Volume 11 Number 2
                       Produced: Tue Jan  4  0:48:29 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

G-d and the Universe
         [Jonathan Goldstein]
         [Mechy Frankel]


From: <Jonathan.Goldstein@...> (Jonathan Goldstein)
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 93 08:11:44 -0500
Subject: Re: G-d and the Universe

Jonathan Mark and Frank Silbermann have recently posted about G-d's
creation of logic (and whether He is limited by such Creation), and
related this to the possibility of a universe without a Holocaust. Much
has recently been discussed by many contributors on the nature of (and
the need for) suffering in this world.

I would like to add some points which I think will help dispel all
notion of limitation within G-d and increase the desire to reach and
expand the limitations within ourselves. Nothing of the following is
original, but I thought that it may help others to see how *I* try to
grapple with my mind's inability to comprehend. I cannot quote all the
sources from which I have gleaned the following points, so please excuse
my lousy memory. And please feel free to correct my lack of clarity on
so difficult a subject.

By definition G-d is not bound by any rules. This in itself applies a
(meta)rule to G-d, until it is pointed out that G-d infinitely
transcends all limitation, even an infinite meta-rule limitation.
Accepting this paradox and my inability to follow it to a logical
conclusion is part of recognising the infinite gap between my mind and

G-d can be thought of as Infinite in an infinite number of ways.

(In mathematics, there are different types of infinity, of different
"orders".  Each time another type of infinity is defined, we can say
that G-d is "bigger" than the new definition, indeed He encompasses all
possible and impossible infinities.)

G-d transcends space-time (since space-time is limiting). Also, G-d
*contains* space-time and everything that is *not* space-time.

I find it helpful to think of G-d as encompassing Himself, which follows
directly from the Rambam's Moreh Nevuchim (Guide to the Perplexed),
which describes G-d as the ultimate Unity, Simplicity, Existence

Any other god is not G-d. The Infinite is both infinitely
self-containing and ultimately simple and unified.  This paradox can
never fully be appreciated by Man *by definition*, since Man is finitely
limited within this Infinitude.  However, we can talk about this
limitation and our inability as humans to know G-d.

This is helpful because it allows us to see that, in an Absolute sense,
the most desirable thing is to come closer to knowing G-d. "Created in
the image of G-d" means to me that our purpose is to *become* G-d to the
greatest extent possible; to become one with the True Reality from which
all lesser realities emanate. To "become G-d", then, is to discover and
realise the potentiality within the self to break down the barriers
between the finite and the Infinite.

It is conceivable that a path exists which leads to cessation of
awareness of (finite) self, leaving only awareness of (Infinite) G-d. I
understand Torah to be a blueprint of the Infinite, tailor-made to help
the human being journey along this path. It makes sense that this path
is infinitely long; such a realisation is simultaneously exhilarating
and depressing. Exhilarating because awareness of the Infinite can
forever increase. Depressing because that which I call my self must
cease to exist as the Infinite is attained, so *I* will never know G-d
in any absolute sense.

This is why Moses cannot see G-d's face and live, since the "sight" of
His "face" requires such unification with G-d that the human self, which
by nature is *not* G-d, cannot exist *containing* such awareness. G-d's
"back" is the most that can be contained by the *man* Moses, so he is
privy to this (albeit dampened) exalted awareness.

Thinking of G-d in the above-mentioned way is also helpful because it is
then seen that G-d is everywhere, is contained in and contains all
things. Knowing this breeds humility, awe, and fear of sin, since sin is
that which distances the self from G-d. Also prompted is the search for
G-d's Will and desire to fulfill it, since "G-d's Will" is synonymous
with "Absolute Reality".

In Volume 10 Number 87 Jonathan Mark (<jsmark@...>) writes:
> Frank Silbermann writes (12-13-93):
> >It is said that G-d cannot do a logical impossibility (e.g. to create a
> >stone so heavy that G-d could not lift it).  Maybe stopping the
> >Holocaust would have been inconsistent with the continued existence of
> >the universe.
[stuff deleted]
>     However, Frank Silbermann's comment leads to the following question.
> Did God create logic?  If so, how can God be bound by it?  If not, and
> the universe flows from logic, then how could God be the creator of the
> universe?

As far as we know, *this* universe is bound by logic. So G-d will
(probably) *not* create a stone too heavy to lift in our universe, but
that does not mean that He cannot do it. The Divine Will chooses not to.
The paradox originates in Man's inability to hold non-logic in his
logic-driven mind.

Also, the fact that this universe is bound by logic does not limit G-d
in any way. This universe can be thought of as a limitation that G-d
imposes upon Himself.

Why would the Infinite impose a self-limitation such that a finite
universe results? Because of the Absolute Love which desires to
unconditionally give of Itself. Finding no receptacle within Himself
which requires such love (since G-d is perfect and does not require
anything), He creates a finite world and places finite Man in it to
benefit from this Love *while he is aware of this benefit*.

Is it then necessary that G-d create, since without Man there is no
receiver of His Love, such Love desiring to give of itself? If this is
the case, then G-d is deficient in that He needs to create. According to
*my* finite mind the answer to this question is yes, but I don't claim
to know G-d's Mind, and I'm sure He would disagree with me.

Back to big rocks. It is conceivable that an infinite number of
universes exist, every universe that we can imagine, and all those that
we cannot. So a universe can exist where G-d *does* create stones too
heavy to lift. Simply, we cannot comprehend such a universe. If tomorrow
G-d creates a stone too heavy to lift and places it my backyard I would
only say that my understanding of *this* universe is less than I had
previously thought.

Jonathan adds:

>     Moreover, if the Holocaust and the continued existence of the
> universe were hypothetically logically related, then could God have
> created some other logic whereby everything would be exactly the same
> but the six million Jews would not have been killed?

(I do not intend to be glib about the Holocaust. I too would very much
prefer a world without Nazism and mass genocide, but it seems that G-d's
way is different to mine.)

Of course G-d could have created a universe bound by a logic that did
not require a Holocaust.

However a world with no Holocaust would not be this world. The person
writing this letter would not be the same person in such a world. Nor
would anyone reading it.

The above paragraph may be plainly obvious, but when I ask myself, "who
do I want to be?", I must answer, "I want to be me". But the "me" that
answers would not be "me" in a world with no Holocaust. Would I prefer a
world with no "me" and no Holocaust? Frankly, yes, but I am not
empowered to change G-d's Mind. He deems it necessary for the Jonathan
Goldstein that I know to exist in this world, which *requires* a
Holocaust in order for it to be *this world*.

In order to accept the definition of G-d as Infinite, I must accept that
G-d is Absolutely Perfect. Logic dictates this, and my intellect is
bound by logic. Since the Perfect would not do something that is
imperfect, I must also accept that this world is the *best* of all
possible worlds in which Jonathan Goldstein can be placed, even though
in this world I cannot do everything I would like to do. As I fight this
I spurn the Love that desires to bestow Itself upon me, and I fail to
realise the potentiality within me to reach the Infinite, to emulate my

Since there are other individuals in this world, I can only conclude
that this is the best of all possible worlds for each of them. This
includes everyone, even those who perished in the Holocaust. Again, how
can Perfection do something that is imperfect?

I cannot be content that an individual suffers, even though it is what
G-d requires in order that such individual be in the position that he
can maximise his emulation of and connection to the Infinite.

But I can pitifully accept that the suffering individual would cease to
exist (in this life and after death) if it were not for his suffering.

I don't understand the rules nor do I like them. I accept that G-d made
such rules in order that his creatures maximally benefit, and I am
forever grateful that He has given me Torah as an instruction manual to
help me navigate myself, but in conversation with Him I will demand
justification for every cry of pain that has been and r"l will be made.

I think the task of the Jew is to strive for G-d and by doing so perfect
his understanding of this world. This is entirely possible, since this
world is not G-d. Upon reaching such understanding, it would be nice if
we were empowered to rise above the paradoxes in which we become
entangled, to change the world into one which does not need suffering in
order to be perfect.

Jonathan Goldstein       <Jonathan.Goldstein@...>       +61 2 339 3683


From: "/R=HQDNA/R=DNAHQ5/R=AM/U=Frankel/L=DNA HQ, ROOM 227/TN=5-1277/FFN=FRANKELMichael/"@mr.dna.mil (Mechy Frankel)
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 1993 12:34:33 EST
Subject: Gematria

C. Schild inquires (Vol 10 # 51) about examples of employment of
gematria preceeding the medieval Chasidei Ashkenaz while H. Handeles
(Vol 10 #86), in reponse to a subsequent posting by M. Gerver, avers
that gematriot are part of the Divine corpus and thus, inferentially,
date back to Sinai. A few comments:

1) Gematria is quite ancient and multi-cultural with examples of usage
having come down to us from both Hellenistic pre-Hellenistic circles.
Saul Lieberman in Yevanit VeYevanut Be-Eretz Yisrael (p. 202-205) notes
the use of gematria as an established technique for dream interpretation
in the classical Greek world as well as its widespread utilization by
various mystic circles. (Indeed, in a footnote Lieberman cites the
utilization of a GREEK numerology by R. Yosi for dream interpretation
(Breshit Rabah ,Ch 68, 15) (note: R. Yosi's example actually seems to be
a notirikon rather than simple gematria, also Lieberman's footnote
reference is off - or possibly my Medrash Rabah edition is off) Reaching
yet further back, the Encyclopedia Judaica cites the building of the
walls of the city of Khorsabad to a specific length of amot determined
by the gematria of Sargon's name.

2) In Jewish sources, the gemara and Midrash are replete with gematriot
brought down for either midrashic or (at first blush) halachic purposes.
A basic reference is the midrash ("baraita") of the 32 principles of R.
Yosi Haglili (or of R. Eliezer son of R. Yosi, I've come across both
attributions), enumerating 32 principles/rules according to which the
Torah (or Agada, some confusion here) is interpreted. Gematria is cited
as the 29th mida in that list. In the baraita itself a single drashic
example is provided (Avraham, while riding to rescue Lot, did not take
along 318 henchmen for the heavy lifting - as the plain peshat has it -
he took only his servant Eliezer, whose name in gematria = 318). Some
other exemplars are provided in the following mareh mikomot:

 (Most of these are also referenced in a single place - in the Medrash
Bamidbar Rabah, Seder Korach (Ch. 18) however the individual citations
to the source in Mishna and gemara are lacking. Another good summary
source is the Encyclopedia Judaica) The "source" for the halachot that a
mikveh must have a volume equal to 40 seahs, ("es mai hashiloach
haholchim li-at" li-at=40, ), that a vow of nizirut without a specified
time period is taken to be 30 days ("Kadosh Yihyeh" Yihiyeh=30, Mesechet
Nazir, 5a), that the number of impermissible Shabbat milachot is 39
(from "eleh hadivarim" with some ingenious suggestions to pump up "eleh"
which only has a gematria of 36 to the required number of 39, (Shabbat
70a, I personally admired the flexible approach of the Rabanan from
Ceasarea who allowed a "hey" (which looks a little like a "chet") to
equal 5 OR 8, depending on numerical needs.). Additionally one may
discover in Menachot 89a that the shiur (measurement) of a "hin" is 12
"loog"s (from the gematria of "zeh"=12, that the first Bais Mikdash
existence for 410 years is alluded to in the pasuk "bezoat (=410) yavoa
Aharon el hakodesh", etc. etc.

3) An interesting question is how seriously gematriot were taken. At
first blush quite seriously indeed since the plain peshat of the Gemara
would indicate that gematriot are used in a number of instances as the
sources of hilchot d'oraita. e.g. Mishna Nazir 5a - "Setam nezirut lamed
yom ", Gemara 5a - Mena hana milei? amar rav masna amar kra, kadosh
yihyeh, yihyeh bigematria tlatin havu." (generic nizirut is 30 days, how
do we know?, rav masna learns it from the pasuk... and yihyeh has a
gematria of 30). On the other hand when we turn to the Rambam (Hilchot
Nizirut, Ch.3, Halacha 2) who cites the law that Nezirut is not less
than 30 days, he states "Vedavar zeh halacha mipee hakabala" (this
matter is a halacha that we have received as the accepted tradition from
Sinai) with no citation of gematria here as the source despite the
explicit gemara. yet more explicitly,in the Perush Hamishnayos to Nazir
the Rambam explicitly refers to the gematria cited in the gemara as an
asmachta and simon (a mneumonic aid and a sign). It thus seems that that
the consensus of Rishonim was that gematrias were never used by Chazal
as the original source to obligate mitzvot - since they were not part of
the 13 midot of R. Yishmael but were rather meneumonic or pedagogical
aids. On the other hand, in medieval times, gematrias did play a
significant role in establishing the form of the tefilot as well as many
other minhagim-see Sperber's Minhagei Yisrael Vols 1 & 2

4) As noted by all respondents, gematria seems to be a greek word. Since
my own knowledge of greek is limited to a sporadic professional
utilization of letters of the alphabet I would point the interested
reader to Lieberman's remarks and footnote on page 202 of above
referenced volume. I believe I also once saw an article on the origin of
the term gematria in Tarbitz - possibly a mid-1980s volume. Sorry, I
can't remember the author (or more importantly, what he said) and,
living in Silver Spring, don't have easy access to a decent Jewish
library to check that out at the moment.

5) I had just finished this letter when I read H. Hendeles's posting
this morning where he referenced Succah 28 as validation of the claim
that gematrias are part of "the Divine transmission" presumably dating
to Sinai. (Not having a Succah at my desk I am once again indebted to my
son-in-law Benjamin Edinger for reading me the relevant passage over the
phone). I do no see any such "rayah" (proof) at all from this reference.
The reference details an impressively wide ranging topical list of
bodies of knowledge at which R.  Yochanan B. Zacai was supremely expert.
It is also clearly a mixed list, containing some topics which are of
D'oraita origin as well as some of D'rabanan origin. (e.g. both "mishna"
and "dikdukei soferim" are included) The inclusion of "gematria" in this
list can thus not a priori prove its d'oraita provenance. Evidence to
the contrary can in fact be inferred from the discussion in paragraph 3,
where the Rishonim's refusal to rely on gematria as a source for any
Torah halacha is recounted. Additionally , the relatively casual
approach to gematria as conveyed e.g. by Rabanan d'kaysorin in Shabbat
70a (viz. par. 2), would tend to indicate that they knew they weren't
dealing with the basic Sinaitic justification for the halacha. (I fully
realize the latter is a warm-fuzzy-in-the-tummy proof rather than the
rigorous variety)

6) As an addendum, I would note that Rashi in Succah 28 takes a broader
definition of gematria than simple computations of letter-number
equivalences.  He also seems to include the midot of notorikon and
"et-bash" in the definition.This is not quite consonant with the offered
translations of gematria as a computational reference. However, it also
does not accord with the Baraita of the 32 principles which lists all of
these midot near the end of the list as separate entries.

Mechy Frankel


End of Volume 11 Issue 2