At services Tuesday morning, the rabbi noted that we thank God, in the blessing we say upon receiving an aliyah, for "notayn haTorah"--giving of the Torah. But the word "notayn" is in the present tense; the giving didn't happen a long time ago and finish, but is a continual process. So learning and discovery can't ever end, because Torah is always new.
Afterwards I thought about how language still gets in the way despite so much effort spent trying to deconstruct every last tense, syllable, and letter of the Torah. Words that describe the completely unknowable are a bear to translate. "God is One," for example--I believe it, but can't tell you what it means. I imagine a God Who resides in us all, BitTorrent-like, one divided into many parts, rather than a big presence hovering above like a massive, fluffy cloud from a child's drawing--but no doubt some see this last image in their mind's eye when they pray. Or is God a power Who fills up all spaces like white fire between black letters, or cement between bricks in a building wall? And how do these perceptions of the Divine--or having no visual analogy at all--influence our actions? It's like trying to imagine what the color green looks to someone else. I will never know if what I see is the same as what you see, but as long as we agree upon what it represents, we'll both understand that red shoes would look really bad with green socks. Same with "God is One;" if we respect the ethical and moral teachings that developed from this concept, how we envision God, or not, shouldn't matter. (One of our teachers at the Tikkun suggested this was the flaw in recent books by Christopher Hitchens, et al. Their theories are based upon one blanket definition of God--but my compassionate God is completely different from your vengeful God, for example, so arguments to prove or disprove one can't hold for the other.)
I think we need a completely new language, a spiritual Esperanto of sorts, just for describing the Divine, with words drawn from the most beautiful metaphors of literature, and a really big dictionary--or entire academic disciple--devoted to defining these phrases with the same kind of detail and analysis as lawyers interpreting the Constitution. Then we could open a book and read all possible translations of the concept that most divides us, and perhaps understand just a little better what goes on in one another's heads.
I love the idea of God residing in all of us, BitTorrent-like. What a fabulous metaphor.
Reb Zalman is fond of using computer metaphors to talk about lofty Jewish ideas. I don't know whether he knows what torrenting is, but if he does, he would love that mental image, as do I. :-)
Thank you! I think I was influenced in that metaphor by a phrase one of the teachers at the Tikkun kept using: the "technology" of prayer. It's true--as we invent more ways to do, well, everything, there are also more ways to describe the indescribable.
Shabbat Shalom, as well!
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