The Lion Cub of Prague
Thought, Kabbala, Hashkafa from Gur Arye, The Maharal of Prague - Genesis
By Moshe David Kuhr
Devora Publishing, 2008, 224 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - January 29, 2010
Rabbi Yehuda Loewe (1512-1607), known by the acronym of his name Maharal, is famous in Jewish legends as the creator of the clay giant that carried out his will and helped save many Jews from persecution. However, among biblical scholars, he is known for several of his books, including his commentary on the commentary of Rashi (born 1040) called Gur Arye. Dr. Kuhr presents selections from this commentary from the book of Genesis. The terms Kabala and Hashkafa in the title mean "Jewish mysticism" and "worldview," respectively.
Rabbi Loewe was a mystic and mysticism abounds in his commentary. Rashi, the biblical commentator upon which Loewe's commentary is based, spiced his commentary with Midrashim, sermonic material and other comments that are not in the plain reading of the scriptural text. Thus, readers of Gur Arye are doubly removed from an interpretation of the plain meaning of the Torah. These approached cause problem for those who seek rational explanations of the Bible.
For example, Genesis 1:27 states that God blew "the spirit of life" into man's nose. The plain meaning of this figurative phrase is that God caused Adam to come alive. Rashi writes that God made the first human out of material from the upper and lower worlds so that the two worlds would not be jealous of one another: He formed man's soul from the upper world and his body from the lower world. Rabbi Loewe comments that the "jealousy between the worlds derives from imbalance." Both sages feel that the heaven and the earth have human emotions.
Another example is Genesis 2:18, which mentions that God made a helper for him (created a woman to be a companion for the first man). The Hebrew idiom used for "for him" is khenegdo, which when it is not used as an idiom means "near him" or "against him." Rashi chose to read the word as not being an idiom and wrote, "If he merits, she is a helper. If not, she is against him." Rabbi Loewe states, "coupling of humans could not occur in nature! The opposing and equal forces of the male and the female would preclude their union." They can only couple physically, but not on a higher spiritual level. "Only by elevating themselves toward the spiritual do they merit the involvement of Hashem (God) coming between them to unite the two spiritual souls." Thus, he contends that a couple cannot unite spiritually without divine intervention.
One more example is Genesis 4:1-2 where Rashi states that Cain was born with a twin sister who he could marry, and Abel had two twin sisters, even though the girls are not mentioned in the Bible. Rabbi Loewe explains that Able had to have two twin sisters so that there would be seven people on earth (Adam, Eve, the two sons and three daughters) so that the people would correspond in number to the seven days of creation. He ignores the fact that Abel was shortly killed and feels that nature must function with the magical number seven.