Monday, October 16, 2006

Facing Eastward

The Talmud records[1] an Amoraic and Tannaic disagreement as to whether the Shekhina, the Holy Presence of HaShem, rested specifically in the west or this spirit could be found in all directions[2]. A marginal note to Tosafos records an explanation in the name of Rabbi Yitzchok bar Yehuda of Magentza/Mainz (a teacher and relative of Rashi). He explains that when Adam was created, in his final form, he was facing eastward. This side-note asks according to Rabbeinu Yitzchok bar Yehuda, it is unlikely that Adam would have been created with his back facing toward his Creator (according to the opinion that HaShem rests in the west), and therefore, the editor of the Gilyon disagrees with this premise. Nonetheless, Rabbi Yechiel ben Shlomo Halperin of Minsk writes[3] that when Adam was created, his face turned toward the east. Rabbeinu Bechaye ben Asher (d. 1340) cites[4] a Midrash which explicitly says, "Adam was formed from east to west. His face was in the east, and is back was to the west. [This is] like it says, 'I was formed back and east'.[5]" Rabbeinu Bechaye then proceeds to explain the Kabbalistic implications of this Midrash[6]. This Midrash is not to be found anywhere, and a footnote to the Mossad HaRav Kook edition of Rabbeinu Bachaya attests to the fact that this Midrash is no longer extent. It is a pity that such important Midrashim have been lost.

[1] Bava Basra 25a
[2] This dispute does not have anything to do with whether or not Panentheism has a place within the theology of Judaism because the Rabbis do not disagree about where G-d Himself can be found, they only argue about where His Holy Presence may be found.
[3] Seder HaDoros, s.v. Adam
[4] Rabbeinu Bachaya to Deuteronomy 3:27
[5] Psalms 139:5
[6] The Arizal, Rabbi Yitzchack Luria (1534-1572), also explains this Midrash according Lurianic Kabbalah. See Eitz Chaim, Gate 43, Chapter 1


Ronald Coleman said...

Why don't you bring the sugya in Berachos?

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

You mean Brachos 61a?

kishnevi said...

I don't understand footnote 2 at all.
There are places (like the Temple Mount) where the Divine Presence is especially evident/accessible, and other places where the Divine Presence is more hidden than usual (Nazi brothels come to mind) but how can there be a place where the Divine Presence is not, as it were, present?
Show me a place or a moment where the Deity is not present, and I will show you a place or moment that does not exist.

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