(Closely related to this post, but I think it is still a bit different)

Panentheism: A doctrine that the universe subsists within Gcd, but that Gcd nevertheless transcends or has some existence separate from the universe.

Panentheism (aka Monistic Monotheism) plays quite a prevalent role in the philosophy of Chabad (and chassidus in general?), as well as apparently the Nefesh HaChaim (3:3).

Is there anywhere in the body of Rabbinic Judaism, including of course the Geonim, Rambam, and later authorities, that deem such a belief to be forbidden?

Specifically, does the doctrine of panentheism as explained by the sources above, transgress the Rambam's thirteen principles?, specifically (from the third principle) אינו גוף ולא כוח בגוף?

  • 1
    Since you already provide sources that seem to support Panentheism, can you explain why you would think there would opinions that view it as heretical? Feb 23, 2016 at 19:52
  • 2
    @IsaacKotlicky It's not uncommon for the Rambam to disagree with various practices/beliefs of "mysticism", which (I think) the Vilna Gaon blamed on his deep involvement with Greek philosophy and the like
    – jj2
    Feb 23, 2016 at 19:59
  • This question is one of the key points in the dispute between the Misnagdim and the Chassidim back in the Vilna Gaon's day. Nowadays, I would think only Baladi Teimanim, the strict followers of the Rambam, would consider panentheism a problem. As for Nefesh haChaim 3:3, his understanding of tzimtzum is nuanced, complex, and subject to broad dispute. There are those who think its the same as the Chassidim (including the author of the newly published translation of NhC, "Nefesh haTzimzum"). I'm not one of them. But the topic is for a book, not a MY answer. Feb 24, 2016 at 14:36
  • @MichaBerger It sounds like you know of a Rambam that speaks on this topic? That would probably make a good answer if so.
    – jj2
    Feb 24, 2016 at 15:42
  • 1
    That's not troublesome at all - it's clearly stating that no physical object contains divine power. That doesn't preclude a divine origin for a physical object. Feb 29, 2016 at 16:18

2 Answers 2


What the Rambam wrote that Hashem is not a body Etc. is not at all a question to what chassidus (chabad) explains.

When believing hashem is a body c"v, the meaning is that hashem is limited to a body, or even any limit at all similar to a body.

However the explanations in chassidus is exactly the opposite, chassidus explains that hashem is תכלית הבלי גבול or like the pasuk says אין עוד מלבדו, and the existence of the world does not contradict hashems unlimited existence [and what leads us to this conclusion is, I would say, three reasons 1) the Torah says בראשית ברא אלוקים 2) being unlimited cannot prevent hashem from limiting himself (for otherwise he would be limited in being unlimited), and 3) the existence of the world] because as the pasuk says בדבר ה' שמים נעשו, just like speech does not define or limit the person speaking, rather it is a גילוי a revelation of the person (to others), so to the world is really a revelation of hashem (but there is what is called in chassidus העלם והסתר or in kabalah it would be called קליפה that blocks us from feeling the existence of hashem.

For more see sha'ar Hayichud Vehaemuna in Tanya: https://www.chabad.org/library/tanya/tanya_cdo/aid/1029162/jewish/Shaar-Hayichud-Vehaemuna.htm


The Rambam in Yesodei Hatorah describes angels in term not all that different from the Kabbalist's description of the Sefiros. And the Talmud in Brachos 10 draws a parallel between Hashem and the soul. These ideas seem to fit the description of the term in question, and therefore would suggest that it is completely in line with the philosophy of Chazal and the Rambam.

  • The Rambam writes that the kabbalistic work Shiur Komah must be destroyed. He writes that one who accepts the kabbalistic belief that mezuzot have protective effects loses his share in the world to come. His intellectual successors, such as the Meorot were opposed to the Sefirot ideology as heresy, describing it as worse than Christianity. The Meorot actually burned such literature. Even the more moderate kabbalist Rabbenu Avraham Abulafiah accused the other kabbalists of believing in 10 Seifrah Gods. In more recent times, Rav Yihya Qafih z"l, the staunch Maimonidean also burned Zohars.
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 29, 2016 at 20:21
  • 1
    The Maimonideic view, is not the kabbalistic view of sefirot.
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 29, 2016 at 20:22
  • 1
    Certainly it is offensive to lump Rambam together with those he considered idolaters. And there is nothing irrelevant about analyzing the positions of Rambam and his students in regards to kabbalah; the topic of your answer. The only irrelevant thing is your answer; which has nothing to do with pantheism; the topic of the OP's question. As it stands now the answer has no bearing on the question, as I noted. I see no reason to further respond until this is changed.
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 29, 2016 at 22:59
  • 1
    Without getting involved with the specifics here, @mevaqesh the topic here is panENtheism, pantheism is considered heretical by all chareidim AFAIK
    – jj2
    Mar 1, 2016 at 2:04
  • 1
    panentheism posits that although God and the universe are two different things, the universe is a manifestation of God, misunderstanding of the difference between comparison and identification, where does the Talmud say that the universe is the physical manifestation of God?
    – mevaqesh
    Mar 1, 2016 at 23:32

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .