Saturday, January 19, 2013

Athenian Form and Matter

We have got a dispute on our hands as to how properly (or best) to analyze reality, the world. Plato has the theory of Forms, Aristotle the theory of form and matter. What motivates their respective positions? Here is what I suggest. They were both familiar with the fact of human consciousness. For Plato the big question was: what to make of it. There are two items: sensory experience and thought. The question is: to which to accord primacy? Which furnishes knowledge? He reasoned that it can’t be the deliverances of sensory experience. They’re unstable. Their yield doesn’t deserve to be crowned knowledge. So it can only be thought, pure and unadulterated. Mathematical forms are, after all, quite stable. Now, as a process of human consciousness, thought is independent of sensory experience. (So Plato argued.) So the object of thought could be known in abstraction from the object of sensory experience. Thus the separation of Forms from terrestrial tangibles. Aristotle came along and kind of changed the subject. Human consciousness was taken as a given. It was the starting point. Hence, there was no compulsion to speculate about it. (It wasn’t worth speculating about, he held.) What was left to do was inquire as to its deliverances. What is found in consciousness are things, ones that are perceived through the senses. They are found to be analyzable as dually composed of form and matter. As goes the realm of tangibles, form is inseparable from matter.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Eternal Kingship

Hamelech bichvodo tamid yimloch aleinu le-olam va-ed ve-al kohl ma-asav. Why not: yimloch aleinu ve-al kohl ma-asav le-olan va-ed? It is so much more natural and reads so much better! Moreover, ostensibly le-olam va-ed ought to apply to kohl ma-asav as well as to aleinu! On the other hand, though, what does [might] yimloch al kohl ma-asav mean? Are creations, creatures, or inanimate objects ruled over by a king, One Who is their Creator? The suggestion is, therefore, that it does not apply to these others.
In regard to the first question, perhaps there is this to say: Only aleinu is He (will He be) molich le-olam va-ed; but al kohl ma-asav not. If so, why so? And again, what does melucha over sub-humans come to? But if it does apply to things inanimate and sub-human, then why does the verse express itself in the seemingly unnatural way of placing ve-al kohl ma-asav after le-olam va-ed?

Another thing: Do we have a seeming redundancy on our hands: tamid and le-olam va-ed? Evidently, tamid applies to kohl ma-asav too. But if so, why shouldn’t le-olam va-ed be able to do so as well.

Here’s what it occurred to me. Creations (of all kinds) have spiritual entities associated with them (on a one-to-one basis). Tamid, in regard to His melucha, applies both to them and to us. But le-olam va-ed only relates melucha to us. Tamid connotes uninterruptedness (continuousness); olam va-ed, everlastingness.    

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What is Special About Refu-a

In refa-einu we say: Refa-einu Hashem veneirafei hoshi-einu venivashe-a ki sehilaseinu otoh. Ostensibly, why is the phrase ki-sehilaseinu otoh inserted here? It doesn’t appear in any of the other bakashos! And what does it mean; what is its impact?

But actually, there seems to be a prior question. Why do we say veneirafei and venivashe-a? Why not simply refa-einu and hoshi-einu? (It strikes one as tautologous.) I think that refa-einu...veneirafei means that G-d should heal us (our afflictions); and when He does, we will actually be healed. There are two things: experiencing a cure and emerging cured. Some instances of administering medication (therapy) have (or may have) an initial beneficial impact, yet don’t endure, or don’t fully restore the patient to his erstwhile health. To have this latter happen is to transcend the curative phase itself. It is to have the cure be established/instated, such that the patient is not (is no longer) subject to relapse or is not in imminent danger. A vital transformation of the condition has occurred. When we say refa-einu Hashem veneirafei, we ask that He heal us and we thereupon proclaim that the cure that He will have effected in us will be confirmed as a lasting and state-changing (veneirafei) event. It won’t remain an effectless cause (in a manner of speaking). It will be a consummate restoration. And because it will, we have cause to praise Him – ki sehilaseinu otoh. (Or perhaps we should put in the reverse: We have cause to praise Him; therefore, it will last.)

Let’s reflect for a moment on asking for refu-a. A contrast with the other bakashos is discernable. In chaneinu we ask the receive a hashpo-a, an influence, of da-as. In hashiveinu, we ask to have our repentance accepted (see preceding post). In other words, we ask that acceptance be forthcoming. In selach lanu, we ask to receive forgiveness. And in re-ei ve-anyeinu we seek an effusion, or an infusion, of protection and redemption. But what do we seek in refa-einu? Seemingly something different. Removal. Removal of symptoms. Removal of damage, injury, trauma, decay, or the causes of symptoms. Removal isn’t an influential phenomenon. It is not a positive force. On the contrary, it implies reversal and undoing of something already obtaining: an existing condition. Suppose it occurs. What is the impact? It might be momentary, fleeting, ephemeral, and local in its reach. Insofar forth, its impact is severely limited. Its incidence alone does not guarantee lasting restoration. Therein lies the praiseworthiness of Hashem’s salvation. Let Him administer the cure, and it proves transforming. It doesn’t merely treat a disturbance; it is nurturing and life-extending. It isn’t superficial; it is root-apprehending. It doesn’t stop at the surface; it is all-pervasive and deeply penetrating. It is, indeed, life-infusing.

So we ask: Heal us O L-rd. When You have done this, we will have been cured – not superficially but systemically. You will have gone beyond treating the symptom to restoring our health: reverting us to our pre-afflictive condition. This can only be, because You are the One to Whom we owe praise. For You continually bestow kindness upon us.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Acceptance of Teshuva

Hashiveinu avinu lesorasechavehachazireinu bishuva sheleima lefanecha, baruch ataHarotze bishuva. Ostensibly, the chasima does not correspond to the bakasha. In the bakasha we ask that He return us to His Torah and service. But in the chasima, we thank Him for being One Who accepts repentance. We say nothing of His being One Who returns us. The situation requires explanation. I suggest this: In asking that we be made to return/repent, are we (really) asking to be given the impetus – the desire – to do so? Question: What would be the point of our “returning” because we have been made to do so? What would be the good of it? Would that be a genuine, authentic act of repentance? Ostensibly, it would be far removed from such an act. It would be coercion, plain and simple! So no. We’re not asking to be given the impetus. We know that the impetus needs to originate with us. But once we have begun, once we have developed the urge, it needs to be transmuted into something that can carry us to Him, as it were (kvych”l), so that He will receive and accept it. It is this that we ask for: that He deliver, as it were, the effusion of desire that we have initiated so that it reaches Him, so that He will accept it. It takes form through our will. And to reach the desired climax, it must ultimately be willed by Him. He must accept it. Hence: harotze bishuva. It is because He accepts teshuva that our desire to return can have efficacy.