Fishbane opens chapter 4 stating that reading the text is a spiritual practice in which “Each generation must produce the exegetical practices appropriate to its historical and intellectual situation.”
There are three levels of Torah, Torah kelulah, written Torah, oral Torah (This is a Neo-hasidic innovation to add a third.)
Torah kelulah is truly from heaven as a holy hieroglyph encoding patterns and forms of every form.
The written Torah is a specific shaping of the torah kelulah through the heart and mind of Moses and formulated in the style and idiom of the times.The written torah is a scriptural record of the “spiritual history of the covenant in its initial unfolding, as formulated by the like of Moses and those who spoke in his voice (and spirit) in the early history of ancient Israel.” “Others spoke in a similar voice and with similar concern, and challenged and guided the people to obey the teaching of the covenant in all their ways” such as Isaiah and Jerimiah. (Kingship and covenant as vasselhood are not used).
.The Oral torah capturs the spiritual vitalities inherent within the written Torah.It makes the Torah . personified and particularized. There is a vibrant paradox of Jewish covenant theology, in which the Torah is continuously rereading its formulations through the prism of its own forms of rationality and interpretive tradition.
“The strict halakhist will tend to see the external world largely through the prism of the Oral Torah….whereas the strictly natural self will tend only to see the world with a natural eye…But we should resist this dichotomy”
Jews are descendents of both Adam and Moses- we are both a natural and a cultural being
Torah kelulah is our hearts, written torah in our minds, oral law on our mouths.
The Torah kelulah is not given to our natural self but only to the Jew in covenant..
On faith—–“Standing before scripture in all its modes is emunah” faithfulness to the wondrous torah
We ascend to God and it unfolds in torah.
Emunah as mahshvah devekah and also a counterthrust of aught- noght fraught with the cascading and fragmenting of our world.
We need a prepared heart for the Torah. As kohelet tells us: the natural self is vanity
Covenantal self stands in awe before the divine and is faithful to the world at hand – it lives in wholehearted
This discussion of emunah, temimut, lev tahor sounds a lot like Maharal via hasidut.
The Torah was given in the desert according to Midrash. This means the realm of the evil side according to the Zohar. Fishbane explains this as the need to confront the terrors of life– the “howl of evil.”
We should pay attention to the terms in and out, near- far, with – before with our readings . They make us aware of our boundaries.
Finally, his concept of obligation, hiyyuv. Fishbane states that we are always under a hiyyuv- It is herut al ha-luhot (avot 6:2) but it gets explained by means of Heidegger –Gademer and our horizens.
He also explain obligation through Cordovero’s Tomar Devorah. We are always connected to Divine values and responsibility. (I know Fishbane taught Tomar Devorah over a year ago, if anyone wants to send me notes it would be appreciated. It would be like reading Heidegger on the history of thought.)
In the course of the above discussion, there is some nice Zohar analysis showing how the Zohar used midrashic tropes of Genesis Rabbah and how names are changes between the two texts. Rebbi (alternate R. Ami ) gets told over in the name of R. Abba
The book ends with a reminder of our hermeneutic finitude – and that forgetting this is hubris. We are finite, mortal, in the flesh and that “death is the final censura”
I found the book dealing with many of the same issues as the poet-singer Leonard Cohen
Natural Life peaks at love, birth, transformed moments, the natural censura of death, and a natural life pointing beyond- to something deeper. Cohen’s songs turn from the natural
to Zen, to a revelatory Biblical God, to the existential abyss.
Fishbane starts with the natural and does not give us the heightened speech of the poet rather he directs us to find the heightened words and meaning of Sinai as understood through the Bible, Midrash, Biblical exegesis, Kabbalah, and Hasidut
For Leonard Cohen, one needs to practice Zen meditation to awaken to the moment, and still keep Shabbat to please the Biblical God. For Fishbane, Sinai create a need for continuous God consciousness and connection to the textuality of divine values. We need Sacred Attunment.