Avodah Mailing List

Volume 12 : Number 027

Sunday, October 26 2003

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2003 14:46:15 -0400
From: "Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.it.northwestern.edu>
Re: Ibn Ezra

At 09:13 AM 10/24/2003, Michael Frankel wrote:
>RYGB: <<(me) as for "must beleive" it seems clear that some didn't, e.g. 
>(the>unbowdlerized) ibn ezra peirush toi the first posuq. however, not 
>wishing..  RYGB: I have the Mechokekei Yehudah. Is that censored? For I 
>saw no indication of any acknowledgement of any eternity of matter in the 
>IE, only a discussion of whether "bara" is specific to ex nihilo. YGB>>

>who mentioned censorship? (actually, you did - but i didn't).  as well 
>known ibn ezra created both a long and short form of his peirush. the 
>longer form is not generally printed in the usual editions of ibn ezra to 
>b'reishis (and in any event only survives for the first couple of p'roqim, 
>but may form the basis for the printed ibn ezra on sh'mos. rest is the 
>shorter version).

Roget's II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition. 1995.


VERB: To examine (material) and remove parts considered harmful or
improper for publication or transmission: censor, expurgate, screen. See

Roget's II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition. Copyright  1995 by Houghton
Mifflin Company. Published by the Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights


[Genuk shoin. This tangent lacks AYH content. -mi]

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Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2003 15:49:59 -0400
From: "herbert basser" <basserh@post.queensu.ca>
Re: Rambam and Creation

Toby Katz:
> "It is also the only thing I've read under the header "Rambam and
> Creation" that I have understood a word of....

Toby Toby-- so well put: I had to write in such misleading ways so that
no one would accuse me of disrespect of Rambam. But those who know sod
hahiluf should have been able to see my intent. And you found me out
for you tell us you understood all along. So we should tell the others
I guess:

In discussing maaseh bereshit and maaseh merkava (the big things) Rambam
says such things are not for everyone but... Nevertheless, it is still
fitting to study other commandments first, because they settle a man's
mind. Furthermore, they are the great good which God gave to this world,
by which we can inherit life in the World To Come. It is possible for
everyone - adults, children, men, women, those who are narrow-minded
and those who are not - to know these matters. (Rambam yesodei hatorah
end ch 4-- but only the elite should know maaseh bereshit and maaseh
merkava through very round about ways).

 My real intent was to say Maimonides' teaching in connection with
Creation that I cite is not a teaching he meant for women, children and
simpletons [whom he thinks are too below such teachings and must be taught
pious gobbledygook]. His teaching therefore reflects his own ideas since
it will not be clear to anyone but those who know philosophy know what he
is saying. MY HIDDEN INTENT was NOT to say my own article was meant for
some elite male. Those with eyes will not ascribe the notion of female
feeblemindedness to me but where it rightly belongs. My words bear 2
meanings. My real meaning [so esoteric it is only discernable to those who
already know-- sod hashem etc) is that Rambam was hardly impressed with
the female intellect and his real intent was at times obscured purposely
from their view. I'm sure he's burning mad that I said anything at all--
since he tells us that the natural feeble-mindedness of women will muck
up the Torah shebaal peh and sages told us not to teach it to women and
here I am referring to Creation and Philosophy in a mixed forum. Note
the following:

Maimonides often tells some traditional teachings are only intended for
women and for the common multitude.His intro to Mishna (found in the back
of gemara berachos as the intro to Zeraim) reiterates such matters and
needs not be painfully repeated here. We should look at Moreh part 3:
See 3:33 --This also is the reason why" the Torah speaks the language of
man," as we have explained, for it is the object of the Torah to serve
as a guide for the instruction of the young, of women, and of the common
people; and as all of them are incapable to comprehend the true sense
of the words, Next in 3:34-- How, then, could any person speak on these
metaphysical themes in the presence of ordinary people, of children, and
of women! 3: 35-- That God is incorporeal, that He cannot be compared
with His creatures, that He is not subject to external influence;
these are things which must be explained to every one according to his
capacity, and they must be taught by way of tradition [ZB:not reason!] to
children and women, to the stupid and ignorant. 3:38-- We must further
take into account that the care of young children is intrusted to women,
who are generally weak-minded, and ready to believe everything, as is
well known. I'm sure now the phrasing in my post cannot be mistaken for
anyone but Rambam. Some think women were so deprived in his age that what
he says about them was right on the money. Some do not think so. The
yeshivish world today thinks he is still right and the curriculum of
our daughters reflects it. The last chabad rebbe, MM Schneerson, and
the late RYBS-- ZALS were alone in challenging that assumption.

More to the point, I recommend Prof. Sarah Klein-Braslavy two full-length
study on Maimonides' approach to Bereshis: (in Guide III, around Chs.
29-30). The Creation of the World and Maimonides' Interpretation of
Gen. I-V. In: S. Pines and Y. Yovel, eds., Maimonides and Philosophy.
Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht: 1986, p. 65-78. and remind readers
of Naomi Frankel's review article on the subject of Creation and Rambam
at <http://www.aishdas.org/articles/rambam_creation.htm#_edn9>

Zvi Basser

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Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2003 14:43:15 -0500 (CDT)
From: gil@aishdas.org
RE: Rambam and creation

Meir Shinnar wrote:
>Remember, that simple pshat is
>1) Mishne Tora and original perush hamishnayot are consistent with any
>of the 3 positions...

This is not the simple peshat, and earlier I gave citations to scholars
who disagree with this "simple peshat".

>2) Moreh Nevuchim is not so clear


>In his later gloss on the perush hamishnayot, it seems that he wants
>to emphasize the latter part - that in spite of the perush hamishnayot and
>the Mishne Torah written in an Aristotle friendly approach, Aristotle
>is not acceptable.


Again, from the Rambam's later glosse to PhM:
"Ve-da ki ha-yesod ha-gadol shel Toras Moshe Rabbeinu hu heyos ha-olam
mechudash, yetzaro H' u-vera'o achar he-he'ader ha-muchlat."

Emphasis on the last three words of the above sentence.

Not just mechudash, but achar he-he'ader ha-muchlat. That is creation
ex nihilo and is the great principle or Moshe's Torah.

More on Marvin Fox after I take another look. But what I posted the
other day was a word-for-word copy from the book.

Gil Student

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Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2003 16:11:49 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Jonathan Baker" <jjbaker@panix.com>
Rambam and creation

> RJJB writes to RYGB:
>> OK, I looked at "Uncle Immanuel's" book, and if you substitute "Light of
>> the En Sof" for "God-stuff", you have exactly what I said.

> But RIS's sefer speaks of emanation, not panentheism. "The Light of",
> not beAtzmo.

But does emanation in that sense mean "radiation with consequent 
separation from its source"?  Or "radiation with continuing connection
to its source"?  The whole business about the nefesh elokis sounds like
the latter.  Is the "light" an emanation that is separate from the Source?
Or is it made up of the same Godliness as the En Sof?

It would seem that Plato's conclusion, that of a separate eternity,
would depend on what the kabalistic idea of emanation *is*.

To analogize, if the fire is suddenly blocked with an insulator, the
light and heat that it radiated before being blocked continues to 
radiate outwards, with independent existence.  On the contrary, if
God ever H"V stopped giving existence-flow to the Universe, the 
Universe would no longer exist.

   - jon baker    jjbaker@panix.com     <http://www.panix.com/~jjbaker> -

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Date: Sun, 26 Oct 2003 00:14:16 +0000
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Rambam and creation

On Fri, Oct 24, 2003 at 04:11:49PM -0400, Jonathan Baker wrote:
:> But RIS's sefer speaks of emanation, not panentheism. "The Light of",
:> not beAtzmo.

: But does emanation in that sense mean "radiation with consequent 
: separation from its source"?  Or "radiation with continuing connection
: to its source"?  The whole business about the nefesh elokis sounds like
: the latter.  Is the "light" an emanation that is separate from the Source?
: Or is it made up of the same Godliness as the En Sof?

I realized I was overly medayeiq in his lashon. Chabad is certainly
panentheistic, and I'm sure RIS meant the same. E.g. the Tanya's
maximalist peshat for "ein od milvado" -- there is literally *nothing*
else (Sha'ar haYichud vehaEmunah, opening words).

Gut Voch!

BTW, most take the "Sha'ar haYichud vehaEmunah" to be primarily about
panentheism. Starting with the Ba'al haTanya's note that "E-lokim" is
begematriyah "tevah" -- not because sheim E-lokus simply refers to the
Maker of teva. As he continues, if HQBH were to remove himself for a
moment from an object, it would cease. Not "if He were to cease creating
and rectreating".

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Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2003 16:01:04 -0400
From: "Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.it.northwestern.edu>
Re: Allegorization of Scripture

>And to constrict those lines, however, starts us down the slippery
>slope to becoming irrelevant to most of today's non-observant Jews.
>Do we present Torah as totally counter-factual? Or do we present it as
>something which a modern reasoning person can accept and incorporate into
>their psyche and behavior? Credo quia absurdum est is *not* a Jewish
>sentiment. In fact, it's the opposite of the gnoses of either Rambam
>or of the kabbalists/chasidim, neither of whom are overly attached to
>literal readings of the Torah's narratives and metaphors.

I read the Meiri. I cannot find in what he says what you claim he
does. How did you come to this Meiri? Did someone assert that the Meiri
takes the position you ascribe to him?

We present Torah as Torah. We do not repackage it for modern


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Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2003 15:44:14 -0400
From: "R Davidovich" <rdavidovich@cox.net>
Re: Nusach Ari

From: eli turkel <turkel@post.tau.ac.il>
> In R. Avaraham Yosef's shiur he mentioned that none of the siddurin
> today are truly Nusach Ari. In particular according the writings of the
> ARI the nusach for Borech Olenu or Borchenu is like Nusach Sefard and
> not like Nusach Askenaz or Chabad which claims to be Nusach Ari but has
> ashkenaz changes to it.


The way I heard it explained, the Baal Tanya's (or Chabad's) description
for his siddur is that it is "Al Pi Nusach HaArizal", according to the
Nusach, not actually Nusach Arizal itself. The English Translators of
the Tehillat Hashem Siddur erred when they called it: Nusach Arizal.
I presume this is because it was colloquially known as Nusach Ari already
by the masses.

Rather, what the Chabad siddur does is apply the Arizal's kabalistic
emendations to Nusach Ashkenaz. Those aspects of the Ari's siddur
that were based on sefardic custom were not incorporated into the Baal
Hatanya's siddur.


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Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2003 16:02:43 -0400
From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
RE: Basics for Philisophical discussions

>>Yes. You read the text of the Torah, and see how heavily the Torah leans
>>on any particular difficult passage, and see how much you would alter
>>the internal coherrence by reinterpreting something. Perhaps I didn't
>>do a good enough job of describing the method, but I don't think that
>>it fails the intellectual honesty test.

> Where is the license to make such judgements procured?

Where is the requirement for such license detailed?? 

If I may cite Rav Lichtenstein (in an article cited by Eli Clark in
avodah 3:155

At another level, one may alter the substance of whole areas by examining
them, legitimately, through a different prism. The great model here
is Maimonides, whose recourse to the concept of "Torah speaks in the
language of man [i.e. in human idiom] (Sifrei, Shelah 112)," on the one
hand, and to the mode of allegory on the other, enabled him to interpret
so much of Bible and midrash aggadah in a philosophic rather than purely
literal, popular vein.

There is no sense that the rambam was relying on a prior tradition that
those elements were subject to allegory - but the general principle of
torah speaking in human idiom and that allegorical interpretations are
permissible (and the rambam's own statement that he would be willing to
allegorize all of ma'ase breshit is not related by him to any mesora or
license - nor does he ever suggest that he requires license for any of
his allegorizations)

This is related to the previous debate on the rambam's source for his
views on astrology - where RYGB was unique in insisting that the rambam's
shitta must have been based on a mesora, as rishonim don't innovate -
something he believes strongly in - but where is it in the rambam???


>Since I am one of the most adamant in this area, I would like to clarify. 
>We are not branding the allegorizers apikorsoim. We are regarding them as 
>ketanei amanah (an apt term, as it is used WRT Noach)...

I (and the rambam) would actually reverse the evaluation - someone whose
emuna is dependent on the historical truth of the mabul is mikatne emuna
- the strength of emuna is not measured by how many statements one has
emuna are true....(this is directly related to the rambam's criticisms
of those who view it the height of emuna to believe that everything
is miraculous..)

Let me cite the rambam's maamar techiyat hametim (Shilat edition -
relevant to both points)

know that these prophecies and similar matters that we say that they
are allegorical - our word in them is not a decree, that we did not
receive a prophecy from hashem that will tell us that it is an allegory,
nor did we have a tradition for one of the sages from the prophets who
will explain that these details are allegorical.

Rather, what brought us to that is the our effort and the the effort
of every man of wisdom (of the few) - the reverse of the effort of
the multitude. That the multitude of the the followers of torah, what
is beloved of them and tasty to their folly, that they will put torah
and sechel as two opposite poles, and will derive everything separate
from the reasonable, and will say that it is a miracle, and will flee
from thngs being natural, not in what is told about what happened in
the past, nor what he will see now, nor what is said that will happen.
And our efforts our to gather between the torah and the reasonable,
and will manage all things accroding to a possible natural order, except
what is specifically explained

that it is a miracle (mofet) and it is impossible to explain it otherwise,
then we will need to say that it is a miracle

This, by the way, answers RMB's question about epistemology - the very
notion that torah and sechel have different epistemologies is problematic
(dare I say trafe...)

Meir Shinnar

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Date: Sat, 25 Oct 2003 19:37:40 +0200
From: Akiva Atwood <akiva@atwood.co.il>
RE: Basics for Philisophical discussions

> Since I am one of the most adamant in this area, I would like to clarify.
> We are not branding the allegorizers apikorsoim. We are regarding them as
> ketanei amanah (an apt term, as it is used WRT Noach)...

Based on what definition of Emunah? What are the "requirements"?

Does someone who allegorizes the first chapter in Bereshis ALSO qualify as
"ketanei amanah"?


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Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2003 16:39:40 -0400
From: Elazar M Teitz <remt@juno.com>
Re: new birth control?

Regarding the ongoing discussion of the meaning of zera: the g'mara in
Y'vamos 80b gives as one of the definitions of a saris "kol sheshichvas
zar'o docheh," explained by Rashi as meaning "she'aino kashur, ela tzalul
kamayim."  Sounds like semen without sperm, and it's certainly incapable
of reproduction, yet its called shichvas zera.


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Date: Sun, 26 Oct 2003 01:32:40 +1000
From: sba@iprimus.com.au
Morid haTal

From: eli turkel <>
> In a shiur I heard today from R. Abraham Yosef he claimes that in South
> America Morid haTal is said all year round because of the diffrence
> in seasons and the abundance of water. If a farmer needs rain he adds
> it in Shomea Tefilla. Asked about Australia he claimed that there is
> some overlap of seasons with Israel and so the regular set of berachot
> are used.

> Anyone on the list live in these countries and know more?

First of all, true nusach ashkenaz does not say Morid Hatal at all..

There is an interesting and comprehensive tshuva specifically regarding
Australia by our previous Rav, Hagaon Rav Betzalel Stern zt'l in vol 6
of his Shu't Betzeil Hachochmo [p.126].

He rules that although we have 'back to front' seasons, rain is still
welcome - even in the summer months and therefore we should stick to
minhag ho'olom.

He also cites sources showing this shaaloh was asked in the early days
of Jewish settlement in Australia from Rav Nosson Adler of London and
Rav Shmuel Salant of Yerushalayim. 
In the tshuva he also quotes a little known posek who was rav in Melbourne
in the early days - Rav Avrohom Eber Hirshovitz, baal mechaber "Beis
Avrohom" - who corresponded wih the above gedolim.


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Date: Sat, 25 Oct 2003 19:29:40 -0500 (CDT)
From: gil@aishdas.org
Re: Rambam and Creation

During shaleshudes in shul we are learning the Mabit's Iggeres Derech
Hashem. At the beginning of the first sha'ar, the Mabit writes that
Hashem is "mashgiach al kol perat" about which someone, unprompted by me,
noted that it sounds like the Mabit was preceding Besht in stating that
everything in the world has hashgachah peratis. I do not have access
right now to a Beis Elokim to see if the Mabit discusses it there, but
since he was influenced by both philosophy and kabbalah I'm not sure
what to expect from him.

Gil Student

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Date: Sat, 25 Oct 2003 22:46:10 -0400
From: "Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.it.northwestern.edu>
Re: Ibn Ezra

>we will not actually settle this argument since people have been arguing
>about ibn ezra's p'shot here almost since he wrote it. what seem clear
>(from his identification of boroh with g'zeiroh) is that IE thinks that
>creation of shomayim etc and all the different "stuff' recounted in
>p'suqim is done from pre-existing matter, but those who rreject the
>notion of IE's belief in eternal matter point out (correctly) that
>this is not a slam dunk for eternal qadmus since it does not preclude
>the notion that the pre-existant matter was also created ex nihilo
>at some previous point (essentially RYGB's posiiton if i interpreted
>his comment correctly) IE doesn't address this notion when he removes
>"boroh" from any connection with ex nihilo - i.e. RYGB's summary is a
>bit misleading when he notes that IE only "discusses" whether "boroh"
>is an ex nihilo concept. in fact it is clear that IE rejects that notion.

The issue is unprovable, of course, but let me note the following:

Deductive and Inductive Thinking

In logic, we often refer to the two broad methods of reasoning as the
deductive and inductive approaches.

Deductive reasoning works from the more general to the more specific.
Sometimes this is informally called a "top-down" approach. We might
begin with thinking up a theory about our topic of interest. We then
narrow that down into more specific hypotheses that we can test. We
narrow down even further when we collect observations to address the
hypotheses. This ultimately leads us to be able to test the hypotheses
with specific data -- a confirmation (or not) of our original theories.

Inductive reasoning works the other way, moving from specific observations
to broader generalizations and theories. Informally, we sometimes call
this a "bottom up" approach (please note that it's "bottom up" and not
"bottoms up" which is the kind of thing the bartender says to customers
when he's trying to close for the night!). In inductive reasoning, we
begin with specific observations and measures, begin to detect patterns
and regularities, formulate some tentative hypotheses that we can explore,
and finally end up developing some general conclusions or theories.

These two methods of reasoning have a very different "feel" to them when
you're conducting research. Inductive reasoning, by its very nature, is
more open-ended and exploratory, especially at the beginning. Deductive
reasoning is more narrow in nature and is concerned with testing or
confirming hypotheses. Even though a particular study may look like it's
purely deductive (e.g., an experiment designed to test the hypothesized
effects of some treatment on some outcome), most social research involves
both inductive and deductive reasoning processes at some time in the
project. In fact, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that we could
assemble the two graphs above into a single circular one that continually
cycles from theories down to observations and back up again to theories.
Even in the most constrained experiment, the researchers may observe
patterns in the data that lead them to develop new theories.

Copyright 2002, William M.K. Trochim, All Rights Reserved
<http://trochim.omni.cornell.edu/kb/order.htm>Purchase a printed copy of 
the Research Methods Knowledge Base
Last Revised: 06/29/2000

Someone who had not the pre-conceived notion that the IE believed in
kadmus, or one who was not desperately seeking Rishonim who may believe
in kadmus, would not, by inductive reasoning, have reached the conclusion
that you reached in IE Bereishis 1:1. This, rather, is a fine example
of deductive interpretation.

>(Generally for p'saq. Though even here the suggestion that a rov may not
>have freedom to pasqen if known "g'dolim" disagree is both fallacious
>and harmful -- and violative of loa soguru mip'pnei ish. it is worth
>re-reading r. chaim voloshiner on this matter). But to suggest that,
>e.g. if RDE's reputation for both were somewhat higher than RYGB seems
>to grant (personally, a natural caution would restrain me from assuming
>that people with whom i'm not familiar are necessarily lightweights)
>this would confer some authority in a matter of hashqofoh to "determine
>who is right, who is wrong.." or evn to "present you own view" is an
>intellectually bankrupt perspective which perhaps RYGB didn't really
>mean to promulgate but are nevertheless implicit in his words. and are
>certainbly reflective of too much going on in the public sphere today.


What has reputation to do with it?

If RDE would assert that he has been through Bavli, Yerushalmi, the
Midrashim (let's say Tanchuma, Rabba and the Yalkut) and Sifrei Kabbalah
(let's say Zohar and Kisvei Arizal) several times *or* that he has had a
Gillui Eliyahu or a Maggid, I would believe him and accept his authority.


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Date: Sat, 25 Oct 2003 23:11:50 -0400
From: "Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.it.northwestern.edu>
Re: Rambam and creation

OK, let's look at this strange term panentheism:

    * Panenthesim differs from Panthesim in that "God" both includes and 
transcends the universe.  It is more or less equivalent to Emanationism.


The word "Emanation" comes from the Latin e-manare, "to flow forth".
The cosmos and finite beings are all seen as having emerged out of the
Absolute Reality through a sort of "out-flowing". Metaphors are with
the ocean (the Absolute) and the waves (the Universe); the Sun (the
Absolute) and the Light that shines from it (the Universe); a fountain
(the Absolute) which overflows (the universe); and so on.

According to Emanationism, Creation occurs by a process of emanation -
"out-flowing". The entire cosmos, and even all the Gods and Godheads
beyond the Cosmos, has come about through emanation. Just as the ocean
forms its surface into waves, so the Absolute forms upon and as Itself
successive manifestations, successive entities. And these in turn create -
or rather, emanate - further entities, and so on, with all these entities
combining and interacting in the extraordinary network of existence.

Each of the levels of reality in the Emanationist Cosmology could
be termed a "World". Here, "World" is a general term meaning any
self-contained realm or universe of existence. One could equally well say
"Universe", "Cosmos", "Sphere", "Realm", "Plane", "horizon", "reality",
"state of existence", "state of consciousness", etc. The term "World"
has been chosen simply because it is a useful general term.

One could think of the relationship between each of these levels as being
like "body and soul", "spirit and matter", or "Creator and creature"
<http://www.kheper.net/topics/cosmology/#[1]>[1], in that each higher
level is the Soul, Spirit, and Creator of the level immediately below
it; and the Body, Matter, and Creature (created being) of the level
immediately above it.

diagram of the relationship between spirit and matter, according to the
emanationist paradigm

The Emanationist position then, is based, not a single Creator-Created
Dichotomy, but rather on a series or "hierarchy" of realities or "Worlds",
arranged "vertically" (inverted commas are used because these terms are
simply metaphoric, and should not be taken literally). Each higher world
"generates" the one below it through a process of emanation, and each
therefore stands in the position of "God" or "Creator" to the level
or grade below it. Thus, Creation is not Creation out of nothing, but
creation out of the being of the higher hypostasis.

Each of the levels or stages in this "spectrum" or "great chain of being"
has its own specific characteristics. So you could speak of the psychic
world (or "astral plane"), the angelic world, the archangelic world,
the Divine world, and so on; hierarchy upon hierarchy, world upon world,
a kind of epiphany or manifestation of the Divine; all looking downwards
to matter, and also looking upwards to the godhead.

Such a Cosmology has to be lived. It cannot be a mere theoretical thing.
It must be an actual Vision of Reality. The Vision of Worlds beyond
Worlds, of hierarchies of Angels or Gods arranged in order upon order,
Light above Light, is a truly magnificent and awe-inspiring one. It is
not abstract speculation. It is contemplative reality.


[1] see e.g. L.I. Krakovsky, Kabbalah - The Light of Redemption, pp 19, 
86-7, 125 (Research Centre of Kabbalah, Jerusalem, 1970)]


Emanationism in contrast to other theories

The Principles of Emanation

Cosmology page

content and html by M .Alan Kazlev <http://www.kheper.net/aboutme>
page uploaded 28 May 1998, last updated 28 March 2001
html editors used - Netscape Page Composer, then 


Bottom line: these strange words, panentheism and emanationism are just
pop-Kabbalistic/Easten Mystical ways of depicting the hierarchy of Olomos.
Now, what this has to do with "G-d stuff" is beyond me.


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Date: Sun, 26 Oct 2003 09:04:02 -0500
From: Kenneth G Miller <kennethgmiller@juno.com>
Avodah Zara and Independent Agents

I used to think that all of Hashem's agents in running the world
(mal'achim, nature, whatever) run simply as robots, with no independent
decision-making ability whatsoever, because any belief that they *do*
have some degree of independence would violate some halacha or other of
Avodah Zara, such as a prohibition against believing in multiple gods,
or that the One G-d would share His power with anyone.

 From various recent postings, it is clear that I was mistaken. It
seems that there are at least some authorities who believe that HaShem
does in fact assign some degree of independence to those agents in
Hashgacha Klalis situations. If so, then I obviously don't have a clear
understanding of what the prohibitions of Avodah Zara mean to those

Can someone give me a kitzur of how they resolve Hilchos Avodah Zara
with the belief that these agents have independence? Is it okay to
believe in such agents as long as we don't pray to them? How limited
does their degree of independence need to be to allow this belief; for
example, must we believe that Hashem always has the ability to override
the agent's decision (i.e., use Hashgacha Pratis), or might the agent
have an independence which can even override Hashem on occasion? (which
sounds assur to me, but that's why I'm asking)

Akiva Miller

Go to top.

Date: Sat, 25 Oct 2003 21:37:20 -0400 (EDT)
From: Ariel Jacob Segal <asegal@wam.umd.edu>
The Black Sea Flood--Solution btw Allegory and Global Flood?

Hello all. Just joined the Avodah list after years of perusing the
archives. I noted that the subject of the Mabul and Science has come up
quite often.

[BTW, on general Torah-Science issues, I highly recommend listmember
R'Slifkin's _The Science of Torah_ (Targum, 2001).]

Many posters seem to assume that the issue is of an "either/or" type.
Either the Mabul _must_ be a metaphor/allegory OR a true global flood
which wiped out all life. Some posters have mentioned the fact that one
sugya in the Talmud debates whether Eretz Yisrael was flooded or not. That
would seem to lend support to a gigantic, catastrophic, but localized
Mabul in the region where Noach might have been, near Harei Ararat (not
necc. the current Mt. Ararat/Agri Dagh), near the Black Sea....

As it so happens, 2 marine geologists, William Ryan and Walter Pitman,
have discovered tentative evidence for a mammoth deluge occurring at the
Black Sea, and marine explorer Bob Ballard has discovered traces of an
advanced pre-Flood culture (which would accord w/metal-working skills
such as Tubal-Cain's. Problem: The flood is dated to before 5600 BCE,
pre-Adam HaRishon. The issue is currently hotly debated scientifically.

A conference just concluded at Columbia University on this issue. The
attendees were generally not frum, but it is important to note that the
idea of a gigantic but localized flood is currently being given serious
exposure in the scientific community.

Here are some links + a summary.

The Black Sea Flood: Archaeological and Geological Evidence
An International Conference at Columbia University, October 18-19, 2003


Claimed discoveries trying to rebut Ryan and Pitman:


Session at the upcoming annual meeting of the Geological Society of

[evidence that this is at least being taken seriously]
T104. "Noah's Flood" and the Late Quaternary Geological and Archaeological
History of the Black Sea and Adjacent Basins


[Columbia]	Earth Institute News
posted 09/13/00 4:OO P.M. EST Discovery of Human Artifacts
Below Surface of Black Sea Backs Theory by Columbia University
Faculty of Ancient Flood


Summary of Columbia Symposium Intro:

The presented papers will review geological and archaeological evidence
for Quaternary transformations in the Black Sea basin, with specific
focus on the sixth millennium BC inundation proposed by W. Ryan and
W. Pitman. Only empirical evidence recovered through accepted earth and
social scientific methods will be considered, however. Time will not be
devoted to the speculative implications that link Black Sea events to
biblical narrative, as is increasingly happening in popular archaeology
books and media reports.


Beginning in 1993, Columbia University geologists William B. F. Ryan
and Walter C. Pitman III, together with other collaborating scientists,
recovered evidence that the Black Sea had attained its present size
dramatically, possibly even catastrophically. By coring into the sea
floor, they were able to confirm the existence of sediments representing
a former brackish water great lake that was fed by river drainage out
of northern Russia. Their findings confirmed the initial discovery over
two decades earlier by David Ross and Egon Degens from the Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution that the Black Sea floor is composed of a dark
organic mud, or sapropel, of marine origin that overlies a light gray
substrate of clay with a water content possessing very low salinity. The
salt water intrusion that submerged the original lake and initiated
sapropel deposition almost certainly derived from rising global sea
level as the Pleistocene glaciers melted. When Mediterranean seawater
began flowing over the sill of the Bosporus, its torrent etching a deep
spillway channel, the Pontic depression was doomed. The newly expanding
sea encroached inexorably upon the shores of the much smaller lake, and
according to Ryan and Pitman&rsquos dating, marine conditions prevailed
by at least 5600 BC. The speed of the inundation, aspects of its dating,
and the consequences for settled farming or mobile foraging populations
displaced by the deluge are still under discussion.

Recently published evidence collected by another international team of
marine geologists has complicated this picture. In the October 15, 2002,
issue of the journal Marine Geology, new findings are documented that
conflict with the flood hypothesis and suggest that the Black Sea was full
and flowing outward into the Sea of Marmara over the past 10,000 years.
The contradictory clues to the Black Sea&rsquos behavior during the
early post-glacial period represent a curious interpretive obstacle
that can best be resolved by open discussion of a wide range of data
and continued scientific cooperation, which both teams have consented
to begin in the context of this conference.

Interest in research within the Black Sea basin is high for another
reason. Improving technology has permitted increasingly effective
study of submerged archaeological remains that lie beyond the reach of
conventional underwater excavation. Recent sea floor exploration using
robotic submersible vehicles has confirmed the presence of shipwrecks
and former shorelines, and has demonstrated the potential for discovery
of human habitation sites. As hostile as the Black Sea&rsquos depths are
to divers, they are extraordinarily friendly to archaeologists, because
beneath the oxidized surface layer are anoxic bottom waters where the
absence of dissolved oxygen has annihilated all life, minimized decay,
and yielded extraordinarily good preservation of even organic remains.

The question of a refugee diaspora evacuating the Pontic basin in the
face of rising waters is an archaeological question that has potentially
testable implications based upon the distribution of ancient cultures
in the regions surrounding the modern Black Sea. The conference will
therefore bring together experts to review the known data and propose
further studies that would fill the gaps. In addition, linguistic
distributions of groups speaking Caucasian and Indo-European languages
will be considered. Linguists have long recognized the commonalities
of languages such as Hindi, Urdu, Farsi, Hittite, and nearly all the
tongues of Europe. By working backward in time, &ldquoundoing&rdquo
the various evolutionary changes that languages tend to undergo, the
prime geographic area for the original proto-Indo-European language has
been posited to lie somewhere between Ukraine and Central Asia. This
region is adjacent to the Black Sea and thus, like the archaeological
evidence from the circum-Pontus, the linguistic patterns may hold
clues suggesting whether large-scale flooding created a mass egress
that could help explain population movement within Eurasia. Perhaps,
in concert with the archaeological evidence, the linguistic data might
reflect in some way on the widespread turn to farming at the time based
on the antiquity of agricultural words.

Whew! OK, the chronology might be 2000 years off or so, but the
indication that there was something like a localized Mabul at the "right"
location MIGHT end up satisfying pshat without having to resort to
allegory/metaphor. Of course, if this doesn't work, there is always the
idea of catastrophically rising sea levels after the Ice Age. Of course,
Torah is always first, and we shouldn't necessarily torture the text to
make it correspond to scientific hypotheses. However, ideas such as the
Black Sea Flood should at least be given some serious consideration.

R'Micha, RYGB, R'Slifkin, what do you think of this?

Kol tuv,
Ariel Segal

Go to top.


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