Friday, August 11, 2006

Greek Philosophy and the Kaballah

I saw the following on Judaism 101:

To give you an idea of the nature of Kabbalah, I will briefly discuss one of the better known, fundamental concepts of kabbalistic thought: the concept of G-d as Ein Sof, the Ten Sefirot, and the kabbalistic tree of life. This explanation is, at best, a gross oversimplification. I do not pretend to fully understand these ideas.

According to Kabbalah, the true essence of G-d is so transcendent that it cannot be described, except with reference to what it is not. This true essence of G-d is known as Ein Sof, which literally means "without end," which encompasses the idea of His lack of boundaries in both time and space. In this truest form, the Ein Sof is so transcendent that It cannot have any direct interaction with the universe. The Ein Sof interacts with the universe through ten emanations from this essence, known as the Ten Sefirot.
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The Sefirot are not separate deities, as some might think by taking this too literally. They are intimately a part of G-d, and yet they are in contact with the universe in a way that the Ein Sof is not. The Sefirot connect with everything in the universe, including humanity. The good and evil that we do resonates through the Sefirot and affects the entire universe, up to and including G-d Himself.

While I am no Kaballah expert this is all very familiar to me.

These seem to be derived from Neo-Platonic thought. 1) the ability to speak of God only in term of what He is not. 2) The emenations from God.

Now, I don't want it to seem that I'm picking on some portions of Orthodox Judaism. Neo-Platonic thinking has also heavily influenced Eastern Orthodoxy.

Here is a Wikipedia article about Plotinus, who is widely considered the father of Neo-Platonism. Try to notice the similarities.
Plotinus taught that there is a supreme, totally transcendent "One", containing no division, multiplicity or distinction; likewise it is beyond all categories of being and non-being. The concept of "being" is derived by us from the objects of human experience, and is an attribute of such objects, but the infinite, transcendent One is beyond all such objects, and therefore is beyond the concepts that we derive from them. The One "cannot be any existing thing", and cannot be merely the sum of all such things (compare the Stoic doctrine of disbelief in non-material existence), but "is prior to all existents". Thus, no attributes can be assigned to the One.
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The One, being beyond all attributes including being and non-being, is the source of the world not through any act of creation, willful or otherwise, since activity cannot be ascribed to the unchangeable, immutable One. Plotinus resorts to a logical principle that the "less perfect" must, of necessity, "emanate", or issue forth, from the "perfect" or "more perfect". Thus, all of "creation" emanates from the One in succeeding stages of lesser and lesser perfection. These stages are not temporally isolated, but occur throughout time as a constant process. Later Neoplatonic philosophers, especially Iamblichus, added hundreds of intermediate beings as emanations between the One and humanity; but Plotinus' system was much simpler in comparison.
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the One is in no way affected or diminished by these emanations. Plotinus uses the analogy of the Sun which emanates light indiscriminately without thereby "lessening" itself, or reflection in a mirror which in no way diminishes or otherwise alters the object being reflected.

Are there differences between straight Neo-Platonism and the Kaballah? Yes. There are also differences with Eastern Orthodoxy.

But the Greek influences seem to be clearly there.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Moshe ben Avraham said...

There is no doubt that the Greeks have had influence on Jewish writings outside of the Tenakh. But I find it interestng how Christians down play the pagan Roamn empires effect on Christianity, yet leap at the oopurtunity of Greek influence in Judaism; so they can make Judaism seem less then what it is. At least we don't make idols and kiss and pray to them all the time. That last was meant to be a low blow. I am curious how do you explain the mass replication of the Jesus cross and not institute that as making an idoltorous image? You pray to it and bow down to the cross. I would almost think that the Romans had something to do with that.

Kabbalah is so complicated I can't believe you think you can interpret even a small part of it. Rabbi's spend thier whole livs studyng it and make no deciseive conclusions; as you so hastily committed yourself to.

8/11/2006 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger geoffrobinson said...

"You pray to it and bow down to the cross."

I think you are confusing me with Dracula.

If I could take a guess, you don't know the difference between different branches of the Christian faith. You are lumping Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox with Protestants, etc. Would you lump Reformed Judaism together with the Chasidim?

But if you want to tell me that the Roman pagan world has influenced the form of worship within the Roman Catholic Church, I wouldn't disagree with you.

I would be more than willing to describe pagan Roman influence on the Roman Catholic Church for instance. Many others would be and have described such influence.

But I don't pray to a cross nor bow down to it. And while, if pushed, I could list plenty of areas where I believe Roman Catholicism has diverged from biblical teaching in its form of worship over the centuries, it is inaccurate to say even Roman Catholics pray to any cross.

Your bowing down statement seems inaccurate of Roman Catholics as well. I don't see them bowing down before the cross every time they walk by them. But I'm not sure what you are referring to.

We should test all of our faith and practices in the light of Scripture. Reject what is false and keep what is true.

8/11/2006 09:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Gabriel said...

Coming from being raised in a "Christian" home while being told my maternal Great grandmother was Jewish raised serious questions for me. My babysitter was Catholic and neighbor was Baptist. What is real? As I studied over the years I finally arrived to the conclusion - Y'Shua is real as is His Word. So I went about searching for a "religion" that only taught His Word. It was a long search. But every thing has a time and a season.
Baruch Hashem, I found it! The Torah with the Brit Chadasha, one Word. Y'shua is Torah - The Way, The Truth and the Light. He filled that which we of ourselves could not. The perfect sacrifice. His Blood atoning for ours as was the requirement using the perfect rams did long ago. And because Adam was man, it would take a perfect "man" to fullfill the blood atonement requirement. Y'shua! He became Human to be the ultimate perfect sacrifice for us.

In discoving this, I had a Mikvah to reunite our family with our roots. I repented of any and all paganism I had embraced in life unknowingly and embraced the truth.

Now I get asked why I follow Shabbat even though I am a believer. It is because I am a believer that I follow the Shabbat!
As a Jew and a believer, I must set the example. If we compromise on the Shabbat, what else will we compromise on? (lies, thievery, murder, idolatry, etc.?)

This statement has brought alot of delightful debate. You can imagine.

I have seen the Catholics bow to the cross and pray to the different Saints and carry their "protective" Saint medals. But I have also seen Protestants embrace their ideals of prosperity thinking along with many more ideals in the different branches of protestantism. They embrace their holidays while negating the Feasts our Father gave us. "Do not be conformed to the things of this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." No we won't go to hell if we disobey- but we will face the consequences in our daily lives. It is written:
He "desires obedience over sacrifice", if we truly love Him will we not try to obey Him?

To me obedience to Him is an act of worship. To continue practicing something we know is false is hurting ourselves. We should not condemn our sisters and brothers as we once followed our own ways as well.

Now, I have been blessed to witness to see an amazing explosion of Christian non-Jewish believers embracing Torah as they seek to worship Y'shua in truth. Is this not the goal?

B'Shalom v'Brachas Gabrielle

8/16/2006 01:19:00 PM  

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