Relating to God
Ben: Since Hashem is transcendent (not immanent) and therefore does not have emotions or attributes, what does it mean to emulate Him? I understand that the Torah was "written in the language of man" and due to human limitation, had to describe Him in anthropomorphic terms (including His 13 Middot). Through the Torah, He provides us with human examples to emulate (such as the patriarchs) in order for us to relate to tangible examples of remarkable character. But in terms of how we relate to Him, the God of the Philosophers, I'd like to read/hear an articulated description of rationalist theology as it pertains to how humans can relate to the Unknowable One.
I like to use this comparison: God is akin to the builder of the computer, the physical world is akin to the computer itself, and humans are akin to the programs therein. The programs can never understand how they came to exist, nor can they find the builder who wrote their code, since he exists outside of the system, but they may be able to recognize that there is an intelligence behind it. The builder can interact with the computer or even choose to destroy it, and neither would affect him whatsoever. That being said, Hashem "spoke" to Moshe. So what does this communication really mean? How can we understand His "love" for us if He is devoid of emotion? How did He create the world from nothingness if He has no will? This, by definition, would compartmentalize Him into separate notions, chas veshalom.
Obviously believing in His immanence creates more problems than solutions, and I'm well aware that classical Judaism is purely monotheistic not pantheistic. As a Jew who follows the tradition of Maimonides and the Geonim, I was posed with the question of how one can seek a relationship with the transcendent God of the philosophers. The New Age Jewish movements, although not aligned with Mesora, do offer a clearer system of how to connect to God (even if incorrect), which in turn makes it more attractive to the masses. Whereas rationalists don't seem to have a set hashkafa or consensus on the matter. I could be wrong, and I apologize for my rant, but I hope you understand what I'm trying to say. Which books/articles do you recommend?
Thank you, Ben
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: I suggest Duties of the Heart.
Regarding how we imitate God's perfection when we do not know what He is, God already addressed this by commanding us in the many mitzvahs that His intelligence determined is the happiest life and how we draw closer to Him. God commands us in matters like charity and justice, knowing that we can only act on these institutions in human terms.
Rabbi Israel Chait explained that when man is involved in pursuing wisdom and Torah knowledge, that is, as the Rav stated, a "rendezvous with God." Meaning that this is the closest relationship man can experience and it is also the most enjoyable, and all that man should seek.
God's love towards man means His will for our specified perfection as outlined in the Torah. His love for us means His desire for our ultimate good, and the primary example of this love is His giving of His Torah to mankind.
Regarding God having will, which you question the meaning of since that is a human term, we must say that His creation of the universe and man are not without purpose, this being the meaning of the word will.