Context and Kabbalah
Christian missionaries will grab hold of anything that they might be able to use to justify their belief in the trinity. Be it a Scriptural passage, an analogy from the physical world or a passage from the writings of the Jewish rabbis. The fact that the Jewish rabbis all identified the Christian veneration of Jesus as idolatrous, doesn’t seem to faze the missionary in the least. If they can find a line or a passage that can be read as a support for their cause, they will use it – regardless of the overall textual context of the book and regardless of the living context of the book; the lives and beliefs of the people who wrote these books and of the community that holds these books sacred.
Let us examine one of the more popular missionary proof-texts from the kabbalistic work; the Zohar. In Volume 2, page 43b the Zohar speaks of three that are mysteriously one. The three that are one, are the three names of God mentioned in the Shema – the central declaration of Jewish faith. Missionaries trumpet this passage as a “proof” that the ancient kabbalists believed in a trinity.
The assumption that the Jewish kabbalists believed in the trinity is about as realistic as the belief that the founding fathers of the United States were secret loyalists to George the third, King of England. The argument does not deserve a refutation. But for those who are not fully aware of the Jewish aversion to the deification of a human and for those who will believe the most fantastic conspiracy theories – I will ask them to turn one page in the Zohar.
On page 42b in that same volume the Zohar declares that God Himself is One, and is above all identification – even above His name. The Zohar goes on to explain that the names of God only describe His interaction with His creations and do not begin to describe God’s own essence. The Zohar points to Deuteronomy 4:15 and Isaiah 40:18, 25 as the Scriptural teaching on the nature of God.
It is clear that when the Zohar speaks of three that are one on the very next page, the intention is NOT that God is somehow three and one at the same time as Christians believe. But rather, the Zohar is teaching us that the three modes of God’s interaction with the world are intrinsically one.
For one who has already accepted that the Zohar preaches a trinity as a matter of faith, I don’t believe that a logical argument will convince them to reconsider their position. So if a missionary quotes the Zohar to you, don’t expect to get him to change his mind. But at least you can give him some homework. You can tell him to read the Zohar from the previous page. Then you can tell him that Thomas Jefferson was actually attempting to express his loyalty to the King of England. Somehow, he ended up with the Declaration of Independence.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal