A big part of our Jewish theology and philosophy is based on our desire to be closer to G-d (hope it's accepted unanimously). All of our analogies are built around the personification of G-d, whether we refer to Him as the Master/the King, the Father or the Spouse.

But let's try to visualize a greater view of G-d, like Rambam's. Let's imagine that we relate to G-d as amebas or ants relate to us. In this view, all the aforementioned analogies are invalid and irrelevant as our scopes of intelligence are incompatible. And, therefore, no communication or interaction is possible on any level of sophistication higher than ours.

So everything G-d does for us, in our imagination, has to be in human terms - speed, volume, value, etc. For example, if G-d wants to pass some information He needs to SPEAK/write, word by word, in an acceptable voice and comprehensible language (imagery), at the speed and volume of our understanding (He can't give us Torah 15Gb in size - that's incomprehensible). In other words, manifest human qualities. If He FEELS, the range of His emotions perfectly mimics ours.

Therefore it appears that the Jewish theology necessitates G-d's anthropomorphism in order to maintain its beliefs (see Raavad's comment to Rambam Hilchot Teshuva 3,7):

(וְהָאוֹמֵר שֶׁיֵּשׁ שָׁם רִבּוֹן אֶחָד אֲבָל שֶׁהוּא גּוּף וּבַעַל תְּמוּנָה (נקרא מין.
ראב"ד: ולמה קרא לזה מין וכמה גדולים וטובים ממנו
הלכו בזו המחשבה לפי מה שראו במקראות
ויותר ממה שראו בדברי האגדות המשבשות את הדעות

So do our basic concepts necessitate viewing G-d as anthropomorphic?

  • 1
    I think the Rambam would agree about "our scopes of intelligence are incompatible." And I think he would disagree about "therefore, no communication or interaction is possible." How do you reach that conclusion?
    – b a
    Jul 17, 2019 at 9:00
  • @ba Accepted, my bad. I edited the sentence.
    – Al Berko
    Jul 17, 2019 at 12:07
  • @ba, Al Berko is right. The correct view of the Rambam is that we cannot know anything abut G-d except for what G-d is not. Therefore, there is no way to communicate or interact with G-d. The best we can do is to study G-d. That is, 1) study Torah, 2) show love of G-d, and 3) study G-d's creation (the earth and natural law).
    – Turk Hill
    Jul 17, 2019 at 15:26
  • This simple answer is: We should not view G-d as being anthropomorphic (G-d has no body).
    – Turk Hill
    Jul 17, 2019 at 15:31
  • 1
    @RabbiKaii Yes, in fact, I did, not the whole, though I admit I don't agree with him. As a true Aristotelian, Rambam denies anthropomorphism axiomatically. For him, it is not a conclusion for him, it is a starting point. He only spoke of intellectual closeness, which is far from most mainstream Hassidic and orthodox approaches. It was only adopted later by the Litvakes.
    – Al Berko
    Dec 18, 2022 at 10:32

1 Answer 1


The correct view of the Rambam is that we cannot know anything abut G-d except for what G-d is not. G-d does not listen to prayers because He already knows them in advance (Gd knows everything).

The characteristics such as wisdom are like the ones found in the Bible. Because the Torah (as Rabbi Ishmael says, it [Torah] “speaks in the language people use,”). It follows that he Torah was written for (in) human language (understanding,) thus we should not take G-d’s emotions literally (G-d has no emotions). It follows that G-d does not really becomes angry when you miss the mark and make a sin. Yet G-d’s wisdom (or chachmah) cannot be compared. Think of our DNA. Someone had to be very intelligent to create that. “For your ways are not My ways,” says Hashem.

Rather than put G-d to an image (humanly) we should try and imitate Hashem. G-d gave us the mitzvahs for this very purpose. When one studies Torah, they experience perfection. You could boil it down some more. Man has a purpose. This is what is meant when we say the Will of G-d. King David primary insisted that the world gives praise anthropomorphically to G-d. That is, that our praise should reflect the impressive brilliance of the design and magnificence of the world. That is to our understanding of Him. Maimonides says, “In accordance with one’s knowledge [of G-d] is one’s love of G-d.” Thus, we should center our praise to the Name of Hashem because we cannot know anything about G-d except for what G-d is not (G-d has no body and is one). All we can know is G-d's creations, natural law. Therefore, people should develop their intellect and learn from the laws of nature (science). For example, when the Bible speaks about the parable of G-d talking to Moshe, it is to be understood that people cannot fathom the divine, but see His back after He passes. It is referring to the impact of natural law that G-d created.

For “Man cannot know Me while alive.” Thus, we can only praise G-d through His name, acts, and fame. Though we cannot picture an image of letters while praising. We should not draw an image of G-d in our head. G-d should not be a person, a character, or an angel when we pray rather, G-d should be viewed as nothing because G-d does not exist. In other words, G-d is beyond the domain of existence. In order for G-d to exist, He would have to be made of some kind of material or substance, and hence a form that can be discovered. (Abraham discovered G-d by studying the heaven but this is metaphorical). G-d's essence is nothing, so you can and should picture nothing when you pray.

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