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Mishkan Shiloh: Awareness of God

The 13th of Kislev is the Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Yosef Shmuel Landau, author of Mishkan Shiloh. He died on November 22, 1836. If prophecy existed, it must be essential for life. Why do we no longer benefit from this essential gift?

When we study the Book of Bereishit, we find that God spoke to Adam and his children as a father to a son, on any topic, with guidance and direction. So too, God spoke to Noach, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. The word of God became more precious until He spoke to Moshe, and, to a lesser degree, with the prophets. This continued until the state in which we now live and there are no prophets or visionaries.

Even the Rabbis of the Talmud wondered why they did not experience the clarity and miracles of earlier generations. (See Ta’anit 24 and Berachot 20)

There are three levels of knowledge (Albo): The highest form of knowledge is what we see with our own eyes. The second level is what we can perceive, but not actually see with the absolute clarity of the first level. The lowest level is what we hear but cannot figure out with our intellect and certainly cannot see,

If the purpose of Man is to perceive and know God, as the Rambam teaches in his introduction to his commentary to the Mishna, why are we unable to use the highest level of knowledge, to see, and cannot even use our intellects, which are finite, to comprehend the Infinite God? Our knowledge of God is all a result of the lowest level of knowledge.

The weakness of knowledge achieved through hearing is based on the authority of the one who taught you. : “And you, my son Solomon: Know the Lord of your father and serve Him with a perfect heart and with a willing soul, for God searches all hearts, and discerns very product of one’s thought. If you seek Him, He will let Himself be found by you.” (Chronicles I 28:9) King David taught Solomon that his knowledge of God, was heard from someone who had achieved great clarity, and therefore his 3rd level of understanding, was not limited, but touched on the Infinite.

We can achieve the same level of clarity as those who lived in an age of prophecy when we connect with them as the source of the things we know, when we hear them teach us through Torah and tradition. (Mishkan Shiloh, Derash I, Beit Yosef)


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