I was wondering what the Jewish tradition teaches about the implications of the belief in the infinity of G-d. Whilst it obvious to me that a human being cannot relate to the infinite, it also seems that a belief in G-d’s infinity also makes relating to His self-revelation impossible too. After all, one cannot relate to something one regards as a mere appearance or ‘emanation’. To be blunt, my faith is on the rocks: I want to relate to G-d as Father and Lord but cannot square those attributes with His attribute of infinity.

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    please clarify what you mean by "makes relating to His self-revelation impossible too". Thanks. – rosends Nov 19 '19 at 11:45
  • Looks like I’ve inadvertently eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I hesitate to say any more lest I drag others down with me. – Tom W Nov 19 '19 at 12:09
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    Tzimtzum....... – Joel K Nov 19 '19 at 12:15
  • Thanks Joel - I’ll look into that. Blessings. – Tom W Nov 19 '19 at 12:20
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    @AlBerko pi is very much finite – Heshy Nov 19 '19 at 17:07

While we accept God's Infinity and Transcendental existence as theological truths, we also see that in the Torah God is presented as close and accessible, almost anthropomorphic.

The Torah is not coming to teach us abstract truths, but to teach us how to relate to God and His Ways. It has no interest in discussing God's inaccessibility. Instead, it shows us how to approach Him.

I do not deny that God is Infinite, Unknowable, Transcendent, etc... But while that is of theological interest, there is no personal value to knowing that. That is why the Torah makes no mention of these concepts, but it does enjoin us (my translation)

To Love God, your Lord, to listen to His words and to connect to Him, for that is your Life, and the extent of your days.

Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch writes in many places about the impotance of relating to God in a very personal way. From Horeb:

Your idea of God may be something more than the mere result of a chain of reasoning pursued in total abstraction from the outside world. You may have beheld God directly in Nature or perceived Him in history. Holy Writ may have spoken to you as it did to generations before you in its God-revealing narratives. But you may have grasped all this only with your mind and stored it in your memory. This is not enough. So long as you do not receive God into your heart as your God, and embrace Him with your whole being as your God, so long as this concept is a mere denizen of your brain, so long will this sovereign idea be without influence on your actual life (1:2)

But above all, the most vital lesson to lay to heart is that this One God is your God, and that you have acknowledged Him in order to live rightly.... You must comprehend you life with all its diversity as proceeding from this One and you must direct it towards this One, in order that your life may be a unity just as your God is one. (2:7)


Whereas I, in contrast, think that it's G-d's very infinitude that makes revelation possible.

If you have a class of 5 students, the teacher can pay attention to each student. If we up the number to 10, there typically still isn't a problem. But class sized of 25 or 30? At some point you're talking about college lectures, where the teacher just puts a "one size fits all" message out there, with nothing specific to any one student. In a college class of dozens, most of their names will even go unknown.

It is the fact that G-d is Transcendent that gives Him the "Time" and "Patience" to "Attend" to each of us.

And I think this is why the name of G-d that denotes Divine Transcendence, Y-HV-H, a contraction of Will Be, Is and Was, the name so tied to His Transcendence we don't even pronounce it, is the one our Sages say is used in stories in the Torah in which it is easier to see Divine Compassion.

E-lokim, the Law Giver, Master of All Forces, is used in stories where Divine Justice is easier to pick out. But justice is one rule for everyone. Wholesale.

Compassion is retail. Only the Truly Infinite could be "Aware" of each of us and give each of us what we need.

Of course, your question seems to be more about the problem that forced me to write "'Time'" or "Aware" instead of just lower-case "time" without quotes.

And as Hashem tells Moshe, "A person cannot see Me and live."

But that's not a denial of Divine Revelation; it's a denial of a person being capable of full revelation. It doesn't mean we cannot experience a human-sized slice of His Reality.

After all, there is a huge difference between Moses' prophecy and experiencing G-d in our lives.

Although Maimonides said what you are asking for is indeed impossible. That the most a human can comprehend about G-d, other than His Action, is what He isn't. When we say G-d is everywhere we really mean that the concept of location has no relevance. Similarly, Omnipotence doesn't mean infinite power, but that the events G-d causes to happen within the created universe(s) isn't through power, so finite power is a non-issue.

But fortunately, if you need some kind of experiential relationship with G-d, Maimonides isn't the only word on the subject.

We pay a huge penalty for the fact that our brain and our heart aren't always in sync. Many times we make decisions we logically know are dumb, but we cave in to desire or the short-term.

But here, that disconnect has a payoff. Our intellects can know all about and agree with Maimonides' despiction of G-d, and yet still on the experiential level we can relate to a Personal G-d.

Even if that Personhood may be more something G-d is doing for our benefit than His True Inherent self. But analyzing that split... That's where Qabbalah begins.

  • Your definition of transcendent is off. transcendent means that G-d is separate, which means holy. Also, Qabbalah is where you suspend all reason. – Turk Hill Nov 19 '19 at 16:31
  • @Turk, read the Ramchal's Derech Chochmah. (I admit that it is hard to find.) In there he states that learning formal logic is essential to learning kabbalah. He goes as far as saying that it is more of a direct requirement to knowing G-d than most study of Torah. – Mordechai Nov 19 '19 at 21:14
  • @Mordechai I agree that knowing G-d is very important. One way to learn about G-d is to read the Torah. Another path (usually chosen by secular people) is to study G-d's creations, the heaven (or natural law). Maimonides equated the command to love G-d to knowing G-d. Since it is impossible to know and love G-d, we must study His creations. Thus, even Jews should study biology, physics, philosophy, and metaphysics as a prerequisite to Torah study. – Turk Hill Nov 19 '19 at 21:52
  • Maimonides informs his readers at the introduction of the Guide that he will be revealing 'secret' knowledge kept hidden for generations. He mentions nothing about Kabbalah. Mysticism is baseless in the Torah. the Zohar was not revealed at Sinai. Moses d’ Leon made it up. Worst, Rabbi Simeon bar Yochai was not interested in mysticism. – Turk Hill Nov 19 '19 at 21:52
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Turk Hill Nov 19 '19 at 23:23

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