Behold, it is explicitly stated in the Torah and [the works of] the
prophets that the Holy One, blessed be He, is not [confined to] a body
or physical form . . If so, what is the meaning of the expressions
employed by the Torah: "Below His feet" [Exodus 24:10], "Written by
the finger of God" [ibid. 31:18], "God's hand" [ibid. 9:3], "God's
eyes" [Genesis 38:7], "God's ears" [Numbers 11:1], and the like? ..
All these [expressions were used] to relate to human thought processes
which know only corporeal imagery, for the Torah speaks in the
language of man.
A proof of this concept: One prophet says that he saw the Holy One,
blessed be He, "clothed in snow white" [Daniel 7:9], and another
envisioned Him [coming] "with crimson garments from Batzra" [Isaiah
63:1]. Moses, our teacher, himself envisioned Him at the [Red] Sea as
a mighty man, waging war, and, at Mount Sinai, [saw Him] as the leader
of a congregation, wrapped [in a tallit]. This shows that He has no
image or form. All these are merely expressions of prophetic vision
and imagery and the truth of this concept cannot be grasped or
comprehended by human thought.
[If so,] what did Moses, our teacher, want to comprehend when he
requested: "Please show me Your glory" [Exodus 33:18]? He asked to
know the truth of the existence of the Holy One, blessed be He, to the
extent that it could be internalized within his mind, as one knows a
particular person whose face he saw and whose image has been engraved
within one's heart. Thus, this person's [identity] is distinguished
within one's mind from [that of] other men. Similarly, Moses, our
teacher, asked that the existence of the Holy One, blessed be He, be
distinguished in his mind from the existence of other entities, to the
extent that he would know the truth of His existence as it is [in its
He, blessed be He, replied to him that it is not within the potential
of a living man, [a creature of] body and soul, to comprehend this
matter in its entirety. [Nevertheless,] He, blessed be He, revealed to
[Moses] matters which no other man had known before him - nor would
ever know afterward - until he was able to comprehend [enough] from
the truth of His existence, for the Holy One, blessed be He, to be
distinguished in his mind from other entities, as a person is
distinguished from other men when one sees his back and knows the
structure of his body and [the manner in which] he is clothed.
This is alluded to by the verse [Exodus 33:23]: "You shall see My
back, but you shall not see My face."