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I am aware of two other questions asked on this site related to the Throne of Glory, but I have a somewhat different question.

The baal haturim, in his commentary to the torah at Bamidbar 2:2-3 writes:

"...just as the heavenly encampment [of angels] consists of 4 divisions surrounding the Throne of Glory, so too on Earth below, four divisions of [the Israelite tribes] surround the Mishkan. ...at the giving of the Torah, the Israelis see the heavenly degalim [divisions] and desired [to arrange themselves like] those degalim."

In the other questions posted on this site (What is the throne of glory?), the implication seems as though the Throne of Glory is more metaphorical than real, but this statement of the Baal Haturim seems to imply that it was something which can actually be seen, so much so that the children of Israel wanted to copy the formation!

How literal is the Throne of Glory to be taken? If it's purely metaphorical, how literally can we take the Baal HaTurim's statement above?

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It is not physical but nor is it allegorical. It is very real. It even has something called 'legs', four of them. Being that it is not physical it obviously can't have physical legs or sides, but it does have legs. What a physical leg is to a physical object, meta-physical legs are to a meta-physical being. The legs are its support.

On the contrary, the physical world is modeled after the more basic, meta-physical world. The dimensions of length, width, and depth are born from the deeper, more essential concepts of emanation, expansion and connection.

Hashem created the world in the order of a kingdom. He created many levels and aspects. These are the foundation of the universe as an autonomous existence. The Throne is the highest level of creation's perception of Hashem. Below that there is already plurality. That plurality is the carrier or the first and highest level in term of beings accepting the presence of Hashem.

That is what the Jews asked for and that is what they got by surrounding the holy sanctuary in four camps. It was clearly and visibly an encampment centered on the Mishkan, rather than the Mishkan merely being there.

  • So the four spiritual worlds (and the Throne of Glory, for that matter) cannot be physically sensed by the average person, but are kind of like the spiritual framework of the universe? Where exactly are they? Are they like another dimension or realm? I am struggling to comprehend how purely spiritual things can, so really, exist. – bluejayke May 21 '15 at 4:56
  • 'Where' is a physical attribute. A concept is not bound to any particular spot. Nevertheless, we say that it is high up in heaven. Being that the earlier existence is the root of the later, physical existence it is considered 'up' in the sense that the creation came in degrees of plurality, and by extension, physicality. – HaLeiVi May 21 '15 at 16:22
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    What you are struggling to comprehend is how can non-physical realities be 'real' without an essence. This is surely a hurdle to overcome. But take an example from your own self-identity. You don't identify with any one limb, even your brain. (The fact that you call it 'your brain' can testify to this.) Once you accept and understand that God exists and is real without physical components, you can extend that concept of reality to any other entity, physical or not. – HaLeiVi May 21 '15 at 16:35
  • sources? [char] – mevaqesh Oct 11 '16 at 17:38
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Baal aTurim means the Jews saw the spiritual order, making up the spiritual worlds. As a result, they wanted to instill the order they saw above in their own world below, to reflect the higher order of the organization they saw the angels subject to.

In other words, the Throne of Glory is a purely metaphysical concept, but it has physical implications. One of the reasons, for example, why we sit during birchos shma in shacharis is that they are reflective of this world, where the Throne manifests itself, and since you use the throne by sitting, we usually indicate this by sitting through the relevant section of the prayers.

  • Does the second part of your answer mean to say that it is an accepted custom to specifically sit during the shema? I seem to recall, in berachos, that one shouldn't deliberately say the shema in some specific position, so as not to appear up be following the opinion of Bwis Shammai. Are customs like the one you mentioned excluded from this law? – bluejayke May 22 '15 at 2:11
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    @user2016831 i think one this to exclude lying down in the evening and standing up in the morning since Beis Shammai derive from ובשכבך ובקומך, but sitting down is never a problem – gt6989b May 22 '15 at 2:17

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