According my understanding of the Shaar Yichud of Chovot Halevavot, an Eternal being must be infinite and everywhere since whatever is finite is necessarily bounded and whatever is bounded is preceded by the framework which set its boundaries, hence it cannot be Eternal, because eternal by definition means nothing preceding it. (see. ch.7 with commentaries)

If it is so that God must be everywhere, then how are we to understand the absolute unity of God?

We cannot say "part" of Him is here and "part" of Him is there since that contradicts the Unity of God.

Neither can we say that He is entirely here and entirely there since that would mean 1+1=1


5 Answers 5


Spacial location is a property of physical matter. Because of the fact that matter is finite and cannot occupy two different places at the same time, it must occupy only a specific location. G-d is not limited by that restriction and can occupy all places at once. This does not mean that different parts or different copies of Him occupy different places, but that the same G-d occupies all those different places simultaneously. Other non-material things share this curious attribute. For example, the mathematical rule that 1 + 1 = 2 holds true in all places in the universe, but it is not a different rule in each place (so that we could add them together and say there are two rules) or a different part of the rule in each place. The same rule exists in all places simultaneosly.

  • Matter can occupy the same place at the same time. At least some kinds can (I think).
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 21:03
  • Then your answer is just an analogy?
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 21:14
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    @DoubleAA Reading the link in your comment yields the following quote: "Since bosons with the same energy can occupy the same place in space, bosons are often force carrier particles. In contrast, fermions are usually associated with matter..." In other words, particles that can occupy the same space are not considered matter.
    – Baruch
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 21:17
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    at the quantum mechanical scale particles behave like waves also so you can't ask from there.
    – ray
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 5:50
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    @ray The point is at every scale everything behaves somewhat like we think of waves and somewhat like we think of particles. Changing scale doesn't change the thing.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 30, 2014 at 19:56

I question your assumptions, however:

The idea of "parts" does not refer to things which are arbitrarily distinct within one whole. A rubber bouncy ball is not made of parts just because it takes up space - it is all part of the same whole, as opposed to a basketball consists of the sphere which bounces, the hollow inside which maintains its firmness, and the piece that allows the pump needle to insert air without letting air out. Hashem is One in that He does not have one "part" of Him responsible for kindness, one part for judgment, one part for mercy etc., rather Hashem is one in that all these behaviors are accomplished by one distinct "faculty." This is how the Ramchal describes Hashem's oneness in Derech Hashem (1:1:5) - מציאות פשוט בלי הרכבה - a simple existence, one that does not consist of compounding. This is the same use of simple that is commonly used in systems - simple and complex systems. Even if we could refer to Hashem as "being in all places" this would not result in "parts" of Him in different places, as all places would be one "big part."

Regarding your assumption that Hashem's unity means that He is in all places, Sha'ar HaYichud never states this and I do not think it is a result of his intent: there are two distinct aspects when we discuss the Creator. One is His עצם, His "essence," and the other is His מדות, His "attributes," the way He interacts with the world. Hashem's manifestation in this world, the way He interacts, is very much not singular in having no distinct parts - there are 13 distinct elements of that interaction. (The Kuzari explains that this itself is an expression of greater One-ness, that even apparent disparity comes from one unified source.) When we discuss Hashem being One, we are referring to His "essence" - there is no physical location to Hashem's "essence." All of His actions come from one cohesive plan and purpose, but the actions are split into parts, as is all of the physical world. Hashem does not have an "essence" in the physical world, and from the perspective of Hashem's "essence," physical existence does not exist (see Nefesh HaChaim Sha'ar Gimmel ch. 2 - עד שתוכל לומר שאין כאן שום נברא ועולם כלל רק הכל מלא עצמות אחדותו הפשוט). The discussion of His being one and having no parts is a discussion which precedes physical existence - thus the Rambam in several places (see for example Moreh 1:73) equates Hashem's one-ness with His being non-physical. There was never an attempt to apply the Unity that is being described to physical existence - it is a discussion of qualities and domains, not of how large or old something is.

  • a rubber ball is not made of parts? has atoms, etc.
    – ray
    Commented Mar 30, 2014 at 20:42
  • @ray you totally missed the point. That is not the idea of parts - parts are an expression of purpose or function. The parts under discussion are not spacial areas. There are no parts of a rubber ball, it is all one part, as every "bit" of it is of the same function and purpose. Commented Mar 30, 2014 at 20:46
  • G-d being everywhere in space never meant exclusively in space. obviously He transcends spacetime because it is His creation.
    – ray
    Commented Mar 30, 2014 at 20:55
  • @ray that was the point of my citation to Nefesh HaChaim - Hashem in His "essence" is specifically not in space or in time - space is a definition and therefore limitation, no matter how much space. There is no such thing as space with reference to Hashem's "essence." Commented Mar 30, 2014 at 21:02
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    "being everywhere" means taking up space - it's semantics to try to say one without the other. Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 2:44

It seems, that your question arises from mixing two different aspects of Hashem's qualities which is a very common confusion. Let me elaborate it based on Rambam's Yesodei-haTorah.

  1. First aspect of Hashem is what we call Hashem is One. Some of Hashem's qualities you discuss (omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence, eternity etc) relate to this aspect. Those qualities are purely theoretical (mental) and can not be observed or sensed by any human means (just like mathematical infinities). I would like to explain this Oneness a little bit.
  2. It is a misunderstanding to say "Hashem is everywhere", as the Sages said "He is the Makom (place) of the world", not the vice verse. He IS the dimensions in which anything else possibly exists. His omnipresence is not a presence per se, but it is the base for the presence of all other stuff.
  3. It is also a mistake to talk about Hashem's Eternity, as the time is an attribute of what we call "matter". For spiritual things (think of particles or souls) time looses its meaning (see the problem of causality). Hence the world to come is called "the eternal Shabbos day" - once we disconnect from matter, time "freezes" if you will.
  4. Same with omnipotence, as our understanding of potency implies a force being applied to an external body. Hashem is the reason for all potency (forces) in our reality, so omnipotence means "source for potency" not "a lot of it".
  5. Needless to say, omniscience is a similar confusion. As nothing can be "external" to Hashem, and our understanding of knowledge is an external knowledge - one knows something that is external to him, this is inapplicable to Hashem. Therefor He IS the source for all the knowledge in our reality, not actually "knows a lot".

As you can see, this understanding of Hashem's Oneness is very problematic for us. Because He can not be observed and perceived with senses, He can not interact with His "space-time-matter limited" creations, i.g. us. Therefore creation of the spacetime limited creatures "obligates" a simplified, "scaled-down version" of Him (we can call it the Shechina, for example) that can be "impersonated" and treated as He was an ultimate "space-time" being. This is the second aspect I was talking about, that's completely different from the first one.

  1. In this aspect G-d is not "exactly" one, as we and our world do exist in parallel to Him in our perception, and there's Earth and the Heaven etc. And therefore Torah is full of G-d's "impersonated" qualities, such as body parts (see Rambam), feelings (see Rambam), movement, forces etc, that allow our interaction with Him.

  2. Therefore your example of ""part" of Him is here and "part" of Him is there" applies to this aspect of Him, the practical implementation of Hashem, not the "real" One Hashem as described in #1-5.

I should admit, that this differentiation is not clear from Rambam's writings or all others and it took me some time to realize it, but once you grasp this idea you can clearly see, when Hashem is addressed in His unity and when in His "spacetime" implementation.

Hope it helps.

  • with no. 2, if not 'everywhere' then since HaShem is existence itself, then is everything?
    – gamliela
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 14:40
  • @gamliela I think we need to redefine "existence". For me it is something to come into and cease. Those two are irrelevant to G-d. Hence, existence, in my definition, is inapplicable to G-d.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 17:38
  • physical time freezes, but there is still a concept of "time" in spiritual matters in terms of sequence of events.
    – ray
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 19:47
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    there is such a thing as sequence of events in the non-physical realm. @gamliela we cant picture it though since we know only physical time
    – ray
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 6:31
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    @ray Keep in mind that time is not a "objective reality", it is in our perception. From G-d's perspective the world is static, comprising all dimensions (incl time) in one picture (simulation theory or "the ten dimensions" on Youtube). Think about coming to a theater and watching a movie - it unfolds before you 25 frames per second, but if you come up to the booth, take the film tape out and hold in front of you, you'll be able to see the whole movie in one sight.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 21:14

That is the whole point - the Absolute Unity of G-d means not that there is 1 and not 2, but rather, that there is nothing except Him. The overwhelming multiplicity of our reality is just one form of expression of His Oneness.

Now this concept seems paradoxical to us, but Rashi on the first verse of Shma brings the quote from Zecharyah that at the end of days, G-d will be One and His Name will be One, so it will be revealed how exactly is the multiplicity we see is an expression of His Oneness. Currently, however, it is unrevealed.

  • can you please explain the statement "The overwhelming multiplicity of our reality is just one form of expression of His Oneness."
    – ray
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 20:29
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    @gt6989b whats the paradox, Everything IS G-D! I think you answered the question very clearly. If everything is Hashe-m there's no here nor there ...
    – R. Mo
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 20:32
  • @R.Mo does that mean part of Him is in me and part of Him is in you? or perhaps He is in me and in you simultaneously, but then that's 1+1=1
    – ray
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 20:35
  • @ray it's not that He is in you (that would imply there is something in you other than Him as well), it's that you are a part of Him.
    – gt6989b
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 20:39
  • that is exactly my point - "a part" is a contradiction to absolute Unity. An absolute Unity has no parts or plurality in any sense whatsoever.
    – ray
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 20:41

As in every philosophical question ( jewish, all the more so) there are many different versions of the same answer. Those answer will have different approaches based on background (chassidic, litvish, etc..) and education, but IMHO, from what I have heard and read, ( sorry sources allude me ) the root to all these approaches are like we say in the Shema "Echad". G-D is one, i.e. and there is nothing else. Hence the part of G-D thats in me and you are part of one whole. The misconception that a "part of g-d" is then a disruption in unity is brought about because of our human minds. That doesn't mean its not so. There are many things beyond our comprehension, ( calculus for me is one of those topics, among many others.) The 'issue' arises when you have individuals that understand all the this world has to offer intellectually, and when they come to a concept that can not be processed by a human mind, it gets questioned and argued on. In judaism, this is where our Emunah and Bitachon come in. Point being: the answer to this question is Emunah.

Editors note: this is not an attack on any individual, group, nor movement. It is also not to say we should not ask. It is my answer to this question (and to any other question beyond human comprehension)

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