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1) Does God continually renew the physical world in the sense that if he didn't give direct input at any given moment it would disappear?

2) If the answer to #1 is that God does continually (re)create the physical world, does he do so for the parts of the world that are not being observed by a human?

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For now, I can only answer #1, to which the answer is "yes". We confirm this in our morning davening in the 1st bracha before the Shema, "Hamechadesh bechol yom tamid ma'aseh breishit". meanig (loosely) "Who renews each day, continuously, the first creation." –  DanF May 8 at 19:25
    
@DanF Perhaps that sentence has a different sense than the OP uses it to mean. –  Double AA May 8 at 19:30
    
relevant: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/7639/… –  jake Jun 30 at 19:13

5 Answers 5

Does God Continually ReCreate the World?

Yes, most explicitly according to the Shacharit prayers (ברכות ק"ש - המחדש בטובו בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית), R' Dessler (מכתב מאליהו חלק א), and the Zohar (חלק ב' קמט), but also according to Ramban (שמות יג:טז, דרשת תורת ה' תמימה), Bavli Chagigah 12b, and Tanya (Shaar Hayichud Vehaemunah).

No, based on extrapolations of the following opinions, all of which assume that the world runs according to "nature," ie. that there is a automatic system that God created during Creation that runs the world: Ramban (דברים יא:יג, איוב לו:ז, בראשית יח:יט), Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 3:18), Sefer haChinuch (546), Rashba (Responsa 1:413), and R' Saadia Gaon (Emunot v'Deot ch. 10).

For what it's worth, it should be noted that the phrase from ברכות ק"ש appears in the siddurim of Saadia Gaon and the Rambam, and in חידושי הרמב"ן. I don't know how they interpreted that phrase. Note: I did not check the critical editions of those siddurim, and don't know if the version I looked at is accurate.


Re # 2:

Yes. According to that opinion, God renews the Acts of Creation (as detailed in Genesis 1), which includes everything in the universe.

If a tree falls in the forest, and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

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There are some scientists who talk about a qauntum of "time" which is the smallest time possible and is the amount of time that "passes" for the recreation. An analogy would be a computer simulation that runs and increments the time within the simulation for each pass. (This is an analogy only for ease of understanding). –  sabbahillel May 8 at 21:15
    
Perhaps Tanya refers to a continual stream of G-dly light vs recreation (think of a fan holding an object up vs having the object falling down and bouncing up) –  Shmuel Brin May 8 at 22:18
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You put the Ramban in both categories. Seems like having him in #1 undermines the whole evidence of #2. Although the Chassidic (read:inner) interpretation of המחדש בטובו is as you describe, I have to agree with DoubleAA that this is not the plain meaning of the text. –  Yishai May 9 at 3:07
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@Yishai - I put the Ramban in both categories because he appears to hold both positions. This is an issue with the Ramban, not an issue with my answer. –  Shmuel May 9 at 4:50
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Re המחדש - The plain meaning of the text is that every day God renews the acts of creation, ie, God is continually (daily) recreating the world. However, you are correct that this phrase does not appear to mean that "if [God] didn't give direct input at any given moment it would disappear." So this answers the title of the question (as stated in the header of the answer), but not that particular detail. –  Shmuel May 9 at 4:52

Tanya Shaar Yichud v'Emuna ch. 7: "G-d's Thought and Knowledge of all created beings encompasses each and every creature, for this is its very life-force and that which grants it existence from absolute nothingness."

a thought requires continuous direct input.

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Nefesh Hachaim Shaar 3 Perek 1, explaining what it means when we refer to Hashem as "Makom" (literally, the Place):

ולפי פשוטו ר"ל כמו שהמקום הוא סובל ומחזיק איזה דבר וחפץ המונח עליו. כן בדמיון זה הבורא אדון כל ית"ש הוא המקום האמיתי הסובל ומקיים העולמות והבריות כולם. שאם ח"ו יסלק כחו מהם אף רגע אחת. אפס מקום קיום וחיות כל העולמות

(Translation mine) The simple idea that Chazal were conveying is that just like the place bears the object placed upon it, so too the Creator is the "Place" which bears and maintains all the worlds and creations, that if He would, Heaven forbid, remove His energy from it for even a moment, the maintenance and life-force of all creation would cease.

Similarly, the Maharal in Nesiv HaAvoda (Ch. 4) understands the word מקום to be etymologically related to מקיים, upholds.

ויורה על זה שם מקום שהוא מקיים את אשר הוא מקום לו

Additionally, the Rambam in the introduction to Chelek, 1st principle of the 13 principles, implies this:

החסוד הראשון מציאות הבורא ישתבח והוא שיש שם מצוי בשלמות אופני המציאות והוא עלת מציאות כל הנמצאים ובו קיום מציאותם וממנו נמשך להם הקיום. ואלו נתאר סלוק מציאותו כי אז בטלה מציאות כל נמצא ולא ישארו קיימים במציאות

The first principle is the existence of the Creator, which is that there exists a perfect entity which is the cause of all that exists, and through Him their existence is maintained, and from Him their existence is drawn. And if we would imagine the removal of His existence then all other existence would cease and nothing would remain in existence.

Aside from the indication from the words themselves, it also follows logically - if the world did not necessitate G-d's constant direct input, His hypothetical disappearance would not yield the world's cessation.

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According to a deistic interpretation of quantum mechanics, at every moment particles that would theoretically exist only in a superposition (a matrix of many possible positions), get resolved into an actual position and specific state. This state reduction requires an observer. Who is this observer? Who has been willing particles and thus all of existence into being ever since the big bang? As Albert Einstein called Him: "The Old One".

The physics of this is difficult to get your mind around and this Wikipedia article is not the best introduction. There are physics books for laymen that explain these sorts of things clearly, usually without the deistic conclusion that to me is inescapable, but such reading not easy since our senses give us a "classical physics" sense of the world. Quantum physics is in many ways counter-intuitive, but it does provide room for G-d and free-will in a way that classical physics fails to. As a result, the universe is not a bunch of billiard balls bouncing off each other in a way that could (in theory) be pre-calculated and cannot be changed. It is instead a place where consciousness and free-will exists; where people can choose to elevate their lives by serving each other and G-d, or to bring evil onto each other. This is the gift that G-d creates for us every moment.

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Genesis 2:1-3 says that the creation was followed by rest (translation according to chabad.org):

  1. Now the heavens and the earth were completed and all their host.
  2. And God completed on the seventh day His work that He did, and He abstained on the seventh day from all His work that He did.
  3. And God blessed the seventh day and He hallowed it, for thereon He abstained from all His work that God created to do.

As we know, that rest didn't cause the creation to disappear. So we can infer that the existence of the creation doesn't require active input from the creator.

Meaning that the universe is self-sustaining, either it was created this way, or an automatic system was also created to keep it up.

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