Re: What is G-d?

Bernard Laufer (seeker1@gte.net)
Sun, 9 Mar 1997 23:59:08 -0500

Dov Laufer wrote:
>> I have to take exception to what Dr Hendel 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!

rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu (Russell Hendel) responds:
> I thank Dov Laufer for his erudite comments from Rav Luzzatto.
> 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. 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.

Let me see if I understand what is being said. Dr. Hendel is saying that his
response to Daniel Pearson was a good definition of G-d because G-d is an
omnipotent being that listens to man through prayer, communicates with man
through prophecy, and rewards man for his good deeds and punishes him for
his evil deeds. I don't disagree with him that the above are not
attributes of G-d just that the actions of prayer, prophecy, and the
principle of reward and punishment are not basic or unique attributes of
Hashem. People as well as animals communicate with each other, and they
also make use of the principle of reward and punishment from their relative
standpoint. If one refers to the Ramchal's definition of G-d, it is
obvious that every attribute listed only G-d possesses. Thus, his
definition is definitive while Russell's is incomplete, primarily because he
doesn't state in his definition that G-d is absolutely simple. As a
student of the Rambam, I'm sure he knows from Moreh Nevuchin (The Guide of
the Perplexed) that leaving this attribute out will cause one great
difficulties.

P.S. We learn that Avraham recognized Hashem when he was only three years
old at the time that he smashed his father's idols, and that he was later
cast into a furnace for his brave denunciations of idolatry. The tradition
that we have of Avraham makes it clear to this writer that Avraham's
greatness was due in large part because he was able to achieve a very high
perception of Hashem while being isolated among idol worshipers -- not in
the spiritually conducive atmosphere of the Shem VeEver Yeshiva. It is not
necessary to go to yeshiva to learn the seven mitzvoth of Noah. Every
civilized society worthy of that appellation maintains the seven mitzvoth
of Noah to one extent or another.

P.P.S. I am aware that Yacov studied at the yeshiva of Shem and Ever, but
not that Avraham studied there as well so I'd appreciate knowing the source.

Dov Laufer
"I fight, therefore I am" (Menachem Begin)