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The “Good Eye” of Israel

The “Good Eye” of Israel

At the very moment that Moses receives the Tablets of the Covenant from the Almighty - a moment which is sure to play a most determining role in the destiny of the Jews - Israel is put to the most difficult of tests, and it results in a great fall.

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14 Tammuz 5784 | 20/7/2024

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14 Tammuz 5784

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Fast of 17th of Tammuz

Tuesday, 17 Tammuz 5784

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"Seeing God's body"?!

Question

Rabbi, please help, this has been bugging me for a while. How does Rambam interpret Bamidbar 12:8 in terms of God not having a body. This has been bugging me since I agree 100%with the Rambam on this.

Answer

The verse clearly is referring to the fact that there are various levels of prophecy. The highest is that of Moshe who has a clear 2-way conversation with God, what is termed "mouth to mouth" (like a phone conversation which doesn't involve seeing). Similarly, we see that other prophets receive somewhat unclear prophecies which must be "de-coded", like Yirmiyahu (1, 11-12) is asked by God, "What do you see?... you have seen correctly", and Zecharia "and I asked the angel who spoke to me: "What are these?" (2, 1-2). On the other hand, Moshe's clearer prophecy is a higher level of understanding, termed here "in a vision, without questions, and seeing that which Hashem shows him". Our sages describe it like the difference between seeing a blurry mirror as opposed to a clear one. We obviously aren't referring to seeing God, but rather to understanding the present (in a deeper sense than usual) or future (what will be). Even when it sounds like a physical description (e.g. "you shall see My back but not My front", Shmot 33, 23), the context is clearly referring to an understanding there of God's traits which we are meant to emulate ("merciful and kind, patient…" ibid, 34, 6). As the Rambam explains (Y'sodei HaTorah 1, 10), when one see's a person's from the back it is just a general picture which isn't absolute identification (e.g. just tall or short, brown or red hair), as opposed to when one sees the front, it's referring to a much more detailed identification (exactly what type of nose, eyes, eyebrows, mouth, teeth, smile etc.). Like in a police identification "mug shot", they obviously show the suspect's face, not his back.

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Parashat Hashavua

A Very Pessimistic Man

A Very Pessimistic Man

Bilaam was a brilliant, critical, and pessimistic person who knew how to identify a weak point at any given moment.

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