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3rd Principle — G-d has no body, no physicality

555406340The third principle of Judaism is that G-d has absolutely no physicality.  He is incorporeal – without any physical body or form.  In his magnum opus, the Mishne Torah, the Rambam asserts that anyone who believes that G-d is corporeal is a heretic.

Most Christians believe that G-d had a body, namely that of Jesus of Nazareth who was born as a baby, grew in knowledge, had human bodily functions, breathed, ate, defecated, slept. . . a human.   They believe that the word became flesh (John 1:1).

Many other Christians believe that G-d earlier took human forms (they reference B’reshit / Genesis 18) and other forms such as a burning bush, a cloud. . . although for some reason they don’t pray to any of the physical manifestations they think were G-d except for Jesus.  You’d have to ask them why this one manifestation deserves worship when the others don’t (something about “only to the father through the son even though they are both supposedly the same god). . . .

The Torah tells us G-d is incorporeal (has no physicality) time and time again.

“You did not see any image on the day that G‑d spoke to you at Horeb [Sinai].”— D’varim / Deuteronomy 4:15.

G-d has no physical manifestation, thus theophanies are not part of Judaism, PERIOD.  There is not one passage in the Jewish bible that says G-d Himself appeared in the form of a man.   G-d did not manifest Himself as a burning bush or a pillar of fire.   (D’varim) Deuteronomy 4:15 clearly tells us that the Israelites did not see G-d in any form.  Ergo G-d was NOT the pillar or the cloud

R’ Aryeh Kaplan (Z”L) wrote “G-d is totally nonphysical.   “We believe that this Unity (which we call G-d) is not a body or a physical force.  “Nothing associated with the physical can apply to Him in any way.  We thus cannot say that G-d moves, rests or exists in a given way.  Things such as this can neither happen to Him, nor be part of His intrinsic nature.

“When our sages speak of G-d, they therefore teach that such concepts as combination and separation do not apply to Him. They say in the Talmud (Chagigah 15a), “On high, there is neither sitting nor standing, neither combination nor separation.”

“The Prophet says (Yeshayahu / Isaiah 40:25), “To whom will you liken Me?  To what am I equal?’ says the Holy One.”  If G-d were physical then He would resemble other physical things.

“In many places, however, our holy scriptures do speak of G-d in physical terms.  Thus, we find such concepts as walking, standing, and speaking used in relation to G-d.  In all these cases, though, scripture is only speaking metaphorically.  Our sages teach us scripture is only speaking metaphorically.   Our sages teach us (Berachot 31b), “The Torah speaks in the language of man.”

But doesn’t Moses ask to “see” G-d?


Moses says to HaShem “show me your glory” (Sh’mot / Exodus 33).  Moses wanted to understand the essence of Hashem.

HaShem answered: “No living being can see Me.” This means that as long as we are physical beings, we cannot conceptualize these things.

Moses asked G-d, “Let me behold Your Glory” (not a physical form).  This is found in Sh’mot / Exodus 33:18. In making this request, Moses did not ask to see G-d, since that would be impossible. No, Moses was merely requesting that G-d grant him a prophetic comprehension of His greatness (his glory).

G-d replied that this is impossible for any living creature, saying, “You cannot see My Face, for man cannot see Me and live” (Sh’mot / Exodus 33:20). He did allow Moses the greatest comprehension of G-d ever granted to any human being, but even this was not a perfect understanding. This is what G-d meant when He allegorically told Moses, “You shall see My back, but My Face shall not be seen” (Sh’mot / Exodus 33:23). The same was true of the other “visions” of G-d experienced by the prophets.

Earlier, Sh’mot / Exodus 24:17,  told us “the appearance of the glory of HaShem was like a consuming fire on the mountaintop before the eyes of the Children of Israel.

Was G-d’s glory a back?  A fire?

This is an article by R’ Aryeh Kaplan (Z”L) which is worth reading.   The Creator of space and time is unique from all existence.

I’m going to quote some pertinent parts from this article, note he speaks of Exodus 33:20-23 towards the end of this quotation:

“Since G-d is the Creator of all matter, it is obvious that He does not consist of matter. . . “

As Creator of all things, G-d is also the Creator of space and time. He therefore does not exist in space and time.

It is therefore taught that G-d is given the appellation “Place,” Makom in Hebrew. The universe of space and time is a creation of G-d, and does not contain Him.

The human mind can only deal with physical concepts, and it is therefore virtually impossible for it to picture any existence outside of space and time. This is but another reason that G-d’s Essence is unknowable.

Body, shape and form are all attributes of space. It is therefore obvious that G-d has neither body, shape nor form.

It is a foundation of our faith to believe that G-d is absolutely incorporeal. The Torah therefore states,

Take good heed of yourselves, for you saw no manner of form on that day that G-d spoke to you at Horeb.” (D’varim / Deut. 4:15).

G-d is therefore not to be compared to any of His creatures, even to the highest angels. The prophet thus declared,

To whom will you then liken G-d? To what likeness will you compare Him?” (Isaiah 40:18).

It is likewise written, “There is none like You, O G-d” (Yirmiyahu / Jeremiah 10:6).

The Psalmist similarly said,


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