Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tzimtzum Revolution

This shiur is l'ilui nishmat Marat Menya bas Hertzel

In the previous shiur we looked at the different understandings of the nature of G-d amongst Rishonim. I found in Prof. Menachem Kellner's book "Must a Jew Believe Anything?" an interesting source which is connected to thsi idea - Teshuva Radbaz vol. 8 number 191. There he distinguishes between "The G-d of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov" and "The G-d of Aristotle", and clearly states that Rambam, Rav Saadia, Kuzari and others were in the latter camp (though he says that was only for 'kiruv' purposes).

There are conceptual problems with each of these approaches. To say that G-d has a body is too difficult for us to comprehend, and is almost a denial of how we understand monotheism. On the other hand, Rambam's G-d is unknowable, and therefore unaffected by anything we do, and is so far removed from our experience that from our perspective there is nothing He can do for us. It is impossible to have a relationship with such a G-d, and difficult to understand how G-d could have a relationship with us.

In this shiur I look at the chidush of the Arizal, which resolves this machlokes by distinguishing between two aspects of G-d. Before tzimtzum (and outside the space of tzimtzum) we have the "G-d of Rambam" who is unknowable and indescribable. Conversely, in the world of tzimtzum we can speak about aspects of G-d, including midot, sefirot, partzufim, and the ways in which they interact with each other and with the world. In this post-tzimtzum world in which we live, G-d almost becomes physical, and in this way we can have a reciprocal relationship with Him.

There is also a discussion at the end of the shiur about whether it really makes a difference. Why should we even think about G-d? Isn't it enough just to be a good Jew and do the mitzvos?

Here is the shiur

Or if you prefer to download it here is the link:
Tzimtzum Revolution (right click and 'save as')

and here are the source sheets to go with it
Download Source Sheets

If you are interested in sponsoring a shiur please contact me by e-mail.


  1. Great shiur, thanks!

  2. Great shiur, rabbi! Thanks!

  3. I think you're exagerating the difference between the Rambam's G-d and post-Tzimtzum theology.

    There is a second type of attribute of G-d in the Rambam's theology besides the Via Negativa -- descriptions of how Hashem's actions appear to us (MN 1:54). And human moral perfection is defined in terms of imitating these attributes (Hil' Dei'os 1:6)

    כָּךְ לִמְּדוּ בְּפֵרוּשׁ מִצְוָה זוֹ: מַה הוּא נִקְרָא חַנּוּן, אַף אַתָּה הֱיֵה חַנּוּן; מַה הוּא נִקְרָא רַחוּם, אַף אַתָּה הֱיֵה רַחוּם; מַה הוּא נִקְרָא קָדוֹשׁ, אַף אַתָּה הֱיֵה קָדוֹשׁ. וְעַל דֶּרֶךְ זוֹ קָרְאוּ הַנְּבִיאִים לָאֵ-ל בְּכָל אוֹתָן הַכִּנּוּיִין, אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם וְרַב חֶסֶד צַדִּיק וְיָשָׁר תָּמִים גִּבּוֹר וְחָזָק וְכַיּוֹצֶא בָּהֶן--לְהוֹדִיעַ שֶׁאֵלּוּ דְּרָכִים טוֹבִים וִישָׁרִים הֶם, וְחַיָּב אָדָם לְהַנְהִיג עַצְמוֹ בָּהֶן וּלְהִדַּמּוֹת כְּפִי כּוֹחוֹ.

    (Note his use of the words "mah Hu niqra...")

    It would seem to me that the split the Gra talks about in Kelal 1, that Qabbalah describes Hashem as perceived and not Atzumuso, is actually a continuation of the line of thought of the Rambam. The Gra is saying that Qabbalah is a discussion of the attributes that describe the effects of His Action, not

    And just as the Rambam can talk about the Presence as Chanun, Rachum, Qadosh, Erekh Apayim... the mequbalim can speak of its Tzimtzum.

    Related to this is a difference in opinion about how the Gra understood tzimtzum, but that's a comment is more for your next post.