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Author Topic: Triune beliefs in Jewish Mysticism/Kabbalah  (Read 1994 times) Average Rating: 0
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vorgos
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« on: March 25, 2012, 10:37:45 AM »

I was fascinated to read this comment by Xenia1918 earlier

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In my search for a mystical relationship with God I drifted into the mystical end of Judaism (Zohar, Kabbalah), and interestingly, aspects of that caused me to think of Christ again, esp. when I discovered the fact that mystical, Orthodox Jewish teaching believes that God is of a triune nature!

and after googlling about came across the following page.

Does anyone with knowledge of Jewish Mysticism care to comment? Are the claims of the article true? If they are shouldn't we be seeing a large number of Jews converting?

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« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2012, 12:13:55 PM »

Not really. The cultural pressure on them to stay with their heritage is considerable. Also, some don't believe that Christ could be the Messiah. They may believe in what the Kabbalah says, but they believe someone else may be the Messiah to come.
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« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2012, 12:18:43 PM »

Jews for Jesus aren't Christians, and I wouldn't expect many real Jews to convert either...
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« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2012, 01:49:33 PM »

Some Jews accused the Kabbalists of imitating the Christian Trinity with their multiple sefirot (emanations of God) but I think they were way off base- God's three hypostases are not emanations.

The sefirot system has more in common with St. Dionysius' celestial hierarchy and both seem to have a common neo-Platonic inspiration.
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« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2012, 01:52:46 PM »

Philo of Alexandria believed that the Logos of Greek Philosophy was the intermediary between Adonai and Creation.
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« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2012, 04:03:22 PM »

First, let me preface by saying that there have been - and presently are - important Rabbis who have rejected various parts of Kabbalah, often large parts of it, as well as some of the more popular interpretations of Kabbalic works, especially, it seems, the work of the Arizal (examples include the Vilna Gaon, who rejected the Hassidic understanding of Kabbalah, quite fervently; Saadia Gaon who, at the least, rejected the idea of reincarnation as being non-Jewish; Maimonides who, at least, rejected the extreme anthropomorphism in many mystical Jewish writings, among other issues; Meir ben Simon who essentially accused many contemporary Kabbalists of preaching heresy; Yaakov Emden who created a detailed critique of the Zohar, accusing it of heresy; Leone di Modena who rejected the Sefirot precisely because there would then be no problem with Trinitarian theology, in his opinion; Abraham ben Moses ben Maimon - the son of Maimonides - who fervently rejected the idea that time and space in any way apply to God, thus rejecting the panenthism present in much of Kabbalah; Yihyah Qafih who rejected the Arizal more or less wholesale; and, most notably amongst present-day Rabbis, Ovadia Yosef who was, for a time, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, though he is actually a Mizrahi Jew, and holds an exceptionally high status in most Mizrahi communities).  Now, onto the actual article.

A major problem with this article is that it compares the Sefirot to the Trinity.  In Kabbalah, properly understood, according to most Kabbalists, the Sefirot are aspects of, or emanations from, God.  In true Christianity, the Trinity are not aspects of, nor emanations from, some singular person.  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three distinct persons.  In the early Church, the question was never "OK, we know we have one God, so how is He three persons?" but rather "OK, we know we have three persons, how are they one God?"  This distinction in emphasis is extremely important because it underlies something that is difficult to express, but nonetheless Christian doctrine.  The article claims that the Sefirot are a compound unity comprising God.  This is inaccurate.  Rather, they are the way He works in the world, much like the energies of God, found in Christian writings.  They do not comprise God, rather, they emanate from Him.  While some Christians will say that this is no different than the Trinity, us Orthodox call those Christians heretics.

They even quote 1 Chronicles 29:11 in support of their idea "Yours, O God, are the Greatness (Gedulah), the Power (Gevurah), and the Glory (Tiferet), the Victory (Netzach), and the Splendor (Hod), for all that is in heaven and earth (Yesod), Yours O God is the Kingdom (Malkuth)." However, if properly understood, no one could claim this is support for a Trinitarian God.  Rather, it is support only for a God that can, in some sense, be known.  If I say that Alexander is intelligent, funny, and athletic, am I claiming that he is a compound unity and that those three aspects are in some way independent of him?  Of course not.  Rather, I am describing him, not diagnosing him with DID.  

The author of the article also writes that "kabbalists recognize multiple "grades," "degrees" or "beings" in the Godhead," and says this isn't different from three persons of God.  Clearly, this author is not a real Trinitarian Christian.

As well, the author seems not to understand the idea of the Incarnation of Christ very well, seeing as how he presumes that the belief that the Shekhinah can appear in an anthropomorphic shape, such as the burning bush that Moses interacted with.  This is extremely different from the idea that the Son of God BECAME a man, He did not merely put on flesh as one would a costume, but in every sense became a man.  If the author of this article believes that these are still similar in any important way, he must believe that Kabbalists think God became, truly, a plant.

The author is also selective in his speaking about Metatron.  While it may be possible that some Kabbalists believe Metatron is in some sense God, virtually all of them - instead - believe he is Enoch.  In fact, when the Talmud records Acher entering Paradise and seeing Metatron seated, he assumed Metatron was God and became a heretic by declaring that there were two powers in heaven.  In fact, according to the Talmud, Metatron received 60 lashes from God as proof that he could not be God.

This author is either: 1.) Uninformed about true Christian theology; 2.) uninformed about the Kabbalah; 3.) or, more likely, uninformed about true Christian theology and intentionally misrepresenting Kabbalah.
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« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2012, 04:12:08 AM »

Jews for Jesus aren't Christians, and I wouldn't expect many real Jews to convert either...

I realized that they are not Christians. My initial thought was, wow, one of the biggest hurdles to Christianity seems to be largely overcome for those that subscribe to this mystical form of Judaism. 
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« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2012, 04:42:49 AM »

First, let me preface by saying that there have been - and presently are - important Rabbis who have rejected various parts of Kabbalah, often large parts of it, as well as some of the more popular interpretations of Kabbalic

[snip]

This author is either: 1.) Uninformed about true Christian theology; 2.) uninformed about the Kabbalah; 3.) or, more likely, uninformed about true Christian theology and intentionally misrepresenting Kabbalah.


Thanks for the detailed explanation James. If you don't mind me asking, are you a Jewish convert or just have you studied Kabbalah?
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« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2012, 03:20:13 PM »

First, let me preface by saying that there have been - and presently are - important Rabbis who have rejected various parts of Kabbalah, often large parts of it, as well as some of the more popular interpretations of Kabbalic

[snip]

This author is either: 1.) Uninformed about true Christian theology; 2.) uninformed about the Kabbalah; 3.) or, more likely, uninformed about true Christian theology and intentionally misrepresenting Kabbalah.


Thanks for the detailed explanation James. If you don't mind me asking, are you a Jewish convert or just have you studied Kabbalah?

I am not a Jewish convert, but I spent a few years, after ceasing to be a Protestant, trying to decide what religion I thought was true.  I spent a good deal of time with Judaism, and Kabbalah was of special interest to me.
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« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2012, 09:57:23 PM »

Well I know that Jews believe in several "natures of God", but only one God and not "triune".

Scriptures such as "The evil spirit of the Lord", they believe that God has many "parts" and/or "natures" (well over 3) that they believe the same God has.  Much as like we have several ways of our personalities - happiness, sadness, anger, hostility, aggression, sensual, silly etc.  But they put it in context of the "natures" of the SAME God.


As far as the Kabbalah goes, many Jews reject it as evil (as well as the Talmud (oral tradition)).
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« Reply #10 on: April 21, 2012, 02:47:09 AM »

I was going to chime in with what I know, but James has explained the differences well.

To summarize, the Sefirot are "aspects" of god that allow mortal man to comprehend part of what is incomprehensible. They are, by no means, separate persons within the Godhead, as Jews adamantly proclaim four times a day, "Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echod," meaning, "Hear O Israel, The Lord is Our God, The Lord is One." The word "Echod" is qualitative. It means more than just there is only one god; it means there is nothing but the oneness of god, YHWH.

An interesting tidbit: Orthodox Jews are currently observing a 49-day period leading up to the Festival of Shavuot, called "Counting the Ohmer." According to Chassidic (Chabad) teachings, each of the seven weeks corresponds to one parent Sefira and each of the seven days of the week corresponds to one child Sefira. Thus, tonight (Shabbat) is Malchus ShebeGevurah, which means Kingship/or Foundation of Severity, or how god's kingship is manifested in his severity. Like Lent, this is a 49-day period of repentance when listening to music, heightened celebration, and cutting one's hair are forbidden (and there's a one day break in the middle). The Sefirot combination of each day is supposed to guide what one should work on for that day. I have no idea what that means for today.

As far as the Kabbalah goes, many Jews reject it as evil (as well as the Talmud (oral tradition)).

Most Orthodox Jews do not reject Kabbalah as evil; however, they stress that one who reads Kabbalistic texts be suitably prepared. According to their guidelines, the student should be over thirty, married, and well versed in the oral and written laws. Those who are not grounded in Torah or in a state of impurity could cause "spiritual harm" to themselves by reading the texts unprepared.

I doubt that there is an Orthodox Jew alive that regards the Talmud as evil. On the contrary, it is the foundation of their education.
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« Reply #11 on: April 21, 2012, 08:52:02 AM »

Even most Reform Jews would probably not call the Talmud evil, just a product of its time.  It also seems to me that a large number (if not nearly all) Karaite Jews, who reject the idea that the Talmud is an Oral Law passed down from Moses to the present, don't even think that the Talmud is evil, and are not averse to using the reasoning found in the Talmud, so long as they believe it is sound.

The only Jews who think the Talmud is evil are people who are in no way religiously Jewish, chiefly so-called Messianic Jews.
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« Reply #12 on: April 21, 2012, 10:09:22 AM »

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« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2013, 07:07:47 PM »

James Rottnek,

One of the Rabbinical claims against Christianity is that God cannot become a man or become part of the physical world. However, I am doubtful about that claim because of the story of the Burning Bush.

So I am doubtful when you write:
As well, the author seems not to understand the idea of the Incarnation of Christ very well, seeing as how he presumes that the belief that the Shekhinah can appear in an anthropomorphic shape, such as the burning bush that Moses interacted with.  This is extremely different from the idea that the Son of God BECAME a man, He did not merely put on flesh as one would a costume, but in every sense became a man.  If the author of this article believes that these are still similar in any important way, he must believe that Kabbalists think God became, truly, a plant.
I think the example of the burning bush shows that God could become man, because for example Hebrews 2:14 says: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same"

In a similar way to God taking the form of a burning bush in the physical world, Christ, the Son of God, took on flesh in the incarnation. If the former example was just temporary though, Christ took on flesh in a permanent, full sense. So it seems that there are both similarities and distinctions between the two.

What do you think?
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« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2013, 07:46:37 PM »

James Rottnek,

One of the Rabbinical claims against Christianity is that God cannot become a man or become part of the physical world. However, I am doubtful about that claim because of the story of the Burning Bush.

So I am doubtful when you write:
As well, the author seems not to understand the idea of the Incarnation of Christ very well, seeing as how he presumes that the belief that the Shekhinah can appear in an anthropomorphic shape, such as the burning bush that Moses interacted with.  This is extremely different from the idea that the Son of God BECAME a man, He did not merely put on flesh as one would a costume, but in every sense became a man.  If the author of this article believes that these are still similar in any important way, he must believe that Kabbalists think God became, truly, a plant.
I think the example of the burning bush shows that God could become man, because for example Hebrews 2:14 says: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same"

In a similar way to God taking the form of a burning bush in the physical world, Christ, the Son of God, took on flesh in the incarnation. If the former example was just temporary though, Christ took on flesh in a permanent, full sense. So it seems that there are both similarities and distinctions between the two.

What do you think?

Well, there is certainly a similarity, but as I said, to argue that the two cases are very much alike would require that one believes God truly and in every sense became a plant.  Such an idea strikes me as most peculiar.  God did not become a plant when he appeared to Moses, he appeared, in fact, "from the midst of a bush."  Exodus 3:2 reads, "And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed."  It does not even say the Angel of the Lord appeared "as a flaming bush," but rather "in a flame of fire from the midst of the bush."  But if we were to assume that God took on the form of the bush, there isn't necessarily a reason, if you were reading the text that way, to assume the bush was ever physical.  But let's suppose the bush was physical, if God became the bush in the way God became man, then God would have taken on all the aspects of the bush, and united the nature of a bush to the nature of God.

I certainly don't wish to suggest there are no similarities: both were revelations of God within the physical world.  But at the same time, it seems to me there is a substantial and important qualitative difference between the two, in that God (at most) appeared as a bush, never becoming a bush (I would actually argue that, as Exodus says, there was only an appearance of fire from within a bush, and consequently these two events are even more unlike one another).
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« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2013, 08:23:37 PM »

Well, there is certainly a similarity, but as I said, to argue that the two cases are very much alike would require that one believes God truly and in every sense became a plant.  Such an idea strikes me as most peculiar.  God did not become a plant when he appeared to Moses, he appeared, in fact, "from the midst of a bush."  Exodus 3:2 reads, "And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed."  It does not even say the Angel of the Lord appeared "as a flaming bush," but rather "in a flame of fire from the midst of the bush."  But if we were to assume that God took on the form of the bush, there isn't necessarily a reason, if you were reading the text that way, to assume the bush was ever physical.  But let's suppose the bush was physical, if God became the bush in the way God became man, then God would have taken on all the aspects of the bush, and united the nature of a bush to the nature of God.

I certainly don't wish to suggest there are no similarities: both were revelations of God within the physical world.  But at the same time, it seems to me there is a substantial and important qualitative difference between the two, in that God (at most) appeared as a bush, never becoming a bush (I would actually argue that, as Exodus says, there was only an appearance of fire from within a bush, and consequently these two events are even more unlike one another).
Do you think that the burning bush is a counterpoint to the claim that God cannot become a man or a part of the created world?
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« Reply #16 on: January 23, 2013, 10:46:01 PM »

Well, there is certainly a similarity, but as I said, to argue that the two cases are very much alike would require that one believes God truly and in every sense became a plant.  Such an idea strikes me as most peculiar.  God did not become a plant when he appeared to Moses, he appeared, in fact, "from the midst of a bush."  Exodus 3:2 reads, "And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed."  It does not even say the Angel of the Lord appeared "as a flaming bush," but rather "in a flame of fire from the midst of the bush."  But if we were to assume that God took on the form of the bush, there isn't necessarily a reason, if you were reading the text that way, to assume the bush was ever physical.  But let's suppose the bush was physical, if God became the bush in the way God became man, then God would have taken on all the aspects of the bush, and united the nature of a bush to the nature of God.

I certainly don't wish to suggest there are no similarities: both were revelations of God within the physical world.  But at the same time, it seems to me there is a substantial and important qualitative difference between the two, in that God (at most) appeared as a bush, never becoming a bush (I would actually argue that, as Exodus says, there was only an appearance of fire from within a bush, and consequently these two events are even more unlike one another).
Do you think that the burning bush is a counterpoint to the claim that God cannot become a man or a part of the created world?

I do not believe the burning bush can be used as an argument that God can become part of the created world.
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« Reply #17 on: January 23, 2013, 11:04:02 PM »

At least the idea seems accepted in Orthodox circles that the Burning Bush points to Christ's taking on flesh:
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Eastern Orthodox/examples in OT that Jesus was coming

The burning bush is taken as a prefigurement of the incarnation of Christ.
http://en.allexperts.com/q/Eastern-Orthodox-1456/2009/10/examples-OT-Jesus-coming.htm

In the Akathist Hymn and Small Compline it is sung about the Theotokos:
The great mystery of your childbirth did Moses perceive within the burning bush.

I also heard at our OCF study group that the angel in the Burning Bush was Christ. Wikipedia says something similar:
Quote
Eastern Orthodoxy believes that the angel was also heard by Moses; Eastern orthodoxy interprets the angel as being the Logos of God, regarding it as the Angel of Great Counsel mentioned by the Septuagint version of Isaiah
http://orthodoxwiki.org/Burning_Bush
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