Volume 45 Number 86
                    Produced: Wed Nov 24  5:22:37 EST 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

         [Avi Feldblum]
Relationship between Halachic development and Kabalah
         [Stan Tenen]


From: Avi Feldblum <mljewish@...>
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 2004 05:17:12 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Administrivia

Hello All,

Stan Tenen has been a member of our list for many years, and as many of
you probably know is the founder of a group called the Meru
Foundation. Stan has, over the years, expressed the concern that he is
often not allowed to fully express his thoughts on a topic in a timely
manner, since I often reject some of his long responses to topics that
come up. There are at least some number of you who have written to me on
Stan's behalf to include more of his work, while at the same time there
are several who have written to me to stop including any of his

As a result, Stan and I have discussed the option of spinning off the
topics that he is interested in discussing at length to a new list that
Stan would manage. The proposed name of the list would be mj-tech, and
the following is a tentative description of the scope:

mj-tech won't be focused entirely on the Meru proposals, but will be
open to a wide range of discussion from and among halachic Jews, and
technical people, who want to explore the connections between Torah and
science, and related issues like Torah, science, and consciousness.

My basic question for the membership of the mail-jewish list is whether
you would prefer to see this material posted and discussed on
mail-jewish, or would prefer it move to a spin off list. As an example,
the rest of this issue is a response from Stan to my recent reply to
Daniel Gil and Stan's earlier posting. What I am asking from you. the
readers of mail-jewish, is to tell me:

1) Do you want this remaining on mail-jewish and we will continue this
discussion here
2) Should this go to a new list mj-tech and those who are interested can
join that list
3) You really don't care one way or the other.

If I have a clear majority for either option 1 or option 2, then I know
what I need to do and will proceed based on the wishes of the list. If I
get a clear majority for option 3, then I will need to think what my
response should be.

Thanks to all of you, and looking forward to your responses.

Avi Feldblum


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Tue, 23 Nov 2004 12:43:32 -0500
Subject: Re: Relationship between Halachic development and Kabalah

>There are two fundimental problems I have with Daniels reply, but I
>would like to use this as a possible springboard for a more general

Thanks, Avi.  I really applaud this.

I have some questions.

What sort of evidence is going to be acceptable in this discussion?  Are
we dealing only with current (including your) interpretations of
references with regard to the source of halacha, or are we also dealing
with the self-evident and universal rules of logic and objective

As you know, my strong suit is not halacha.  Rather, I have been
exploring the logical roots of the letter-text of B'reshit, the
structure of the alphabet, and the relationship of these to Kabbalistic,
Talmudic, and rabbinic references, processes, and understanding.

 From my perspective, the letter-text of Torah is best understood as
pure information. (A kind of "virus for growing our mind and our
feelings" -- metaphorically speaking, of course.) I see the letter-text
as, in effect, "compressed", and thus, the necessity for us to
decompress it by means of living and working within the Torah algorithm,
otherwise known as halacha.  (The analogy here is to that of a flute.
In order to make music, a flute must have a particular length and
diameter, and this length and diameter determines the tones it can make.
There would be no flute-music without the boundaries of the flute.
Likewise, there would be no Torah outside of the boundaries appropriate
to Torah.  These boundaries -- these logical boundaries, these
behavior-boundaries -- are essential if we're going to "sing" Torah in
our lives.  I understand halacha as being these boundaries -- and in
fact, the word "hoq" literally means "boundary".)

I would also like to request, and I'd also like to submit, _particular_
examples, not just references per se.

For example, I would like to be able to discuss, if not fully
demonstrate, that all halacha descends from the fundamental definition,
Hashem/Elokim=Echad (the Sh'ma), and that Hashem and Elokim represent
the absolute boundaries -- the huqim (hoq = boundary) -- of our faith
and practice.  Unless we believe and act consistent with the existence
of Hashem/Elokim, we can't decompress, and we can't fully experience,
Torah.  (This is logic, not faith -- though it is also consistent with

For example, I'd like the opportunity to demonstrate that all of the
halacha with regard to Shabbos descends from the 6-around-1 geometry
presented in the letters of the word "B'reshit" -- [He] created "shith"
(six).  I'd like the opportunity to show how this fundamental geometry
(as fundamental as any natural universal constant in mathematics) leads
to all of the details of the halachot of Shabbos.  Issues like not
carrying outside of one's home, and not traveling outside of one's city.
Issues like what work is, and isn't, prohibited -- which of course is
based on what's required to build the Temple, which is of course based
on our view of what the Temple is (not just a building, but also an

I would also like to see as many references as possible, and then
discuss the meaning of the references.  My point is that while the words
of these references have remained constant through the ages, our modern
understanding of these words (the last 60 years) has in many cases
drifted far from their original intended meaning, emphasis, and cultural

I'd like to be able to walk through the logic of the Ten Devarim, and
attempt to demonstrate that these rules of conduct are also the logical
boundaries necessary to maintain the integrity of the letter-text of
Torah, and to error-correct (God forbid, if and when that's necessary),
and to decompress the information by living it.

All of these questions and issues are rooted in Sod (see below).  Let's
see what our sages have to say.


>Here is the first part of Stan's statement that I objected to:
> > My point in submitting this discussion for posting on mail-jewish is
> > also related to the discussion of whether, and how, halacha might
> > change. Of course, halacha doesn't change -- just our understanding of
> > it. And while I'm certain (from sad past experience) that some readers
> > of mail-jewish do not accept the principle, and in fact find it
> > heretical, the fact is that halacha descends from kabbalah.
>One primary statement being made here is that it is a "FACT" that
>Halacha "descends" from kabbalah.

Let me be more specific.  I'm proposing -- as I believe is our tradition
-- that the deepest level of Torah is Sod, the letter-text.  This is
what I'm referring to when I use the word "Kabbalah".  So, what I wrote
is essentially not a claim, but just a definition.  EVERYTHING descends
from the letter-text of Torah.  The question is, what is the means of
this descent -- not whether or not it's a fact.  I apologize for any

>I object to the statement that it is a "FACT" that Halacha descends
>from Kabbalah (where Kabbalah is being defined as the Sod aspect of
>Torah s'baal peh by Stan). I would not object to a statement that there
>are traditional sources that may be of that opinion, but I do strongly
>object to a statement that basically says to me that no one disagrees
>with that statement.

Frankly, I've never heard of Torah s'baal peh as being connected to
Sod. I don't understand this. In my understanding -- as I use the word
Sod, which if it's not standard, I apologize for -- Sod is nothing more
nor less than the letter-text of Torah.  Sod as I mean it is just the
sequence of letters, without cantillation, without word divisions, and
without vowelization.  It's the underlying (woven) pattern of letters,
and it's not related -- at least, not directly -- to the Torah
narrative, nor to Torah s'baal peh.  Much the opposite.  In my
understanding, and as I think can be demonstrated both logically and
from Torah references, the Torah narrative -- the stories -- and Talmud
both derive from the letter-text.

So, let me again amend my language.  Please replace the words "Kabbalah"
and "Sod" with "letter-text of Torah".  Let's just say "LTT" for short.

Does anyone not agree that Pshat rests on Sod (LTT), along with
everything else?  Is there any difference of opinion on this?  (If there
is -- in my lack of education -- I'm completely unaware of it.  Nor can
I easily understand how it could be otherwise.)

>It is my opinion, that the overwhelming majority of reshonim would
>disagree. It can then be a reasonable discussion of what reshonim would
>support Stan's statement and which would support my statement. This is
>the more general discussion I would like to see us engage in.

If all that we're going to be doing is quoting and polling reshonim,
then I don't think we're going to learn anything.  Even though my
education is sketchy, I'm working with an understanding of what our
reshonim have taught also -- it's just that my understanding was derived
logically, without the benefit of yeshiva learning (and since confirmed
by working with others who have the learning I lack).

I'm not at all challenging our reshonim.  I'm questioning the
scholarship of the past century that I believe has moved the emphasis,
and thus the meaning, of these references. I'm not challenging the
references; I'm questioning their current interpretation.

I'm concerned that any questioning of any teaching, as it's understood
today, is going to be taken as heresy or ignorance, or likely both.  So,
I'd also like to discuss the issue of how reliable is current Torah
scholarship, vis a vis our understanding of it, say, 200 years ago.  I'm
concerned that modern interpretations of the teachings of our reshonim
are more the result of defensive reaction to Enlightenment thought, the
Holocaust, and the challenges posed by Conservative, Reform, and
Reconstructionist, than they are true to our understanding before these

>It is important to
>understand that the Rambam does not view the first mitzvah as simply to
>believe that there is a God, that would not take 4 plus chapters. It is
>to reach a deep intellectual knowledge that there is a God.

Here, we have a very very powerful disconnect.  Correct me if I'm wrong,
but in my understanding, there is no such thing as "intellectual
knowledge" that there is a God.  This is tantamount to, and for all
intents and purposes equivalent to, the idea that a "proof of God" is

Does anyone on m-j actually believe that one can prove, to one's self or
others, the existence of God?  Can Avi's apparent perspective that this
is what Rambam is saying, be accurate?  Or is it more likely incomplete,
and thus suffering from errors of omission?  Or are we dealing with
semantics here?

My observation of life leads me to believe that any sort of objective
"proof of God" must be fallacious, that the thought that one could
attain such an understanding is fallacious, and that proof of the
existence of God can only come from person experience, which can never
be demonstrated to another person.

Are we saying that Rambam lives in his head alone?  Are we saying that
Judaism is an intellectual exercise, or that proof of God is possible?
If so, I'd really like to hear this discussion.

To avoid confusion, let me try to be clear:

1) I don't believe it is possible to prove the existence of God
intellectually, and I believe that this is inconsistent with fundamental
principles of Judaism.

2) I do believe that logic is essential, when attempting to sort out
objective audit trails.

While it's not possible to prove the existence of God intellectually, it
is possible to come up with definitions/postulates that can be
intellectually/logically pursued, and one of these postulates -- not a
proof, a definition -- can be the existence of our One-Whole Lord-God
Hashem-Elokim = Unity.

My _logical_ statement (not based on faith, and only provable in the
sense of mathematical proof based on postulates) is that it is possible
to prove (logically) that the DEFINITION (postulate) of a One-Whole
Lord-God (as stated in the Sh'ma) is personally healthy, ecologically
sound, and the core and essence of a T.O.E. ("Theory of Everything", as
the physicists say) that unifies mind and world, consciousness and
physics.  (It should be noted that the search for an objective
demonstration of the link between mind and world, consciousness and
physics, is now cutting-edge in the sciences.  This Unity-principle is
central to both ancient and modern thought.  I'm certain our sages have
addressed this; the only problem is finding the appropriate references,
and interpreting the texts as they were originally intended to be
interpreted.)  To demonstrate this proof in our time would be tantamount
to fulfilling the Aleinu.

So, for me, in order to understand Rambam as Avi is quoting, it's
necessary to distinguish between postulate-based logical demonstration,
and experiential confirmation of the reality of God.  Statements that
blur this distinction lead to more confusion than understanding.  I'm
certain that Rambam was aware of this problem, and I'd like us to
explore it, so that we can fully and accurately appreciate what Rambam
is trying to tell us.

All logical discussions need careful, unambiguous, and agreed-upon
definitions and postulates.  Torah is no exception. <smile>

>It is correct that in 4:13, the Rambam addresses the famous Gemarah of
>Arbah Nichnas L'Pardes - the four Torah greats who entered the "Pardes"
>/ "Orchard". However, I remained unconvinced that this Rambam has
>anything to do with the requirements of being able to change Halacha and
>the overall development of Halacha.

First, of course, any one person remaining unconvinced, really isn't
much of an argument.  I'm unconvinced of all sorts of things that I
haven't fully thought through, and I'm unconvinced about all sorts of
things that I know nothing about. The absence of evidence is not
evidence of anything, other than the current lack of evidence.

I'd like to ask Avi and others, what would be convincing?  Is logic

If logic is acceptable, then I think I can show how Ain Dorshin,
Chagigah BT, where the story of Pardes can be found, is in fact what it
says it is: "S'vora Hu" -- "This is logic". And I'd like to demonstrate
how this particular logic, when applied to B'reshit, leads to Merkaba
and on to the experience of Akiba and the four who entered Pardes -- and
I'd like to consider the halachic implications, all along the way.

Can we examine this data in and of itself, and then see how it applies?

>On the other hand, the Rambam is not the only Torah scholar to deal with
>this issue. I am much less famialer with the other sources that Daniel
>has quoted, so am unable to determine whether they deal with the
>specific point of disagreement I have with Stan. However, for me, the
>more interesting discussion for the list would be to try and determine
>what are the various approaches we see on the relationship and
>interaction between Halachic development and Kabalah. I throw this
>question out to the list in general.

This is excellent.  Let's do it.

I think in the process of doing this, we're also going to be exploring
the line between Modern Orthodox and more inward-focused Orthodoxy.
Form the Modern perspective, logic should be admissible, while from the
more Charedi-like perspective, only text references, and only in their
current understanding, are likely to be acceptable.  So, I think we may
spend some time and effort sorting out this question.  Are references
only acceptable?  Or is logic and undisputed modern technical
information also acceptable?  Can we use the principles of science and
information theory?  Can we use both faith/tradition and logic, in a way
where they are complements and not antagonists?

Meru Foundation   http://www.meru.org   <meru1@...>
-- "First Hand: The Geometry of Genesis and the Alphabet" by Stan Tenen,
available 2005 --


End of Volume 45 Issue 86