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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Jewish Thought (6/12)
Section - Question 12.1: What is the Jewish concept of G-d? Do Jews think of G-d as an angry old man with a long white beard?

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                                  Answer:
   
   No. That image is an anthropomorphism of an extreme application of
   judgment (seen as anger), and wisdom (associated with old men). The
   image is part of the "angry jealous Old Testament G-d" misconception,
   which ignores G-d's showing kindness and mercy throughout the Torah.
   
   Traditional Jews view G-d as omnipotent and unique, tempering judgment
   with mercy. The verse from Shemos [Exodus] 23:23 "And I will remove my
   hand and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen" is
   taken to mean that we will come to know G-d through His works, and
   through observing his commandments. See [5]Handbook of Jewish Thought
   by R' Aryeh Kaplan.
   
   Jews conceive of G-d as an absolutely simple Unity (implying
   absolutely no constituent divisions), beyond all constraints
   (including time and place), and beyond all limitations of human
   conception. To the extent that we are even able to refer to G-d, it is
   solely through our assignment of human-like attributes to what we
   perceive as G-d's interactions with creation. These attributes provide
   us with simple terms to which we can relate, but in no way limit or
   constrain G-d.
   
   All descriptions of G-d that involve human characteristics are
   attempts by human beings to understand the infinite. These human
   characteristics can only be crude approximations of the attributes of
   G-d, in the same way that a robot's hand, while fashioned in the image
   of our own, can only be a crude approximation of the complexity of a
   human hand.
   
   Likewise, we often ascribe to G-d the ultimate expression of desirable
   traits that fallible humans can only imperfectly attain. Thus the term
   "Rachman," as used to refer to G-d, is not "merciful" but the
   merciful, and is the standard against which the human characteristic
   of mercy is measured.

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Next Document: Question 12.2: Can one doubt G-d's existence and still be a good Jew?

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