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I was thinking about it lately.

If God can do everything, can He destroy Himself?

Is there something about this possibility in any of the holy books?

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This might sound like a facetious question, but why is it necessary to believe that God can do everything? Our sources are replete with passages that concern his disappointment or regret. Your hashkafa might tell you otherwise, but I see nothing in Tanakh or the early rabbinic literature to lead me to such a perspective. Existence appears to be a necessary quality of God, along with his singularity. –  Shimon bM Mar 14 '13 at 12:33
related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/16307/… –  jake Mar 14 '13 at 13:58
@ShimonbM Can you give an example of His disappointment or regret? –  Yehoshua Jul 12 at 14:16

6 Answers 6

This kind of question is addressed by Maimonides in his Guide for the Perplexed (3:15), in which he states that we cannot ascribe to God the ability to do that which is impossible, thus, "it is impossible that God should produce a being like Himself, or annihilate, corporify, or change Himself. The power of God is not assumed to extend to any of these impossibilities."

It is important to understand that this does not actually entail any limitation on the power of God (as Maimonides states later). This is because the real issue here is that the questions are fundamentally nonsense. God cannot destroy - or duplicate - Himself any more than He can create a triangle with four corners. The only way we can ask either question is if we fail to understand the meanings of the words we are using.

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The "nonsense" you mention towards the end is actually a better translation than "impossible", even though that is strictly what he wrote he meant it in terms of nonsensical. As in, "it is impossible to conceptualize such a concept", not that "it cannot be done". –  AviD Mar 14 '13 at 15:28
@AviD A triangle with four corners not, but why is it nonsense for God Himself to "limit" his capabilities, i.e. in destroying himself or "expand" in creating himself? –  Yehoshua Jul 12 at 0:05
@Yehoshua because a basic fundamental aspect of God, is that he exists. Thus, if it were possible that God were to be destroyed, therefore resulting in God's non-existence - then this is not "God that must exist". The same goes for His singularity - creating another such as Himself would nullify the basic tenet of "only one". With these aspects being fundamental, these questions then become the same as the four cornered triangle - we are trying to force him to change the basic concept. A different rose by the same name... –  AviD Jul 12 at 8:00
@AviD Of course this is all based on the acceptance of the 13 principles as absolute truth and without argument among other rishonim. Although perhaps these points are without argument. But I understand what you are saying. –  Yehoshua Jul 12 at 14:15

I believe that this question is based on a premise that illustrates a shallow understanding of what G-d is. The question assumes that the rules of logic are somehow inherently there, and G-d is bound by them. If that would be the case, if we would say that G-d is unlimited then He would be bound to being unlimited, and could not also be limited - because logically something which is unlimited cannot also be limited. Another form that this question often takes is the famous "Can G-d create a rock so heavy that He can't pick up".

In fact, not only did G-d create the world, but he created logic too. He is therefore not bound by the constraint of logic. Yes, logically it is not possible to pick up something that is too heavy to pick up - but G-d was the one who made the rock, the concept of heaviness and the rule that something that is too heavy cannot be lifted. So the answer is yes, He could create such a rock, and He could pick it up too. Another example: G-d created a world in which one plus one equals two - He could just as possibly have made a world were one plus one is three.

The is famously expressed in a Kabbalistic work called "Avodas Hakodesh" (Section I, ch. 8):

אור אין סוף הוא שלימותא דכולא, כשם שיש לו כח בבלתי בעל גבול כך יש לו כח בגבול, שאם תאמר יש לו כח בבלתי בעל גבול ואין לו כח בגבול הרי אתה מחסר שלימותו ואין סוף הוא שלימותא דכולא - Just as the Infinite One possesses power with an infinite dimension, so too does He possess power with a finite dimension. For if you were to say that He possesses infinite power but not finite power, you would detract from His perfection [for there would be an area, the realm of finitude, that would remain outside the context of G-dliness -- which is impossible], for G-d is the ultimate perfection.

In other words, since G-d is the ultimate perfection, there is no advantage that He lacks. In logical terms, two opposite advantages can be mutually exclusive (How can something be limited and unlimited at the same time), but for G-d that is not a constraint.

So to answer your question: Can G-d destroy Himself? G-d possesses any advantage that there might be in being able to self-destroy, but at the same time this does not contradict with His ability to exist forever.

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Yes AND No. :-) –  Michael Sandler Mar 14 '13 at 9:47
Very much disagree with your analogy. God can create a rock so heavy that he cannot pick it up, and then he cannot pick it up. But that's not a limitation of God, it's a limitation of the rock. So too, God cannot play the first move in a game of chess and get checkmate immediately. None of the twenty possible opening moves results in checkmate. That's a limitation of chess, not of God. And yet God could invent the game of chess. Likewise, he can invent something else, the rules of which prevent his circumventing them. Like a square circle, etc. –  Shimon bM Mar 14 '13 at 12:29
[cont.] In this case, God's inability to destroy himself represents a limitation in the existence of God. It is a more profound paradox than the one with the rock. –  Shimon bM Mar 14 '13 at 12:29
I think he is saying that applying a human understanding of logic and choice to a transcendent being is doomed to failure. Expecting god to conform to my ideas of "can" and "cannot" especially as exclusive categories is to impose the limits of my understanding (and possibly the limits of the physical universe) on a being which we consider unlimited. It is the ultimate "dibeir hakatuv" as ALL words and phrases in human-speak are by definition limitations on the infinite divine. –  Danno Mar 14 '13 at 13:30
Again, I am not asking if we can create unlimited heavy rock. I am asking if God, who is almighty, can destroy himself, if he wants to. –  Derfder Mar 14 '13 at 14:54

If the siddur qualifies as a "holy book", then in אדון עולם it says that Hashem is בלי ראשית בלי תכלית which I would translate as "without beginning, without end".

Chief Rabbi Sacks says in his commentary on siddur that "the siddur is our tutorial in belief".

Following Derfder's comment below:

The Ramchal starts Derekh Hashem as follows:

Every Jew must know that there exists a first Being without beginning or end who brought all things into existence and continues to sustain them. This being is God.

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I was thinking about it exactly like that too, but I am not sure according to my further studies if it is like that. That's why I am asking, you know. –  Derfder Mar 14 '13 at 16:47
That's lifted almost straight from Maimonides. The very beginning of Mishne Torah –  Double AA Mar 14 '13 at 21:30
@Derfder ping see addition to my answer. –  Avrohom Yitzchok Mar 14 '13 at 23:13

Easy answer: no.

Where does it say "G-d can do anything?"

Go back to Maimonides' 13 principles of faith:

"... that He is the creator and director of everything created, and He alone has done, currently does, and will do all that is done."

"All that is done" does not include theoretical paradoxes!

(Yes I realize there's a place in the High Holiday liturgy where G-d is referred to as hakol yachol, "all-capable", but that's the nutshell version. You want the nitty-gritty, go back to Maimonides' formulation.)

Let's take it further: we also believe that G-d is absolutely one, and that G-d is non-physical. "Can G-d make Himself physical? Can G-d cut Himself into two?" The answer to all these questions is no.

If it makes you feel better, Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer has a fascinating syllabus for lectures on the Thirteen Principles, which does include a bullet point on "can G-d create a rock too heavy for Him to lift?"

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Sorry, but I am not asking about how heavy can a rock be ;). I am asking about if it is possible that God can destroy himself. Your example with creating an unlimited heavy thing has nothing to do with dissolving things themselves or if you wish God entropy, which can probably be forced from outer or induced/initiated from within (God itself). –  Derfder Mar 14 '13 at 14:50

I'd like to offer a more philosophical/logical answer, but essentially I'm only providing you with hopefully more simple means of understanding the reasoning behind other answers appearing here.

Please allow me to tackle the title question:

Can God destroy himself?

The particular issue with this question is that by asking it you are ascribing (or assuming) a men-like, natural qualities to God - thus, given you believe in a supernatural God, the question itself is nonsense. Let me explain:

By worldly logic, in order to destroy himself, God first needs to exist - only then he can destroy himself. Thus you are assuming God exists in time. If such is the case, who created time?

From here there are two options:

  • God doesn't exist in time.
  • A God greater than God created time (essentially making the former the real God, who doesn't exist in time).

Regardless of which one you pick, both derive at the same conclusion: God doesn't exist in time. And if so, cause and effect are not part of his existence. And so asking if God can destroy himself (cause) and thus cease to exist (effect) is complete nonsense.

Removing time, cause and effect from the Godly realm also solves the question: who created God? For if there's no time, God always existed.

Even if God could destroy himself, in an existence not based on cause and effect he could 'undo' his own destruction or carry on existing despite destroying himself. The same logic that applies to us does not apply to God - in his existence everything is possible, even having no limits and all the limits. This is pretty much what God is about.

Now allow me to seal this off with a question. Is this a nonsense question:

Did God created the world?

Please note that I'm not asking if God created the world, I'm asking if asking the question is a valid thing to do.

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Izhak, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for writing up this answer! If you could edit in references to sources that support these lines of argument, it would make this answer more valuable, and more compliant with the question's request for references. I don't get your concluding question; does it advance your answer, or is it a follow-up? If the former, please edit in how. If the latter, please delete it from here and consider posting it as a new question. –  Isaac Moses Mar 15 '13 at 14:03

one thing that I wish to acknowledge that I hope won't cause a stir, I am Christian, but I like to expand my knowledge when possible.

from what I know, God Created all things, which would mean that he could destroy all things. but I have never seen anywhere that God Created himself.

Malachi 3:6 "For I am the LORD, I do not change..." (NKJ)

I found this Quote on a website called Judaism in a Nutshell (First Paragraph of Point 1, last 2 sentences)

Additionally, absolute being means that His existence is unchanging. God never becomes "more" or "less" in any way; He is never different.

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I apologize, but how is quoting another Religious Text, that says the exact same thing, off Topic? –  Malachi Mar 14 '13 at 16:25
Quoting non-Jewish sources is off topic no matter what it says. The topic is Judaism; everything else is not the topic. –  Double AA Mar 14 '13 at 16:39
how are those Sources not Jewish? my God is the Same God, The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, The God of the Old Testament, I guess I need to Learn more about this, I don't mean any disrespect –  Malachi Mar 14 '13 at 16:43
It is the same God, but you have a book (Revelations in this case) which we do not believe to be representative of that God. The issue is if the source is Jewish, not if it talks about the same God. Even a heretic or a computer could talk about our God, but we wouldn't think that is of much value. –  Double AA Mar 14 '13 at 16:52

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