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Giving Beyond the GiftApophasis and Overcoming Theomania$
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Elliot R. Wolfson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823255702

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823255702.001.0001

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Apophatic Vision and Overcoming the Dialogical

Apophatic Vision and Overcoming the Dialogical

Chapter:
(p.34) Chapter 2 Apophatic Vision and Overcoming the Dialogical
Source:
Giving Beyond the Gift
Author(s):

Elliot R. Wolfson

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823255702.003.0003

It is commonly maintained that Rosenzweig's new thinking rests upon the supposition that there are three unsublatable elements—God, human, and world—that emerge from the shattering of the all-encompassing totality presumed by German idealists to be the ultimate reality. This chapter reassesses depiction Rosenzweig's thought by examining the appropriation of negative theology at the end of the path. The All is retrieved, but not as the one, all-encompassing nothing, but as a threefold nothing, a nothing aligned individually with each of the basic terms of Rosenzweig's correlative thinking—the nothing of the knowledge of the human or the metaethical, the nothing of the knowledge of the world or the metalogical, and the nothing of the knowledge of God or the metaphysical. The apophatic vision is an other-worldly state, the “eternal bliss” of the life-beyond-death, not a triumph of death by a return to the vicissitudes of temporal existence but rather an overcoming of time in the fullness of time. Redemption at the end restores one to creation at the beginning, and the hiddenness of the primordial world, which became manifest in the renewed world of revelation, becomes hidden again in the eternal supra-world. The effort of the Star, in great measure, is to reveal this concealment as the revelation that is concealment. The price to be paid for grounding the openness to the other in a negative theology is the potential undoing of the dialogical in the discernment that what is disclosed is the face of truth that cannot be rendered literally but only metaphorically. The metaphysical concept of actual presence is transposed thereby into a semiotic trope of mythopoetic metaphoricization. The figurative status of the configuration of the divine face beheld in the star puts into play the possibility that the ultimate truth is that there is no truth, just as knowledge of the essence consists of becoming cognizant of the fact that there is no essence to be known. In spite of Rosenzweig's painstaking effort to espouse that the personal God of Judaism cannot be “only an allegory,” that revelation must consist of the unmediated bond between God and human that rests on the unique self-disclosure of the former to the latter and the consequent courage of the latter to bow down in worship before the former, it is not clear that theistic language for him is anything but metaphorical, as there is no reality but the naught that is not-nothing, the nothing that is not, not even nothing.

Keywords:   Apophasis, Nothing, Mysticism, Kabbalah, Time, Death, Truth, Creation, Revelation, Redemption

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