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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]

comments


[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

5 תגובות:

  1. I have to be honest, I have a difficult time following all that Prof Hazony discusses because of the many references to philosophical terminology and/or just high level vocabulary. I've also had difficulty in reading your article on 'Havaya' for similar reasons.

    A few points I'd like to raise though:

    1) when someone giving a speech on the essence of Torah and Creation begins by quoting a pasuk in Tehilim (~6:20) that we say every Sunday, Monday and Thursday morning and pronounces one of the words wrong ["yechoneneHA"]-- that for me is a loss of credibility

    2) I only listened halfway in the video, but regarding your mentioning of 'davar' and concreteness... why do you assume that speech is not concrete? Maybe you should consider the possibility that from an existential perspective, speech and dibur IS the very essential building block of what Concreteness is...

    3) Isn't it kind of obvious that any form of communication of a Primal Being will be formulated from the point-of-view of the listener who is within a dimension of Time and a Changing world... that will be true even assuming that that Primal Being itself is Pure and Unchanging (as the speaker suggests is the opinion of Plato and NOT that of Torah Judaism).. . How else could I possibly form a relationship and communicate with something external to me if I'm not willing to talk within a language that they can understand?... My point being (no pun intended) that any attempt to derive from any form of communication from The Source of All Existential Being some kind of proof as to His nature per se, vis-a-vis Himself alone, is utterly futile. In the same way that you have no way of knowing from my communication to you in this post if my mother tongue is say, Japanese or not... I will communicate with you according to your needs irrespective of how I within myself relate to the concepts being conveyed...

    I know that this is not really a discussion that can be carried out well in this kind of text-based interface so i understand if your response is brief. bivracha,

    השבמחק
  2. Is there any way you could fix the line spacing in the comments sections. The way it is now looks like visual claustrophobia :-)

    השבמחק
  3. Daniel,

    1. I haven't noticed the wrong pronounciation, but since and unfortunately many Israelis for whom Hebrew is a mother tongue also make these kind of mistakes, it doesn't bother me as to lose cridibilty.

    2. You should have listened to the end of the video, where he says that Hashem davar is concrete and trustworthy, as oposite to human davar which is speculative.

    3. I agree with this proposition, unless God clearly speaks about Himself. But I also claimed that the "name of God" is not "YHWH" but only a pointer to YHWH's manifestations in our human terms. Therefore if Hazony bases his claim on the Ehye asher Ehye verse then he's mistaken. That verese says that God's name is changing.

    השבמחק
  4. (for some reason threaded comments are not working here)

    השבמחק
  5. 3. Why the "unless God clearly speaks about Himself"?

    Even if in the Torah you find a pasuk of the Creator "speaking about Himself" it's obviously not meant as notes for his personal diary.

    It's meant to convey something to us the readers so even if it connotes a sense of change it has no use as teaching something regarding the nature of Primal Being in and of Himself/Itself...

    השבמחק

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