Monday, December 22, 2014

Popular acceptance of prophets, Part 1


"Every prophet selected by the Creator for His mission was given such an acts as a sign, whether controlling natural entities, like preventing fire from burning or preventing a river from flowing… And when such a sign was given to him, people who saw it were compelled to sanctify him and to believe that which he told them, for sages did not present signs such that they would be credible to people."

(Rabbi Saadia Gaon, Ha'Emunot v'haDeiot 3:5)

"Anyone the prophet encounters, when he meets him and hears his Divine words, has spirituality renewed with him, and he is separated from his own dross with a purity of spirit and a thirsting for those [spiritual] levels, and a cleaving to humility and purity."

(Rabbi Yehudah haLevi, Kuzari 1:103)

חג אורים שמח,

1 comment:

  1. Yet more evidence the Kuzari was written in response to the Ariistotilian attitude of Emunos veDei'os. They're disagreeing sharply.

    R' Saadia Gaon talks about an obligation to follow a navi who provides signs of authenticity. Rihal talks about this happening naturally, that the growth of a following is itself evidence of his authenticity, no obligation necessary.

    RSG is following Aristo, in making the navi's gift a cerebral thing, an access to information the rest of us lack. He wouldn't posit the value of charisma and an emotional aura of saintliness that Rihal is saying is central to prophecy.

    The Rambam similarly. He opens his Guide by discussing the sin of the fruit, describing emotional influence as a failing caused by that sin, not a means of perfection. And similarly he closes by telling us that the highest form of perfection, even above ethical and refinement of middos, is intellectual.

    In both R' Saadia and the Rambam, this ties into the Aristotilian metaphysics involving a chain of intellects between G-d, including the angels, the spheres, the Active Intellect (whether before or after the spheres), our minds, and finally physics. The chain is built on comprehension, not morality.

    And this emphasis on knowledge above even ethical value, grounded in a classical metaphysics and natural philosophy that didn't stand the test of time, is why I find it hard to lean on either too heavily in building my own hashkafah, and even why others cite them so frequently.

    I could go on about how I think the Rambam's Aristotilianism even influenced his pesaq, but it's long, probably boring to most people, and might interfere with future shidduchim. <grin>