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Suffering Divine Things: Simone Weil and Jewish Mysticism

Rico Sneller

To what extent can man suffer God? The verb ‘suffering’ as such is ambiguous, for it can either mean bearing ‘pain’ (‘to suffer from’), or tolerating something. In other words, ‘suffering’ can be both intransitive and transitive. Whereas the first meaning seems to be predominantly passive, the second, while still fairly passive, is more active. In both cases, however, a kind of interpenetration of both ‘parties’ is implied: that which I am suffering is somehow inside me, whether I want it or not. Anyhow, the question, ‘can man suffer God?’, turns out to be in need of clarification before it can be answered at all.

In this contribution, I will study a Jewish author who ‘exchanged’ her Judaism for Christianity: Simone Weil (1909-1943). I will try to see what she writes about suffering God, it being my hypothesis that suffering God is a more adequate notion than the vaguer ‘experiencing’ God. Suffering God, or rather, suffering divine things might be a notion accounting for the conflation of ethical, spiritual, and global dimensions. I will try to shed some light on Simone Weil’s views by relating them to some motives from the Jewish mystical tradition: ‘cosmoeroticism’, kawanna and tsimtsum.

Mahmoud Masaeli, ed., Spirituality and Global Ethics (Cambridge Scholars Publishing (2017), pp. 9-26

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