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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Models of Torah VII - The Torah as a Dream

The Talmud (Berakhot 55b) states: "All dreams follow the mouth." In other words, the interpretation of the dream determines its outcome. The Sefer ha'Chasidim commenting on this writes (pgs. 307-308, Reuven Margoliot ed.):

"The Torah is from Him and it follows the mouth and heart for interpretation...The sages said there were twenty-four dream interpreters in Jerusalem. No one interpreted as did the other, yet all their interpretations were fulfilled. It is just as Scripture, which lends itself to various interpretations. Regarding dreams, there is a proviso that the interpretation fit the dream. By the same token, interpretation of Scripture must fit the text. Then all of the interpretations are valid. An example is the debate in the Talmud (Megillah 15b) concerning the reason Esther invited Haman to her banquet, where finally, Elijah the prophet revealed that all the different interpretations given by the Tannaim and Amoraim are valid" (trans. Bezalel Naor, Bringing Dreams Down, pg. 248).

Similarly, Rav Kook (Eyn Aya on Berakhot 55b) writes:

"One of the purposes of the dream is prognostication of the future. Since we see that the meanings of the dream can vary, it must be that the dream with its interpretations are a single package. The same holds true for the Written Law and the Oral Law. Since the Written Law is open to interpretation, we are forced to conclude that it was given together with the Oral Law as a package. Pure intellect together with the hermeneutic principles and the (novel situations that arise with the) passage of time, guide how to derive new halakhot and opinions. Whenever something lends itself to multiple interpretations, there is requires an interpreter who will actualize all the latent meanings. Originally the thing was set up so that it would be actualized by interpretations.**

"That which was derived from the verse [quoted in the Talmud] of the Torah concerning dreams, namely that all dreams follow the mouth, may in fact apply to the verse of the Torah itself. (In that sense, the maxim "All dreams follow the mouth" is itself a verse of the Torah.) This is the nature of the word of God that is multifaceted. All that is possible to say about it was given (at Sinai) and all depends upon the mouth that embellishes Torah. This law is found as well in the realm of the dream which is "one sixtieth of prophecy."

[...]

"He [Rava] said that the interpretation must be faithful to the dream; it cannot deviate too much. Even though the soul [of the dreamer] can adapt to the mood of the interpreter, nevertheless, in the final analysis, the dream is the affair of the dreamer, not the interpreter. The same goes for Torah. True, the Torah can arouse various thoughts depending on the mood of the reader, but it retains the name "Torah" and "Torah knowledge" only insofar as things have direct relation to Torah, based on the power of Torah and its integrity. If one goes so far as to embellish things based solely on his private vision, he borders on being megalle panim ba-Torah she-lo ka-halakha (one who reads into Torah unlawfully" (trans. Bezalel Naor, Bringing Dreams Down, pgs. 106-107)

Lastly, I quote from Susan Handelman's study of Freud (Slayers of Moses, pg. 131):

"As Freud wrote, the uniqueness of his approach to the dream and his success in revealing its secret (and thereby the secrets of psychic life) was that he treated it as Holy Writ, as would a Rabbi, searching for hidden significance in every word and detail, and applying ingenious methods of symbolic and linguistic interpretation which to his contemporaries were unorthodox, unscientific madness....

"It is my thesis, though, that psychoanalysis was the Jewish science in a far deeper way that has been recognized. Its founder, who affirmed a "common psychic structure" with the Jews, created what might be called a secular version of Talmud, and an interpretive science whose methodology was in its finest details deeply Rabbinic. Freud displaced Rabbinic hermeneutics from the text of the Holy Writ to the text of the dream, the speaking psyche of the person."

**This "actualization" of the dream or text by means of intepretation can be compared to a particle which could potentially take multiple routes (Superposition), and by means of the observer's consciousness it takes one route. See Michtav M'Eliyahu, vol. IV, pgs. 164-168.

1 comment:

micha said...

FWIW, I think the Michtav meiEliyahu is dealing on a level deeper than QM. Not that physics allows for multiple states than then collapse, but that multiple observers allow for multiple realities -- even after the collapse. See vol I 304-312. REED makes a similar point about time in ol. 22 pp 150-154 and vol IV, pg 113 (with application to time during maaseh bereishis).

R' Aryeh Carmell in a footnotes ties REED's position to Kant's.

I think the Tanya was on the same page. The unknowable objective reality is "ein od milvado", and any appearance of tzimtzum and therefore existence is a matter of perception. (But then, who is perceiving? Isn't this circular logic?)

And also R' Kook's approach to the sefirah of Malkhus, where "ein Melekh belo am" is also taken to refer to how human perception imposes categories onto reality and thus define our world in a very fundamental way. And thus the Malkhus of one world becomes the source, the Keser, of the one below.

And last, Esnst Mach, a philosopher and scientist, friend of Einstein, and noted enough to have a unit of measure named after him (the speed "mach 1", etc...) held that this is why science works. For human scale phenomena, of course we would have evolved such that the logic of our minds matches that needed to make sense of the world. But now that science is dealing in extremes; even those that defy common sense still fit match and other forms of formal reasoning. Why?

Mach's answer is that science's field of study is the world-as-perceived. The same kind of mind that imposes those perceptions is the same one doing the analysis.

So, I wouldn't say R' Dessler had the notion of superposition like in QM. His notion of conflicting worlds is one which underlies the possibility of QM.

Similarly, the superposition of shitos in eilu va'eilu. I shifted from thinking of QM as a metaphor to taking a more perceptual approach.

-micha