# what does it mean that God is infinite?

have read in a few places such as in the book Shaarei Kedusha that God is "infinite" (Ein Sof) (without end). What does this mean? Typically we think of something infinite as being immeasurable or mathematically as the limit of a function as some variable increases indefinitely. The latter does not apply to God since He does not change (Rambam Yesodei Torah 1). What then does infinite mean in this context? (note that I am not asking about God's essence as that is forbidden to inquire about. Just asking what we can know (if anything) of what infinite means with regard to Him)

• You yourself said "(without end)". Doesn't that answer it? Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 20:46
• @DavidKenner what does that mean? obviously does not mean He is "expanding" endlessly.
– ray
Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 21:04
• I think the concept of infinity means that there is no finite end. It cannot be counted. Regarding G-d, he is not defined by time or space or any such form of measurement to which you can assign a numeric or position.
– DanF
Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 21:17
• This question seems too broad :) Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 1:09
• Hashem is one. Thus we can "count" cardinally. Hashem is antecedent to the universe. So we can place Hashem "ordinally" in time. Neither of these concepts "limit" the infinite, so they may be used to describe Hashem. The quality of Ein Sof means no other characteristics may be ascribed, as doing so is "bounding" the infinitude. Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 13:11

Since we are finite beings, then in this sense infinite means immeasurable or not understandable. Any attempt at description is a limit to something that has no limit. Your statement

Typically we think of something infinite as being immeasurable or mathematically as the limit of a function as some variable increases indefinitely.

is itself an attempt to describe the indescribeable. Thus we say that looking at a limited subset of characteristics that we ascribe to Hashem causes us to be at a point and move along.

Ein Sof, while it translates as infinite has more the connotation of unable to be expressed, as any expression implies some sort of limit or boundary.

For example, an exponential function in mathematics may be infinite, but since it approaches a limit without bound, it is not Ein Sof.

Another example is Aleph number which are infinite values but are also not Ein Sof as the bounds can be explicitly expressed.

• nothingness is also not describable. surely it means more than not describable
– ray
Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 20:34
• Any infinite thing is indescribable because we are finite. Nothingness can be expressed in terms that we can think that we understand, but Hashem cannot be so described. Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 20:59
• can you understand a Malach?
– ray
Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 5:33
• @ray There are people that we cannot understand. There are many finite things that we cannot understand, but other people can (theoretically). Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 9:22
• right. so wouldnt u say it means more than not understandable?
– ray
Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 12:23

I see two questions here: how is Hashem infinite and what does Ein Sof mean

limitless or endless in space, extent, or size; impossible to measure or calculate. "the infinite mercy of God" synonyms: boundless, unbounded, unlimited, limitless, never-ending, interminable;

Obviously the terms referring to physicality don't apply, but the other ones are appropriate.

Lehavdil, Ein Sof as explained by Nefesh HaChaim Shaar Beis Chapter 2

מה שבז''הק מכנהו ית' בשם אין סוף איננו כנוי עליו ית''ש אלא הכוונה על השגתנו אותו מצד כחות הנשפעים מאתו בהתחברותו ברצונו להעולמות. ולזאת כנוהו א''ס ולא אין ראשית. כי באמת מצד עצמותו ית''ש אין לו לא סוף ולא ראשית. רק מצד השגתינו כחותיו ית'. הלא כל השגתינו הוא רק ראשית. אבל אין סוף להגיע בהשגה להשיג את כחותיו ית' הנשפעים

That which the Zohar calls Him Ein Sof (lit: without end), it's not that we're actually using it to give a description of Him. Rather the intention is based on our understanding of Him, based on the powers that have an affect from Him due to His desired connection to the universes. This why we refer to him as Ein Sof and not Ein Reishis (without beginning), because in truth, regarding His Essence, there's no end and no beginning. Only with regards to our comprehension of His powers, they have a beginning, yet they don't have an end. We'll never fully understand His influential powers.

To us, Infinity means forever expanding. But that is because nothing that we relate to is actually infinite. Therefore when we use the term we are referring to the theoretical idea that we can keep on going. For example, when we say that numbers are infinite that doesn't mean that there is a `forever` number. It means that there is no foreseeable limit hindering us from continuing to count. Hence, infinity is more a function than a number.

When we say that God is infinite that means that he is indeed forever great. If we were to try to measure Him we would keep on going.

This is comparable to the vastness and endlessness of the athiest`s Original Nothing.

• are you saying He is measurable just that our tape measures is not long enough?
– ray
Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 10:09
• @ray Well 'measurable ' implies a size which is a limit? I just mean that endless doesn't have to mean expanding. It only means that to us, since we are finite. In other words, infinity doesn't exist in a finite world, so we usually use its closest relative, expansion. Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 12:25
• @ray I think the implication is that even if there WAS a clear scale by which "to measure," there would be no end to the process of measuring. Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 13:12
• I would say that this means immeasurable Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 14:59

"Ein Sof" means that not only does Hashem not exist in space/time, He has no bounds whatsoever and thus cannot be contained by our attempts to conceive of Him. He is "inconceivable" in the most absolute sense of the word.

B"H

First of, Hashem's "Essence" (the Atzmus/Awtsmoos) IS Hashem Himself. Not only is there no difference, but nothing else can ever be considered "G-d" other than His Essence.

"We pray to Him, not to His Attributes".

Anyways, when we say "without end", that implies it might have a beginning! So it's a big question why we say it. We really should say (when referring to Hashem Himself and even the light of Hashem) "that which has no beginning", not no end!

Really, it's explained that the term "no end" (Ein Sof) just means that He is all-capable and all-powerful, but He does in fact have no beginning (which is a much greater novelty than having no end) as well.

In addition, when we refer to Hashem (and even His other which is totally incomparable to Him) as "infinite", we don't mean infinite in quantity, like something that can be measured but just keeps going indefinitely, no. We mean to say He's infinite in quality.

Hashgacha pratis that this is actually what yesterday's Tanya talks about:.

This light and vitality that is revealed within them after the “contraction” constitutes an infinitesimal illumination and is truly considered as naught when compared with the quality of the limitless and infinite illumination, and there is no proportion or relationship between them,

שֶׁהִיא הֶאָרָה מוּעֶטֶת מְאֹד וּמַמָּשׁ כְּלָא חֲשִׁיבֵי לְגַבֵּי בְּחִינַת הֶאָרָה בְּלִי גְבוּל וְתַכְלִית, וְאֵין בֵּינֵיהֶם עֵרֶךְ וְיַחַס כְּלָל,

I.e., they are not quantitatively different, not even immensely different in quantity, but of a wholly different and incomparable quality.

as the term “proportion” is understood in number values, where the number one stands in a certain ratio to the number one million, for it is a one-millionth part of it,

כַּנּוֹדָע פֵּירוּשׁ מִלַּת ‘עֵרֶךְ' בְּמִסְפָּרִים, שֶׁאֶחָד בְּמִסְפָּר, יֵשׁ לוֹ עֵרֶךְ לְגַבֵּי מִסְפָּר אֶלֶף אֲלָפִים, שֶׁהוּא חֵלֶק אֶחָד מִנִּי אֶלֶף אֲלָפִים,

The sum of one million is merely the sum of one million ones; subtract but one, and the million ceases to exist—a clear demonstration of the relation that subsists between one and a million.

but as regards a thing which transcends finitude and numeration, there is no number—however great—that can be relative to it,

אֲבָל לְגַבֵּי דָּבָר שֶׁהוּא בִּבְחִינַת בְּלִי גְבוּל וּמִסְפָּר כְּלָל – אֵין כְּנֶגְדּוֹ שׁוּם עֵרֶךְ בְּמִסְפָּרִים,

for a billion and a trillion2 when compared to infinity do not even attain the relevancy of the value of one in comparison with a billion or a trillion,

שֶׁאֲפִילוּ אֶלֶף אַלְפֵי אֲלָפִים וְרִיבּוֹא רְבָבוֹת, אֵינָן אֲפִילוּ כְּעֵרֶךְ מִסְפָּר אֶחָד לְגַבֵּי אֶלֶף אַלְפֵי אֲלָפִים וְרִבּוֹא רְבָבוֹת,

for the sum of one retains some degree of relevance even when compared to a trillion—it is, in fact, one trillionth of it—while even a sum as large as a trillion has no relevance at all when compared to the realm of the infinite but is veritably accounted as nothing.

אֶלָּא כְּלָא מַמָּשׁ חֲשִׁיבֵי.

The explanations of "light without end" is also explained in Sefer HaArchin Chabad, Erech Ohr Ein Sof:

What you translate as “infinite” would be better translated as “limitless”.

Every object is defined by its limits: A stone is hard, and thus not soft. Water is fluid, as opposed to solid or gaseous. And so forth.

G-D has no limits. He cannot be defined. Thus, when we say that He is “merciful”, for example, we are simply trying to describe the way in which He interacts with us and the world. We cannot define the essential “Him”, because the whole concept of a definition is inapplicable here.