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יום שלישי, 10 באפריל 2012

Yoram Hazony's Truth and Being in the Hebrew Bible

I've recently stumbled upon Yoram Hazony's important lecture in the "The Bible and Philosophy" conference. It touches many ideas that I've encountered while studying  Biblical Thought, either through R' Eliezer Berkovits' work or others like R' Yoel Bin-Nun and R' Yuval Cherlow. The main idea which I agree with, is that according to ancient Hebrew worldview, reality was quite fluid, and that there is no such thing as static being, in full negation with Greek philosophy (especially Aristotelian). This idea was essential for us when we investigated the meaning of the Tetragrammaton (YHWH – יהו"ה ) on this page.
Another important idea (already observed and maybe given to Hazony by Ethan Dor-Shav here), that "davar" דבר is never a concrete thing – but always related to speech.
That being said, I'm not sure I can agree with what he claimed in 12:34 – 13:50 that God is also changing. He bases it on Exodus 3/13-14. He rightly claims that the name give is "I WILL BE" and not "I AM".

13 And Moses said unto Elohim: 'Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them: The Elohim of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me: What is His name? what shall I say unto them?'
14 And Elohim said unto Moses: 'I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE; and He said: 'Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: I WILL BE hath sent me unto you.'
יג וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-הָאֱלֹהִים הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי בָא אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתִּי לָהֶם אֱלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵיכֶם שְׁלָחַנִי אֲלֵיכֶם וְאָמְרוּ-לִי מַה-שְּׁמוֹ מָה אֹמַר אֲלֵהֶם. 
יד וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל-מֹשֶׁה אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה וַיֹּאמֶר כֹּה תֹאמַר לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶהְיֶה שְׁלָחַנִי אֲלֵיכֶם.
However, as Rabbi Berkovits mentioned [1], "I WILL BE" is correctly understood by the Talmudic Rabbis as God's involvement with history [2]. That means that  "I WILL BE" should be understood as an ethical claim, rather than just a theological one. Moses is asking to know God's name which is His manifestation (see Man and God – a summary). Therefore, "I WILL BE" does not speak about a changing essence but a changing understanding of His involvement. Since our understanding is changing, so is his name, because it's we humans who are doing the naming. [3]


[1] God, Man and History, pg. 171

[2] rather the common-yet-wrong translation "I AM", the Rabbis rightly made a derash:
tell them that as have been with them in this subjugation, so shall I will be with them in their future subjugations (Berachot, 9/b)

[3] Because I think that most Biblical passages deal with ethics, rather than with metaphysics, I didn't rely on Malachi 3/6, which according to the context of the whole chapter talks in ethical terms rather than theological (I therefore think that the translation is misleading):
For I YHWH hasn't changed; and ye, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.
כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה, לֹא שָׁנִיתִי; וְאַתֶּם בְּנֵי-יַעֲקֹב, לֹא כְלִיתֶם


וְהַחָכְמָה, מֵאַיִן תִּמָּצֵא; וְאֵי זֶה, מְקוֹם בִּינָה.
אֱלֹהִים, הֵבִין דַּרְכָּהּ; וְהוּא, יָדַע אֶת-מְקוֹמָהּ.
אָז רָאָהּ, וַיְסַפְּרָהּ; הֱכִינָהּ, וְגַם-חֲקָרָהּ.
וַיֹּאמֶר, לָאָדָם--הֵן יִרְאַת אֲדֹנָי, הִיא חָכְמָה; וְסוּר מֵרָע בִּינָה. (איוב כח')