Let My People Know

"The world is conceptualized and its objects described by a system of metaphors based on the human body"


"The Bible and the other literary creations of the Jews, such as Aggadah and the Kabbalah, abound with anthropomorphisms of all kinds, not only in relation to the deity but in every sort of description.


This humanization of the world's re­ality, both of the objects and creatures lower than man and of those higher, are among the pro­foundly consistent aspects of the use of the holy tongue.


As one of the sages expressed it: The soul describes everything according to the configura­tion of its mansions, which is the body.


In other words, the world is conceptualized and its objects described by a system of metaphors based on the human body.


The language thus "raises the low­ly" by images like "the head [top] of the mountain" and "the foot of the mountain"; and it "brings down the high" by descriptions such as the "seat" of the Almighty, the "hand" of God, the "eye" of the Lord, and the like.


This use of plastic imagery and symbols is so characteristic of the language that it is hard to find a sentence in the Scriptures that is not constructed on the basis of metaphorical description rather than of abstract conceptualization.


Imagery-bound concepts are to be found everywhere, in almost every paragraph of the books of law and jurispru­dence as well as in poetry and literature, and serve primarily, and most strikingly, to describe all that pertains to the holy.


Precisely because of this prevalence of meta­phorical statement, and the widespread use of fig­ures of speech drawn from the human image, it becomes all the more necessary to emphasize that they are allegorical truths and not actual descrip­tions of reality.


For there was a certain danger that the word pictures, or imagistic descriptions, of sacred symbols in the Bible — and even more so in the Kabbalah — could lead to a crude material appre­hension of the divine essence and of the higher reality."

 –Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

 From The Thirteen Petalled Rose, p112, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz