Did Moshe Rabbeinu see God? Doesn't Maimonides assert that all references to the physicality of God are metaphorical? If so, how did Moses see God?

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    – yoel
    Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 7:10
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    These are two (three) separate questions, the second (third) entirely dependent upon the answer to the first.
    – Seth J
    Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 13:11

4 Answers 4


Rambam explains this in Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah (1:8,10):

Behold, it is explicitly stated in the Torah and [the works of] the prophets that the Holy One, blessed be He, is not [confined to] a body or physical form, as [Deuteronomy 4:39] states: "Because God, your Lord, is the Lord in the heavens above and the earth below," and a body cannot exist in two places [simultaneously].

Also, [Deuteronomy 4:15] states: "For you did not see any image," and [Isaiah 40:25] states: "To whom can you liken Me, with whom I will be equal." Were He [confined to] a body, He would resemble other bodies.

[If so,] what did Moses, our teacher, want to comprehend when he requested: "Please show me Your glory" [Exodus 33:18]?

He asked to know the truth of the existence of the Holy One, blessed be He, to the extent that it could be internalized within his mind, as one knows a particular person whose face he saw and whose image has been engraved within one's heart. Thus, this person's [identity] is distinguished within one's mind from [that of] other men. Similarly, Moses, our teacher, asked that the existence of the Holy One, blessed be He, be distinguished in his mind from the existence of other entities, to the extent that he would know the truth of His existence as it is [in its own right].

He, blessed be He, replied to him that it is not within the potential of a living man, [a creature of] body and soul, to comprehend this matter in its entirety. [Nevertheless,] He, blessed be He, revealed to [Moses] matters which no other man had known before him - nor would ever know afterward - until he was able to comprehend [enough] from the truth of His existence, for the Holy One, blessed be He, to be distinguished in his mind from other entities, as a person is distinguished from other men when one sees his back and knows the structure of his body and [the manner in which] he is clothed.

This is alluded to by the verse [Exodus 33:23]: "You shall see My back, but you shall not see My face."

  • Thanks so much! I really appreciate it! This is exactly what I was looking for, I knew it was metaphorical but I was wondering what the exact metaphor was.
    – הראל
    Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 5:30

Tanya (Likutei Amarim ch.51): "The essence of the Ein Sof (G-d) is the same in our world as in the higher worlds... even in the highest mystical worlds G-d is ungraspable and concealed in them just like He is ungraspable and concealed in our world..."

Since God is the source of all existence, you can't see Him in His true sense, only what He chooses to manifest at your level of existence.

Here's an excerpt from an aish.com article which helps

There is a scene in Kurt Vonnegut's novel, "Breakfast of Champions" that brings home the meaning of God as King. The main character, Kilgore Trout, is having a drink in a bar, minding his own business. Suddenly he senses an awesome presence about to enter the bar. He breaks out into a cold sweat.

Who walks in?

Kurt Vonnegut. When the author of the book steps into the novel to visit his character, Kilgore's perception of his world turns upside down. He realizes that he does not exist independently. Rather, every moment of his life requires a new stroke of the author's pen. Without the author, he ceases to exist.

He also realizes that his universe exists only in the mind of the author, and that beyond his ephemeral world there is a higher dimension -- the realm of Kurt Vonnegut - that is more real than his own


In Exodus 33:11, it says that God spoke with Moses face to face as with a friend. In the same chapter He promised to send His Presence with the people of Israel, and then in verse 22 it says that Moses couldn't see God's face when He let His Presence pass in front of him in a unique way. So it would seem that figurative language was being used, and the impact is meaningful.

  • What exactly did Moses see? Telepathic message?
    – user4951
    Commented Sep 23, 2013 at 13:36
  • It's hard to tell.
    – Annelise
    Commented Sep 24, 2013 at 13:16
  • How do anyone differentiate a true navi from a sychropenic guy? I mean seriously. If God told me the next lottery number and it's accurate then I am not sychropenic I guess. But what did Moses actually see?
    – user4951
    Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 2:14
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    What does sychropenic mean?
    – הראל
    Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 18:47

Yes he did because the Torah said he went up into שמים the heavens and that's how he Wrote the Torah and he came down with a mask on

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    Who said people in the heavens can see God?
    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 18:45
  • Does G-d have an appearance, even in Shomayim?
    – ezra
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 22:35

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