Yaakov Dovid Shulman Presents The Aesthetic Fundamental by Rabbi Yosef Rosenheim

Sep 11th, 2009 by admin in Spiritual Growth
Man’s intellectual soul desires to come to the oneness that hides behind the diversity of the world. He seeks to solve the problem of the world, as a sort of thought experiment, with the help of scientific investigation, based on logic and mathematics. Every systematic scheme, every scientific investigation is ultimately a desire for oneness. In the consciousness of man and the world, willful action constitutes a fundamental fact no less than logical thought. [When willful action is fulfilled,] the relationship of man to his environment becomes actualized. Beyond the dark life of physical desire, he rises to a life with a clear and purposeful will. He senses that his will is free and gives him freedom in direct proportion to the extent that he accepts the ethical authority of the supernal will, the will of God, which alone is a guarantor for his freedom before the world of superficial phenomena.

But between recognition and will is spread a third domain in the life of the human soul, a domain of emotional outlook, which is a feeling of the essential quality that transcends expressive phenomena. This is the source of man’s aesthetic response, just as his rational and ethical responses stem from recognition and will.

The [fulfilled] life of the Jew presupposes an enlightened humanity. The priestly status of the Jewish people blossoms and grows on the ground of humanity. Therefore, it is impossible to simply posit that this priesthood depends on the suppression of the natural powers in the human soul. Really, in the fundamental structure of truth, the aesthetic response has equal value with reason and ethics, which have never been subject to question.

Reason leads to the unity that is behind diversity, that is, to the Creator of the world; ethics leads to the supernal and ethical will, that is, to the King of the universe. And can a Jew still stand without wonder, yearning, and a pounding heart before the beauty of the starry sky, before the dazzling, sprouting season of spring, before the verses of the singer of Tehillim or when gazing at the glowing holiness of the Cohen Gadol? At that time, shining through the phenomena, is expressed the Godly quality of the world of feelings: God’s presence (the Shechinah).

Revelations of God’s Honor and Holiness

The fundamentals of Jewish faith are expressed morning and evening in the K’rias Sh’ma, in the short verses from the mouth of Moshe Rabbeinu in which he explained before his death the inner meaning of a Jew’s life in every generation. The oneness of the Creator (“Havayah”) and Lawgiver of the world (“Elokeinu”) leads to “V’ahavta”: the practical decisions of a life of action. But between this first postulate of all scientific thought and ethical will and between the essentials of a life that draws meaning from it–between “Sh’ma Yisroel” and “V’Ahavta”–our tradition places an ancient and meaningful verse (one that is whispered in secret on all the days of the year and is called aloud on Yom Kippur) as though one could not proceed without it from “Sh’ma” to “V’ahavta”: “Blessed be the Name of the glory of His kingdom for ever.” We say that “the name of the glory of His kingship” is “blessed,” meaning that it will rise and be infinitely strengthened forever.

But what is the meaning of “the name of the glory of His kingdom”? These three words, each clear in its individual meaning, are here linked together to form one concept. “Name” is the conception of a thing, an intellectual understanding. Here, it means knowing God through reason. “Kingdom” is, according to the Kabbalah, the last of God’s qualities, ruling directly over what occurs in the world, require that man accept the yoke of responsibility, “the yoke of the kingdom of heaven.” It is the ethical kingship of God. “Glory” is, I believe (in short) none other than the third fundamental response of the soul to the world: the aesthetic. Here it means, therefore, the aesthetic vision of God’s glory.

Yaacov Dovid Shulman’s Writings can be found at ravkook.net and jewishlights.blogspot.com