Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Zohar and Our Questions

For the past week we have studied Jewish mysticism with Melila Hellner-Eshed. The esoteric world of Jewish mysticism begins to unfold before my eyes. In the opening chapters of the Zohar, the seminal Jewish mystical text, Rabbi Shimon, expounded on the meaning of God's name "Elohim." This name is a combination of "elleh--these" and "Mi--who" (when the last two Hebrew letters are reversed). Elleh represents the structures of religious life, the letters of the alphabet, the texts of our tradition. Elleh represents the fixed, the halachah, the edifice. Mi represents the questions. All of us bring questions and doubts to our religious lives. We have many questions, many unsolved riddles. God is the combination of the structures and the questions. Without institutions, without laws Judaism would be lost. Without questions, without doubts Jews would be bereft. God embraces both. God is both. Elohim is the combination of structures of Jewish life and our questions.

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