Re: What is G-d?

Russell Hendel (rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu)
Tue, 18 Feb 1997 23:34:38 -0500

I thank Dov Laufer for his erudite comments from Rav Luzzatto. Dov writes:
<< I have to take exception to what Dr Hendel writes >>

But the ideas are not mine. They come from the Rambam who in turn derived
them from the Talmud. This does NOT mean I am not interested in Dovs
questions. It rather means that I reinterpret them as questions on the
Rambam.

Dov writes:
<< I'll go along with omnipotence as a basic attribute of G-d since it can
be directly derived from the basic attribute of perfection, but what does
prophecy and reward and punishment have to do with being basic attributes
of G-d? In fact Avraham Avinu was able to achieve a very high level of
belief in G-d, and righteousness before he received his prophetic ability,
and he was able to attain that just by observing and analyzing nature! >>

Let me now attempt to answer him (again focusing on the Rambam).

1) The Rambam was undoubtedly influenced by the famous story about Tzadok
and Baysoth who saw a son obey his fathers commandment to remove the mother
bird from a nest (Deut 22:6) but died while climbing a ladder to reach the
birds nest despite the fact that the son was fulfilling 2 Biblical
commandments promising long life (Deut 22:6, 5,16). The event turned Tzadok
and Baysoth to apostates. The story shows that without a proper belief in
reward and punishment people easily leave their beliefs. To use Dovs
language: It is part of G-ds perfection that He can make people feel needed
and secure (in contrast to tyrants who can order and make people obey only
out of fear and insecurity)

2) In a similar mannar communication is the highest level of "life" and
therefore a Perfect Being would have the capacity to communicate His
Requests. Hence the requirement on the capacity for Prophecy.

3) If Dov will study Torah Forum's recent issues he will see that Abrohom
learned in the Shem VeEver Yeshiva. He was familiar with the Prophecies and
Mitzvoth of Adam and Noach as recorded studied and analyzed by the Yeshiva
Thus Abrohom undoubtedly used his knowledge of G-ds prophecies to achieve
his belief in G-d.

4) Finally, it is clear from the famous G-d--Abrohom dialog in the Sedom
and Gemarrah story(Gen 18:16-33) that awareness of G-d's method of Reward
and Punishment are important prerequisites to belief in G-d(Gen 18:19) Gen
18:19 also shows the importance of Prophetic communication in belief.

I hope this clarifies this complex issue

Respectfully, Russell Jay Hendel, Ph.d., ASA, RHendel @ MCS . Drexel . Edu