Let My People Know

"The ability to distinguish falsehood in the various descriptions of God"


The use of plastic imagery and symbols is so characteristic of the Hebrew 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. 

Hence the prohibition against all depiction of holiness through physical, plastic means.
Accompanying it, and perhaps stemming from this extreme revulsion to plastic semblance of the Divine, Jewish tradition also maintains a certain suspicion of man's tendency to design, elaborate, and portray himself.

This inclination, to keep the greatest possible distance between man and God, has led to a more abstract comprehension of divine truth and of the ability to distinguish falsehood in the various descriptions of God. 

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From The Thirteen Petalled Rose by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz