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Friday, 6 February 2015

Can G-d occupy a body of flesh and blood?

Daf Yomi Kesubos 4

A professor of religious studies recently put forth his theory that Christianity did not invent the notion of G-d incarnating Himself in a human body.  Kabbalah and Hasidism have similar conceptions and this idea was an ancient Jewish idea.  After all, according the Hasidism, the Rebbe or Tzaddik is treated like G-d!

The Beraisa taught: If the bread was baked, the meat slaughtered, and the wine mixed, and then the groom’s father or the bride’s mother died, we remove the body to a room and we take the bride and groom to the huppah.

Rafram bar Papa quoted Rabbi Hisda: This is true only where they had already given water onto the fleish (meat), but where they had not yet given the water onto the meat, it still may be resold.

Water is always a metaphor for Torah, as the prophet Isaiah declares, “Yo, all who are thirsty, come to the water.”  Our mission in this world is to infuse our physical flesh with the spiritual energy of Torah, thereby becoming spiritual beings.  We may still appear to be physical, just like everyone else around, but once you become so infused with spirituality, you are living on an entirely separate plane of existence.

Notice the word Rabbi Hisda uses.  He talks about ‘giving’ the water onto the flesh.  That is the same word we use when making the blessings over the Torah.  “Blessed are You, Hashem, Who gives the Torah.”  And in fact, it is the root of the word matanah, meaning a gift.   The Almighty gave the Jewish people a special gift – the ability to fuse physicality and spirituality.   Just like when you take a piece of cowhide and write some Hebrew letters upon it, you can create a spiritual item called a Torah scroll, so too G-d took physical human beings and granted them the ability to transform themselves to become spiritual.

But like any gift that you don’t work for, you often don’t appreciate it.  That is certainly true of the gift of Torah.  We all have the potential gift of transformation to the spiritual, but it only happens if you’re prepared to work for it.  That’s a true gift – not one that will simply be regifted or gather dust on the shelf – one that is truly appreciated by the receiver.  When we work to accept the Torah, we can truly appreciate G-d’s gift to us.

Sadly, most Jews will just sprinkle a little Torah water on their flesh and not really let it penetrate.  That’s not enough – you could probably still resell that piece of meat.  You need to immerse yourself deeply in the water of Torah if you wish to transform your flesh from physicality to spirituality.

That’s not a Christian concept.  That’s the ultimate goal of Judaism – to become a vehicle for the Divine. Very few people achieve this lofty level.  It’s not that G-d has become a human being.  It’s that human beings have discovered their Divinity and are now living a spiritual existence.  That’s the nature of the Tzaddik in Hasidism and it’s a level that we must all strive towards.

You can live a spiritual existence!  But you must be prepared to accept the Divine Gift and to saturate your life with it.  May you merit living spiritually and becoming an expression of G-dliness in this world!

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