500.10 FINITE + (pps.98-99)
hard cover page 98
Man is finite + seeking to approach Infinity.
Man should be categorized not as “finite being,” but more accurately as “finite + being.”370 Man’s potential approaches the infinite.371 Inversely, God, in order to allow the possibility of the finite/infinite potential of man to reach fruition, must contract elements of His infinitude.372 This concept would parallel the kabbalistic concept of tsimtsum regarding creation.
When I look at Your heavens, The work of Your fingers, The moon and stars That You have established- What is man that You think of him? Mortal man that You remember him? Yet You have made him little less than God, You have crowned him with glory and splendor.
. . . there is no limit to the possibility of ascending toward the heights. -Kook374
. . . it is possible for everyone to achieve ever higher states of inspiration up to the very highest level, and every man can rise to become the equal of Moses our teacher, if he should but will to do so.
Because man is the sole living creature known to us in whom the category of possibility is so to speak embodied, and whose reality is incessantly enveloped by possibilities, he alone amongst them all needs confirmation.
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370 See Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, I. 7 (as translated by J. A. K. Thomson [London, 1953; reissued, Harmondsworth; Penguin Classics, 19551, p. 39). “We ought not to listen to those who counsel us ‘0 mortal, remember your mortality.’ ” Cited in Passmore, The Perfectibility of Man, p. 47.
See Greenberg, “Cloud of Smoke, Pillar of Fire,” p. 7. “Rather, the decisive truth is that man is of infinitive value and will be redeemed. Every act of life is to be lived by that realization.”
371 Talmudic dictum: “Whoever destroys even a single soul should be considered the same as a man who destroyed a whole world. And whoever saves even one single soul is to be considered the same as a man who has saved a whole world.”
372 See Fackenheim, The Jewish Return into History, p. 10. “When God created the world, He decreed: ‘The heavens are the heavens of the Lord: but the earth He has handed over to the children of man’ (Ps. 115: 16). Yet when He was about to give the Torah, He rescinded the firs1 decree and said: ‘Those who are below shall ascend to those on high, and those who are on high shall descend to those that are below, and I will create a new beginning,’ as it is said: ‘And the Lord came down upon Mt. Sinai’ (Exod. 19:20), and later ‘And unto Moses He said: “Come up unto the Lord” ‘ (Exod. 24:l) [Exodus Rabba, XII, 31].”
373 Maimonides posits the primacy of man in the Bible by pointing out that the terms zelem and demuth, which have reference to the Divine intellectual faculty, apply not to God’s qualities but to man’s.
“I mean because of the divine intellect conjoined with man, that it is said of the latter, that he is in the image of God” (Emunoth v’Deot 2:9).
“The major concern of the Torah is not to describe God’s attributes but man’s, in the sense of projecting man as possessing as his proporium some- thing that is strange, not found in anything else existing under the sphere of the moon, namely, intellectual apprehension” (Guide 1: 1).
T. B. Sanhedrin 4.5.
374 Kook, “Lights of Holiness,” in Bokser, Abraham Isaac Kook, p. 194.
375 Sefer ha-Gilgulim 6, cited in Agus, The Evolution of Jewish Thought, p. 326.
376 Buber, Good and Evil, p. 135.
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