Two « Sons » : Bar and Ben


« Michel d’Anastasio. Calligraphie hébraïque »

There are two words in Hebrew for the idea of filiation : ben בן and bar בר.

These two words mean « son », but with very different shades of nuances, due to their respective roots. Their etymologies open surprising perspectives…

The word ben comes from the verb banah בָּנָה, « to build, to construct, to found, to form », which connotes the idea of a progressive emergence, an edification, a construction, necessarily taking a certain amount of time.

The word bar comes from the verb bara‘ בָּרַא, « to create, to draw from nothing, to give birth » and in a second sense « to choose ». The idea of filiation is here associated with a timeless or instantaneous creation, that may be congruent with a divine origin. Thus the verb bara’ is used in the first verse of Genesis, Berechit bara’ Elohim . « In the beginning created God… ».

In a figurative sense, bar also means « chosen, preferred », connotating choice, election or dilection.

What does the difference between ben and bar teach us?

There is a first level of reading: with bar, the idea of filiation begins with a ‘creation’, appearing from nothingness (bara’), but with ben, it rather implies a long work of ‘construction’, and ‘foundation’ (banah).

On the one hand, bar evokes the atemporality (or timelessness) of a transcendence (coming from nothingness), and by opposition, ben implies the necessary temporality of immanence.

In the biblical text, these words, (banah and bara’, ben and bar) so common, so familiar, are like two opposite doors, opening on very different paths.

Doors, or rather trapdoors, under which profound abysses are revealed.

Let’s start with creation. Berechit bara’.

The word bar has its own depth, its subtle ambiguities. Its primary meaning is ‘son‘, but it may mean son of man, son of Elohim, or son of the Gods.

« What! My son! What! Son of my guts! « (Prov. 31:2)

The Book of Daniel uses the expression בַר-אֱלָהִין , bar-elohim, literally « son of the Gods » (Dan 3:25). In this case, bar-elohim refers to an « angel ».

But bar seems to be able to also mean « Son of God ».The psalmist exclaims, « Worship the Lord with fear » (Ps 2:11), and immediately afterwards David cries out, « Nachku bar », « Kiss the Son » (Ps 2:12).

Who is this ‘Son’ (bar) to be kissed or embraced ? He indeed has a special status, since he is refered to by David, just after the name YHVH, and in the same elan of praise.

According to some, this ‘Son’ is to be understood as ‘the king’, and according to others, it refers to ‘purity’.

Why the ‘king’? Why ‘purity’?

Because bar comes from the verb bara’, one of whose original meanings is « to choose ». Bar also means ‘chosen, elected, preferred’.

In Psalm 2, the word bar may well mean the ‘Chosen One’, the ‘Anointed’ (mashiah, or ‘messiah’) of the Lord.

By derivation, bar also means ‘pure, serene, spotless’, as in bar-levav, ‘pure in heart’ (Ps. 24:4) or ‘the commandments of YHVH are pure (bara)’ (Ps. 19:9).

So, what does ‘nachqou bar’ really mean ? « Kiss the Son », « kiss the king », « kiss the Chosen One », « kiss the Anointed One », « kiss the Messiah », or even « embrace purity »?

Who will tell?

Let us note here that Christians could interpret this particular bar (in Ps 2:12) as a prefiguration of Christ (the name ‘Christ’ comes from the Greek christos which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word mashiah, ‘anointed’).

As for ben, like I said, this noun derives from the verb banah, that we find used in various ways (to build, to form, to found):

« I built this house for you to live in. « (1 Kings 8:13)

« The Lord God formed a woman from the rib. « (Gen 2:22)

« By building your high places » (Ez 16:31).

« He founded Nineveh » (Gn 10:11).

Solomon played with the word and its ambivalence (to build/ a son), as he made his speech for the inauguration of the Temple. He recalled that it was indeed David’s idea to build (banah) a temple in honor of God, but that the Lord had said to him, « Yet it is not you who will build (tibneh) this temple, it is your son (bin or ben), he who is to be born of you, who will build (ibneh) this temple in my honor. « (1 Kings 8:19)

Solomon was to be the son (ben) who would build (ibneh) the Temple.

Noah also built an altar (Gen 8:20). Here too, one can detect a play on words with even deeper implications than those associated with the construction of the Temple.

« What does ‘Noah built’ mean? In truth Noah is the righteous man. He ‘built an altar’, that’s the Shekhina. His edification (binyam) is a son (ben), who is the Central Column. » i

The interpretation is not obvious, but if one believes a good specialist, one can understand this:

« The Righteous One ‘builds’ the Shekhina because He connects it to the Central Column of the divine pleroma, the Sefira Tiferet, called ‘son’. This masculine sefira is the way by which the Shekhina receives the ontic influx that constitutes her being. »ii

The Shekhina represents the divine « presence ». It is the ‘feminine’ dimension of the divine pleroma. And even, according to some daring interpretations proposed by the Kabbalah, the Shekhina is the « spouse » of God, as we have seen in a previous article.

The Kabbalah uses the image of the union of the masculine (the Central Column) and feminine (the Abode) to signify the role of the Just in the ‘construction’ of the Divine Presence (the Shekhina).

« The Righteous One is the equivalent of the sefira Yessod (the Foundation) represented by the male sexual organ. Acting as the ‘righteous’, the man assumes a function in sympathy with this divine emanation, which connects the male and female dimensions of the Sefirot, allowing him to ‘build’ the Shekhina identified at the altar. » iii

Ben. Son. Construction. Column. Male organ.

And from there, the possible theurgic action of the righteous man, ‘edifying’ the Shekhina.

We see that bar and ben offer two paths linking the divine and the human. One path (bar) is a descending one, that of choice, of election, of the Anointed One, of the Messiah.

The other path (ben) rises like a column in the temple, like a work of righteousness, erected upright, toward the Shekhina.

_____________

iZohar Hadach, Tiqounim Hadachim. Ed. Margaliot, Jerusalem, 1978, fol. 117C cited by Charles Mopsik. The great texts of the cabal. Verdier. Lagrasse 1993, p. 591

iiCharles Mopsik. The great texts of the cabal. Verdier. Lagrasse 1993, p. 591

iiiCharles Mopsik. The great texts of the cabal. Verdier. Lagrasse 1993, p. 593

Une réflexion sur “Two « Sons » : Bar and Ben

  1. Tiqqun Ha’O’lam. Building the 3rd Temple. The mitzva dedication which defines the k’vanna of the anointing of the bnai brit Cohen nation — as Moshiach.

    Alchemy – a philosophical attempt to rationally understand natural properties found within nature. Also referred to as “natural science”, this study dominated the best minds in countries from China to Europe. According to René Descartes’, a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist, the inventor of analytical geometry. His philosophy classified “reality” into a metaphysical mind–body dualism. He theorized two types of substances, which he called – matter and mind. According to his philosophy, Physical “matter” qualifies as deterministic and natural—and so belongs to natural philosophy. Whereas everything that occurs within the “mind” exists as conscious, personal choices; and therefore non-natural. Consequently Descartes excluded human thought, dreams, and visions – as processes outside the domain of “natural science”.

    Plato, the Stoics, and even later Gnostic speculations favored ‘a Demiurge’; an artisan-like figure responsible for fashioning and maintaining the physical universe. This concept attempts to degrade the monotheistic Biblical Creator of the Universe. The Gnostic idea of ‘the demiurge’, qualifies as an interpretation which postulates the lower status of the Biblical God within the Genesis creation story. This ‘demiurge’, an inferior lesser God, fashioned the universe in obedience to the command of some ‘other’ all powerful God.

    Gnostic ideology reflects an idea, something akin to a bi-polar dualism. It views the material universe as evil, while the non-material world as good. The Gnostic notions about the evil nature of the demiurge, and the Pauline concept of “Original Sin”, both theologies piggyback the need for a some messiac figure to save man-kind from sin. The demiurge creator of the physical world, closely compares to the Xtian mythology of the fallen Angel Satan. The Church leadership during the Dark Ages rejected the Gnostic Gospels, they condemned Gnosticism as a heretical theology of messiah Jesus.

    But both the Pauline ‘fall of Man’ and the Gnostic ‘Demiurge’, qualify as teleological theologies; physico-theological, or argument from design, or intelligent design etc arguments. These postulations, their conjecture rhetoric attempts to interpret the Biblical Creation of the Universe story, and the pressing need of ‘fallen Man’ for some divine savior\redeemer. All the Gospel stories depict the sin-less nature of messiah Jesus. This divine messiah, He saves the human race from the sin of Adam who ate from the Tree of Good and Evil, and consequently brought the curse of death upon all humanity. The sacrifice of sin-less Jesus serves to atone for the inherited sin: the racial humanity of Man. Race, comparable to the multitude of spoken languages, forever divides Man against himself.

    The alchemy expressed in Aristotle’s philosophy, the latter offers 4 explanations which attempt to contain the question “Why” concerning the Creation of the Universe – divided into a so-called Magnum opus: Material, Formal, Efficient, and Final ((Causes)). These 4 “causes” compare, so to speak, to the theory of Gravity, and its influence and impact upon physical matter. The ancient attempts to classify motion compares to debates over evolution in modern day parlance. About as useful as tits on a boar hog; on par with the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial – a lot of highfalutin hogwash which accomplished absolutely nothing.

    Classic alchemy practiced during the dark and middle ages sought to transmute an inferior substance into a valuable substance. This “science” became known as chrysopoeia, the search for the philosopher’s stone – meaning the artificial production of gold. This search for the holy grail\philosopher’s stone also included attempts to discover elixirs of immortality – panacea cures for all diseases.

    Jewish alchemy views mitzvot as something which surpasses the value of gold. Hence the secret פרדס kabbala taught by Rabbi Akiva wherein he explained the revelation of the Oral Torah revelation to Moshe at Horev; the chrysopoeia of rabbinic Judaism seeks to transmute rabbinic mitzvot unto Torah mitzvot. The kabbala taught by virtually all the prophets of Israel centered itself upon defining the k’vanna of tefillah, as expressed through the Shemone Esrei.

    This alchemy, also known as Tiqqun Ha’O’lam seeks to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem – a mitzva which the anoited Moshiach achieves. The alchemy of this esoteric concept of faith, transmutes wood and stone used to build the Temple of Solomon —– unto righteous\tohor halachic rulings which establish the diplomacy of justice among and between the Jewish people within the borders of our homeland. Expressed through lateral common law courtrooms based upon the model of the Great Sanhedrin; how these halachic precedents define the k’vanna of each and every Mishna. To likewise affix, through wisdom, that defined Mishna to a specific blessing within the language of the prophetic Shemone Esrei. This secret wisdom requires knowledge of how to learn the k’vanna of esoteric Aggadita and Midrashic stories – wherein students of the Talmud affix prophetic mussar as the defining k’vanna of halachic mitzvot.

    J'aime

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