Not Speaking of God Himself

The next point to have in mind is that “we won’t be discussing God Himself”– God irrespective of creation and in His utterly unfathomable being — in this work, since we may not .

We may not discuss God Himself for a number of reasons: most significantly, we’d offer, because whatever we’d say about Him in His essence — which is necessarily out of the context of reality as we know it — would be incorrect. Since all the words, symbols, and references we would have to draw upon would be based on human experiences which are un-Godlike by definition. For even the term “Will” in relation to God is purely metaphorical, since even the suggestion of so subtle and recondite element as a will is still-and-all anthropomorphic, and only depicts God in relation to created beings rather than Himself. Ramchal said elsewhere that only God could grasp Himself (Derech Hashem 1:1:2), for as it had once been put, “If I knew Him, I would be Him” (Sefer HaIkkurim 2:30).

Now, the ramifications of the fact that we’re neither able nor allowed to speak of God Himself are huge. Among many other things it implies that God Himself isn’t addressed in the Torah, only His will for us; and it suggests that most arguments for or against belief in God are off-the-mark since they only touch upon His role as Creator without addressing His Being before creation.

It’s also important to say that speaking of God Himself might lead one to inadvertently demean Him, and to so misunderstand Him that one would be worshipping a not-God rather than Him [1].

As such, whatever will be said in Klach Pitchei Chochma will only touch upon God’s will rather than on Himself, since “we are permitted to speak of it” [2]. That explains Ramchal’s references to God’s will alone later on, too.

He warns us, though, that even discussions about God’s will have their restrictions, given that “there’s a limit as to how far our minds can go” as far as that’s concerned as well [3].

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Notes:

[1] That having been said, we’re nonetheless about to explain the concept of God as it’s understood classically because in point of fact Ramchal did “define” Him in another work written for a wider readership than this one, known as Derech Hashem(The Way of God). And he did that there presumably in order to introduce and clarify the matter to some degree as well as to further the conversation.

He wrote there (1:1:6, based on Maimonides’s Yesodei HaTorah Ch. 1) that what one should understand about God is that He exists (though not the way we exist, with all that implies about our mortality, limitations, etc.), that He’s perfect, that His existence is imperative (i.e., if He didn’t exist, then nothing else would exist either; His existence is utterly necessary), that He’s utterly self-sufficient, that He’s simple (i.e., purely God, and unalloyed), and that there’s only one of Him (which Ramchal will touch upon below in more depth.) Ramchal also indicated there that our knowledge of Him is a consequence of the traditions we have of Him from the forefathers and the prophets, and from our mystical experience at God at Mount Sinai (1:1:2), when God appeared to us with the revelation of the Torah (see Exodus 19-20), and when we were on par with Moses’ level of prophecy (Yesodei HaTorah 8:1,3).

As to the notion that we won’t be speaking of God Himself but of His will that statement was probably inspired by The opening word’s of the Ari’s Eitz Chaim, “When God first willed to create beings…”.

See the following citations about our not being able or allowed to speak of God Himself: Ramchal’s Da’at Tevunot 80, Adir Bamarom p.59A, Ma’amar HaVichuach 44, and Ma’amar Yichud HaYirah; also see the Vilna Gaon at the end of his commentary to Sifra D’tzniutah, “Sod Hatzimtzum”; the beginning of HaRav m’Fano’s Yonat Elim; Ramban’s introduction to his commentary to the Torah, and Tikkunei Zohar 17a (Petach Eliyahu). Also see Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed (1:58-59).

God Himself is often referred to as Ein Sof, the Infinite, in Kabbalistic literature to differentiate Him from the four-letter name usually attributed to Him. See Ramchal’s discussion of that differentiation in Klallim (p. 352) and below, in this work, in Petach 15.

[2] Ramchal makes the distinction later on between being allowed to speak of the will rather than of “The One Who Wills” (the Ba’al HaRatzon rather than the ratzon). Also see Cordovero’s Pardes (20:1).

[3] … given that His will is the very first and hence most tenuous point at which His Being and creation converge.

(c) 2010 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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