Elijah's Lesson - Part 1

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   Elijah opened [his lesson] and said:

Blessed is the L-rd forever.  Amen, and Amen.

—  Psalm 89:53

Notes and Comments:

Elijah's Lesson - from Tikunei Zohar, Introduction II  (tih koo NAY ZOH har)

Elijah - the prophet, although some say that this is a Rabbi Elijah from the era of the Mishnah.

opened [his lesson] and said - This entire lesson is in the Aramaic language rather than in Hebrew.

Master of the worlds!  Who You are He Who is one . . .  The translation of these opening words seems awkward, however this translation is faithful to the unusual structure of the original Aramaic text.  It gives us an idea that,

"The Master of the worlds" is addressable.  We pray directly to Him.  However He is so "far" from our human consciousness and understanding that Elijah opens as though only speaking about the Almighty.  Then Elijah addresses G-d directly, teaching us that although His unity is so absolute, nonetheless we can intend in our prayers to address Him directly, regardless of our human limitations.

Master of the worlds! - Worlds, plural – both spiritual realms and our physical, knowable world.

one but not in a numeric sense - 'One' in the sense of being alone and unique.  There is none – and nothing – besides Him.

not in a numeric sense - Not for counting.  Ordinarily, the number one means 'first', followed by a second.  Even if a sum total is one, there remains the possibility of discovering a second.  Not so with G-d.  No searching will reveal a second being, not even a lesser god.

Some wish to believe that G-d is the Prime Mover, but ask where G-d is now.  "Not in the numeric sense" means that He is as much the "Prime Mover" now as before.  The present moment is as if no time existed before now because the past is not accessible.  What was before the world was created is absolutely inaccessible, too.  Since time is also a creation, we can't speak about any time before creation – what was (or might have been) before the universe was created.  "Not in the numeric sense" rules out any secondary mover.

mysterious - the realm of the esoteric, the metaphysical.

No mind can comprehend You - Comprehension is beyond us, "More mysterious than the mysterious, loftier than the lofty."  However, we can know G-d.  "From my flesh I am seeing the Almighty" [need source for this Biblical verse].  "Seeing is believing."  In the next entry, I write more about knowing G-d.

You have no specific place.  You have neither a body nor anything resembling a body.  Hasidism uses the analogy of the sun's relation to its light to explain how we can know G-d.  G-d has nothing resembling a body nor any physicality, but nevertheless, He creates a physical world "within Himself" which is like light while it is still within the orb of the sun.  Although we only see sunlight after it has left the sun, after it's separate from the sun, we can deduce the nature of light which is still within the sun.  This is a type of knowing.  However, this analogy is defective since there is nothing outside of G-d.  As I wrote above, "There is nothing besides Him," nothing away from Him.

Justice - is a process.

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel (died sometime around the year 164 ce) - He was the father of Rabbi Judah the Prince;  see Historical Notesrah BAHN shee MOHN ben gahm lee ALE

The world exists by virtue of three things - See below.

law, truth, and peace  -  a)  Suspense of judgment until enough facts have been assembled.
b)  An educated public willing to use critical thinking skills and to engage in intelligent discourse.
c)  Compromise.

Scales of Justice

scale of justice, balancing pans —

Holy Covenant - The Priestly blessing:

May the L-rd bless you and guard you,

May the L-rd shine His countenance upon you and grant you grace,

May the L-rd lift up His countenance toward you and grant you peace.

Just measures - [need to find the verses about hin tzedek; not favoring the rich or the poor, etc.]

Blessed is the L-rd forever.  Amen, and Amen. - Ending a lesson with this verse from the book of Psalms is customary.

Historical Notes:

Moses received the Torah at Mount Sinai.  He established methods for accurately transmitting the Torah to all future generations.  The Second Jewish Commonwealth began almost one thousand years after Moses received the Torah.  Most of the events of the Bible happened during this thousand-year period.  Prophecy, the Babylonian Exile, and then the return to Jerusalem when the Jewish people built the Second Holy Temple on the spot of the First Temple.

Ezra was foremost of the returning Sages.  He wrote the last books of the Hebrew Bible, identified correct copies of the other books of the Hebrew Bible, and he closed the canon.  Ezra died (313 bce) about the time when Alexander conquered Persia.  (The Bible contains veiled prophecies about Alexander, his short life, and how four generals would divide the empire.)

Ezra and his Great Council of the Sages lived in the milieu of a world empire — first the Achaemenid Persian Empire, then successive Greek empires.  The Great Council of the Sages specified three things to guide the Jewish people through this period and into the future:

The transmission and study of the Torah exist by virtue of these above three things.  The world exists by virtue of corresponding values:

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel of this mishnah (Chapter 1, Mishnah 18) – the last mishnah of this first chapter – is the father of "Rebbe" of the next mishnah, the first mishnah of the second chapter.  "Rebbe" is Rabbi Judah the Prince, who finalized and published the entire composition called "The Mishnah."

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel was a direct descendant of the great rabbi, Hillel the Elder.  Each successive son had succeeded his father and was elevated to the position of President of the Sanhedrin – the Jewish Supreme Court and Supreme Academy of seventy-one distinguished Torah Sages.  Each succession was with the consent of the membership of the Sanhedrin.

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, despite his eminence, may not have acted as president, though.  Roman persecution of Jews had been diminishing during the reign of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (ruled 138-161 ce).  At the same time, governors of the region were on the lookout for any sign that Jews were uniting around a leader who might foment another revolt.  These were the prime years of Rabban Shimon, who died around 164 ce.

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel fathered Rabbi Judah the Prince around the year 131 ce.

Compare with Rabbi Nissen Mangel's English translation of Elijah's Lesson in Siddur Tehillat HaShem: Nusach Ha-Ari Zal

(Brooklyn, New York: Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, Inc., 1978)  pp. 125-6.

Copyright © 1978 Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, Inc., All rights reserved.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number:  82-81508

BM675.D3Z62313 1982

296.4 -- dc20

ISBN 0-8266-0260-6

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