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The Life of Apollonius

Some things are unknowable simply because the information is inaccessible. Is the number of stars in the sky odd or even? How many fish are in the ocean? The data is simply unavailable. Other things, a person is unable to assimilate because the new information contradicts his deeply-rooted preconceptions. A person will reject actual facts if they do not support beliefs in which he has been indoctrinated. This is the case with people who are unable to see Biblical descriptions of God as a metaphor. They are invested in the idea that God has a body and they are unable to accept the truth of the matter.

The Rambam explains many of the Torah’s metaphors; we’ll share just a few here:

* The Hebrew noun ayin can mean the physical organ we call an eye, but it can also refer to one’s attention. [I, 44] An example of this occurs in Jeremiah 39:12. The verse says “take him and place your eyes on him….” Obviously, Nebuchadnezzar was not instructing the captain of his guards to pluck out his own eyes and to place them on Jeremiah. He was telling him to watch Jeremiah and “place your eyes” is a metaphor for “pay attention.”

* The Hebrew verb ShMA typically means “to hear” but it can also mean such things as “to obey” and “to know.” [I, 45] We see this, for example, in Exodus 6:9 and Deuteronomy 28:49, respectively. The former says, “they did not listen to Moses.” They heard him just fine, they just didn’t obey. The latter says, “a nation whose language you will not understand.” Again, the people can hear the foreign language perfectly clearly, they just don’t understand the meaning of the words. (This last verse also uses the Hebrew word “lashon,” meaning a tongue, in the sense of a language.)