Monday, January 9, 2012

The 13 Principles: # 3 God does not have a body (Part 2/2)

Previously, we explained that God does not have a body or any resemblance to humans (see here). 

So different is God from us that we cannot even express with words anything about God himself on our own. We cannot say, for example "God is big" . Why? Because in our limited human language, the idea of 'big' might be used to refer to a 'big' cake, or a 'big' building, etc. How would we were to use that same word or idea referring to HaShem Almighty! HaShem's greatness is absolutely beyond our knowledge, our imagination and our ability to express it with words. According to Maimonides, then, we must use words "via negativa". We should not say, for example, 'God is a spirit', but we can say, 'God is not a body".  There is one exception. In the Tefila (prayers) we do use words referring to God, but just to address God. When they composed the Amida (main prayer), the Rabbis also dealt with this question and they were hesitant to utilize any adjectives which will, so to speak, 'define', HaShem Almighty. "How could we dare to say about God, like Great, Powerfull, and Awesome (haGadol haGibbor vehaNora) ? Their answer was that we might say these words to address God, because Moshe Rabbenu used them in Perashat Debarim. So, we are just quoting the words of the Tora, without any pretension of understanding HaShem's greatness.  

When we dare to think of Hashem as if He is one of us, or as if we would know in our own what He thinks, or what He likes, we are just projecting our own small mind into an imaginary god. All that can be known about the God of Am Israel, is whatever He Himself wished to reveal in the Torah. It is through His Tora (Torah shebikhtab with Torah Shebe'al pe) that He communicated to us what His will is and how to address Him. 

The most important quote of the year.
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech