With this in mind, we are entitled to ask whether Spinoza’s God of oneness can be known through revelation and, if not, whether it should be incorporated into Jewish life. Bor defines revelation as “the light that shines through the tear caused by God’s withdrawal, made possible by the break in the totality of oneness.” However, Spinoza denies that God can withdraw from the world or create a break in the totality of oneness. Indeed, according to Jewish tradition, God withdraws through the miracle of creation, but Spinoza claims that miracles are incompatible with God’s nature, a fact that Bor nowhere mentions. He does refer once to “imagination as the power of revelation.” In saying this, Bor surely does not mean that revelation is a human invention, but that ultimately imagination should take precedence over science. According to Bor, Heidegger corrects Spinoza because he shows that “imagination is not the enemy of reason, but the phenomenon which gives rise to scientific thinking in the first place.” But if imagination is the basis for science, how should we take Bor’s claim “to believe in the primacy of reason … to see the advantage of adopting it as the core of the spiritual path”?
Bor never tells us what he means by spirituality, but it surely has something to do with revelation. Yet the more Bor seeks to fuse spirituality with reason, the more the necessity for revelation recedes. Bor says that “science is not just a description of the external world but how we come to access ultimate meaning.” Yet Bor also tells us that religion, not science, governs “the realm of value and meaning.” If reason or science can provide us with ultimate meaning, why should we heed “the experience of being called” that Bor associates with revelation?
Staying Human may be a well-intentioned attempt to show that science and religion can be harmonized, but when we consider the implications of Bor’s efforts, we are left suspecting that they should be kept separate. Bor claims to be a defender of enlightened orthodoxy, but by blurring the boundaries between science and religion, and between reason and faith, he compromises both. When faced with the concrete question of the permissibility of using technology on the Sabbath, for example, Bor leaves us with the following tepid statement: “I think that, apart from limited exceptions, Shabbat should remain technology-free for as long as possible.” In accepting that a technology-free Sabbath may not be possible in the future, Bor tacitly admits that technology has the power to render the divine commandments obsolete. This claim would be less disturbing if Bor made no pretensions to defending revelation. But one expects more from someone as deeply committed to an Orthodox Jewish way of life as Bor is.