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NORMAN LAMM
EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE
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Honesty, however, compels us to recall that Maimonides was almost alone in advocating his particular conception of the position of man in the universe. Most other thinkers, led by Saadia, declared man to be the purpose of the creation and, hence, apparently consider that God is "primarily concerned with human events." If, then, there will emerge reasonable grounds for accepting the existence of extraterrestrial rational races, such attitudes will have to be revised. But the revision will be centered upon the word "primarily." Judaism will then accept the view of one of its most distinguished exponents, Maimonides, over that of the majority with whom he dis­agreed.
However, it is here proposed that even amongst those for whom anthropocentrism was a fundamental outlook, there were some of whom it cannot be said that they regarded the Creator as primarily concerned with earth-men. As an example one may cite the views of R. Hayyim of Volozhin who, for all his advocacy of the centrality of man in the universe and his Godlike spiritual dominion over the cosmos, by virtue of his being a microcosm (and, conversely, the conception of the cosmos as a macroanthropos), never was parochial in his theology, but held to a conception of God from which he explicitly purged such anthropocentric prejudices.
For R. Hayyim, the mystery of the tzimtzum, which so concerned the famed mystic, R. Isaac Luria, and the whole school of Lurianic Kabbalists, was essentially the paradox of divine aloofness from and closeness to man, His transcendent, impersonal beyondness and His personal dialogic concern for man. The terms R. Hayyim employs are atzmut or Essence and hit'habrut or Relatedness,43 which are equivalent, respectively, to the categories described above: that of God in His Absolute­ness, the En Sof, and God in His personality (which is defined by the immanence-transcendence tension). In His Essence or Absoluteness, God is beyond concern for man or for anything extradivine. Indeed, for God in His Essence nothing else exists. Together with his older contemporary, the Hasidic master, R. Shneour Zalman of Ladi,44 he gives a severely literal interpreta­tion to the words "and thou shalt know this day, and lay it to
thine heart, that the Lord He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath, ein ode" (Deut. 4:39)—the words are usually translated as "there is none else," by which is under­stood the exclusion of other deities. For both the Hasidic founder of HaBaD and the Mitnagdic heir of the Gaon of Vilna, however, the meaning is "there is nothing else"— literally—for there is only God, who in His allness denies ontological legitimacy to any other than Himself. What does not exist, what is only an illusion, cannot be of any interest to God. Hence, He is indifferent to man, to his aspirations and virtues and prayers. God in His atzmut is hidden, the Deus absconditus, completely "other" and oblivious to the il­lusion called the cosmos; He is ineffable and even unnameable. One cannot attribute personality to atzmut or God in His Essence.
Whatever we can know of God, anything we can say of Him or whatever Names we may apply to Him, all refer not to His Essence, but to His hit'habrut, His Relatedness. It is in His Relatedness, as the Deus revelatus, that God creates the world, seeks man out, reveals Himself to him, and is affected by man's worship and obedience. Hit'habrut is the domain of the mu­tuality of God and man, where the divine-human dialogue is legitimate and meaningful, where God as Personality confronts and engages man as a personality. Atzmut, however, is all absoluteness, transcendence; its is beyond "I," beyond "Thou," beyond "it."
How these two ideas can be embraced in one conception of an absolutely one God is the problem with which R. Hayyim grapples in his Nefesh ha-Hayyim. It remains the mystery of all mysteries which philosophy cannot comprehend and which only religion can accept, despite his suggestion of a resolution by means of dichotomy, a bifocal view: from God's point of view, there is only God, and naught else exists; from man's vantage, there is a real world to which God relates. Whatever the details of R. Hayyim's exposition, it is important to em­phasize the utter denial of any possible dualism to God. It is man who is beset by the difficulty jn comprehension; God remains One. The fault is that of theology, not Theos,
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