Thursday, January 01, 2009

Pardon My (Philosophical) Language

From Dr. Shalom Rosenberg, In the Footsteps of the Kuzari, vol. 2 p. 95:

The Indigent’s Song: Our Religious Language
Bring my multitude of songs near to You
And my prayer shall come close to You.
May my praise be a crown of glory for Your head
And may my prayer be accepted as incense.
May an indigent’s song be as precious to You
As a song sung over Your offerings.
These final passages of An’im Zemirot can be understood in accord with its simple meaning but can also be interpreted mystically. On the simple level, our song is the “song of the indigent,” for the Temple has been destroyed. We nevertheless plead that our poor song be accepted just as God accepted the song of the Levites in the Temple.

Click here to read moreHowever, the passage has mystical significance as well. The indigent’s song is the song sung in man’s own poor language. The entire philosophical endeavor is an indigent’s song that can never succeed in describing reality. This idea is expressed in parallel in the writings of three of modern Judaism’s most profound thinkers: Rabbi Nahman of Breslov, Rav Kook, and Martin Buber. Each one independently claimed that the construction of all of these theological concepts is only a temporary stage, and when man reaches a higher level of development, he will abandon these interim concepts as overly corporeal. This was expressed by Rabbi Nahman of Breslov when he said that in the future we will repent over our repentance. From our loftier perspective, we will look at theological intellectual definitions as the creation of teenagers who investigated the issues on a superficial level and created a philosophy for adolescents. When all is said and done, this is the deeper meaning of the final sentence of An’im Zemirot, in which we ask God to excuse our use of our religious language, for we use it only to express our love for Him: “May my speech be pleasant to You, for my soul longs for You.”

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