A Baal Shem Tov Doubt re: Heavenly Communications


[Eliezer Sobel, Baal Shem Tov in His Carriage]

Jewish philosophy puts a lot of stock in revelation. It’s supposed to do all the work. But what’s the nature of that “communication”? Here’s a doubt by the Baal Shem Tov. It’s the same one recognized by Moses Mendelssohn, but sounds like the Bishop Berkeley in its opening query.

About heavenly communication: “If there is no one in the world to hear them, what purpose do they serve –and if there is one who claims that…he does hear them, the evidence of the senses would contradict this! Indeed, who would presume to say that …he hears these heavenly pronouncements –and who would believe such a person!? So again, what purpose do they serve? ”

The Besht suggests that, instead, God signals only allusively in a subtle hint (remez) that appears to the mind as thoughts of repentance and other matters that come to a person whose eyes have the intelligence. Such “divine indications” are occurring constantly.

And still I cannot help but think, along with the Besht, who would believe such a person?

–Pillar of Prayer (Amud ha’Tefilah), 109.1 (translated by Menachem Kallus)


About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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