The Shulchan Aruch says:

ובהזכירו אלהים, יכוין שהוא תקיף, בעל היכולת ובעל הכֹחות כֻּלם

When saying G-d's name אלוקים one should have in mind that G-d is תקיף, בעל היכולת, ובעל הכחות כולם.

These all seem to mean Omnipotent. תקיף means "powerful," בעל היכולת means "can do anything," and בעל הכחות כולם means "controlling all powers."

What is the difference between these terms, such that the Shulchan Aruch needed to codify 3 descriptors to an already difficult הלכה, of כונה for every name?

  • 1
    you have eloquently translated all three. whats similar between them? have i misunderstood your problem
    – rabbi
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 22:58
  • Well "the most powerful" it seems to me is someone who "can do anything", and he has all relevant powers at His disposal to do so.
    – Eliyahu
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 16:11

3 Answers 3


According to Rav Shmuel Eliyahu the distinction between בעל היכולת and בעל הכֹחות כֻּלם is that the former refers to our abilities - our abilities are not our own, Hashem gives us the strength, whereas the latter refers to the powers of nature, Hashem determines the laws of nature.

He doesn't explain תקיף, but it would seem that he means to say that it is the general phrase, that is then explained in two ways. So אלקים means תקיף, which is expressed in those two ways.


IMHO "takif" is not like the others since it means (in this context) "unstopable" but it does not mean he has all the powers. When you think "Ba'al hyecohlet" you should concentrate on the specific power that you mention, and "Ba'al Hcohot culam" means omnipotent. Alternativly, "Ba'al hyecohlet" could mean "the owner of the power, and may bestowe it to others"

  • You've posted a lot of answers with your opinions. Who are you that anyone should care about your opinions?? You're just a random internet user.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 16:16
  • 8
    @Double AA "כי הות אמינא מילתא הוה אקשי ליך עשרין וארבע קושייתא ונפריקנא להון עשרין וארבעה פרוקי וממילא רווחא שמעתא" - that is from your profile, and I think that is the essence of Mi Yodea. This site is like virtual Biet Midrash - Since when someone cann't say his opnion? THAT IS MY ANSWER TO ELYAHU'S QUESTION do you have a better one? please post it "ואל תמנע טוב מבעליו". Do you think that there is something wrong with it? say it "אין סכין מתחדדת אלא על ירך חברתה".You are a moderator - don't you want people to get answers for to their questions?
    – Alaychem
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 9:21

בכל מאודך - with all your most...

I was on a Hareidi bus to Jslm, and talking to a rabbi with my understanding of the Daf Yomi about בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך ובכל מאודך - he was at a loss. I'm telling him the פשט and he's all into what the Gemara's answer is. He did not understand my explanation at all. "What do you mean: 'what is the Gemara asking?' There's no question. The question is asking about somebody with Money which is the meaning of בכל מאודך, and asking why should that be mentioned. And 'Yes' he claimed. There ARE people who will give their life up for money. He had known a personal friend, a Chusid, with a family, a diamond dealer, who committed suicide in the 2001 crisis.

It seems your question is not of that sort. (I hope)

תקיף - after looking up on Snunit (website with tanach, mishna, tosefta, bavli, yerusahlmi, Rambam): Either not to cut the hair (the root of Hakofos of שמחת תורה) or ATTACK, or CLUTCH. So it means that he is CONNECTED to our world.

I was not able to find his source, יכולת is not mentioned in the holy scriptures or the Rambam (according to Snunit).

Looking further into the שולחן ערוך I found that they are similar words to the Tur's but slightly different, with a source to his words:

ויכוין בברכותיו פרוש המילות שמוציא מפיו...
"ובהזכירו ..., יכוין שהוא תקיף, אמיץ, אשר לו היכולת בעליונים ובתחתונים; כי "אֵל"
"לשון כח וחוזק הוא, כמו: "ואת אילי הארץ לקח

The Beit Yossef responds: מבואר הוא - it is self-explanatory!!

So Takif, Amitz, Koach, and Khozek - according to them (I find large differences in the biblical meanings between these... but that's not the issue) are all the same. It seems that according to the Tur, the יכולת is only a repetition expanding on the "power", adding to it the locations where it can be used בעליונים ובתחתונים in the uppers and lowers (or: above and below).

The Yerushalmi mentions Elyonim (the upper ones) and Tachtonim (the lower ones) only in conjunction with fields that get water first. But in בבא בתרא the Bavli brings the story of Rabbi Yoseph son of Rabbi Yehoshua, (this whole discussion in English is quite awkward...) who saw the mirror image in the under-world, where Elyonim were below and Tachtonim above. Or in other words, in accordance with the spherical shape of the globe, known since Erotostenes and Ptolmey and even earilier at least since 3460 cw, approximately 400 years before Rabbi Yoseph's story took place.

The Tur repeats the saying יכולת בעליונים ובתחתונים in section 625 about the Succah saying that the exodus is the proof of Hashem's power in the uppers and lowers.

On the other hand, looking up at Grimoar.cz "The online Kabalah website" the exact wording בעל יכולת בעליונים ובתחתונים is repeated in many books: שושן סודות, שערי אורה, ספר הבהיר, דעת תבונות, ברית מנוחה some of which were probably available to the Tur. At least Sefer Habahir is said to have been "published" about 100 years before the Tur.

Sefer Habahir reads (I need more that 10 reputation points to post more than two links, so: grimoar dot cz slash anonym slash sefer_ha-bahir dot htm):

פז. כתיב (תחילת קהלת) ולא תמלא אזן משמוע, וכתיב (שם) ולא תשבע עין לראות,
מלמד ששניהם שואבים מן המחשבה,
ומאי מחשבה? מלך שצריכים לו כל מה שנברא העולם בעליונים ובתחתונים

"The eye cannot be filled with sight, and the ear cannot be filled with hearing" teaches us that both come from "thought" (or: the mind) and what is "thought"? A king, that everything created above (in the uppers) and below (in the lower) need him.

So we are left with בעל הכחות כולם - Owner of all the powers (which means the unity, and obviously is the פשט simple and literal meaning of אלוקים meaning Gods in the plural. And as the Tur explained אל to mean power - the name means Powers in the plural. And as Moshe Rabeinu tells us: You were shown that the name is the-powers - and none other except him!

אַתָּה הָרְאֵתָ לָדַעַת כִּי ד' הוּא הָאֱלֹקִים אֵין עוֹד מִלְבַדּוֹ

  • I changed the names in accordance with the European Jewish custom and in particular those of my ancestors, and teachers, may their memory be blessed.

In the Bavli, the saying, as written, appears only once, and is in the sad context of a woman giving birth to a child due to rape. But in the singular: In במדבר Moshe Rabeinu prays to Hashem:

ועתה יגדל נא כח ד

And in דברים You should remember the name your powers, for he is the one who GIVES YOU POWER to collect (meaning: to Succeed).

וזכרת את ד אלקיך כי הוא הנותן לך כח לעשות חיל

Interestingly, in פירוש הראב"ד לספר יצירה which has been proven to have been written by Rabbi Yoseph Haaroch, who lived at the same time as the Tur, Rabbi Yaakov Ben HaRosh, wrote the following (again, can't link, so: hebrew dot grimoar dot cz slash jecira slash raavad_jecira dot htm):

ע"ד משל כצורת הבנין בבנאי כי הוא הוא הפועל והוא הוא הצורה והוא הוא התכלית.
לפיכך נקראות כל הכחות המצוירות בחכמתו בשם אלהים
שנאמר בראשית ברא אלהים
כי בו נצטיירו כל הכחות... שלשים ושנים כמספר הקו הסובב לאלכסון עשרה בקרוב.

As an example like the shape of a building (plan) in the hands of a builder: It is what will be implemented and it itself (recursively) is the shape of the building, and at the same time the goal of the project.
Therefor ALL THE POWERS possibly drawn in his wisdom are called אלקים (The Powers)
Like it is written: In the beginning and The Powers created...
- because in him were ALL THE POWERS... 32 counted approximately like the number of the circumference for a diameter of 10.

So back to the original question:

תקיף - He is powerful: which is similar to the belief in any other god
בעל היכולת - can (or does) actually apply this power, as opposed to some philosophies of inaction.
בעל הכחות כולם - And these powers are in all fields (and not limited to a certain field)

Hope this helped, I think I did my "most"

--- Edited ---

After explaining what Snunit is, I realized that I had not searched the Medrash literature. עליונים ותחתונים are mentioned about Moshe Rabeinu changing them (within a list of changes in nature by various prophets and biblical figures:

I shoud have remembered it from the recent study of the Daf Yomi in Suca two weeks ago (Hehalil)... Medrash Kohelet Raba (daat . ac . il / daat / toshba / kohelet / 3b-2 . htm)

רבי שמעון בן לקיש הוה עליל מן המתגרה, פגע ביה רבי יונתן,
אמר ליה: היך מרי?
אילין קרייא - ומסר ליה, ואילין קרייא - מקרתה

כך גזר הקדוש ברוך הוא על העליונים שיהיו עליונים, ועל התחתונים שיהיו תחתונים.
ועמד משה ועשה עליונים תחתונים, ותחתונים עליונים.
הדא הוא דכתיב: ומשה עלה על האלהים… וירד ד' על הר סיני

כך גזר הקדוש ברוך הוא על התחתונים - שיאכלו וישתו, ועל העליונים - שלא יאכלו ולא
ישתו עמד אברהם ועשה עליונים - אוכלים ושותים
הדא הוא דכתיב: והוא עומד עליהם תחת העץ ויאכלו
וכי אוכלין היו? אמר רבי נתן: נראין כאוכלין היו. הראשון, ראשון מסתלק…

עמד משה ועשה תחתונים - שאין אוכלין ואין שותים
הדא הוא דכתיב: ויהי שם עם ד' ארבעים יום וארבעים לילה, לחם לא אכל, ומים לא שתה

Rabbi Shimon son of Lakish was coming back from the “dwelling”, and Rabbi Yonathan met him:
How is my teacher? (e.g. how are you?) - he asked.
These are the things that were said, and given over,
And these are the things that actually happened. - he replied.

Then comes a long list of examples of changes humans made to the heavenly decree, beginning with the Elyonim and Tachtonim (above and below).

The Blessed Holy one, created the top ones (Elyonim) to be on top, and the lower ones (Tahtonim) to be below.
Moses “stood up” and made the top ones to be below, and the lower ones to be on top.
It is that is which is written: And Moses went up to heaven… And G-d went down on Sinai Mountain. (Names, Jewish chapter 27, Yithro)

Also, the Blessed Holy one, created the lower ones to eat and drink, and the top ones to not eat nor drink.
Abraham stood up, and made the top ones eat and drink,
It is that is which is written: And he is standing over them, and they ate. (Genesis, Jewish chapter 48, Vayera)
Moses stood up, and made the lower ones not eat nor drink.
It is that which is written: And he stayed there with the name 40 days and 40 nights, bread he did not eat and water he did not drink. (Names 27, Yithro)

I also found the famous Midrash which I totaly forgot about: (Tanchuma - Genesis Parsha A)

אֵלֶּה תוֹלְדוֹת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהָאָרֶץ
אָמַר רַ' שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן חֲלַפְתָּא:
גָּדוֹל הַשָּׁלוֹם,
שֶׁכְּשֶׁבָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת עוֹלָמוֹ, עָשָׂה שָׁלוֹם בֵּין הָעֶלְיוֹנִים לַתַּחְתּוֹנִים:

בַּיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן: בָּרָא מִן הָעֶלְיוֹנִים וּמִן הַתַּחְתּוֹנִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: "בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ"
בַּשֵּׁנִי בָּרָא מִן הָעֶלְיוֹנִים – "יְהִי רָקִיעַ" ,
בַּשְּׁלִישִׁי בָּרָא מִן הַתַּחְתּוֹנִים – "תַּדְשֵׁא הָאָרֶץ"
בָּרְבִיעִי מִן הָעֶלְיוֹנִים – "יְהִי מְאֹרֹת בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמַיִם"
בַּחֲמִישִׁי מִן הַתַּחְתּוֹנִים – "יִשְׁרְצוּ הַמַּיִם"
בַּשִּׁשִּׁי בָּא לִבְרֹאת אָדָם, אָמַר:
אִם אֲנִי בּוֹרֵא אוֹתוֹ מִן הָעֶלְיוֹנִים, הֲרֵי הָעֶלְיוֹנִים רַבִּים מִן הַתַּחְתּוֹנִים בְּרִיאָה אַחַת,
אִם אֲנִי בּוֹרֵא אוֹתוֹ מִן הַתַּחְתּוֹנִים, הֲרֵי הַתַּחְתּוֹנִים רַבִּים עַל הָעֶלְיוֹנִים בְּרִיאָה אַחַת, וְאֵין שָׁלוֹם בָּעוֹלָם,
אֶלָּא הֲרֵי אֲנִי בּוֹרֵא אוֹתוֹ מִן הָעֶלְיוֹנִים וּמִן הַתַּחְתּוֹנִים.
זֶהוּ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר:
"וַיִּיצֶר ד' אֱלֹהִים אֶת הָאָדָם עָפָר מִן הָאֲדָמָה" – מִן הַתַּחְתּוֹנִים,
"וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים" – מִן הָעֶלְיוֹנִים.

The Blessed Holy one built the world from the uppers and lowers.

On the first day he created from the uppers and from the lowers,
which is being told: “In a beginning, gods creating from of the heaven and of the earth...”

On the second day he created from above - “Let there be a stretched-out veil...” (in the sky)
On the third he created from the below - “May the land give vegetation”
On the fourth, from above - “Let there be Lightings in the stretched out veil of the sky…”
On the fifth, from below - “May the waters swarm with…”
On the sixth he came to creating man (Adam). He said:
If I create him from above, the above will be more than below.
If I create him from below, the below will be more than above, and no peace in the world.
Instead, I’ll create him from above and from below.
That is what is being told:
“And he gathered the man - dirt from the land” - from below (in Hebrew its a play on words - man: Adam, soil: Adama)
“And he blowed in his nostrels a breath of lives” - from above.

Which leads to the well documented discussion on the meaning of Bakol.

So the bottom line is that, according to the Tur, we should really be acknowledging his powers on us, ourselves - the ones built from both above and below.


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