Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Parable About a Parable

Last Saturday night I heard an interesting teaching from Rabbi Yoel Kahn about one difference between our perspectives and the Creator's. 

He explained that when a teacher uses a parable to teach a lesson, initially the student does not see the lesson in it's purity. He only sees the lesson by way of the parable. The parable is one thing and the lesson is another thing. Let's say a physics teacher wants to express an overarching principle of physics. He'll likely begin with a practical example and then work his way up to the underlying abstract principle. Initially, the students are only able to relate to the abstract principle by way of the parable (i.e. the practical example). For the students, grasping the abstraction is a "two step" approach, first the parable and then the lesson - a real "bottom/up" view.

However, the teacher primarily sees the lesson (i.e. the abstraction). For him, the parable he taught is only one of many possible expressions of this core idea. These parables barely arise in his mind, unless he needs them for teaching or for other practical applications. He sees the core lesson in it's purity. For him, grasping the lesson is a "one step" approach - a real "up/down" view.

Similarly, the Creator gives us the Torah and the world as parable material about Him.  We have a "bottom/up" view. First, there's the parable material, which we live with, and then there's the lesson - the Creator Himself. This is a "two step" approach, giving us a fragmented view. In contrast, the Creator's view is "top/down". There's only the lesson - only Him! Fragmentation never even begins. All's Oneness!

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