perilous exile to zimzum

An inherently tormented and anguished Yahweh in a contradictory and self-absorbed rage over a broken creation. Is it a blasphemous, unhinged, theologically devoid and guilty of moral turpitude theory has our religious experience been as uncanny, intense and extreme as Harold Bloom postulates….

Somewhere back around 900 B.C. under the glory of Solomon, when the very first women were still enthralled by the very last men, the book of J was written, allegedly by a woman who felt the key to the future was unlocking the past. At least according to Harold Bloom who kicked the tires of ancient Israel and found himself shaking the foundations, or the cage if so inclined, of the Western spiritual tradition. It was a time when Yahweh served to remind us of our feebleness by simultaneously informing us of our grandeur against a backdrop of dusting away normative concerns into the eternal expanses of time. Yahweh showered favor on David, seemingly endeared by the ingratiating combination to which the effects of moxie and elan could permit the individual to fulfill Yahweh’s desire to be more like him, then be soundly rebuked for the tentative effort. …

Lucas Cranach---Bloom:We were a solid enclave of some 600,000 Eastern European, Yiddish-speaking Jews. But I still remember one day that a missionary came to the door with what I still have my copy of: a Yiddish translation of the New Testament. There's a kind of grim joke in that, isn't there? In the mere existence of it. It shows the hopelessness of the Christian quest to convert the Jews. Indeed, it reminds me of Andrew Marvel's "Splendid Seduction" poem to his coy mistress, "You should refuse, should you choose, until the conversion of the Jews." But which implies the lady will eventually yield. Read more: Image:

Geddes: Bloom’s Book Of J, does more than stake out a claim for the J writer as one of the giants in Western literary history, he also uses his interpretation of the Book Of J to attack what he refers to as the “normative tradition” of Christianity and Judaism: the Yahweh depicted in the Book of J does not provide the foundation for the Judaeo-Christian ethic, nor for many other ideals that we associate with Christianity.

German high criticism of the Bible, beginning in the early 19th century, discovered that the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible, commonly ascribed to Moses, except by scholars) was based primarily on earlier works, and had undergone centuries of revision[1]. The earliest source book of the Five Books, the work of the so-called “Yahwist” or “Jahwist” (J writer) predates the works of the P or Priestly writer, the E or Elohist writer, and the R writer, the Redactor, who is most responsible for the shape of the five books we have today, as well as for the Hebrew Bible. According to Bloom, the “normative” interpretation of the Pentateuch is due to subsequent revisions, and is wholly absent in the earliest writer, the J writer. Read More:

caravaggio.---Bloom:another oddity of the book is that I point out that, contrary to what we normally think, Judaism, what we call Judaism, is a younger religion than Christianity. St. Paul did not inaugurate Christianity. He was converted, probably in Aleppo, though he says his experience was in Damascus, by a Hellenistic, probably Jewish-Christian community to a doctrine that already existed. He became the apostle or great propagandizer of it, the traveling salesman for it, as it were. But what we call Judaism does not begin until the second century of the common era, with the rabbis clustered around Akiba and Tarfon and Ishmael, and the great sages. Read more:

…Her depiction of Yahweh should be considered blasphemous by believers in the normative tradition. Her Yahweh suggests reality itself, or the ironic place of man in a universe that places limitations on his actions, rather than any ethereal being shorn of human-all-too-human characteristics.

According to Bloom’s interpretation, Yahweh is always somewhat impish and self-contradictory. His formation of man from clay suggests a “child making mud pies” and J’s depiction of the creation of man differs from other ancient near Eastern creation stories in that Yahweh does not use “the potter’s wheel,” found in Egyptian myths among others. Moreover, the created man is monist, an integrated living being, rather than a being of spirit, soul, and body. (In Hebrew, “soul” conveys the sense of the whole living person, kind of like our phrase “not a soul”.) Bloom finds it somewhat ironic that Adam is allowed to name all the animals, while he futilely seeks a mate among them. This is but the first instance of Yahweh’s effect on Man, which is primarily to remind him of his incommensurateness….

Jan Van Eyck.---Bloom:Yahweh certainly doesn't come across as a sympathetic character... You have to be absolutely a bad reader or crazy or so bound by Judaic tradition of that kind which produces Satmars or Orthodox... how can you possibly like him? He's very bad news. Yet you seem to have a certain affinity... He interests me greatly. I say toward the end of the book, I would like to tell him to just go away, since he's gone away anyway, but it isn't that easy. I end the book on a rather wistful note. There may be a little irony in the wistfulness, but I well remember the last sentence in the book, and it's very deliberately the last sentence, speaking of Yahweh it says, "Will he yet make a covenant with us that he both can and will keep?" Read more:

…In Rosenberg’s translation, reinforced by Bloom’s interpretation, the Garden of Eden story lacks an Original Sin sort of theme. Yahweh himself seems extraordinarily self-contradictory and obstructionist by creating a creature that he wants to obey him, yet forbids him to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good Or Evil, or apparently the Tree Of Life (the Tree Of Life being a familiar symbol(?) from other ancient Near Eastern myths). That “Hava” and Adam do so is seen more as an instance of childlike curiosity than anything resembling original sin. Neither the snake nor Hava come off very badly in J’s Eden, and it is Yahweh himself who looks unseemly, by forbidding them to eat the fruit of the tree in the first place, and then later meting out a punishment far in excess of the crime….

Teniers. ---Bloom:Every second year, the Gallup poll publishes a poll on religion in America. They always send me a copy, and I always turn to just one thing immediately, it never v

s: 93% of Americans say they believe in God. I don't care about that one way or the other. 89%--almost nine out of 10 Americans--say that God loves him or her on a personal and individual basis. That's what this book is going up against. Read more:

So, to Bloom, is a kind of capricious scamp and the verdict of Jesus is incompatible with the evidence at hand. Perhaps that is why its called faith. Are there absurdities then to the Judeo-Christian tradition if according to Bloom there is none to be absurd about, its a fictitious creation like the wide gender gap between men and women and other contrived structures that provide the series of necessary illusions marking daily lives. Affirmatively, Bloom would assert we literalize Biblical texts and read metaphors as facts and create presence for an entity who is known more for absence than presence.

Bloom calls Yahweh¬† “violently crazy” as he leads the Israelites in an insane, stark mad forty year trek in the wilderness, of the back and forth. And he gets nuttier as his poor chose people go increasingly bonkers. Its the Nietzche line of human, all too human that echoes with the regularity of eternal recurrence in Bloom’s interpretation of the bible as history and article of faith. Essentially, what the origins are is an authenticity hoax which has been transferred into post modernism as corrupted versions as traces of the anthropomorphic element resound through consumer culture, a dynamic well described by Andrew Potter. Sort of not human, yet there is a desire to close the door of the Ark with our own hands…

Bloom: Yahweh is a human, all-too-human, much, much too human God, and very scary. He is irascible, he’s difficult, he’s unpredictable, and he himself doesn’t seem to know what he is doing. As for Jesus, there isn’t any single Jesus. There are Jesuses and Jesuses and Jesuses and Jesuses. Indeed, here in the United States, it seems to me that every professed Christian has her or his own Jesus, just as every supposed scholar in that mad, quixotic quest–rather pathetic–for the historical Jesus, they always come up with a reflection of themselves in a concave mirror, a kind of distorted image of themselves. ( 2005)

…But again, according to Bloom the point of the story is not about good or evil (which never really concern Yahweh or the principle players of the Book of J). For Bloom, these normative concerns were written in later (as was the majestic creation story of Genesis 1, and the phrase of God creating man in “our own image”). It is about childlike disobedience of the father, and punishment incommensurate to the crime. It is Kafkaesque, in that Yahweh, as reality, doles out a fate that is undeserving and inexplicable….

---It is a very strange irony, that Allah of the "recital" or Koran has on the whole more features in common with the original Yahweh, though he's by no means identical with him. And what are some of those commonalities? Total authority, total demand for submission. Remember that Islam is a word meaning submission, and the Muslim is one who submits to the supposed will of God. It's the assumption of total authority. Read more: image:

…J’s Yahweh is a far cry from the gaseous vapor God handed down by the normative tradition. Yahweh is very anthropomorphic compared to the God of the rest of the Bible …. and frequently appears on the earth in person: walking in the garden, asking if Adam disobeyed him (when, if omniscient he should know), giving an on-the-ground inspection before he confuses the speech at Babel (again, an indicator of Yahweh wanting man to be like him, but thwarting him when he tries), closing up Noah’s ark with his own hands, allowing Sarah’s insolence when she doubts she will bear a child, haggling with Abram over the number of good people it would require for Yahweh to not destroy Sodom; allowing his blessing to be “stolen” a few times by the cunning Jacob, who wrestles with either Yahweh himself or one of the Elohim (“angels”) to re-earn it; attempting to murder Moses, his own recently chosen prophet; leading the Israelites in the wilderness for little apparent reason; and not allowing his reluctant chosen prophet to even see the Promised Land (another instance of Yahweh’s thwartations).

Yahweh, for Bloom, is a very complex character, and there is no allegorical signified for which he stands. Yahweh, is a life-force, Yahweh is reality itself, especially in its relation to man, Yahweh represents limitations (in regard to man) and the breaking of limitations….

…Hence his Blessing, which the patriarchs covet and wrangle for, is very much a Mixed Blessing. Jacob spends much of life trying to secure it, from clutching Esau’s heel at birth, to trading Esau a pot of porridge for it, to wrestling one of the Elohim (or Yahweh himself) for it in a nighttime wrestling match. And once he gets it, he still suffers. The Blessing gets passed down to Judah, the fourth son, because of the inadequacy of the elder brothers; but it seems to be Joseph, who really has the blessing, whose character it would be most accurate to say of, that Yahweh was with him. The power of Yahweh is charisma, vitality, and even good fortune, rather than righteousness, a quality that never concerns J or her Yahweh.

A prohibitive problem for interpreting the book of J, according to Bloom, is peeling off the varnish of centuries of misreadings, because of the book’s redaction and incorporation into a very normative text, the Hebrew Bible. Because we always tend to read Genesis and Exodus with the advent of Christ in mind, and the attached normative tradition of morality, we find it difficult to realize just how impish and capricious J’s Yahweh was. Yet the power of J’s writing was such that so much of her work survives the numerous revisions and deletions of P, E, and the dreaded Redactor.

If undermining the foundations of the entire Western spiritual tradition wasn’t enough for Bloom, he also asserts the somewhat startling thesis that the J writer was a woman….

…Yet Bloom is not tentative at all about offering guesses. According to Bloom, the Book of J was probably written in the generation after Solomon (c. 9th Century B.C.E.), as Jeroboam and Rehoboam were dividing the grand Israelite empire of David and Solomon. J was probably a woman of the Solomonic court, well versed in literature, and, along with the writer of 2 Samuel, one of the chief representatives of what the German scholar Rad has called the “Solomonic Enlightenment.”

In fact, David is perhaps the formative influence on the J writer. David represented human grandeur, a poet and a warrior, representing the highpoint of Israel’s history. David was charismatic and enthusiastic; full of elan and moxie. According to Bloom, the entire point of the Book of J is to sketch a background of David’s ancestors, for Yahweh’s love of David is the most important thing about him (Yahweh). That Yahweh showered favor on David is most clear, and to a Solomonic litterateur like J, that is far more important than the Exodus. …

…Based on Rosenberg’s translation, Yahweh bears little resemblance to the God we usually imagine. And this is not just in J. The God of Genesis and Exodus does strike us as “mythological,” especially compared to the unseen God of the New Testament. God walks the earth, talks in person to Adam, Noah, Abram, Moses, etc.. Both the serpent and Balaam’s can ass talk. Genesis does seem like the “sophisticated children’s literature” Bloom calls it. Read More:

… Genesis does seem like the “sophisticated children’s literature” Bloom calls it.Bloom’s interpretation is that the Book of J is not primarily “religious” writing, and that the Yahweh depicted in it says more about humanity and its limitations than the nature of the divine, whatever that is. Also, Yahweh doesn’t seem to have much in the way of “normative” concerns, especially considering that the Ten Commandments of The Bible do not appear in J. These points are Bloom’s primary agenda. Read More:


In Jesus and Yahweh the critic turns to the speculations of Kabbalah in order to explain what seems to be the wayward and pained psychology of the Jewish God. There is a sketchy summary of the thought of Isaac Luria, seen partially through the lens of Gershom Scholem and Freud, and, interestingly, several reverent pages on Nahman of Bratslav. To simplify matters greatly, the Kabbalah on which Bloom focuses was an attempt to think the negative side of creation via the question of how the creation was possible and what its results were. In order to create the universe, it is claimed, Yahweh had to withdraw himself from part of himself, if only in order to make a void in which this universe could be. This withdrawing from self or division in self is already a beginning of crisis. Along with the concentration implied in creation, there was also, Bloom says, a necessary contraction, for without it “there could be no reality except God’s, and no evil either.” “There has to be an abyss in the will of Yahweh, since without a negative moment in the act of creation, God and the cosmos would fuse as one.” (211-2) This abyss or self-exile in the creator (the term in Kabbalah is zimzum) is followed by a disaster in the created world. Isaac Luria conceived the fable of the Breaking of the Vessels to explain the imperfections of the world we know. In the creation Yahweh formed vessels to receive the outpouring of his power, but this power proved too much for the vessels to contain; they broke. Yahweh’s irascibility as evident in the tradition, the suffering of the Chosen People in this imperfect world–both are a result of the cosmic disaster that was creation. The universe is a self-injured God presiding over a broken creation.

One may speculate that Yahweh’s initial self-exile in zimzum was followed by a movement of withdrawal from the creation itself. This is the understanding Bloom portrays in the great 18th century Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav. In fact this withdrawal is not simply a matter of going elsewhere, a retreat, but is a dwindling in being or power.

God [for Nahman] is not merely an absence dwindled down from a presence. After one zimzum too many, Yahweh shrunk into Elohim cannot be distinguished from the cosmic void he wanders. . . . [Yahweh, who was once] Being itself, has vaporized into the void of Jewish dispersion and suffering. (224)

A self-divided Yahweh who rages over a broken creation, eventually to dwindle down into a slight presence, incapable of upholding the Covenant he once made with his people. This, according to Bloom, is the vision of the idiosyncratic Hasidic master Nahman; it is one Bloom seems to share, for frequently in Jesus and Yahweh the critic insists that Shakespeare’s King Lear is an apt portrayal of the Hebrew God.Read More:

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