The Rambam in beginning of Hilchos Deos asserts that God has no body - physical or otherwise.

Hence, God is totally intangible. If so, how can the untangible affect anything in this world?

If He has no corporeality at all, then how does He effect a physical event? In our understanding, every time light comes in to being or clouds move, some physical source must cause it, but God isn't physical. Is saying "Let there be light" a physical act? If so, that contradicts the Rambam; if not, how does it effect the creation of light?

I'm not asking that physical effects imply a physical being. I'm asking how, assuming He has no physical being, He effects things. Not that He can't: yes, that'd limit Him. But how does He? Familiar physical events require a physical thing to effect them: by what medium does a non-physical God effect physical things?

  • how can an intangible do things? he has no arm, no leggs, no brain, yet he can exhibit strength, think, etc. How can a nontangible have any tools to do anything
    – ray
    Commented Aug 6, 2013 at 20:33
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    I think this question has an incorrect premise. Commented Aug 6, 2013 at 20:35
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    This is actually a classic criticism of Plato's Theory of Forms - Critics as old as Aristotle (Plato's student) brought this up. Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 0:50
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    @HachamGabriel please share what is the incorrect premise?
    – ray
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 21:27
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    @ ray, What @Hacham seems to be saying is that we have no other reference of intangibility to compare it to. So who says that the intangible can't affect the tangible? Here's what we know: 1) G-d is the only truly intangible thing. 2) He, in practice, can affect the tangible. Therefore 3) Intangible things can affect tangible ones. The "what medium" question is more valid, but it strikes me as nigh unanswerable, much as other questions about G-d's nature. How does G-d create? How does G-d exist?
    – HodofHod
    Commented Aug 9, 2013 at 18:07

3 Answers 3


There are some ideas in Kabbalah that can answer your question. Generally, G-d expresses His immaterial nature through a series of filters (the spheres on the Tree of Life diagram) which allows His influence to work through physical objects.

To be more specific, G-d's nature as Ein Sof is such that it is too pure to be directly expressed in physical form, and He chose to use a series of vessels (the sephirot) to filter Himself so that Creation could occur. It was through G-d's action and using G-d's filtered emanations as building material that the physical world was Created, and through His continued action that it continues to exist.

So the question, "If He has no corporeality at all, then how does He effect a physical event" is flawed, to some degree. Corporeality exists and is sustained by Him; G-d can act in the physical world because it comes from Him.

  • I don't understand how this answers the question. What is the flaw exactly in your last paragraph? The whole point of the question is how God sustains corporeality. You can't use that as a premise in your answer. This is circular.
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 11, 2013 at 9:00
  • @DoubleAA In the question, corporeality is presupposed to be different than the intangibility of G-d. This interpretation denies that distinction. Here are some extra sources that discuss the lack of distinction of ayin and yesh. Commented Aug 11, 2013 at 15:44

The physical universe would not exist if it weren't for its Creator. I think that everything physical is also bound in time; time also comes from a starting point, a 'will' (you could say) that started the chain of cause and effect.

The thing is that He didn't just create things. He also creates, constantly, the stage of time itself and He upholds the existence, and all the physical properties, of created things (both tangible and intangible to us). Judaism believes that He has given us an element of genuine choice, responsibility, and agency that is an inexplicable miracle just like creation itself. Still, not a moment goes by that isn't held by Him in existence. Not a thing exists that exists of its own right.

If He creates everything, even while not being Himself a 'thing' in that universe, then how can there even be a question about how He affects it?

When the Bible speaks of our Creator, of course it uses descriptions that are meaningful to us in creation, but in no way does it assume that Hashem is the same as anything created. He made it. He made the mouth to be able to speak. So when it says that He said 'let there be light', that doesn't mean that He used a mouth or even sounds that are carried in substance and time... all of which He made :) I think it is just pointing to the concept of His intention, His choice, which is the best we can do of understanding His creating of the world.

Doesn't this make Him seem distant? Far from it. He isn't limited to anything small; Judaism believes that He cares for us, knows us, communicates with us, and blesses us in many details of life. Every breath, every bit of food or water, every friendship we have, everything we learn, is in His hands. And how about the things that happen and seem horrible? That's another question, about the kindness of His wisdom. It doesn't mean He isn't near to those who seek Him. Think about it... everything we are is derived from His creating, we are nothing without this, but in existing and in being blessed... we are more intimately near to our Source than we are to anything nearby us in the world. That is a big thing about thankfulness.

PS Or were you really asking, "How can the intangible create the tangible"?


in Moreh Nevuchim:

ואמנם פעולותיו – בעצמו לא בכלי. והכוחות באין ספק מכלל הכלים; אם כן אינו בעל כח – כלומר: שיהיה בו ענין זולת עצמו בו יעשה או ידע או ירצה

"His actions are accomplished by His Essence, not by any organ, and as undoubtedly physical forces are connected with the organs, He does not posses any such forces, that is to say, He has, besides His Essence, nothing that could be the cause of His action, His knowledge, or His will".

Combined with the first halacha of Mishneh Torah, which states that all that exists derives its existence from the truth of His existence, we should note that this is the true way action gets accomplished. The requirement to do so through a physical body is not essential, but rather a mashal.

Another way to put it is just because He's not physical, doesn't mean He is not real. On the contrary, He is truly real, physicality gets whatever meagre realness it has from Him (tzimtzum shelo k'peshuto). There should be no kasha on how that which is more real than physicality can affect the physicality (at least not from the direction you are coming from, a better question might be how can something so unreal come from Him who IS real?). Remember the very reason that a physical action needs a physical cause is His rule. How does He ensure that rule?

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