Rabbi Oury Cherki
Bemidbar (Haftarah) - Divine Names
Translated from Hebrew. Published at the Noahide World Center website and in Shabbat B'Shabbato.
In both religious and nonreligious circles, it is common to speak about the Holy One, Blessed be He, as the "Supreme Force" ("Koach Elyon"). However, this concept is entirely wrong, for several reasons.
The simplest reason for this fact is that any attempt to define Divinity diminishes the concept and distorts the truth, in the manner of, "for You, silence is praise" [Psalms 65:2]. G-d is the source of all force, but He is above and beyond any such definitions. If we look in depth, we will see that the spiritual world that is linked to such definitions is sorely lacking. Force refers to the strong side, the one which is to be preferred, and not the opposing side. Strength crushes under its force everything which is outside of its own limits. As a result of such an approach, the service of G-d becomes an egotistic interest, full of fear, without any love.
As time passed and people became more and more accustomed to view G-d as a force with its own desire for power and honor, the attitude of revolt against religion and faith grew, until it morphed into a denial of the existence of G-d. Criticism of religion enlists help from demands for normalcy and a desire for simple joys of life. These demands are basically part of the conditions for serving G-d out of a feeling of love, which not only does not subjugate man but even raises him to his full stature and gives his feet the agility of a deer.
A relationship which stems from surrender to the opposite side is called "baalut" – meaning a relationship with a master – in terms of both property and in the connotation of the Canaanite god, Baal. In this week's Haftarah, the prophet gives us the following message: "On that day, G-d declares, you will call Me 'my husband' ('ishi') and you will no longer call Me 'my master' ('baali')." [Hosea 2:18]. This means that the vestiges of the impurities of paganism which you have picked up in your concept of Divinity will be shed, and they will be replaced by an era of pure knowledge of G-d, in a way that makes way for freedom and true awareness of mankind.
Such a deep transformation in awareness must of necessity be accompanied by a number of crises, which take place when it becomes necessary to overturn the old patterns of thought. This entails the "shell" of atheism, which does not stem from a fall of mankind but rather from a demand for the appearance of a more refined brand of faith: "I will remove the names of the 'baal' from her lips, and they will never be remembered by those names anymore" [2:19].
The purification of the concepts of faith will in the end lead to a return to an awareness of the holiness of nature: "And I will make a covenant with them on that day, with the animals in the field and the birds in the sky and those who crawl on the earth – and I will remove the bow and the sword and war from the earth, and I will lay them down safely." [2:20].
The removal of the impurities from the concept of Divinity guarantees that the link to G-d will be eternal, since there will no longer be any element that interferes with its progress: "I will betroth you to Me forever" [2:21]. From within the pure faith, ethical values will well up which are combined in perfect harmony: "I will betroth you to Me with righteousness, with justice, with kindness, and with mercy" [ibid]. The result will be to build a world where the only activity of man will be to get to know G-d: "I will betroth you to Me in faith, and you will know G-d" [2:22]. (See the words of the Rambam, Hilchot Melachim, 12:5.)