So the question is something like this: If G-d, blessed be He, willed creation into being, then

a) He either underwent change (deciding to create) [Impossible]

b) He always knew that He was going to create something but time didn't exist then so it couldn't have been Him deciding at any X point to create something and He couldn't have thus always decided to do something in the future or in the intervals and hence this is also: [Impossible]

According to the above two, creation is a change from nothing to something - but its still a change which posits the question - where would this change occur? It can't be within G-d, blessed be He, for His essence can't change, so it must be somewhere external to G-d, blessed be He.

c) The only solution to this that I've heard is that G-d, blessed be He, has always been creating something, i.e. an eternal creation or eternal creations. Since the material world is not eternal, this creation or these creations are eternal (but in a different way from G-d, blessed be He, for He is eternal by His intrinsic essence while these creations would be eternal only contingently i.e. by virtue of being eternally created and sustained by G-d, blessed be He, and completely subject to His infinite and perfect will) and transcedental. This can also be phrased like this: "G-d, blessed be He, is infinitely good, and a part of goodness entails sharing that goodness. Hence, G-d, blessed be He, by eternally aligning Himself with His perfect essence necessarily creates something in order to share goodness."

Also I don't think this is problematic, (someone could say that this implies that G-d, blessed be He, is in some ways dependent on creation). But I disagree and would posit that G-d, blessed be He, might be "dependent" on His act of creation (i.e. on Himself) in order to bring about absolute perfection in every way. Thus He is not contingent on the creation itself, but rather on the act of creating, which is to say that He is contingent on His will which is just to say that He is contingent on Himself (His essence) or in other words, that He is wholly unto Himself (Exodus 3:14). If He is eternally willing something due to His goodness, then He is also eternally perfect and good.

And this is not an unusual idea per se. For example, in the following chapter of a book "The Principles of Judaism", it states as a summary:

This chapter explores the medieval debate about the nature of creation. It compares and contrasts arguments of three major schools. The first school suggests that the universe had no start, and that God’s work of creation is, accordingly, continuous and with no beginning.

Of course, I argue that it can't be the universe, but the idea of something being eternally created and sustained is not new or strange in Jewish thought. It would be a different type of eternity however, for there is nothing comparable to G-d, blessed be He.

Actually one could even perhaps say that Heaven/Heavens itself is such an eternal creation, a "throne" or an "abode" for G-d, blessed be He. Since Rambam argued that the proper view in Judaism is eternal souls, and since souls can't literally "reunify" inside G-d's essence (can't have change or multiplicity), then the only other option is if there is some eternal realm where such a reunion can happen, like a Heaven. So one may understand Heaven(s) to be eternally created and sustained at every imaginable moment of existence. And Heavens can have multiplicity of course.

Anyway, I'd appreciate some help with regards to this topic. I think that a lot of people on this site don't really like these types of questions, or consider them nonsensical or something else (when I ask them, they're rarely answered, and often downvoted or given improper treatment), but these are quite important so I hope this question will be taken seriously. Perhaps Kabbalistic insights may be of use here?

  • I don't think that's what He doesn't change means. It means that the creation didn't change Him in any way. See Avodat Hakodesh 1:8, Gevurot Hashem Hakdama 2
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Sep 15, 2023 at 15:35
  • @RabbiKaii Logically however, my contention would still apply. He cannot change for He is perfect, self-contained and outside of time. Nevertheless, I will take a look at the sources you provided.
    – setszu
    Sep 15, 2023 at 15:36
  • @RabbiKaii Oh they are all in Hebrew which I can't read. :(
    – setszu
    Sep 15, 2023 at 15:37
  • I don't follow. I think one shouldn't limit Hashem Himself
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Sep 15, 2023 at 15:37
  • 1
    @RabbiKaii Ok let me try phrasing it like this: a) There was no creation at some point b) If (a) is true, then either He decided to create at some point which is change within His essence (impossible) or b) He always knew that He was going to create - but there was no time and thus no such reference can be made (and thus, this is also impossible). So how can He bring something where nothing outside of Him exists and create something when nothing other than Him existed. The only solution I can think of is that He is always creating something due to His essence.
    – setszu
    Sep 15, 2023 at 15:40

4 Answers 4


Definition of "essence" in this context:

the truest description of an entity as it exists by itself, without adjustment for relationship or comparison

A very small addendum to a), and a modest redefinition of something you said in b) will clarify things.

One of the most relevant Divine powers to us, and certainly one of the most incredible, is the ability to be present in all perspectives. This is, to many non believers, the most difficult religious precept to understand. They are puzzled at why Omnipotent Divinity would care about the actions of mortals, and why it would be interesting, or worthwhile, to punish and reward, to protect and instruct, and to otherwise run the world. However, we understand this literally Divine level of humility to be the bedrock of our relationship, that despite our relative insignificance, G-d experiences the world from our perspective, and cares about the world that we share.

So when we refer to G-d, what perspective should we use? It depends on the context, certainly, but oftentimes we will adopt the perspective that you used in a), which is Divine essence, which never changes. However, there are Divine perspectives in which creation did cause changes! So we can add to a) that we are talking about the Divine in essence , where creation never happened, because that perspective shows how really everything that appears to have adopted independent definitions and identities within the world, is truly just Divinity, without any separate definition whatsoever.

Definition and independent identity are features of creations that correlate to increased distance from the perspective of root Divinity. To introduce this idea, it's worth going back to kabbalistic creation. There's a lot to say on that, but here's the summary: Divinity is ultimately unlimited, and as such there are no adjectives, definitions or measures that are fully appropriate, because they are all limiting Divinity in some way. Even 'unlimited' is limiting, because it denotes that the features of infinity are binding in a detrimental way (such as being unable to fit in a finite space). From that complete lack of binding definition, creation began to gradually add definition, beginning with spiritual concepts. A famous example is "male" as "giver", originally applied to Hashem as the provider of creative energy. Those concepts continued to take on more and more specific features until they could fit into the confines of time and space, which also were creations that began as concepts. This demonstrates how definition is correlated with distance from Divinity. Likewise, since earlier stages of creation are less defined and therefore more Divine, the potential for independent identity is less available. The perception of one's independence from Divinity becomes possible when one's self and surroundings are many stages of abstraction away from unlimited, unbound Divinity. If all one knows and sees are things that exist in space and time, one can imagine that there is nothing beyond the scope of space and time, and in fact will find it difficult to imagine otherwise. Yet all the stages of creation coexist, so at root Divinity all concepts are still undefined and unbound, and effectively creation never happened. Perception at this stage does not view mortals as independent beings, nor their decisions as anything but Divine will, because the progression of the stages of creation demonstrates how everything is molded from Divinity.

Now to b), where we can point out that time is a creation too (!). In the perspective above creation, time is no constraint.This is tough to wrap our minds around, but we can try:

Time as we know it represents a choice for which actions to postpone for later, time prevents the total reversal of actions, and time creates distance between the present and past. For a perspective where everything can be done simultaneously, any reversal is possible, and nothing is forgotten, time effectively doesn't exist.

Of course, this is all an attempt to explain from a time bound perspective; what would timelessness look like to us if we saw a being with that power in our world? "Simultaneously" from a Divine perspective just means that time does not impose an order to actions.

Ok, we tried. Now if we can redefine time as a creation that doesn't actually dictate anything to Divine essence, then there is no before and after. In fact, there is no creation at all (as explained before, that all creation is really still Divinity). However, to the lower perspectives, there is both time and change.

So what's still confusing? All the perspectives are one, not separate in any way. This is a principle that is above human comprehension, and to that end, the other answer does deserve some merit, even if it seems unsatisfying at first. Noahides are not commanded to believe in this extreme level of unity, because it is wildly illogical, a matter of faith alone. For Jews however, this is a mitzvah. See Derech Mitzvosecha for a more precise explanation.

The perspective at each stage of creation is dependent on the evolution of concepts at that stage. But eventually, all the concepts progress to the same end of evolution (our physical world), and therefore all pertain to the same plan. That plan is the result of a desire from the Divine essence to be recognized by choice, which is only possible in our world (since concepts at the angelic stages are too abstract, similar to Divinity, so angels have a perspective that recognizes Divinity without contemplation). If every stage of creation is really enacting that plan which is in Divine essence, then the concepts within each stage are just a different way of viewing what is happening. Since Hashem creates all the stages, he knows what the plan looks like to each stage. That's what the perspectives are. However, "before" creating them, he knew what they could look like, so it's not increased knowledge.

Excellent questions like these also motivate the idea of נמנע הנמנעות. It's worth mentioning that part of belief in unlimited Divinity is a belief that even the rules of logic do not create a limit for Hashem, since they are in fact, concepts that remain created. Support for this idea also comes from the ark, which is described as simultaneously having defined space and not taking up space at all. See here for an explanation with diagrams.

  • Your writing style is a bit hard to understand, but how can Divine essence and Divine "perspective" be separate? "Essence" in philosophy is a formal term. For (b) yes, I know that time is a creation but without time, there is no such thing as "doing everything simultaneously" unless "doing everything simultaneously" is always done as a singular act without distinction. "All the perspectives are one, not separate in any way" - this is not possible because it would introduce composition and thus contingency. You cannot have "multiple perspectives" when it comes to root Divinity.
    – setszu
    Sep 15, 2023 at 22:41
  • @setszu added some edits surrounded by lines to address your poignant remarks. Sep 18, 2023 at 17:19

These are matters we cannot comprehend. We can only relate to G-d through being His creations, therefore anything "before" creation is beyond our understanding. In fact the Talmud (Chagiga 11b) specifically forbids us from considering these questions:

יכול ישאל אדם קודם שנברא העולם, תלמוד לומר: ״למן היום אשר ברא אלהים אדם על הארץ״.
One might have thought that a person may ask questions with regard to matters preceding the creation of the world. Therefore, the continuation of the verse states: “Since the day that God created man upon the earth,” but not earlier.

The Mishna (Chagiga 2:1) says:

אין דורשין בעריות בשלשה. ולא במעשה בראשית בשנים. ולא במרכבה ביחיד, אלא אם כן היה חכם ומבין מדעתו. כל המסתכל בארבעה דברים, ראוי לו כאלו לא בא לעולם, מה למעלה, מה למטה, מה לפנים, ומה לאחור. וכל שלא חס על כבוד קונו, ראוי לו שלא בא לעולם:
One may not expound the topic of forbidden sexual relations before three or more individuals; nor may one expound the act of Creation and the secrets of the beginning of the world before two or more individuals; nor may one expound by oneself the Design of the Divine Chariot, a mystical teaching with regard to the ways God conducts the world, unless he is wise and understands most matters on his own. The mishna continues in the same vein: Whoever looks at four matters, it would have been better for him had he never entered the world: Anyone who reflects upon what is above the firmament and what is below the earth, what was before Creation, and what will be after the end of the world. And anyone who has no concern for the honor of his Maker, who inquires into and deals with matters not permitted to him, deserves to have never come to the world.

  • I pondered on whether to write in the actual description of the question that I don't want to really see such an answer since it doesn't actually answer anything and is deeply unsatisfying. This however is partially necessary to ask in this case I think so that we can prove that the Jewish description of G-d, blessed be He, is correct and thus, help to construct further proofs that can reach out to non-practicing (G-d forbid) Jews and Noahides. So I think in this case, it might be acceptable because the cause is good, or perhaps necessary to help such people. In fact, it might even be required
    – setszu
    Sep 15, 2023 at 16:24
  • I don't have time to respond. I'll just say it is not productive to try to outsmart our Sages. In more advanced works, it is proven definitively that we can never understand this paradox.
    – N.T.
    Sep 16, 2023 at 0:18
  • I'm not trying to "outsmart" them though, if you think that you misunderstood what I was trying to say
    – setszu
    Sep 16, 2023 at 0:19
  • Cite some of those works where its allegedly proven definitely that we can never understand this. Sure we might never be able to understand everything, but we can at least get a logical proof of the general structure of it?
    – setszu
    Sep 16, 2023 at 0:20
  • Chovos Halevavos Shaar Hayichud. Not to mention the Gemara and Mishna in my answer.
    – N.T.
    Sep 16, 2023 at 0:21

Maimonides in the Book of Knowledge (foundations of Torah 1, 11) writes:

"He (God) is not found within time, so that He would possess a beginning, an end, or age. He does not change, for there is nothing that can cause Him to change."

Conscious will necessarily implies change. If God has conscious will and decides to create the universe, then this is change. Prior to this decision God did not intend to create the universe, implying change in deciding to do so - and, God did not create the universe until doing so implying change in doing so. God, in Maimonides' conception, has no conscious will and cannot change.

There is another approach. It is possible that matter existed as long as God. God did not make it. God formed the world out of pre-existing matter that existed for all eternity. Maimonides uses the analogy of the sun emanating light. The universe is emanated from God (as light is emanated from the sun). Maimonides also uses the analogy of a spring to explain the notion of emanation in the Guide 2, 12, and he uses the image of the sun in the Guide 2, 21. This is also the view of Aristotle.

  • "Conscious will necessarily implies change" - I'd contest this. If conscious will is paired with all-knowingness, and perfection, then it does not entail change. Having said that, if you take the view which I think is now becoming more common, which is that reality is just information, then His existence itself is information, and since information always exists by default, then He made the universe from Himself in a way. This ties in with what many Islamic philosophers viewed about the universe: that all contingent existence is made from G-d's Holy Attributes.
    – setszu
    Sep 19, 2023 at 2:06
  • Also one can formulate this in the manner of Ibn Arabi's "Unity of Existence" (Wahdat al-Wujud) concept.
    – setszu
    Sep 19, 2023 at 2:06
  • And like I said I think in the question, if G-d, blessed be He, is creating something eternally (doesn't even have to be the universe), then this would completely solve this problem I think. In (Islamic) Neoplatonism, G-d eternally creates the Universal/First intellect, which is the most perfect creation. Then this conscious UI/FI creates the next creation which is the Universal Soul, but the USoul is neither pure perfection like G-d, nor is it the most perfect contingent creation. This creation can bring time & change itself, and thus if commanded, G-d creates the world through it as a tool.
    – setszu
    Sep 19, 2023 at 2:14
  • In that understanding, one need not argue for an eternal universe also.
    – setszu
    Sep 19, 2023 at 2:15
  • @setszu I think the universe is eternal and is eternally emanating from God. This solves the problem of God deciding to create, causing a change in God. I think the view that the universe is eternally emanated from God, like light emanates from the sun, solves much as God has no conscious will in deciding to create, creation just emanates as light emanates from the sun, and the sun does not decide to create light.
    – Shmuel
    Sep 19, 2023 at 3:13

You are quite right that Kabbalistic insight is what we'd need to get the right answer. The problem I think you are having (based on our lengthy discussion in the chat linked above in the OP) is that Kabbalistic insight is very far removed from philosophical insight. They are light years apart. The problem is that philosophy, and reason, are creations, and therefore using them to discuss what came before them is impossible.

Kabbalah doesn't try to do it that way. What Kabbalah wants from you is for you to find, within your own experience and soul, the truths that it teaches about, because they can't be represented using logic, forms or anything in the realm of intellect.

This is why the Sefirot are mentioned only in the Kabbalah, and not in the philosophical works like Rambam. They are not items that you can describe with words and figure out. For example, if someone had never felt love, then you wouldn't be able to use words to describe it - that's backwards. You need to get them to feel it and then you say THAT.

So you are talking about the highest of the Sefirot, and trying to analyse it with philosophy in logic. You've incorrectly assigned desire a form: "a decision", and that's how you are able to logically talk about it. Let's take your a) which reads like this: Desire implies X, which necessarily implies Y, which is impossible, therefore desire is impossible if we understand it in terms of X.

Kabbalah rejects this approach completely and informs you that if you keep trying it you are not going to learn anything at all, and are, in fact, in great danger of getting it completely wrong. Desire is so much more than our ability to make decisions - that's just the logical placeholder in a physical world, a veritable tip of an infinite iceberg. The only true way to know anything about desire is to first spend a long time refining yourself to be holy, pure, and very scrupulous in halacha. Then you are (somewhat!) safe to start exploring, from your own self, what desire is, with the help of a Rav, and combined with rigorous study of the Kabbalistic sources. They will help you find it, and then tell you lots of secrets about it, that with time, wisdom, and intuition, you'll be able to locate those secrets too.

For those who haven't got time to go through all that, then the great explainers of Kabbalah have given us a few tools to help answer this question to the best we can, as it's clear to anyone that super-rational doesn't mean irrational. There has to be something to grasp on our level! BH we've had a thousand years of great explainers to give us what we need to carry on being good Jews.

That answer is that Hashem is one with His desire. As humans, we sometimes desire things that are irrelevant to us, because our yeitzer hara is an "identity theif", trying to say "ah, this sin that's so yummy? This is you, this who you are, this is what you are all about, this is what you were created for". We also sometimes do things that are inauthentic to us: nobody wants to fill out a tax form, so it is done very begrudgingly, with zero heart.

The opposite is also true. We have desires that come directly from our essence, which means, they are fully aligned with who we are. We also have the ability to act completely authentically, when we are doing something we love and identify with. Every father is completely present and himself when he is playing with his children, for example.

All our sources teach us how Righteous, True and Perfect Hashem is. Our mashal for that is a tzaddik, whose very self identifies with truth, goodness and righteousness, and never experiences a desire for anything else, but instead an intense desire for these, and who never does anything without putting his very self into it.

So, I don't know what it means for Hashem to desire, obviously we can't know that unless He reveals it to us one day. But I can at least understand the concept that if someone is always being authentic, and their desire is always true to them, and to goodness and truth, then they never change, in their essence. The changes are superficial, time bound actions, but they do not represent any internal change.

A righteous husband (not hyponised by a yeitzer hara) may never have thought he was going to marry - it may have never entered his conscious - rational intellect, but when he met her, he suddenly wanted to get married. If you ask him, he will confirm that that desire to get married isn't coming from her (like a hypnosis), it's coming from him, because that desire is just the most authentic expression of "all he ever wanted" imaginable, true to his being. This is what real means, by the way.

So yes, the Kabbalah confirms that Hashem truly desires us, it is an authentic expression, meaning it is expressing that which is mysteriously and superrationally hidden in His essence (i.e. as Rambam states, it's just Him). It therefore not any different when He is hidden, in a simple state of pure Self, pure Desire, versus when His desire is revealed and expressed and directed towards desiring Jews in 613 ways and sub details, in a Dira Betachton. The details are all authentic, and therefore do not represent any change in Him.

It's the same with us (lehavdil), as Chovot HaLevavot, Pardes Rimonim and Tanya all state quite clearly: we all have an essence that doesn't change (of course we are not at all perfect or one like Him, so this must be labeled as a mashal), doesn't have to change anyway. A perfectly righteous person can live his whole life, making many decisions, and doing many things, and not change on the inside from the moment he was born until he dies. How much more so is this true of Hashem?

If you would like to attack this with logical analysis, I will have to say, sorry but we can't go any further than this: we will end up trying to apply the wrong tool to the wrong problem, and this will be counter productive and lead to paradoxes, etc. We can only go this far because it has been expressed to us by our great teachers who have grasped enough of these matters, and recieved permission to express them this way, and we are not modifying their statements. We must defer any further understanding to my discussion above on how one is meant to study these matters more deeply - definitely not something for amatuers, no matter how smart, and definitely something beyond comprehension, and definitely something not to be done in a public forum.

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