How God Teaches Man


Moshe Ben-Chaim



We recently discussed the incident wherein God informed Moses of his error in his perception of his role, sending some type of serpent to afflict him, near-death. This taught Moses that he was in fact “dispensable” in God’s plan to redeem the Jews, unlike his own opinion.


We asked why God teaches man by way of subtle indication, in place of outright clarity. We also learn that when Solomon was made king at the age of twelve, God appeared to him, asking, “…ask what I shall give to you.” (Kings I, 3:5) Solomon then asked for wisdom, as he realized God would not make such an offer for that which he may procure through natural channels. God was “indicating” that Solomon now had the opportunity to obtain something no other man could: “instantaneous wisdom”. Solomon responded, requesting wisdom to judge the people. But God might have simply given him wisdom outright! What need was there for this method wherein God does not ‘openly reveal’ His message? Additionally, God’s very Torah is written quite cryptically, and the very existence of an “Oral Law” too teaches that not all wisdom is readily available, on the surface. (The Oral law elucidates the Written Law.) King Solomon writes that he wrote his metaphorical Proverbs so man might “Understand proverb and poetic expression, the words of the wise and their riddles.” (Proverbs, 1:6) Furthermore, God’s give man prophecy in the form of riddles.


We may learn from God’s “cryptic method” of teaching man, is, what I feel, essential knowledge about our attainment of knowledge.


(One may well ask, “God said in Numbers 12:8 that He does not give prophecy to Moses in “riddles” as He does with other prophets. So God’s “hint,” to Moses with the serpent, and his vision of the Burning Bush contradict this!” We may answer that Moses initially required God’s cryptic method, but after years of perfection, he arrived at the highest level where he attained God’s word clearly, and not in riddles. However, Moses was the only case of this direct, open communication. What we are studying is God’s general methods for mankind on the whole.)


God does not desire that mankind simply “hear His word”, and respond, without thinking. For this reason, Revelation at Sinai was a one-time event, “A great voice that did not continue.” (Deut. 5:19) This outright, undeniable proof of God’s existence was necessary. However, not being present at Sinai ourselves, future generations would require intelligence to derive this proof of God’s existence. God does not wish to create miracles always, and thus writes, “A great voice that did not continue.” Miracles are not God’s plan for mankind’s approach to Him. Maimonides also teaches that our primary command to love God is achieved by studying the universe. (Laws of Torah Fundamentals, 2:2) Why must this be?



The Study of Reality

God’s plan for mankind is to observe the universe, and with his intellect, understand the nature of things. Study of God’s created world and Torah is man’s sole objective. To enable Moses to accomplish this, God did not communicate his sin in words, but displayed his sin – through an event – which afforded Moses the opportunity to “study God’s relationship to the world.” Without an event, Moses would have lost the opportunity to engage his mind in discovering a new truth on his own. Moses, seeing his own debilitating illness, discovered a new idea: man is not essential for God to carry out His plan. But this was only discovered through witnessing “how God relates to man.” Events are essential for man’s observation, and ultimately, his study.


Throughout the Torah, God teaches man by way of created events. Through these events, punishments, rewards, miracles, and so on, God displays to mankind sufficient ‘evidence’ for man to approach God through gaining increased knowledge of God, specifically “through how He works”. To simply read in books, or to hear God informing us of His methods, man forfeits the realization observed through witnessing reality “in action.” Only by witnessing the very real operation of the world, does man acknowledge a “reality” to God’s methods.


God created the physical world precisely to bestow mankind with a ‘laboratory’ in which to study God’s knowledge. This applies not just to the physical creations, but also to the metaphysical. God also created natural law, laws of justice, laws of Divine intervention, Divine providence, miracles, and so many other realities.


Since God desires man possess intellect, it is clear that we are to engage this intellect. This is necessary, as God’s knowledge far surpasses man’s knowledge. In order that man is able to comprehend something of God’s infinite knowledge, God created the physical and metaphysical worlds. However, these alone cannot contain the full depth of God’s knowledge. How then will man continually expand his knowledge, gaining greater truths about God? It is only through intelligent study, that greater knowledge may be observed in a given created entity or law.



Creation’s Limitation

The physical and metaphysical worlds are limited in scope. Therefore, to truly unveil God’s infinite knowledge contained in all parts of creation, something other than mere, physical senses are required. Our five senses convey to our minds but little information. These senses are limited in nature, as are their items of study, and cannot penetrate further than the entity’s characteristics. We then hit a dead end. This is where the intellect comes in. It examines, deduces, induces, and unravels many layers of God’s wisdom. The Torah as well is quite cryptic. Written words cannot contain all God’s knowledge. Therefore, Torah was written in a manner that draws the mind in, conveying hints and subtleties that enable further truths to reveal themselves.


We will never reach God’s complete knowledge. However, through observing God’s creations and laws, we are enabled to continue to grow our knowledge. Thus, God created an event for Moses to grow in his knowledge too.


I will offer one example: water. What is it? What knowledge of God may be contained in such a simple substance? Using our senses alone, all we may derive is its form, color, sound, behavior, temperature, moistness, and taste. If we stop there, we learn little about God. I say “little about God”, and not “water”, as all creation targets man’s knowledge of God, and not the creation in itself. Our goal is to arrive at a love of God. Therefore, when our knowledge ends with the object studied, in truth, we have not learned about the true nature of this creation. Knowledge of creation means knowledge of “God’s will that this thing exists”. To derive knowledge of God from His creations, we must seek reasons for His creations, culminating in an appreciation for His designs.


Let us further examine water, now including deductive and inductive reasoning. Water is plentiful, it conforms to any shape, and it flows. We wonder why this must be part of God’s plan. Including God in our analysis, we may derive knowledge of His kindness, through His creation. We know that water is essential to all life, but it is not found readily in all areas. As mankind, plants and animals require water, we realize that the characteristic of “shape conformation” teamed with gravity and Earth’s topography (mountains and valleys), allow water to “flow”: it may reach distant areas, although not sourced there. All members of mankind may obtain water, even though it is not reservoired close by. It is malleable, so it is not obstructed from reaching distant communities: it may travel through very narrow paths, reaching all life forms. Water contains oxygen, providing another essential component. It also possesses no taste: since it is essential for all members of mankind, and an unfavorable taste would preclude many from ingesting this life source, taste is absent, enabling all to benefit with no reluctance. Water is clear: enabling man and animal to detect and procure aquatic life for food and other needs.


This is but a brief glimpse into water, but it serves to illustrate how our physical senses alone cannot avail us to greater knowledge of God. We must use reasoning to appreciate the depth of knowledge contained in creation. “…behold the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You…” (Kings I, 8:27).


Matter and senses alone, respectively, cannot reveal and uncover all of God’s knowledge. They are limited in scope. By definition this is the nature of all physical creation. However, God designed the universe precisely in a manner that human reason is required to understand God. Thus, God creates events through which, if we use our minds, we may learn. Moses too was afforded this opportunity through his illness.



Physical Man Interacting with Metaphysical Knowledge

Knowledge is not physical. It is not “contained” in the physical world. But we are physical! How do we connect to knowledge; how does man attain knowledge? What is the “gate” to the world of wisdom?


It is the physical world, and the Torah. God designed both, precisely, in a manner that their perceived features act as portals to vaults of wisdom. When we perceive creation, examining features unique to each created entity, when we study a Torah portion, or a section in Talmud, each instance contains a unique character: water is wet, clear, and malleable. A Succah has at least three walls, and a reeded ceiling. Tefillin are to we worn on the head and arm. Tzitzis must be attached on four corners, in the form of strings and knots. Every single case is unique in design. This is to afford mankind the opportunity to delve in, examining these unique features, and ponder their essentiality; to ponder their purpose; to ponder why the Creator demanded their very existence and design. Ultimately, we arrive at an ever-increasing number of insights into God’s wisdom.


God’s wisdom is not comparable to man’s. Billions of galaxies exist. A multitude of laws govern the consistent and perfect operation of the human body. If we merely gaze at creation, we know little more than their evident design. However, it is only through reason, our Divine gift of a metaphysical apparatus, which can unlock these vaults of wisdom. Wisdom is the entry gate to the invisible world of knowledge. To attain wisdom, as sensual beings, God granted mankind the universe and Torah. Each creation, each Torah verse acts as a “tip of the iceberg”, designed in a manner wherein our exploration will yield greater and greater insights.


This is how man attains wisdom. God’s methods of interacting with man are cryptic. Otherwise, there would be nothing compelling us to seek new wisdom. We would be at a dead end as soon as we exhausted our study of the limited, physical characteristics of the world. But God’s knowledge has no limits. And He desired that men of even 1000 years of age like Adam’s generation never run out of material. Our lives may be short relative to the universe, but are sufficiently long so as to endlessly explore God’s infinite wisdom. Therefore, God designed His Torah and His world in a way that reasoning unlocks ideas. Everything follows this design: be it how God interacts with man, how He designed the world, or how He worded the Torah.


God’s will is that man enjoys his life of study. But one cannot “look” at wisdom; he may only reach it through engaging his mind. What propels man towards this activity is his curiosity. “Curiosity” too is an essential part of creation! Creation and Torah are perfectly designed puzzles, engaging the mind’s curiosity at every turn, affording us all an endless pursuit in the one area we will truly be drawn into, never tiring from, and completely fulfilled by its immensity, and its beautiful design…culminating in an awe of, and an attraction to the Creator.


As physical beings, whose objective is the perception of, and appreciation for metaphysical wisdom and its Creator, we have been presented with portals into worlds of knowledge in the form of a cryptically designed universe and Torah. We are thereby enabled to uncover wisdom through God’s generous clues, which tempt us with alluring inconsistencies and rarities, seizing our minds, and alerting us to dig deeper.


“If you seek it (wisdom) out like silver, and search for it like a buried treasure, then you will understand the fear of God, and knowledge of God will you find.” (Proverbs, 2:4,5)