Sermonizing vs. The Truth

The First Ten Days

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Torah Lab, 2010, 88 pages

There are essentially four different ways that people use to try to learn the truth about
the world: religion, mysticism, philosophy and science, and a mixture of two or
three of the previous methods. All should be lauded, for people should try to
learn as much about the world as possible, even though full knowledge of the
world is impossible, so that they can improve themselves and society. Religion
focuses on God and on accepting what the adherents consider to be the divine
commands, and on faith if they do not understand the religious doctrines and
requirements. Mysticism seeks to join with God and sometimes, as in Rabbi
Haber’s concept of mysticism, even to influence God. Philosophy and science
rejects superstition and amorphous notions, which has adhered to religion and
mysticism, and seeks the truth through what the senses can discover, reason,
and the scientific method. Most people combine two or three of the methods, and
Rabbi Haber combines mysticism with his understanding of the Jewish
religion.

 

Rabbi Haber, like many Jewish mystics, is convinced that God is composed of ten parts, called
Sefirot, that became separated and that humans have a duty to help God put
himself together. Nine parts are male and the tenth is female. The number ten
is derived by combining the ancient Jewish and non-Jewish magical numbers three
and seven; in fact, the ten sefirot are comprised of three higher levels of God
and seven lower levels. Jewish mystics developed dozens of practices that their
adherents should engage in to help recombine the deity.

 

Rabbi Haber notes, as did a sixteenth century mystic Moses Cordevaro, that there are ten days from
the holiday that is currently called Rosh Hashanah, which is considered the
beginning of the year, although the Bible doesn’t identify it as such, and the
holiday currently titled Yom Kippur. The ten days include the two holidays. He
stresses that these are ten days in which Jews should reevaluate their lives
and seek to improve themselves. He, like Cordevaro, writes that the ten days
correspond to the ten Sefirot. He explains what each of the Sefirot are, the
lessons he sees that they impart to Jews, and suggests how Jews should apply the
Sefirah (singular of Sefirot) lesson of the day on each of the ten days.

 

For example, the second Sefirah is Chochmah, “wisdom.” It is “the first kernel of an idea that
enters into the psyche. Once allowed in, a living process begins. As the
Chochmah or data enters our system, it can either develop into a tool for
growth, a precious fruit, or a destructive force that will bring about our
downfall.” He suggests that this second day of the ten days of penitence is a
good time to ask yourself some questions, such as, “Do you love or hate people
before you get to know them?”

 

He concludes his book by saying: “We don’t have to be the same person this year as
we were last year.” We can learn from the Sefirot and “sign on to a life that
sees us becoming healthier, holier, kinder, … more sensitive, more tolerant,
more peaceful, more honest, more learned or anything we want. The choice is
ours. So much is in our hands.”

 

The Problem

This is a good sermon because it teaches proper behavior. However, the presentation presents several problems. First and foremost, the idea that God is comprised of ten parts, each of which works seperately, with seperate missions, is a polytheistic concept. Also the notion that God fell apart like Humpty Dumpty and humans need to help put the deity back together again is contrary to the idea that God is all-powerful.

 

Additionally, the sermon assumes that the Bible teaches that Rosh Hashanah commemorates the begining of the year, the time when the world was created. This is not true. The day is called Yom Teruah in the Bible, a day of sounding. It was a day when a special ceromony, the blowing of a wind instrument, marked that this day began the seventh month, just as the Sabbath is the seventh day. Both, as well as many dozens of Jewish practices were instituted to remind the Jew that God created or formed the world “in seven days.” The Bible gives no hint when the world was created or formed. Additionally, Yom Kippur was called Yom Kippurim in the Bible, using the plural rather than the singular, because the biblical holiday was a time when the sactuary high priest offered several sacrifices for himself, his family, and the Israelite nation. It was not a time for individuals to seek repentence. The new names and meanings of these days is post-biblical, as is the concept that the ten days between the holidays is a time for repentance.

 

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