Creation / G - d / Guide for the Perplexed / Rambam / Science

On the “Incorporeality of G – d”

It was a while ago that a blog reader (or maybe someone who just found my articles on G – d through Google) began quoting various statements from another Jewish blog: His claim was that G – d has body and form and that Rabbi Nathan Slifkin’s blog would provide the proof. In the very early Middle Ages, a few Rabbis brought up the idea that G – d has body and form but these ideas were never supported by the Jewish majority. As a matter of fact, a lot of new ideas came up during the Middle Ages. Especially among Kabbalists. Let us just look at the Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria) who set up various forms of metaphors in order to enable us to comprehend G – d. Of course we are unable to grasp G – d but kabbalistic metaphors make it easier for the human mind to get a glimpse of Creation and how G – d may act.
Nevertheless, the theory that G – d could have body and form was never accepted. I heard that Rabbi Slifkin is a kind of obsessed with this idea which doesn’t make me wonder why he is actually banned from certain Jewish communities. Criticism on Judaism – why not but questioning a fundamental Jewish principle is something else. Moreover, what Rabbi Slifkin does is giving even more food to Christian missionaries who may quote from him: “See, even a Jewish Orthodox Rabbi states that G – d has a body. Hence, Joshke is the Messiah !”
By stating questionable theories in public, you only help Christian missionaries and people hating Judaism and the Jews. It is the same with leftist Israelis such as Peace Now who love Palestinians and ask the whole world to boycott Israel. Jews like this don’t understand what kind of damage they actually cause. However, their reason may be in selling and earning money by doing so.
As far a I know, Rabbi Slifkin was the first Rabbi writing books about biblical animals. It is an interesting and, until then, neglected subject. I think he also wrote something on the creation process but seemingly got lost in his “corporeality” ideas. Jerusalem bookstores still sell his books but I have to say that other Rabbis have caught up. There are quite a few of them now writing about biblical animals, science and Torah, astronomy, biology, you name it. I very much recommend the books by Rabbi Zamir Cohen. He writes in Hebrew and, so far, only one books has been translated into English. However, HERE he offers plenty of free English lectures available to listen to !
In terms of the creation process, I definitely recommend the books and the blog written by Gerald Schroeder.
To be honest, I don’t understand why Jew would think that G – d has a body. The Rambam (Maimonides, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon), 1135 – 1204, writes a lot about the incorporeality of G – d. In this article, I am only using a few teaching from the Guide of the Perplexed and the Mishna Torah. In addition to that, we already find a quote of G – d’s incorporeality in the Torah (Parashat Va’etchanan / Deuteronomy 4:12):
G – tt spoke to you from the midst of fire; you were hearing the sound of words, but you were not seeing a form, only a sound.
In the Mishna Torah / Hilchot Yesode’i HaTorah 1:7, Rambam teaches:
Were the Creator to have a body and a form, He would have limitations and definition, because it is impossible for a body not to be limited.  ….. Since our G – d possesses unlimited power … we see that His power is not the power of a body. 
The Mishna Torah continues in Hilchot Yesode’i HaTorah 1:11
As G – d does not have a body or corporeal form, … He is not found in time. He has no beginning and no end. Neither does He undergo any changes. 
In the Guide for the Perplexed 1:57, Rambam states:
G – d’s existence is absolute – existence and essence are identical. His existence is always absolute, and has never been a new element or an accident in Him. Consequently, G – d exists without possessing the attribute of existence. 
Nevertheless, even the Rambam went into confrontations with Jews believing that G – d has body and form. He wrote down his controversies and reponses to such Jews in his famous (but hard to get hold of) work IGGERET TECHIYAT HA’METIM – WRITING ON THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD. In case you know Hebrew and are interested in reading this book, there is a free download available on Hebrew Books. 🙂

4 thoughts on “On the “Incorporeality of G – d”

  1. I am no expert on kabbalistic subjects but the idea of a corporeal G-d goes against just about everything I have read on the concept of Ain Sof or Hashem being infinite. Some people take anthromorphism’s as some type of proof although it is just literary device to express concepts to us in our own language to make it easier to understand.

  2. B”H

    As far as I know, not the Kabbalists made this very early claim but a few regular Rabbis.

    I think that any, more or less, normal thinking Jew would reject the theory of a corporeal G – d. How could such a being create a universe and how could He even have existed in the famous nothingness ?

    Having a body or form would G – d, more or less, turn into a human and the Rambam is 100 % right: Such a G – d would be limited and not absolute !

    The human mind has extreme difficulties with an infinite G – d without body and form. We simply cannot grasp this kind of concept. Since the beginning of Creation, people have been looking for something they can see, touch or smell. Just like the Generation of Enosh started worshiping the sun later generations set up idols. The only one who really got it was Avraham.

    Everyone can believe whatever he wants but publishing such ideas as an Orthodox Rabbi gives haters of Judaism (e.g. Christian missionaries) more reasons to spread their kind of idol – worship. It is enough that they twist the Torah already and now an Orthodox Rabbi is coming and supporting their weirdo ideas.

    • I concur 110% on that and the most obvious would be a limitation with a corporeal G-d. You mean the nothingness as in tzimtzum at the beginning of creation? im assuming thats what you mean and thats a good point.

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