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    Looking up & down – Ki Tavo

    The Israelite who recited his prayer of thanksgiving in the presence of the presiding kohen addressed God with the words, Hashkifah mim’on kodsh’cha – “Look down from your holy habitation” (Deut. 26:15).

    Before offering a comment on the concept that underlies this phrase, let us point out how to pronounce the Hebrew verb correctly. The accent is not on the final but the second-last syllable – i.e. it is not the …fah which is accented but the …ki… There are valid grammatical principles which require this pronunciation, and if a reader puts the stress on the final syllable it is a mistake.

    Now to the theology. Despite popular thinking, the verse cannot be quoted as proof that God is in heaven above the earth. God is not physical and He has no physical location. To say “look down” (even to say “look”) is to ascribe physicality to God. It boldly contradicts the third of Maimonides’ 13 Principles which denies that He has any physical form or attributes whatever.

    Our verse is metaphor. It is poetry. It does not really mean that God has a location – either above the earth or anywhere else. It denotes not place but status. In his eternity, His oneness, His greatness, His intellect, His mercy, He is far superior to human beings.

    If we can say that we look up to inspiring role models on earth, all the more so do we look up to God, not with our eye but with our mind’s eye.

    God is melech elyon, the Most High King (Psalm 91) in the sense that He is supremely elevated above even the highest-ranking human being. Some ancient rulers referred to themselves as King of Kings; Judaism insisted that God was the Supreme King of Kings.

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