Sunday, August 31, 2008

God's Holiness explained (sort of)

How is man supposed to relate to the Eternal One? Doesn't God's absoluteness negate the possibility of relating to him?

For Rabbi Eliezer Berkovitz, z"l (1908-1992), God's holiness (in the Tanach) is His "withdrawl" from absoluteness and infinitude, towards man.

The Concept of the Holy:

The infinite is unrelated to the finite by its essence; it is indifferent towards it. Thus God, too, as it were, has to separate himself from his absoluteness in order to turn with care and consideration towards his creation; he has to "withdraw" from the "natural" indifference of his infinitude in order to be the "father of the fatherless and the judge of the widows in the habitation of his holiness". He has to "curb" his nature as Wholly Other so that he may come near for the sake of his holiness.

This is an illuminating paragraph that sheds light on the problem of man's relationship with an eternal, absolute God. In order for Heaven and Earth to "kiss" (Bava Batra 74a), the divisive barrier that exists in our minds between finite and infinite must be breached. This breach, according to Rav Berkovits, is possible because of God's holiness.

Watch this space for what holiness means for man.