Divine Human Divide? And Back to Basics!

©by Menashe Walsh

6 February 2015

1  Asher MezaNo doubt those in the world of so called Messianic Judaism are presently doing cartwheels in celebration and confirmation of their twisted beliefs courtesy of a mix that plops out of the less desirable organs of “orthodox’ Judaism. Sensational statements from Asher Meza to the effect that:

“The Sefirot [of Kabbalah] is like the Trinity of Christianity on steroids”.

Further added to the mix is the more educationally sound editorial of openly Gay Jay Michaelson[1] on a book written by Shaul Magid[2] called “From Metaphysics to Midrash”. The blurb for the book goes as follows:

How Hasidism Bridges Boundary Between Christianity and Judaism – Forward.com“In From Metaphysics to Midrash, Shaul Magid explores the exegetical tradition of Isaac Luria and his followers within the historical context in 16th-century Safed, a unique community that brought practitioners of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam into close contact with one another. Luria’s scripture became a theater in which kabbalists redrew boundaries of difference in areas of ethnicity, gender, and the human relation to the divine. Magid investigates how cultural influences altered scriptural exegesis of Lurianic Kabbala in its philosophical, hermeneutical, and historical perspectives. He suggests that Luria and his followers were far from cloistered. They used their considerable skills to weigh in on important matters of the day, offering, at times, some surprising solutions to perennial theological problems.


The editorial of Jay Michaelson suggests “How Hasidism Bridges Boundary Between Christianity and Judaism”.

In some ways, the boundary between Judaism and Christianity is a boundary about boundaries—specifically, what separates humanity from God, and whether it is ever possible to bridge the gap. Christianity, of course, has among its cardinal principles that God became man, and that Christ is both fully human and fully divine. Mainstream Judaism holds that such a crossing of boundaries is impossible. Humans are mortal, flawed, frail; the Jewish God is omnipotent. The two cannot be reconciled.

Jay Michaelson insists that with in Judaism prior to and after Jesus:

“incarnation never really went away”

And in the book “Hasidim Incarnate” according to Jeremy Michaelson:

Magid [again] takes the argument one step further. In Hasidism, he argues, the divine/human boundary was permeable, and sometimes crossed. In fact, he claims, in Hasidism we have the resurgence of the very incarnational theology that mainstream Judaism had rejected. In Hasidic thought, God and human are reunited. In a sense, the quasi-Christological nature of Hasidism is already familiar to us. Both scholarly and popular responses to the messianism of Chabad, for example, have alleged that the late Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson has been deified. Clearly, there is something Christian-like about the notion of a messiah who will rise from the dead, and seems to have powers well beyond the human. Magid, however, is not interested in the excesses of latter-day Chabad.

Magid, however, is not interested in the excesses of latter-day Chabad, unlike Asher Meza who gets a dig in at Chabad at every possibility he can, almost!

The bottom line, Jeremy Michaelosn backtracks from his bold title of ““How Hasidism Bridges Boundary Between Christianity and Judaism” at the end of the article:

“incarnation” is not a Jewish term. And yes, the way Magid uses it is neither how Christians nor, I suspect, most educated readers would understand it. The question “Hasidism Incarnate” asks us, however, is at once broader and deeper. Is there an aspect of the religious life — even if we step down from the incarnational altar and simply call it the sense of divine inspiration, or the Holy Spirit — that exists in Judaism as well as in Christianity, and that was suppressed by Jewish sages seeking to draw a boundary between two highly porous communities? If so — and I think it is so — then to whatever extent Hasidism reclaimed it, and for whatever reasons, Magid’s book is an important contribution, for it shines a light on where the drawing of boundaries has the effect of dividing a birthright.”

In all of the above the envelope being pushed is the notion that not much has ever separated Judaism from Christianity and now with new scholarship the gap between Judaism and Christianity is less. Further by the more sensational tacky elements within Judaism we have a push to completely throw out the teachings of Kabbalah altogether.

The Elephant in the Room

sefirotThe idea that somehow the Sages of Talmud and Isaac Luria and his followers where somehow closet messianic believers of the de-paganized Jesus, AKA Yeshua is nothing new. The number of times this matter has to be addressed over and over is never ending. The problem is not really a problem as long as regular Jews and Rabbis alike are aware of the Elephant that is in the room. The Elephant in the room equally applies to the Jewish scriptures, Midrashic elements and the teachings of Kabbalah. A principle is that is that the plain meanings and teachings of the Jewish scriptures clearly establish that Midrashic elements and the teachings of Kabbalah are not to be taken literally. Just how many times the principle has to be repeated over and over again is yet another example of I am not going to let facts get in the way of what I want to believe.

Addressing the silly ideas of a Divine Messiah now creeping into in the inverted view of modern Orthodox Judaism, we see the promotion of the idea that somehow Christians are better than us Jews. Christians are better than us Jews because the Christians worship 3 persons were Jews worship 10 persons (Sefirot).

From world renowned author Aryeh Kaplan in his book “meditation and Kabbalah page 180, we understand

The sefirot are all analogy (mashal), our refracted human attempt to explain our experiences of the Divine hierarchy through a glass. Cordovero relates his practice to the thought of the Jewish philosopher Maimonides (d. 1204) by using a negative theology of God and by treating the attributes of God as only a means of describing reality from the human perspective. Cordovero considers meditation and experience as the basis for understanding Kabbalistic texts. He writes that the Sefirot, unlike all the diagrams of the Sefirot drawn throughout the centuries, `do not exist in a spatial continuum, and therefore, it is impossible to differentiate them except through analogy: Cordovero adds that one should not treat the sefirot as literal, corporeal or even as real entities.

The message of the Torah is clear:

10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.” 11 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness.12 Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. Deut 4

To think that G-d has a ‘form’ is a mistake as form indicates dimensions, and composite of parts. Only finite things [like us humans] have dimensions. When we understand this very basic teaching we can then understand and begin to consider how man is made in the image of G-d. The statements of the Kabbalists [mistrued by Christians] only serves to teach us our own inadequacy of the finite trying to describe the infinite. In this respect along with Maimodines and with the Torah itself we can only describe G-d by what he is not:

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Num 23:19


[1] Jay Michaelson (born 1971) is a writer and LGBT activist in the USA. His work involves spirituality, Judaism, sexuality, and law. He is currently a contributing editor to The Forward, newspaper, and a columnist at the The Daily Beast Michaelson has twice won the New York Society for Professional Journalists award for opinion writing, most recently in 2014. Michaelson is Jewish and openly gay and often works in the intersecting fields of LGBT people and Jewish traditions.

[2] Shaul Magid is a professor of religious studies and the Jay and Jeannie Schottenstein Chair of Jewish Studies in Modern Judaism at Indiana University


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