Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ikar #3- G-d has no physical form

"I believe with perfect faith that G-d does not have a body and that physical concepts do not apply to Him. There is nothing whatsoever that resembles Him at all."

The third fundamental principle of Judaism is that G-d is non-corporeal. G-d has no form or image. G-d is completely beyond time and space, unfettered by the dimensions which He has created. Since G-d is by definition limitless, He cannot have a physical body which is by nature limited. It is similar to the conundrum if G-d could create a rock which He could not lift. The traditional answer is that such a rock could not be created since G-d cannot be restricted. A paradox? Certainly. Just as paradoxical as saying that G-d cannot have a corporeal form as this would be a limit on Him.

Besides philosophical ruminations, the Torah states emphatically that at Mount Sinai, the Jewish people saw no form. The entire nation, men, women and children, millions who left Egypt, all had G-d manifest Himself to them at Sinai. As the Sages said, a maidservant at the Sea (and by extension at Sinai) saw more of G-d than Ezekiel saw in his heavenly vision. And yet, at this ultimate moment, G-d had no form or image. "And the LORD spoke unto you out of the midst of the fire; ye heard the voice of words, but ye saw no form; only a voice... Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves--for ye saw no manner of form on the day that the LORD spoke unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire-- lest ye deal corruptly, and make you a graven image, even the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female." (Deut. 4:12,15-16) The fear that the nation of Israel would mistakenly assume that since G-d interacted with His world, that He would have a physical body, was ever-present. To prevent this, the Torah warned the Jewish nation sternly that we should not deal corruptly and believe that G-d has a form.

Christianity holds that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine at the same time. In other words, they hold that G-d was incarnated in the flesh as a man (chas v'shalom). Of course, logic and plain reading skills have never been Christianity's strong spot. As the Torah says, G-d was not a man. "God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent." (Num. 23:19) In case anybody missed that verse, the Torah repeats it. "And also the Glory of Israel will not lie nor repent; for He is not a man, that He should repent.'" (I Sam. 15:29) Of course, this shoots Christianity's claims down so expect missionaries to squirm and wiggle this verse into something that it isn't. Did you miss that? Well here it is again. "I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim; for I am God, and not man, the Holy One in the midst of thee; and I will not come in fury." (Hosea 11:9) Hmm... that must mean that G-d is really a first century Jewish preacher. No quite. In Psalm 146:3, we are directed not to put our hope in the "son of man." Interestingly, Jesus is called the "son of man" throughout the Christian Bible. For instance, Jesus calls himself the "son of man" at the Last Supper in Matthew 26:24. He calls himself the "son of man" in many other places, such as in Luke 6:5, when he also declares himself to be a god. Clearly, this does not match G-d's statements in the Jewish Bible that G-d is not a human.

Christians love to point to Genesis 18 as proof that G-d made Himself manifest in the flesh. This obviously misses the point of the story. Leave it to Christians to insert Jesus where he doesn't belong. Of course, a Jew who was raise in Jewish tradition would understand the Torah properly. But certainly goyyim know the Torah better than us. But I digress...

א וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו יְהוָה, בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא; וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח-הָאֹהֶל, כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם.
1 And the LORD appeared unto him by the terebinths of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;

What was G-d doing appearing to Abraham? Abraham had circumcised himself 3 days prior at age 99, an obviously painful experience. Here we learn the important of visiting the sick. In the next verse, we see that Abraham saw three men appearing on the horizon. Note that G-d was there prior to the appearance of them. Therefore, G-d could not have been one of the men.

ב וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו, וַיַּרְא, וְהִנֵּה שְׁלֹשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים, נִצָּבִים עָלָיו; וַיַּרְא, וַיָּרָץ לִקְרָאתָם מִפֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל, וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ, אָרְצָה.
2 and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood over against him; and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed down to the earth

Our Sages learn from here that it is more important to greet guests and to provide them with good hospitality than to be in the presence of G-d. Abraham, the epitome of Jewish hospitality, ran to greet the three men, angels in disguise that G-d had sent to him. Keep in mind that G-d was already there visiting the sick Abraham before the men appeared. If a person still believes that G-d was one of the men, then the valuable lesson was completely lost.

ג וַיֹּאמַר: אֲדֹנָי, אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ--אַל-נָא תַעֲבֹר, מֵעַל עַבְדֶּךָ.
3 and said: 'My lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant.

Messianics/ Christians love to point out the use of the word "my lord". Too bad that their Hebrew sucks. When G-d is refered to in the Torah by the word "my lord", it is written as the Tetragramatton, G-d's 4 letter name, and pronounced as ADONAI. Here, the word ADONAI is spelled out, making it clear that is referring to somebody other than G-d. Here, Abraham is politely addressing the angels as his lords. It is wrong to assume that Abraham was addressing the men as G-d as we have already stated that G-d was there prior to their arrival. There is further evidence that the word "lords/ ADONAI" can be used to refer to creatures other than G-d. In Genesis 19:1 we read that Lot is visited by two of these three angels, and in verse 19:2 he addresses the angels, saying: "Behold now, my lords..."

The controversy is cleared up when we reach verse 22.

כב וַיִּפְנוּ מִשָּׁם הָאֲנָשִׁים, וַיֵּלְכוּ סְדֹמָה; וְאַבְרָהָם--עוֹדֶנּוּ עֹמֵד, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה.
22 And the men turned from thence, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.

Even when the men had left, Abraham was still standing before G-d, whom he had temporaily left to serve his guests.

Missionaries point out that three men came to Abraham and only two visited Lot. In the demented thinking of Christianity, this means that one man had to be G-d. This again misses the point. G-d created many spiritual beings, angels, each with a purpose. No angel is ever assigned to more than one task. In Genesis 18, we had three angels, but they did not have the same job. The first angel's job was to inform Abraham of Sarah's impending pregnancy, while the other two angels' jobs had to do with Lot, Sodom and Gemorrah. After the first angel had informed Abraham of the pregnancy, the angel was done with the job. Hence, only two angels visited with Lot. So, we see that the third man/angel was not G-d, but an angel, who did not go to visit Lot in Genesis 19 because that was not G-d's purpose for the angel.


Anonymous said...


deut. 4:12,15-16 are'nt really dealing with the complexity of G-D. they are more examples, the Israelites coming out of egypt where coming out of a pagan society in which they had been in fluenced, as wee see when Moshe was on top the mountian the got scared and didn't know what to do, so they went to Aaron and we get the golden calf, G-D being all power full and all knowing would know that they woould and could revert back to paganism, as the Israelites did all through the Tanak really. i mean just because G-D did not reveal or appear in any "human form" at that time does'nt not mean he does not have to capability and has used it. when G-D walked with Adam in the garden what form do you think He was? we know we are made in G-D's image, and we are men, granted The most High is not limited by this the way we are. G-D is omnipresent, he's everywhere all the time, capable of being here in human form while reighning as king of the universe in the heavens... now this DOES NOT meen G-d is a man or that G-D is human at all in anyway, this just meen he has the power to portray us in a way, he can make himself like us, but not being bound to be like us. i would like you to read fully this study from Rabbi Levii bar Ido from 'nai Avraham synogague. really research the things he quotes and the footnotes and things like that and let me know what you think. here it is

YHWH Reveals Himself to Avraham
Bereshith 18:1-3
By Rabbi Levi bar Ido / B’nai Avraham
|||18|||And YHWH appeared1 unto him in the terebinth trees of Mamre2; and he sat in the entrance of the ohel
(tent) in the heat of the day3; |2| And he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, hinei, Shloshah Anashim (Three
Men, [Yeshayahu 6:3]) stood by him; and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the entrance of the ohel,
and prostrated himself on the ground, |3| And said, YHWH4 [YHWH, see v.13]5, if now I have found chen
(favor) in Thy sight, pass not on by, please, from Thy servant; Bereshith 18:1-3 OJB
Is the One Whom speaks to Avraham YHWH?
Can YHWH manifest Himself as a man? What does the Torah teach concerning the Hebraic understanding of this
In verse one of Bereshith 18 the Hebrew verb “appeared” does not have the connotation of “reveal” in the sense to
“make known”as some translate the Hebrew. This nifil verb va’yera( h a r )6 is used 49 times in the Torah, and all
of them are used in the context of “appear” or a visual experience of some manner. So, in this context we cannot
interprete this verse to mean that YHWH “revealed”Himself to Avraham. Rather YHWH made Himself visible in a
body in order to be seen with the eyes (and he lifted-va’yisa- eyes of him-einav and he saw-vayar) of Avraham.
The Hebrew Adonai ( y n d a ) uses the vowel point of qametz not patach. This clue indicates that the Masoretic
scribes held to the opinion that Avraham was speaking to YHWH. Also, in this verse, the word Adonai is considered
“set-apart”7 or w s d q . Adonai is used in the TaNaK 134 times8 with qametz without the Name YHWH or Elohim
accompanying it (see Gen.19:18; 20:4; Ex.4:10, 13: 5:22; 15:17; 34:9; Num.14:17).
 “From time immemorial the Jewish Canons decreed that the incommunicable Name be pronounced Adonai as
if it was written Adonai instead of YHWH. Nothing was, therefore, more natural for the copyists than to
substitute the expression which they were forbidden to pronounce. This is confirmed by the fact that the
Massorah itself in giving the catchword of a passage substitutes Adonai for YHWH and that the Easterns read
Adonai where the Westerns have YHWH and visa versa (see Is.38:14; Mal.1:14; Lam.5:21).Hence we may
safely assume that though the Scribe wrote Adonai for YHWH he would not insert the incommunicable Name
instead of Adonai. The reading, therefore, in the conflicting passages is in favor of the Tetragrammaton.”
Ginsberg, The Massorah, Vol.4:28-29
It is clear that modern scholars and the Masosoretes agree that the text is to be interpreted as referring to YHWH when
Adonai is written with a qametz.
The Jewish sages of the Talmud also agree that the Name is used in Bereshith 18:3.
1 R. Chama explains the “heat of the day” was the third day following Avraham’s circumcision and the Holy One Blessed be He,
came to inquire as to the welfare of Avraham…Elohim visited Avraham in honor of the mitzvah of circumcision that Avraham had
performed. Baal HaTurim –Chumash Bereshith pg.134.This sets the example for us of visiting the sick (bikkur cholim).
2 Near Hebron. The Zohar teaches that Mamre is actually Ya’akov. SeeZohar Vol.3:2:22-26 From the K.Centre
3 According to the Zohar this phrase means when the greatest Revelation of the Light occurs.
4 Masoretic text has Adonai. This is one of 134 places that the scribes replaced YHWH with Adonai. The Aramaic Peshitta has
MARYA which translates YHWH not Adonai. The Targum Onkelos has h , which this Targum renders YHWH.
5 |13| And YHWH said unto Avraham, Why did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I which am old of a surety bear a child?
3.1b) (Niphal)1b1) to appear, present oneself 1b2) to be seen1b 3) to be visible
7 Notes on the Text of Genesis –Oxford 1896
8 The Massorah-Ktav- 4 Vol.1:25-26
 TO MAKE ROOM FOR THE GUESTS, etc. R. Johanan said: Hospitality to wayfarers14 is as ‘great’ as early
attendance at the Beth Hamidrash, since he [the Tanna] states, TO MAKE ROOM FOR GUESTS OR ON
ACCOUNT OF THE NEGLECT OF THE BETH HAMIDRASH. R. Dimi of Nehardea said: It is ‘greater’
than early attendance at the Beth Hamidrash, because he states, TO MAKE ROOM FOR GUESTS, and then,
Hospitality to wayfarers is greater than welcoming the presence of the Shechinah, for it is written, And he said,
Adonai, if now I have found favor in thy sight, pass not away, etc.15 R. Eleazar said: Come and observe how
the conduct of the Holy One, blessed be He, is not like that of mortals. The conduct of mortals [is such that] an
inferior person cannot say to a great[er] man, Wait for me until I come to you; whereas in the case of the Holy
One, blessed be He, it is written, and he said, Adonai, if now I have found, etc. Talmud Shabbat 127a
 All the Names mentioned in Scripture in connection with Abraham are sacred, except this which is secular: it
is said; And he said, ‘Adonai9, if now I have found favor in thy sight’.8 Hanina, the son of R. Joshua's brother,
and R. Eleazar b. Azariah in the name of R. Eliezer of Modin, said, this also is sacred.9 With whom will [the
following] agree? Rab Judah said that Rab said: Greater is hospitality to wayfarers than receiving the Divine
Presence. With whom [will this agree]? With this pair. Talmud Shavuot 35b
 Maimonides also interprets the phrase “Adonai” as YHWH10 in Yad, Yesodai HaTorah 6:9
 “Elohim, in this conception, can nonetheless make Himself known to humans in sort of emanation from the
Divine (G-dhead) that is visible to human eyes. It is a hypostasis, a concrete expression of the Divine presence,
which is otherwise inexpressible to human beings. What the human sees when such a hypostasis is in front of
him or her looks like people, like a man.” Commentary on the Torah by Friedman pg.63
 “And YHWH was seen by him by the oaks of Mamre...”Bereshith 18:1 –The Five Books of Moses ;The
Schocken Bible pg.75
 “The Eternal appeared to Avraham at Elonei, the plain of Mamre…” Rashi Chumash: Bereshith ,pg.162
 “The final letters of the Hebrew Alef-Bet also correspond to Mamre. The five final letters (plus the Oneness of
the Creator) add up to 281, the same numerical value of Mamre. The five final letters also correlate to THE
MESSIAH and the concept of the resurrection of the dead. Hence, through the word Mamre, we bring about
the arrival of the Messiah and the resurrection of the dead in our day. The resurrection of the dead includes any
area of our lives that has undergone death11, be it a business, a relationship, a marriage, or our inner peace and
happiness.” Kabbalistic Bible: Bereshith; K Centre page 131
The context of this account adds to the correct interpretation of that YHWH appeared to Avraham by using the
singular not the plural. The account speaks of YHWH appearing to Avraham and then three men stand by his tent. Yet,
according to the Hebrew, Avraham speaks to only one of the men because the Hebrew reads in the second person
singular “You” ] y n y i b ( be’einieicha- eyes of you)and ] d b i (avdecha- servant of you). Then Avraham, being
a man of great hospitality invites all three men to stay and eat with him. The account then uses the plural v r m a y v
(va’yomru) in verse 9 with all three speaking to Avraham.
 10. And He ( r m a y v ) said (va’yomer), I will certainly return to you when the season comes around; and,
behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.
In verse 10 the Hebrew reverts back to the singular, indicating that the Eternal One is speaking to Avraham. Then, in
verse 13 it is the general “he said” is translated as “And YHWH said ( r m a y v h v h y )” indicating the one speaking
to Avraham Avinu is YHWH.
9 The Artscroll Chumash on page 79 says, “Adonai: According to most interpretations, the word Adonai in this passage is sacred,
referring to Elohim.
10 Also see Etz Chayyim notes pg.100.Because it is clear that the patriarch is unaware of the strangers’ true identity, the unusual
vocalization may be a signal to the reader that the three “men” are no ordinary wayfarers.
11 This would also include the bringing alive of the womb of Sarah.
 13. And YHWH12 said (va’yomerYHWH) to Abraham, Why did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I indeed bear a
child, now that I am old? 14. Is any thing too hard for YHWH? At the set time I will return to you, when
season comes around13, and Sarah shall have a son. Bereshith 18:13-14
We also have a clue that is found in verse 22 that is indicated by a tigunne sophrim or a “correction of the scribes”.In
the original text it read “whileYHWH stood before Avraham14”.
But, the scribes changed the text due to their interpretation that the Greater does not stand before the lesser, and thus
actually changed the text. Because of this particular tigunne sophrim, we can prove from the original Hebrew text that
YHWH appeared in the form of a man to Avraham.
 “ But surely it was not Avraham who had gone to stand before Him, but rather the Holy One, Source of
Blessing, who had come to him and said, ‘ The cries of Sedom and Amorah have become great.’ It should
therefore have written: ‘The Eternal was still standing near Avraham.’ It is, however, a variation, such as
writers make to avoid an irreverent expression.” Rashi Chumash: Bereshith ,pg.173
Obviously Mosheh in writing the Torah had no problem with YHWH taking on the form of a man and walking on the
earth as a man. Another surprise is that Avraham was not shocked at the idea of a human manifestation of YHWH and
while as a man retaining all His Divine Essence and authority. Avraham obviously knew the One he was holding a
conversation with was Elohim, so he bowed down ( va’yishtachu)before him.
 2. And he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, three men15 stood over against him; and when he saw
them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed16 down to the earth. Bereshith 18:2
 25. Be it far from You to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked; and that the righteous
should be as the wicked, be it far from you; Shall not the Judge of all the earth (ha’shofet kol ha’aretz lo)) do
judgment ( ya’asehmishpat)? Bereshith 18:25
The concept of an ElohimWho is unable to manifest Himself in this world in human form comes from later rabbinical
The context of this account point to the Deity of the One Man who was speaking to Avraham.
1. The conversation regarding Sodom and Gomorrah.
2. The One speaking had to return in order to cause the pregnancy of Sarah.
3. Avraham calls the One speaking to him “the Judge of all the earth.”
4. The Hebrew text makes it very clear that the One speaking with Avraham is YHWH. Bereshith 18:17, 26
speaks as “I” meaning YHWH.
5. The account of Bereshith chapter 19 starts with “the Two Angels came to Sodom.” What happened to the third
“man”? He did not go with them to Sedom.
12 “In the Torah, an angel is often the manifestation of Elohim in human form” Etz Chayyim notes-pg.101.Rashi also translates this
as the Eternal (YHWH).
13 Zohar Vol.3:7:135-“the time appointed” Thisis the time that is known to Me for the resurrection of the dead. “I will return to
you the same body which is sacred, renewed as before, because you are like the holy angels.And that day shall be merry before Me
and I shall rejoice in them…” Zohar 3:7:137
14 The Masoretic text has “Avraham stood yet before YHWH.” This is one of the eighteen texts that the scribes altered the reading
because they felt the text diminished the holiness of YHWH. According to the Massorah it originally read “YHWH stood yet
before Avraham.”The Schocken Bible notes on page 77 states, “Some manuscripts read ‘But YHWH still stood in the presence of
Avraham.’ The subject of the sentence has been reversed by scribes who were uncomfortable with the passage’shuman portrayal
of Elohim.”
15 “The aim of this introduction is to make clear that the visitors in the following story are an apparition of the Divine.” The Torah:
A Modern Commentary pg.122
16 See Gen.22:5;24:26,48
5. And Avraham said to his young men, Stay here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship (ve’nishtachaveh),
and come back to you. Gen.22:5
26. And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped (va’yishtachu) YHWH. Gen.24:26
48. And I bowed down my head, and worshipped (va’eshtachaveh) YHWH, and blessed YHWH the Elohim of my master
Avraham, who had led me in the right way to take my master’s brother’s daughter to his son.Gen.24:48

Any student of the Torah would arrive at the conclusion that this account proves that YHWH came in the form of a
Man to Avraham. Thus, the idea of Elohim “incarnating” within a man is not a strange concept to the Hebrew mind

Anonymous said...

A few points on this:

1/ Your Levi bar Ido is not a rabbi. A quick google of his name comes up with a messianic website, so whoever wrote your article is no rabbi or Jewish authority.

2/ Your contention that it was a perfectly fine Jewish idea that G-d could appear as a human is wildly incorrect. You are quoting from the Talmud to try to prove your point, but don't quote where the rabbis said G-d has no form and is no man (as the Torah itself says). Maimonides' 13 principles says this explicity, so it's clear Jewish scholars/rabbis have never held your view.

3/ Your entire theory is irrelevant if one follows the majority Jewish opinion of the sages that Abraham was talking to G-d above, asking G-d to not 'pass away' while he was tending to the guests. No problem there.

4/ In Ch. 19, Lot bows down to the 2 men and calls them Ado nai. Spelled the exact same way, and pronounced the same way, with a slightly different vowel. If Adonee is the typical way to mean my master, why would Lot use this term for men? Seems odd, but no one suggests the 2 men in Sodom were gods.

5/ In this chapter, Abraham is talking to YKVK above, and Adon shows up. Now, Deut. 4:39 says YKVK is the only G-d in the heavens above AND on the earth below. So if you believe the Adon (the son, v. YKVK the father) here is also G-d (a distinct person within the godhead), you've got a problem. If you say, oh no, YKVK is not the son, but an umbrella term for all of G-d, then again you've got a problem because here, according to your interpretation, YKVK and Adon are clearly 2 separate entities, so Adon would be outside the trinity at this point.

6/ Please tell me which modern day (non-Christian apologist) scholars ascribe to your view. My research indicates they disagree with your interpretation.