Is it forbidden to try to give a definition of G-d as (i.e. a person/entity/consciousness who is unlimited without a physical shape not limited to space and time) ?

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    There is a sefer I believe called "shiur komo" I will try and find it. It describes HaShem in extreme physical detail. I believe the Rambam (or someone) once said about the sefer that it should be burned even on Yom Kippur that comes out on Shabbos.
    – Yehoshua
    Commented Aug 22, 2015 at 22:54
  • @Yehoshua do you know who is the writer of the sefer ?
    – mil
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 4:39
  • It's considered to be "ancient" -- from the "time of Chazal" of that means anything. This is considered a "fact". The Rambam mentions it in the hakdama to chelek (i.e. the place where he writes the 13 ikarim in mesectas Sanhedrin.) His comment about burning it is true, that which people add even on Yom Kippur that falls out on Shabbos (or perhaps what he wrote) is no doubt an exaggeration.
    – Yehoshua
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 15:27
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    The Rambam also mentions it here in teshuvas (117): hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=1730&st=&pgnum=215 ... The Right side is Judeo-Arabic, the left side is translated Hebrew so when you try and read teshuva 117 and go to the next page, keep in mind the Hebrew is on the left always. Unless you can read Judeo-Arabic ;)
    – Yehoshua
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 15:36
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    @Yehoshua Idolatry is (also) considered a fact by some; that doesn't make it true.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 3:40

3 Answers 3


Rambam famously adopts the approach of negative-theology (see Rabbi Meir Triebitz's lengthy article about it here). That is, Rambam opines that we cannot speak about God in terms of what he (it) is, but rather what he (it) is not. That is, we can speak of God not being corporeal, not being limited, etc.

Also noteworthy, is the Gemara Megillah 18a

אסור לספר בשבחו של הקב''ה דא''ר אלעזר מאי דכתיב {תהילים קו-ב} מי ימלל גבורות ה' ישמיע כל תהלתו למי נאה למלל גבורות ה' למי שיכול להשמיע כל תהלתו אמר רבה בר בר חנה א''ר יוחנן המספר בשבחו של הקב''ה יותר מדאי נעקר מן העולם שנאמר {איוב לז-כ} היסופר לו כי אדבר אם אמר איש כי יבלע דרש ר' יהודה איש כפר גבוריא ואמרי לה איש כפר גבור חיל מאי דכתיב {תהילים סה-ב} לך דומיה תהלה סמא דכולה משתוקא

To summarize: one should avoid praising God [the commentators strongly limit this statement. Don't get the impression that one should actually not praise God. Rashi for example limits this to establishing new blessings] since in so doing he implies that this is the extent of God's praise.

IIRC R. Yoseph Chaim of Baghdad limits this to praise of God's nature [discouraged under certain circumstances] and praise of his acts [always encouraged] in his "B'nayahu commentary thereon. For somewhat similar sentiments expressed in his "Ben Yehoyada" commentary, see here.


the shaar yichud ch.10 says it is impossible for us to grasp God as He is. so really He cannot be discussed in any kind of meaningful way. but we can know a bit about Him (for example that He possesses wisdom) by what He reveals to us on our level.

Therefore, you should exert your mind until you know the Creator through the evidences of His works and not strive to know Him in His glorious essence. For He is exceedingly close to you from the side of His deeds but infinitely remote in any representation of His essence or comparison with it. As already stated, we will never be able to find Him in this way. When you arrive at the stage where you abandon (trying to find Him) through your thoughts and senses because He cannot be grasped in this way, and you instead find Him in the evidence of His deeds, as though He were inseparable from you - this is the pinnacle of knowledge of Him which the prophet exhorts us on in saying "Know therefore this day, and consider it in your heart, that the L-ord He is G-d in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else" (Deut. 4:39).

another related quote (Daas Tevunos 40)

"certainly G-d could have established the world through His omnipotent system, in such a way that everything would be totally incomprehensible to us, not before not after, without cause and effect. If He had done so, no one would be able to open their mouths for we would not be able to understand anything whatsoever... but because He wanted us to understand a bit of His ways and attributes - on the contrary He very much wants us to exert ourselves on this..."

  • You seem to be conflating a statement being meaningless and being forbidden. The OP asked about the latter.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 20:40
  • @mevaqesh the OP accepting this answer indicates you are wrong
    – ray
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 5:26

The Rambam seems to hold it's permitted to "give a definition of G-d": consider that he spends much of chapter 1 of Y'sode Hatora doing so.

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    .. and starts the Moreh proving that all we can know about G-d is (1) what He isn't, and (2) how His actions appear to us. And yet closes the Moreh with chapters explaining how the ultimate human perfection, the key to prophecy, receiving personal Divine Providence (hashgachah peratis), and olam haba, as being a consequence of knowing about G-d. Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 16:15
  • the rambam seems to be listing what God is not. whereas a definition is a description of what something is.
    – ray
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 16:24
  • @ray, m-w.com (the Web version of Webster's Third New International Dictionary, a well-respected dictionary) gives "an untrue statement" and "the quality of not being true or accurate" as its definitions of falsehood. Apparently, a definition can be in terms of what something is not. More to the point, the asker here, when asking whether it's permitted to define God, gave specific examples of definition in terms of what He's not ("...who is unlimited without a physical shape not limited to space and time"); so obviously he's satisfied with such a definition.
    – msh210
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 16:38
  • @msh210 i see. i was coming from how chazal understand the word definition (geder). Marpe Lenefesh on shaar yichud ch1: the meaning of the word "definition" is: "a correct and complete teaching on the thing that one wishes to explain what it is". Therefore one must call it with a name which is specific to it, so that the reader does not err that one's intent was for something else... for example, if we define a human being as a "speaking being" - this is a comprehensive teaching without breaches, but if you define him as an "alive being"
    – ray
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 17:06
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    its all one objection. the rambam is not defining God.
    – ray
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 4:53

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