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#1 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 09:26 AM

The second thing we know about Hashem is really an off-shoot of the first (His having no cause). That is, His simplicity. Even though we say that Hashem has infinite strength, wisdom and goodness (to mention just three of His attributes), we do not mean that statement literally, any more than we mean “G-d let the Jews out of Egypt with an outstretched hand” literally.

Just as G-d has no hand, so too He has no strength, no wisdom and no goodness. He has no components. If he would have components, the combination of those components would be the cause of Him (since without some or all of those components He would be different or non-existent), and He has no cause.
But now the question arises: If Hashem has none of these attributes, doesn’t that mean that Hashem is imperfect? How can a perfect G-d have no strength, no wisdom, and no goodness?

The answer is that G-d has no strength because He doesn’t need strength; no wisdom because He has no need for wisdom; no goodness because He has no need for it.
Strength is only necessary when there is something for you to pit your strength against. If someone can lift 400 pounds it means he can overcome 400 pounds of resistance. Strength is a compensating force that allows you to overcome opposition.

If there is nothing capable of presenting resistance to Ha-shem, saying that He is “strong” is absurd.

Wisdom is a tool used to figure things out; knowledge is the thing you use to overcome ignorance.

G-d doesn’t need any of these things. Indeed, He cannot have them; they make no sense in the context of Hashem.

G-d is not ignorant even though He has none of what we call "knowledge" – so He doesn’t need knowledge. He is not weak even though He has none of what we call "strength". G-d doesn’t need the assistance of these compensating abilities because He has nothing to compensate for.

#2 TorahMiSinai



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Posted 29 March 2011 - 08:21 AM

I heard a choshuve rav say that it is ok for someone to imagine Hashem as a human king if this helps their kavana during davening or with their avodas Hashem. The rav said that no one should obviously think that Hashem has any form or image but that it is not osur just to "imagine" Hashem as a king just to help someone relate to Him in their avoda even though they know that Hashem is clearly not a human king at all.

I am familiar with the Rambam in Yesodei Hatorah who discusses the colloquial terms used to describe the actions of Hashem (e.g. Yad Hashem, Ezba Elokim etc.) by the neviim but I felt very uncomfortable to hear that one can actually imagine Hashem as a person even if it is purely an imaginitve exercise that one doesn't take seriously just so they can have more kavana.

Is my discomfort warranted? I feel very uncomfortable with imaging or even relating to Hashem this particular way or for that matter in any way that is clearly something that Hashem is not. I know the kal vachomer of how one would relate to a melech bosor vdom is often applied to Hashem but to imagine Hashem as a human king seems to be extreme to me.

Can anyone elaborate on some sources that discuss this specific idea?

#3 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 01:37 PM

I heard that years ago from Rav Avigdor Miller. He said that the reason the Torah used anthropomorphisms (yad hasem, einei hahem) even though someone who understands them as they are written is an Apikores, is because the Torah wanted to give us a gift of Daas - sensory awareness of Hashem. On one hand, we are required to know that Hashem has nothing at all in common with us; that we cannot come close to conceptualizing Him; that even His existence is not existence as we know it, but on the other hand, we are required to have a sensory awareness of the reality of His presence. That's a hard balance to attain. To facilitate this, the Torah speaks about Hashem in ways that allow us to "feel" Hashem's presence, and at the same time intellectually understand that the feelings are not representative of what Hashem really is.

In other words, we are supposed to use these phrases not to understand what Hashem is, but to knock it into our heads that Hashem is.

This was the gift of the Maaseh Merkava, where Hashem appeared as if He were a physical being. of course, it was just an apparition, and not Hashem, but the sensory input of it strengthened to no end the awareness of Hashem's presence.

And so, as a miniature "maaseh merkava" exercise, he said, it is altogether proper to imagine yourself during davening in front of a merciful / awesome / humbling / majestic King / Judge / Father, just to help acquire the feelings that we are supposed to anyway have when standing in front of Hashem, but are so hard to feel because Hashem is so dissimilar to anything we can experience or imagine.

Of course, at the same time, understanding that your visual aid has no relation to reality in the slightest. It is there only to trigger your feelings.

And also of course, if you do not need this exercise to evoke the proper feelings that accompany davening in front of the Siba Rishona-Muchrach HaMetzius, then it's not necessary altogether.