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According to the way many people understand the Rambam in Mishneh Torah but especially in Moreh Nevuchim, and many other Jewish Philosophers, when the Torah uses any words to describe Hashem, they are just a mashal (without a nimshal as we understand it), i.e. it is just imagery in order to get us on a certain page so we can proceed in our service. The concept of "the Torah speaks in the language of man" is invoked, meaning that Hashem is beyond any description, and is not composed of parts.

So, according to these opinions, we cannot say Hashem is someone who loves. Yet, we say every day "בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אוֹהֵב אֶת־עַמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל". More examples listed below.

I would therefore like to ask, how are we able to make certain berachot (blessings) about Hashem that say these things? If it's not really true, then how come these berachot are valid? How are we able to praise Him and say that He is [insert positive description of praise here]?


Some quotes from Moreh Nevuchim Part 1 "On attributes implying corporeality, emotion, non existence and comparison", which :

...our sages called them middot... they do not mean to say that God really possesses middot, but He performs actions similar to such of our actions as originate in certain qualities, I.e. in certain psychical dispositions; not that God has really such dispositions...

... whenever any one of His actions is perceived by us, we ascribe to God that emotion which is the force of the act when performed by ourselves and call Him by an epithet which is formed in the verb expressing that emotion.... such instances do not imply that God is influenced by a feeling of mercy...

... God is therefore called, because He acts jealous, revengeful... that is to say, He performs acts similar to those which, when performed by us, originate in certain psychical dispositions, in jealousy, desire for retaliation,... and not the result of an emotion; for He is above all defect!

... the principal object of this chapter was to show that all attributes ascribed to God are attributes of His acts, and do not imply that God has any qualities".


Examples of berachot:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', מֶלֶךְ מְהֻלָּל בַּתִּשְׁבָּחוֹת

...seems ok. He is lauded with praises by angels and yidden, so no theological issue here.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' גּוֹאֵל יִשְׂרָאֵל

...also seems ok. Hashem taking action is much less of a theological issue, and Rambam has no problem with it (see above quotes).

However:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' הַבּוֹחֵר בְּעַמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּאַהֲבָה

...He chooses? If that's a metaphor, how can we say it in a bracha?

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', מֶֽלֶךְ גָּדוֹל וּמְהֻלָּל בַּתִּשְׁבָּחוֹת, אֵל הַהוֹדָאוֹת, אֲדוֹן הַנִּפְלָאוֹת, בּוֹרֵא כָּל־הַנְּשָׁמוֹת, רִבּוֹן כָּל־הַמַּעֲשִׂים, הַבּוֹחֵר בְּשִׁירֵי זִמְרָה, מֶֽלֶךְ אֶל חַי הָעולָמִים

He is these positive descriptions? He "prefers" music? Rambam would quite clearly call this heresy... Yet we say it with shem umalchut!

Some from the Amidah:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', מֶֽלֶךְ אוֹהֵב צְדָקָה וּמִשְׁפָּט

...He "loves" something? Isn't that a metaphor?

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', הָרוֹצֶה בִּתְשׁוּבָה

...He "wants"? Does that imply He lacks? And again, isn't it just a mashal?

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', שׁוֹמֵֽעַ תְּפִלָּה

...He "hears"?


I just want to note, I am asking this out of genuine curiosity with full belief that there is a good answer. I just want help understanding it. This is a sheila, not a kasha! This question is important to me, and I fully intend for it to be a serious question. If anyone who is leaving downvotes could help me improve it, it would be extremely valuable to me. Note I don't personally hold by such a hard, black and white reading of Rambam but I know a lot of people do, and I respect them and wish to understand how they solve this problem.

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    Why can't our berachot be metaphorical, in the same way as (Rambam believes) pesukim are?
    – Joel K
    Feb 5, 2023 at 14:45
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    Can something be true metaphorically, even if it's not true literally?
    – Joel K
    Feb 5, 2023 at 14:50
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    "So, according to these opinions, we cannot say Hashem is someone who loves. Yet, we say every day 'בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אוֹהֵב אֶת־עַמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל'." Doesn't the prophet Malachi quote Hashem as saying to us "אהבתי אתכם"?
    – Tamir Evan
    Feb 5, 2023 at 16:16
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    Why not paraphrase Moreh Nevuchim, and say: "God loves us, that is to say, He performs acts [e.g. Esau is Jacob’s brother; yet Hashem accepted Jacob and rejected Esau, making his hills a desolation, and his territory home for beasts of the desert - Malachi 1:2-3] similar to those which, when performed by us, originate in the emotion of love, but are not the result of such an emotion in Him, for He is above all defect"?
    – Tamir Evan
    Feb 5, 2023 at 17:05
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    While I wouldn't be able to find it right now, I believe RSR Hirsch makes a big deal out of this. He says that there are two opposite mistakes. One is the mistake the Rambam is trying to prevent, and the other - would be to imagine that Hashem can not have a close relationship with us, is distant from his creation, does not really care for us. R' Hirsch considers the second mistake far more profound and serious - so much so that the Torah prefers to risk the first so that no one will make the second.
    – MichoelR
    Feb 5, 2023 at 22:24

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If I understood the question correctly, the question is being limited to only daily prayers. The question is a broad question; How can Rambam write that G-d is beyond description, This is describing Hashem. The Gemora https://www.sefaria.org/Berakhot.33b.22?ven=William_Davidson_Edition_-_English&lang=he&with=all&lang2=he quotes what we say in davening on Shabbos Morning.

https://www.samlebens.com/post/ekev-saying-the-unsayable The following is quoted by Sam Lebens lecturer at Haifa University:

Were our mouths as full of song as the sea, and our tongues as full of joyous song as its multitude of waves, and our lips as full of praise as the breadth of the firmament, and our eyes as brilliant as the sun and the moon, and our hands as outspread as the eagles of the sky and our feet as nimble as deer -- we still could not thank You sufficiently, Hashem our God and God of our forefathers nor bless your name. How many words are enough? We can never finish the praises of God, so why be audacious enough to start?!

But Rabbi Chanina goes further. He says that even the words that we are commanded to say, the words of the authorized liturgy, which describe God as "the great, the mighty and the awesome", Rabbi Chanina would not say were it not for the fact that Moses said them, and that the men of the Great Assembly put them into our fixed prayers. And then comes the punchline. To praise God with words, presumably with any words, even with the words that Moses spoke in this week's Torah reading, to praise God even with the words of the authorised liturgy is, in actual fact, insulting to God. To use words in praise of God would be like introducing Paul McCartney as the lead singer of the Wings, without mentioning that he was in the Beatles! It would be like praising a king for all of his silver when he actually posses gold. Words are the wrong currency for the praise of God, because no words can do him justice.

This would mean the way he explains the Gemora is only because Moshe in Torah Chazal in the Anshei Kneses Hagodalah told us we can use these expressions which are only a small part of Hashem who is beyond our words, can we actually say them.

Your question in essence falls away, since we can only use the words which Hashem told Moshe to use to describe him to describe him, as this is the only way to understand it. I highly recommend reading works of Sam lebens from his website.

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  • Thanks for taking the time to answer my question. I haven't taken you up yet on reading the links, so this is just a question for clarification about your quote. Your quote seems to be dealing with the concept that praising Hashem is an insult because no words are enough. Not because the praises don't apply. Paul McCartney is in Wings, so saying so is not "incorrect", it's just insulting.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Feb 5, 2023 at 16:01

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