of the Essence of the Emanator, exalted and blessed be He, we are not permitted to speak, and we have no need to enter into any discussion about Him, for it is enough for us to know of His existence. Beyond this we are not permitted to speak at all. But know that whatever we say is about his Will (emphasis added), for this is closer to us, and is permitted, since we are not touching upon His Essence, blessed be He, at all.

(from p. 17-18) Know that [His] Will they (i.e., the kabbalist) call 'haarah' (radiated light), while En Sof they call 'simple light.' Therefore, in this way the forces of [His] Will and His attributes are called: lights.

Philosopher: If so, according to you, these names are figurative expressions; these thing have no [objective] existence except [subjectively] in [our] mind.

Kabbalist: See how you err in understanding the beginning of my words. ... Know that whoever wants to understand the matter of Sefiroth must consider the human soul. The matters of the soul are not [subjective] in thought alone, but rather an actual [objective] force. True, it so subtle that is is not subject to our senses, but in any case is is a [real] force, and it is possible for a man to discern it without [treating it] figuratively. In the same way the supernal characteristics and forces of the Sefiroth which we mentioned are actual [objective] things. The existence of the Emanator, blessed and elevated be He [=En Sof] - is certain, and the existence of His Will is also certain and this is His radiated light. For radiated light is what a luminary radiates and sends forth. So too what the One and Only Master wills is called radiated light. ... The forces of this Will are called lights, as mentioned. But they are lights of actual [objective] existences, analogous to the objective soul [of man]. ...

Philosopher: In that case, your general point is that the Sefiroth are the forces of the supernal Will in its finite aspect, and through them all acts occur."

Thus Rabbi M.H. Luzzatto comes to terms with the perplexing problems posed by the concept of kabbalistic emanation by relating emanation not to G-d's Essence, but to His Will. Not G-d's Essence is emanated; His Will is emanated and evolves into the Sefiroth. But this emanated Will, which is not G-d's Essence, as Rabbi M.H. Luzzatto stresses, is, nevertheless not a mere figure of speech. It is an actual objective force, an objective entity. From the point of view of classic Judaism this inescapable dualism is a heterodox conception. For the classic doctrine is that He and His Will are identical. There can be no distinction between Him (i.e., His Essence) and His Will, nor between His essence and His knowledge, etc. As Rambam states in the Guide (1:53)

Therefore we, who truly believe in the Unity of G-d, declare, that as we do not believe that some element is included in His essence by which He created the heavens, another by which he created the elements, and third by which He created the Intelligences, in the same way we reject the idea that His essence contains an element by which He has power, another element by which He has will, and a third by which He has knowledge of His creatures. On the contrary, He is a simple essence, without any additional element whatever.

Rambam expressed this also in his Mishneh Torah, Yesode Hatorah 2:10:

The Holy One, blessed be He, perceives His true essence, and knows it as it is in reality; for His knowledge is not like ours, separate from His essence; we and our knowledge are not identical, but the Creator with His knowledge and His life are one (i.e. identical) in every respect, in every way, and in every sense of the term unity; for, if He possessed life and knowledge as things separate from His essence, there would be several divine beings, G-d Himself, His life, and His knowledge, This is not the case; He is One in every respect, in every way, and in every sense of the term unity; consequently He is the One Who knows, that which is known, and also the knowledge itself; all these are One (i.e., identical) -- a concept which cannot be clearly described in words, perceived by the ear, or understood by the heart of man. (In the Guide 1:68 Rambam states that this is "a fundamental principle of our Torah." 

What is true of His knowledge is equally true of His Will or His power, as is clear from the above-quoted passage from the Guide.

Also Guide 2:18: 

All things owe their existence to His eternal and constant wisdom, but we are utterly ignorant of the ways and methods of that wisdom, since, according to our view [that G-d has no attributes], His Will is identical with His Wisdom, and all His attributes are one and the same thing namely, His Essence or Wisdom.

Guide 1:69: 

According to either opinion, the series of successive purposes terminates, as has been shown, in G-d's Will or wisdom, which in our opinion (i.e., that G-d has no attributes) are His Essence, and not anything separate from Himself or different from His Essence. Consequently, G-d is the final purpose of everything. Again, it is the aim of of everything to become, according to its faculties, similar to G-d in perfection; this is what is meant by "His Will, "which is identical with His Essence."

Guide 3:13: 

We also meet with this view in Scripture: "The L-rd hath made everything lamaanehu for its (or His) purpose (Prov. 16:4). It is possible that the pronoun in lamaanehu refers to the object (viz., "everything"); but it can also be considered as agreeing with the subject; in which case the meaning of the word is, for the sake of Himself, or His Will which is identical with His Self [or Essence].

See also the last of the Eight Chapters (Shmoneh Perakim) in which Rambam states that G-d's attributes such as His knowledge, power will and life, etc. are inseparable from His Essence, and that they are identical.

Ramban's Disputation:

I stood up and objected, "Hearken and hear my words, Jews and gentiles. Fray Paul asked me in Gerona if I believe in the trinity. I asked him, 'what is the trinity? [Does it mean) that G-d is [composed of] three coarse (i.e., substantial) bodies like the bodies of men?' He answered, 'No' [I asked], [Are they three ethereal substances like souls or three angels?' He said 'No' [I inquired further]; Is it one thing composed of three [elements] as [physical] bodies consist of four elements? He said, 'No.' 'If so,' [I challenged], 'What is the trinity?' He answered, '[It is] the wisdom , will and power [of G-d],' I said. 'I admit that G-d is wise and not foolish (=negation), that He wills without emotion, and that He is powerful, and not weak (=negation). However, the expression trinity is a fundamental error. For wisdom, when said of the Creator, is not an accident (i.e., a quality that is not identical with the essence). Rather He and His Wisdom are One (i.e., identical), He and His Will are One (i.e., identical), He and His Power are One (i.e., identical). Consequently, the Wisdom, and the Will and the Power [of G-d] are all One (i.e., identical), [not three].

Thus, to escape the concept of an emanating, evolving essence of Godhead, Rabbi M.H. Luzzatto is forced into the equally heterodox concept of distinction between G-d's Essence and His Will; His Essence does not emanate and evolve, but His Will does exactly that -- not figuratively, but as an actual objective entity of Divine Will as a hypostasis. 

Thus, Rabbi M.H. Luzzatto is in basic contradiction to the Fundamental of the Kadmonim z"l (the Foremost Early Authorities) that G-d's Will (or His Wisdom, etc.), unlike that of man, is identical with G-d's Essence. The example given by Rabbi M.H. Luzzatto that "in speaking of a man, we can speak of ... [his] distinct predicates, ... of each predicate separately," is a shocking analogy that is not applicable to G-d with Whom all such predicates are identical with His Essence, as stressed over and over again by the Kadmonim z"l (The Foremost Early Authorities), as cited above numerous times. But Rabbi M.H. Luzzatto says of G-d: "He and His Will." "That is to say, you must distinguish between 'Him' -- the Essence of G-d -- and His 'Will,' that they are two things." To avoid the idea that G-d's Essence emanates and evolves, a concept that is unacceptable to Rabbi M.H. Luzzatto, he is forced to distinguish between G-d's Essence (which does not emanate) and His Will (which does emanate)."