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Did God acquire or improve His good "qualities" (ex. wisdom, kindness, righteousness) or were they always a part of Him?

(we can see for example, that God possesses the characteristics of wisdom and also power, as evidenced by His works such as the electron, the cell, the human brain, the laws of physics, etc.)

if the latter, would it be some kind of extra aspect in man that he is able to acquire these things on his own? (since earning righteousness of your own free will is in a sense superior than having it innately)

(or perhaps we should not be talking about these things for they are beyond our grasp)

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    Malachi 3:6 6.For I, the Lord, have not changed – rosends Jun 19 '15 at 11:42
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    maybe judaism.stackexchange.com/a/29116/1362 – rosends Jun 19 '15 at 12:05
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    The notion of HaShem acquiring qualities is anachronistic, as is even the notion of Him possessing independent qualities (despite the necessary anthropopathisms in Tanach). See the relevant discussion, for example, in חובות הלבבות (Sha'ar HaYichud, ch. 8-10, but especially ch. 10), in addition to the relevant passages from the Ramchal cited in yEz's answer below). – Fred Jun 19 '15 at 20:06
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    And see Da'as Tevunos Siman 46 for more on that. cc @Fred – Y     e     z Jun 19 '15 at 20:15
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    This is really a game of semantics, rather than philosophy. Perfection cannot be improved. God is perfect and therefore cannot be improved. Man is imperfect and therefore can always improve. This only seems like an advantage of Man, since as humans we associate the potential for growth as an advantage. However, we only make this association because our baseline is imperfection. However, there is no intrinsic downside in not being able to improve, if one's starting point is perfection. – mevaqesh Jun 19 '15 at 21:11
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I believe the answer to the question as phrased is "neither."

Hashem's "good qualities" are not a part of Him - they are something with which He chooses to act, but they are not part of Who He is.

The Ramchal in Da'as Tevunos Siman 80 makes this point very clearly:

ואמנם אנחנו משיגים בכבודו ית' מדות פרטיות, כגון, הרחמנות, הממשלה, הכח, המשפט, החמלה, הכעס, התוקף, וכיוצא בזה, כל המדות שאנחנו משיגים בו - מצד פעולותיו הם, אותם המדות שהנביאים משיגים בו מן הקודם אל המאוחר, לפי שהוא ית' נותן להם השגה זאת. ולפי ההשגה הזאת שהשגנו בכבודו, אנו מכנים אותו ית' בכינויים האלה, רחמן, מושל, אמיץ, שופט, וכיוצא...לא מפני זה נאמר שהוא ית' לפי שלמותו יש בו כחות אלה בשיעורים אלה, אלא כל זה תלוי ברצונו ית', וכמו שבארנו, שהוא אדון לשנות כל זה; ואדרבה, בשלמותו אין לנו לשער שום שיעור כלל. אמנם לפי שהוא רוצה לתפוס באלה המדות, ולפעול בדרך זה, על כן ניחס אליו כינויים אלה. ולא נבין באמרנו שהקב"ה רחמן, לומר שעצמותו ית' לפי עצמו הוא כן, כמו שהיינו אומרים על אדם שיש תכונה זו בנפשו להיות רחמן - שכך מוטבע במזגו, שיהיה מושג ונתפס ממנו ענינו אפילו באיזה צד ח"ו, כי זה אין לנו לחשוב כלל, כי אי אפשר לדעת מענינו ית' מה שהוא לפי עצמו באמת כלל ועיקר. אבל כשנקראהו רחמן, נבין שהוא רוצה במדה אחת, שהיא מדת רחמנות, מדה שאינה לפי עצמו, אבל היא לפי ערך הנבראים, ומשוערת בשיעורם.

We grasp Hashem's presence through specific attributes, such as mercy, rulership, strength, justice... all of the attributes that we grasp of Him - we grasp from the perspective of His actions, those attributes that the Prophets grasp of Him, as He gives them this perception. And it is according to this perception that we refer to Him with these terms, Merciful, Ruler, Strong, Judge, etc... and we do not say that because of this He in His perfection has these attributes in these particularly measurements, but rather it is all according to His will, and He can change it at will. And on the contrary, according to His perfect completeness we cannot give any measure at all. However, since he has chosen to use these attributes, and to act through them, therefore we use these terms. And we are not to understand when we say that He is merciful, that He in His essence is so, like we would say about a person who has this character trait in him to be merciful, that such is ingrained in his nature... as we are not to think such a thing at all, as it is impossible to know about Him that which He is in His essence. But when we call Him merciful, we are meant to understand that He wants to act with a certain attribute which is mercy, which is not according to His essence, but is in accordance with the state of the created existence... (translation mine)

So Hashem neither acquired nor started with His qualities - He, in His essence, has no qualities that we can discuss.

In response to the second point, Ramchal in Derech Hashem 1:2:2 seems to imply the reverse - that which is given to a person may be lower than that which he achieves on his own, but that which is innate and inherent to something is the highest level:

כי הנה הוא יתברך שמו שלם בעצמו, ולא במקרה, אלא מצד אמיתת עניינו מוכרח בו השלימות, ומשוללים ממנו החסרונות בהכרח. ואולם זה אי אפשר שיימצא בזולתו, שיהיה אמיתתו מכרחת לו השלימות ומעדרת ממנו החסרונות. אך להתדמות לזה במקצת, צריך שלפחות יהיה הוא הקונה השלימות שאין אמיתת עניינו מכריח לו, ויהיה הוא מעדיר מעצמו החסרונות שהיו אפשריים בו

He is perfect in essence, and not incidentally, but inherent in the G-d concept is that perfection is by definition, and all deficiencies are absent by definition. However, this is impossible to exist by anything other than Him, that perfection should be by definition. However, to be a little bit like Him, it is necessary to at least acquire the perfection which is not by definition, and be the one who prevents the possible deficiencies from himself...

The Ramchal sets up Hashem's innate perfection as the pedestal that we try to come close to in some small way by achieving our own perfection.

  • can you say that God is good in the sense that He is not the opposite? just like the chovos halevavos says that it is more accurate to say that He is not plural rather than that He is one – ray Jun 20 '15 at 19:13
  • @ray See Moreh Nevochim 1:58 - you can describe Hashem as lacking any deficiency, but that is only because it is definition by negation. – Y     e     z Jun 21 '15 at 3:07
  • anyone care to explain the downvote? – Y     e     z Jun 21 '15 at 3:12
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    The question was about "good" but you addressed "good qualities". – HaLeiVi Jun 21 '15 at 19:31
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Saying G-d is good or bad is an anthropomorphism. G-d created what we call good and bad, and it is thus within G-d. Thus we equate holiness and G-dliness with good, because based on the mitzvot following in the ways of holiness is "good".

So G-d has not acquired good...good was created.

  • so why would He care whether we choose good or bad. neither are absolutes – ray Jun 23 '15 at 20:30
  • By the contrary, both are absolutes to us. Our perspective is the one that matters since we can't understand the oneness of existence like G-d sees it. All we can do is follow the guidance given in the Torah to determine what is good and what isn't. Because ultimately what is good is what G-d wants. – Jamezrp Jun 23 '15 at 20:53
  • Are you saying that being more G-dly is a created goodness and not inherently so? – HaLeiVi Jun 24 '15 at 4:07
  • Yes. Everything was created, including goodness and holiness. Think of it as connection versus disconnection instead of good versus evil. Goodness or holiness builds up your connection. Actions that build up the connection are good, holy. Actions that degrade that connection are bad, unholy. – Jamezrp Jun 24 '15 at 23:36
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Hashem is Goodness itself. The point of Bechira is to bring out the potential goodness you have. Whether or not you will triumph over your evil desires depends on how good you really are. The merit of tested goodness over untested is merely that it was shown to be deeply good. Hashem is the source of all good.

In fact, the power a person has to overcome his desires is all from Hashem. The question during a Nesayon is how much Godliness you have. God is God.

Nevertheless, as it turns out, the Ramchal explains that the purpose of creation was in fact to create a scenario in which the good will overcome the evil. Hashem did in fact set up an existence in which there is apparently evil in operation, just so that there will be a triumph of the good.

So, the answer is: both.

  • Ramchal explains at great length in Da'as Tevunos siman 38-40 that the purpose of creation was to show the depth of His oneness, and good and evil were just the vehicle for doing so, but the triumph of good over evil is just a means, not a purpose in itself. – Y     e     z Jun 21 '15 at 3:11
  • @yEz He describes החזרת הרע למוטב as the idea which shows his oneness, and the idea upon which everything is based. This is the point in our triumph over desire as well. What I am showing in my answer is that Hashem has both מעלות, innately good and triumphs over all evil. – HaLeiVi Jun 21 '15 at 4:41
  • the statement "the purpose of creation was in fact..." is what I was responding to - that is inaccurate. And I think calling Hashem innately good is actually a violation of one of the 13 principles of faith and tantamount to heresy according to several Rishonim – Y     e     z Jun 21 '15 at 17:32
  • @yEz I think you are making a mistake. hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14193&pgnum=232 – HaLeiVi Jun 21 '15 at 19:29
  • I'm not sure what part I was mistaken about, the Rambam and Chovos HaLevavos make this point, as well as רוב מנין ובנין of the chochmei Kabbalah. And you are still inaccurate about your depiction of the Ramchal's position. – Y     e     z Jun 21 '15 at 20:24
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It says that at first Hashem was בונה עולמות ומחריבן - creating worlds and destroying them . It seems to be saying that for the animal world, Hashem played around until He got it right, or perhaps until He became perfect, but with us humans, we have our 6000 years to 'get it right' to achieve perfection. It doesn't matter it this 'experimentation' actually occurred or not, its more of Hashem telling us we will have to get our act done and reach perfection, just like He 'had' to.

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    I'd prefer the OP's parenthetical last paragraph over this. Please, be careful about such statements. – HaLeiVi Jun 21 '15 at 5:18
  • Maybe you could explain. What is OP, and why is my carefully worded answer more heretical than the original question? – Aryeh Beitz Jun 22 '15 at 0:18
  • User3548935 in the future, you should use the "@" ping to make sure someone gets your response to them. OP stands for Original Poster, the one who posted the question. cc@HaLeiVi – Y     e     z Jun 22 '15 at 2:45

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