Anthropomorphism/Anthropopathism

Alexander Loyal

Bar Mitzvah 6/12/04

God has been given human characteristics over hundreds of times in the Torah. Yet, I am told to believe that God is neither human nor does God have human form. That is why I have chosen to base my D'var on Anthropomorphism and Anthropopathism of God in the Torah. Anthropomorphism is when someone gives human characteristics or qualities to God. Anthropopathism is when someone gives human feelings or emotions to God.

A famous Jewish thinker named Maimonides, who lived from 1135 to 1204 C.E., felt we needed to put God in human form in order to understand God. He stated that we should take these mental images and emotions, not literally, but as ideas. In one of Maimonides writings titled, "A Guide for the Perplexed", Maimonides wrote about describing God. Maimonides stated that the prophet who "sees" God is really thinking about God's attributes. When the Torah reads " and God spoke" it is using figurative language for

God willed.  According to Maimonides, the "throne" is used to represent God's dignity. To say that God is sitting in that throne means that God is permanent and unchanging.

We have learned to accept that we cannot fully know what God is, but we can know God's influences in the world. One example of such influence is the birth of a baby. My own example of an influence is a flower. I don't believe how something like a seed can grow up to be so beautiful; it has to be the work of God.

The Greeks have tried to explain God. Unlike the Greeks we, the Jews, realize that explaining God is beyond our understanding, but we can still feel God's presence in the world.

Anthropomorphism and Anthropopathism are used a lot in my Parsha, Shelach L'kha, from the book of Numbers. One incident is in verse 14:14 when God is said to reveal himself eye to eye to the Israelites. Later, God explained to Moses how to make a proper sacrifice. The sacrifice reminded me of a human dinner. In 15:6 God says to the Israelites that they must mix wine with oil to deliver a pleasing order to the Lord. Yet God can't smell since this is a human trait. But, I feel that they did this to help express their desire to please God. Another example of Anthropomorphism is in verse 15:37 when God instructs Moses on how to create a tallit. To be able to instruct is also a human trait. If we are to say that the commandment to make and wear a tallit is a divine command (something that comes from God), then the best way to do this in the bible is to make these words come from God's mouth. 

Does this approach help us feel closer to God?  Or that we know what God wants?  I think it does.  Anthropomorphism and Anthropopathism help me build my Jewish obligations.  For example, in my maftir God commands me to wear a tallit.  And today, as an adult, I put one on for the first time.

 

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