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Is Hashem really in front of us, behind us, next to us, etc?

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Thanks for asking. Most/all of these questions about the nature of God (as it were) can go in the theology tag. –  Isaac Moses Apr 15 '10 at 0:12
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4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I would have agreed with Mordechai1's answer if he would have given the correct definition of Panentheism, but since he did not give me that impression, I want to spell out what I believe he should be saying in a layman's terms:

One cannot say that Hashem Himself is in a particular spot or direction. Such a belief is quasi-pantheistic in nature because it places Hashem in a limited context, within the Creation. We would call such a belief heretical.

Those who claim this is a genuine Jewish belief are willing to say Hashem is beyond space (transcendent) and within space (immanent) simultaneously and they erroneously conclude therefore that you can point somewhere particular and say Hashem is there.

That He is immanent and transcendent is true, but the problem is that Hashem's immanence by definition cannot be understood as His particular location because then it would contradict His transcendence. So it must be understood as His interaction with His creation through Tzimtzum (contraction), hence the name "Elokim" (which represents the concept of boundaries, discipline, and definition, Din) is always used when discussing His immanence. This is all especially true if one espouses the Habad understanding (and before Habad, the Rashash) of Tzimtzum because Hashem contracted the Light of Ein Sof and not Himself. See http://mi.yodeya.com/questions/709/what-is-the-machlokes-between-the-gra-and-baal-hatanya

However, (Jewish) panentheism places the universe within Hashem (so to speak) and that is why we call Him "HaMakom" (The Place). It does not mean Hashem has physical dimensions but rather that He constantly upholds the concept of space within His will and therefore everything dimensional (including the concept of dimension) exists within His will. The term "HaMakom" can also be understood as deriving from "HaMikayeim" -The One who upholds existence through His will. (Akeidas Yitzchak, Sha'ar 48)

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Judaism, as best as I can tell, is panentheistic. It's not that Hashem is everywhere, it's that Hashem IS everywhere. Hence He is sometimes referred to as HaMakom.

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Mordechai, Welcome to mi.yodeya, and thanks for taking a crack at this deep question. You might want to consider improving your answer by adding a source. Also, please consider clicking "register," above, to create your account. –  Isaac Moses Apr 23 '10 at 5:09
    
Mordechai, Panentheism does not mean Hashem IS everywhere. That would be pure pantheism. Rather it means that G-d trancends space and space conceptually exists "within" Him. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheism , at the end of the article. The classic pantheism believes what you said panentheism is, that god is the universe which is essentially saying the same thing as Hashem IS everywhere. –  Yahu Apr 23 '10 at 15:46
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I would like to present a different approach than the ones already been provided. The Rishonim seem to take a pretty unified approach on this issue. The Rambam clearly states in Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah, Chapter 1, Law 11 that God has no Guf or Geviya and as a result none of the properties of Guf apply to God such as Makom. So, I believe the Rambam is saying that since God is not physical (see previous laws for proof of this) one can not attribute any quality/characteristic/property of being physical to God. To say God is in a place is attributing physical properties to God. This would be a violation of the fundamentals of Judaism. Thank you for considering this approach, as it does have significant impact on your view of God and the seriousness of having a correct idea of God.

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RW, your answer is not really different than mine. Why do you think corporeality is heretical? Hashem's infiniteness stems from His perfection. Pantheism is essentially a form of corporealism in that it assigns such properties to Hashem. –  Yahu Aug 9 '10 at 5:24
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a moshol would be: if you have a room; a closet and when a person goes in the closet he fills up all the space in the closet. same with Hashem. he fills up the whole universe with his "existence"; therefore he knows everything, everyone, and everywhere. (there is no hiding from him.)

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IMHO, your answer could be greatly improved with A) some formatting and punctuation, B) elaboration on the terms and conditions of your philosophy and C) some sources supporting your case. –  Lee Jun 20 '13 at 20:39
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