Between man and G-d: Jewish view on the relationships between man and the almighty

By Gideon

Judaism views the existence of G-d as a necessary prerequisite for the existence of the universe. The existence of the universe is sufficient proof of the existence of G-d. According to Jewish belief,G-d is in all places at all times. He fills the universe and exceeds its scope. He is always near to call upon in need, and he sees all that we do. He is not just the G-d of the Jews; He is the G-d of all nations. G-d transcends time. He has no beginning and no end. He will always be there to fulfill his promises. When Moses asked for G-d’s name, He replied, “Ehyeh asher ehyeh.” That phrase is generally translated as, “I am that I am,” but the word “ehyeh” can be present or future tense, meaning “I am what I will be” or “I will be what I will be.” The ambiguity of the phrase is often interpreted as a reference to G-d’s eternal nature.

Maimonides devotes most of the “Guide for the Perplexed” to the fundamental idea that God is incorporeal, meaning that He assumes no physical form. God is Eternal, above time. He is Infinite, beyond space. He cannot be born, and cannot die. Saying that God assumes human form makes God small, diminishing both His unity and His divinity. As the Torah says: “God is not a mortal” (Numbers 23:19).

In Judaism, prayer is a totally private matter, between each individual and God. As the Bible says: “God is near to all who call unto Him” (Psalms 145:18). Further, the Ten Commandments state: “You shall have no other gods BEFORE ME,” meaning that it is forbidden to set up a mediator between God and man. (see Maimonides – Laws of Idolatry ch. 1) 

The Shema prayer, is recited twice daily. It begins “Hear, Israel: The L-rd is our G-d, The L-rd is one.” This simple statement encompasses several ideas:

  1. There is only one G-d. No other being participated in the work of creation.
  2. G-d is a unity. He is a single, whole, complete indivisible entity. He cannot be divided into parts or described by attributes. Any attempt to ascribe attributes to G-d is merely man’s imperfect attempt to understand the infinite.
  3. G-d is the only being to whom we should offer praise. The Shema can also be translated as “The L-rd is our G-d, The L-rd alone,” meaning that no other is our G-d, and we should not pray to any other.

Judaism says that the Messiah will be born of human parents, and possess normal physical attributes like other people. He will not be a demi-god, and will not possess supernatural qualities. In fact, an individual is alive in every generation with the capacity to step into the role of the Messiah. (see Maimonides – Laws of Kings 11:3). Jews do not believe that the Messiah is a part of G-d, or Divine in any way, more than any other person. Jews look only to G-d for salvation, and when the time comes for G-d to bring the anointed king, then it shall happen. Jews do not concern themselves with the messiah’s identity, for the messiah is a person and the messiah’s coming does not change the relationship with G-d.

Judaism views G-d as the creator of the world and everything in it.  G-d created Adam (man) in His image. This does not imply his physical image, since G-d does not possess a physical form. The meaning of G-d’s image is that human’s have the ability to reason and understand; they were created with wisdom. Humans also have an inclination to do good and bad, and they were given freewill – the ability to choose between doing good or bad. In addition, humans were created righteous and good. Everything in the universe was created by G-d and only by G-d. Judaism completely rejects the dualistic notion that evil was created by Satan or some other deity. All comes from G-d. As Isaiah said , “I am the L-rd, and there is none else. I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil. I am the L-rd, that does all these things.” (Is. 45:6-7).

According to Jewish belief humans were created with two impulses, Yetzer Ha’tov (good impulse) and Yetzer Ha’ra (bad impulse). Yetzer Ha’tov is the inner voice, the moral conscience that reminds a person of G-d’s laws when he considers doing something that he knows he is not allowed.  On the other hand, Yetzer Ha’ra is when he goes ahead and does it anyway. Yetzer Ha’ra does not mean bad; it is the desire to satisfy personal needs without thinking or caring about the moral consequences of going ahead. It is an internal force and is conceived as the selfish nature of humans. The Yetzer Ha’ra was created because it is necessary for humans to satisfy their personal needs, but if not controlled by the Yetzer Ha’tov it can lead to wrongdoings. In Judaism humans have the ability to make their own choices, and are held responsible for the choices they make.

Judaism views the right relationship to G-d on an individual and personal level, although Judaism is a community religion. G-d maintains a covenant with the Jewish people; as long as they keep G-d’s laws and seek to bring holiness into everything they do, G-d will continue to watch over them, protect them, and do many good deeds for them, as he did in the past.

Jews are supposed to be Or la’Goyim; they should set an example of ethical behavior and holiness. Everything a Jewish person does can become an act of worship by keeping the covenant and by doing things that please G-d. Following G-d’s laws is not just obeying G-d, it is a spiritual way of life, and everything is done as an act of worship.

Jews called G-d Avinu, our father, because they believe that G-d is like a parent, he cares about each individual; he is interested in everyone and listens to each person.  G-d is also called Malkenu, our king, because he is the Lord over all His creatures, and because, although he is close, there is reverence and Morah Shamaim, he is transcendent, omnipotent, omnipresent, just, merciful, and exists beyond time.

The Revelation at Mount Sinai, which the Jewish people saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears, was not dependent on the testimony of others… as it says, “Face to face, God spoke with you…” The Torah also states: “God did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us—who are all here alive today.” (Deut. 5:3)