Is the Jewish view that everything in creation is a hidden manifestation of God, i.e. that God is enclothed so to speak, in every element of creation, similar to Panentheism.

Or is God "outside" of His creations, so to speak, guiding them from His "place".

Or perhaps a third possibility?

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    Your wikipdeia article says traditional Judaism is not panentheistic, but Hasidic and Reconstructionist Judaism have become so.
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 23:33
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    Bereshit Rabbah 68:9 - daat.ac.il/daat/tanach/raba1/68.htm - ר' הונא בשם ר' אמי אמר: מפני מה מכנין שמו של הקב"ה וקוראין אותו מקום? שהוא מקומו של עולם, ואין עולמו מקומו, מן מה דכתיב (שמות לג): הנה מקום אתי, הוי, הקדוש ברוך הוא מקומו של עולם, ואין עולמו מקומו.
    – Menachem
    Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 5:47
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    Since when does "Judaism" believe anything!?? Is theology so long dead in this religion that we can actually speak of what it, itself, "believes"? There are Jews who adopt panentheistic views, there are Jews who do not and there are Jews who expressly reject them. This question strikes me as absurd. You could just as easily ask whether "Judaism" believes in commemorating Yom Yerushalayim, or eating qitniyot on Pesach.
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 7:12
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    This article may be relevant to the Chabad view: chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/361884/jewish/Tzimtzum.htm Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 16:58
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    It would help if you could explain the Jewish view you speak of, and perhaps source it. As it stands, it is hard to know the Jewish view you're referencing. Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 17:24

4 Answers 4


The third principle of Jewish Faith as codified by the Ramba"m states explicitly that the Creator "has no physical body and is not a force which resides within a physical body" (אינו גוף ולא כח בגוף). This statement precludes the basic tenet of Panentheism, i.e. that God resides actually within everything that exists.

Additionally, the Rasa"g (Rav Sa'adya Gaon) in his well-known work Emunoth Wa-Dhe`oth discusses ideas of how God created the universe as postulated by the various religions and philosophical schools. One of the twelve theories of creation discussed is Emanationism (i.e. the idea that God emanated his own essence into the lower forms of the creation).

The third theory is that of him that asserts that the Creator of physical bodies has created them out of His own essence... (Ma'amar Rishon, III)

He then goes on to refute this theory with 13 refutations. Emanationism requires a belief in Panentheism.

Judaism has always championed the belief in creatio ex nihilo (Creation from nothing) by a completely transcendent and non-physical God whom is completely removed from His creation.

Panentheism, although championed by many as the true view of the Torah, is certainly a mistake and an aberration.

There is much more which could be said on this subject, but this should be sufficient to answer your basic question.

Kol tuv.

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    You are making a logical error and an unnecessary equivocation. The logical error is that God upholds the creation in some physical way, like the legs of a table holding up the table itself. This is not the case. The equivocation is much the same, i.e. that God upholding the existence of the creation is the equivalent to somehow filling it with His essence. But aside from the fact that He does not require a physical/spacial relationship with the created universe in order to uphold it, He is not a "koah ba-guf" (a force which inhabits physicality). I answered your question in the negative.
    – user3342
    Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 15:12
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    הוא היודע, והוא הידוע, והוא הדעה עצמה--הכול אחד
    – Yishai
    Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 15:30
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    @Yishai I made no such statement that the universe stands alone without God after its creation, rather I am asserting that He does not need a physical/spacial mechanism in order to accomplish that. If you look into the context of Hilkhoth Yesodhei HaTorah 2:10 (which you quoted above), you will see that this is exactly what the Ramba"m also affirms. It is misleading to quote out of context, as if "ha-kol ehadh" means "the universe and God are all one" when its true intention is to communicate that God has no external attributes as physical beings do. See also MN 1:68. Kol tuv.
    – user3342
    Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 22:01
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    The problem is we lack a common vocabulary here to make communication possible. "He does not need a physical/spacial mechanism in order to accomplish that." That certainly isn't transcendent, and wikipedia defines that as a characteristic of Panentheism, at least as far as its claim that it has anything to do with Judaism. I'm also not aware of anyone who says what you said at all. So way too many assumptions and lack of common terminology.
    – Yishai
    Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 3:50
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    Why the downvotes? Also, @ray, I don't understand your first comment: you asked and he provided sources.
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 6:53

It depends on how you define Panentheism. You can take the word at face value, and then put anything into it that can fit that definition. That is what Wikipedia does, and it strikes me as very suspect. Certainly the inventor of the word didn't mean it that way - he meant to strike out a different religious philosophy different from Pantheism.

If you take the word at face value, it means:

  • Pan - all
  • En - in
  • Theism - G-d.

This is distinct from Pantheism where All is G-d - in other words G-d is the sum of the universe and nothing else, which is more reminiscent of those that worship the dust of their feet that Rashi speaks about.

That idea of Panentheism (that it means what the word roots say) maps with the Medrash that Yahu explores here, using that expanded definition (as defined by Wikipedia).

However, that isn't what Panentheism really means. Panentheism, as Miriam-Webster so succinctly defines means:

  • the doctrine that God includes the world as a part though not the whole of his being

That violates many doctrines of Judaism, including non-corporeality, G-d's Oneness, creation ex-nilo, etc.

However, to discuss the larger Wikipedia definition of Panentheism in a Jewish context, you could say that everyone that says the Tzimtzum is not literal (which emphatically includes the Ba'al HaTanya, but others as well - in fact some deny the Gr"a ever held differently, so they clearly don't hold that way, whatever the Gr"a held), which means that G-d transcends the world, and there is no place in the world where He is not present.

If you want to call that Panentheism, I guess you can, but it really bears no relationship to the philosophical/religious ideas that actively identify themselves with the word. Those ideas, from what I read (and see the links in this post) seem to all be about how the world is part of G-d, G-d is changed by the creation of the world, so in some way (apparently much like the Rambam describes the evolution of Avodah Zarah, each one comes along with a new twist) the world is part of an interactive system within G-d.

In the Tanya, the whole argument that G-d transcends the world is that G-d is unchanging and unchanged:

ועל כרחך אין ידיעתו אותם מוסיפה בו ריבוי וחידוש, מפני שיודע הכל בידיעת עצמו

and perforce His knowledge of them does not add plurality and innovation to Him, for He knows all by knowing Himself.

Were G‑d’s knowledge of created beings not to come from knowing Himself then it would be correct to say that this knowledge adds plurality and innovation to Him; previously He did not know them and now he does. However, since plurality and innovation cannot possibly apply to G‑d, He must perforce know them through His knowledge of Himself.

הרי כביכול מהותו ועצמותו ודעתו הכל אחד

Thus, as it were, His Essence and Being and His Knowledge of created beings are all one.

Since G‑d’s knowledge and Providence extend to this world, and since His knowledge is one with Him, it follows that G‑d Himself is to be found within this physical world. Unlike the king who sits in his palace and gazes beyond its walls, the King Himself is to be found wherever His Providence and knowledge are found.

True enough, it is only through divine service that this world may be transformed into a place in which G‑d is revealed. Nonetheless, G‑d is present in this lowly corporeal world, which feels itself to exist independently of Him, to the same degree as He is present within the higher spiritual worlds.

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    @Yishai If "there is no place where God is not," then why did Onkelos in his Targum work so hard to always use the kinui that "the Word [i.e. created expression] of HaShem was [in such-and-such a place]" and not simply "HaShem was [in such-and-such a place]"? Was it not always to remove the Transcendent Cause from identifications within space and time? If Onkelos was a Panentheist (as I assume you would maintain), then why did he not just simply leave the text to read as it does? It seems to me that you are playing word games, instead of taking your ideas to logical conclusions. Kol tuv.
    – user3342
    Commented Nov 14, 2013 at 1:51
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    Also, God does not have parts. This is also the exact language of the 1st four principles of Jewish Faith. There is no such thing as "a part of His Being." The problem is that the early authorities strove to define the spirituality of man's soul and left God to be explained through mashal/hida and negative attributes. Later Qabbalah tried instead to define - as it were - God. And in doing so, they created nothing but error. And grave error at that. Anyone familiar with the hashqafic history of Jewish literature understands this - i.e. mi she-mevin yavin. Kol tuv.
    – user3342
    Commented Nov 14, 2013 at 1:55
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    @Yishai Need we go any futher than the Tanya's statement of "Chelek Elokai Mi-Maal Mamash"? Chassidus DOES believe that God has parts. They function in their practical philosophy as though they fully believe this. I have heard it with my own ears and read it with my own eyes. Making verbal statements to the contrary does not change anything. It is like Christians promoting a very clear form of polytheism with the Trinity but then making a verbal statement that they really do only believe in "one god." This is mere lip service, as are the words of Chassidus.
    – user3342
    Commented Nov 14, 2013 at 12:05
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    @Maimonist, do you not know that חלק אלה ממעל is a posuk in Iyov? Anyway the concept is an Mashal, as explain in the source where Tanya gets it from (including the word ממש). The soul is G-dly, and has no nature in it other than a G-dly one, just like a part of something has nothing different in it than the thing itself. I suspect you don't understand the distinction between G-dly (אלוקות) and G-d, and read the latter into references to the former.
    – Yishai
    Commented Nov 14, 2013 at 14:45
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    @Yishai In the pasuk it is coupled with נחלה. It's meaning is closer to an "apportion" not "a portion". Plus, the fact that the quote is an allusion to something doesn't make it equally valid. Why did you bother stating it is pasuk, as if that was relevant?
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 14, 2013 at 17:45

The way it was explained to me by R' Moshe Zeldman at Yeshivat Aish HaTorah is that the Creation is akin to a dream in HaShem's "mind". (No, HaShem does not have a physical mind and no He does not dream in a physical sense). As long as HaShem "dreams" (i.e. "desires") the Creation to exist it does. IIRC He made this statement in the name of HaRaMHa"L.

The crude analogy R' Zeldman gave us was to close our eyes and imagine a field with a boy in it. He then asked us if that boy continues to exist when we stop thinking about him (obviously not).

So too, R' Zeldman explained, HaShem is constantly "propping up" the Creation by desiring for it to continue. The crude analogy he gave was of holding up a cup. As long as a person holds up a cup, it stays elevated. As soon as the person lets go of the cup, the cup falls to the ground (obviously assuming gravity is at play).

Taking these ideas and crude analogies together, R' Zeldman explained that HaShem's Will comprises all of Creation (much like every blade of grass in the field/boy example above is "composed" of the dreamer's thoughts). Granted this leaves entirely unanswered the question of Free Will.

Seen in this light, one could technically say that all of Creation is "composed" of HaShem / HaShem's Will. But, that's obviously a very loose terminology since even in the human example, one would be hard-pressed to say the field/boy (see above) are "composed" of the dreamer. How much more so when discussing HaShem's "essence".

I hope this helps. It sat well with me.

  • Another example to slightly elucidate the exceedingly nuanced nature of what's being discussed, imagine someone wants a synagogue built. Now imagine that that person dies half way through the construction process. The construction (i.e. the person's will) is still being actively kept "alive"); but, obviously we wouldn't say that that person is still physically alive. So, too, claiming that Creation is comprised of HaShem's will doesn't mean HaShem is literally manifesting in a physical form.
    – Lee
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 21:15
  • This treatment of the physical world as 'unreal' was exactly what the Vilna Gaon and Nefesh HaChaim were afraid people would think which would open the door to commit the midst heinous crimes.
    – user6591
    Commented Aug 17, 2020 at 2:04

Recent daf yomi tosafaos, top of taanis 11b, explaining the gemara there that one should IMAGINE that Hashem is in his stomach, but obviously not really there. Its not just chassidus that promotes these panentheistic views. Most popular kabbalistic works do too including mesilas yisharim. Torah shebaal peh explicitly says Hashem's shchina never comes lower than ten tephachim to the ground.

  • Hashem isn't his Shechina Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 21:31
  • Make the kal vichomer. If the physical manifestation of Hashem, or however you want to describe the shechina stays that distance from earth, how much more so Hashem himself.
    – user6591
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 21:53

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