Heavens “Praise” God?
Reader: Dear Rabbi, we read, “Praise Him, the most exalted of the heavens. Let them praise the Name of Hashem, for He commanded and they were created. Praise Hashem from the earth, hail, snow and vapor, fulfilling His word, and the waters that are above the heavens.”
How does hail, vapor, rain, and snow speak (vocalize) in order to praise Hashem? Do they praise silently? Is praising, only an anthropomorphic attribute?
Is there a connection between the above guidance with the following: “Praise Hashem all mountains and all hills, fruitful trees, and all cedars, beasts and all cattle, crawling things and winged fowl, Kings of the earth and all governments, princes and all judges on earth, (maybe implying that there are judges above the earth, in heaven) young men and also maidens, old men together with youths. Let them praise the Name of Hashem.”
Question: When we enumerate the numerous praisers of God, are we getting credit for each one? What am I missing?
Thank you Rabbi,
Rabbi: You are quite correct. King David’s intent is that inanimate creations anthropomorphically praise God. How? It is through their very designs and laws that man recognizes the immense brilliance God employed in designing the universe. These inanimate creations attest, or give praise, to God. They each reflect God’s great wisdom, and man thereby is the one offering the praise, and sensing an awe of God.
It is fitting that you cite the additional words that conclude with various people praising God, “young men and also maidens, old men together with youths.” Perhaps King David included them, to show this very point, that ultimately, praise of God comes from man alone. Man is the only being capable of recognizing God. To omit man from these metaphors, would be an incorrect message, for without man, the universe cannot “praise God.”
You asked, “When we enumerate the numerous praisers of God, are we getting credit for each one?
My answer is “yes.” Meaning, when we express a conviction that more creations (than less) attest to God’s act of creation (i.e., they praise God), we in fact are on a higher level than a person who sees less of God’s magnificence around us. For example, when a scientist makes continued discoveries, he sees more of God’s plan, and attains a higher level of appreciation, or love of God. Therefore, as Maimonides states, “In accordance with one’s knowledge [of God] is one’s love of God.” If we continually grow in our understanding that more and awe of creation reflects God’s wisdom, and this is achieved only through studying creation, then we are credited with a higher level of love of God.
Finally, as wise Rabbi once taught, man can only praise “the Name of Hashem.” This means that man cannot know what God is, so that we might praise Him accurately according to His true essence. “Man cannot know Me while alive.” Thus, we can only praise God through His fame, His acts, or His name. But we cannot praise God, for we know not what He truly is.