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Moshe Halbertal TV interview on ‘The Personhood of God’

Shalom Hartman Institute senior fellow Moshe Halbertal was interviewed recently on an Israeli TV program on the new Hartman Institute book, ‘The Personhood of God,’ by U.S. scholar Yohanan Muffs.


Click on this photo of Moshe Halbertal (L) to watch his TV interview on an Israeli TV program on the book, The Personhood of God, published by Shalom Hartman Institute

Click on the photo above (or here) to see the interview (Hebrew with English subtitles).

Shalom Hartman Institute senior fellow Moshe Halbertal was interviewed recently on the Israeli TV program, "London & Kirshenbaum by Yaron London on the new Hartman Institute book, " The Personhood of God ,by U.S. scholar Yohanan Muffs.
Here are excerpts from the interview (Watch the video for the full interview of about seven minutes).

Yaron London: When you read this title, you are already facing a problem – does God have a personality? Meaning, all the revulsion from the anthropomorphism, in other words – the humanization of God, is expressed in this sentence.


Professor Moshe Halbertal: OK, this is really an important point in the book. The revulsion of humanization, according to Muffs, is not biblical at all. The Bible doesn’t have any problem with humanization. This is a medieval problem of the Ramba m and people who were influenced by Greek philosophy. Moshe Halbertal, Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem, Israel

London: At what time were we bound not to make statues and pictures?
Halbertal: Why were we bound not to make statues and pictures? It isn’t obvious, because God doesn’t have an image. Maybe it’s because we are not allowed to see this image. This is a very interesting question, the prohibition to make any statue or picture…. (Muffs) discovered something very deep. He says, what differentiates between idolatry and the religion of uniqueness, between idolatry and monotheism, is not the abstraction of God. Here he follows Yehezkel Kaufmann and other researchers. He reveals – and that’s a very interesting thing – take the Mesopotamian gods, the Egyptian gods, the cultural environment from which the Bible grew – they are nature gods, powers. Their personality is still not designed, not clear.
God as a ‘personality’
Halbertal: It might be a good thing that this is the way they taught you in elementary school, maybe, but this doesn’t correspond with the belief of the Bible. According to Muffs, and he might be right about this…what we have is a perception of God as a real personality in this respect, in the image of a human, the human in his image or him in the image of a human and what characterizes it compared to the pagan gods is the fact that he is a figure that has freedom, he isn’t subject to the laws of nature.
London: There is no God above God.
Halbertal: Exactly, and an additional facet that is very important here – and this is the most interesting point in this entire book – is that fact that he is searching for the human, referring to him and asking him.
Loving God for his ‘money’
Halbertal: In one of the more attractive sections of this book, Muffs says, according to (Saul) Lieberman , the big researcher of the Talmud…Lieberman asked him who the most tragic figure in the Bible is. He says: Shaul, Job . He says to him: No, God. You are looking at the story and Muffs’ story is actually a very deep, highly developed depiction of this discernment. Now, why is God a tragic figure? Because God is trying to create a loving relationship out of an asymmetrical state of power. It isn’t that simple. You just spoke about the wallet and it reminded me of something. You might say, God…
London: Don’t fall in love, because I am rich and famous.
Halbertal: But God will always face the problem of the rich owner. God never knows if He is loved because of his money. Yes, this is a monumental problem.

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