What is God?

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Moses asked this of God. God told him “Man cannot know Me while alive” (Exod. 33:20). But Moses knew that God existed. So did Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Leah, Rachel and all wise people. What can we know about God?

As our prayers state, we refer to God as the creator of the universe. He is not an “energy” in the universe, for energy is physical, and is also a creation; that’s 2 proof that God isn’t energy. God is also not “in” the universe, since before the universe was created, God existed. Thus, He exists separate from the physical universe, and therefore He does not occupy space or location. 

God is not physical. He has no place. We cannot know what He is. But we know He is the cause of all that exists, and that means there is no other power; He is the “only” cause for everything that exists. All Egypt’s gods were inanimate and silent, blow after blow during the 10 Plagues. All peoples’ gods were, and are silent; no people ever claimed their stone, metal or ivory idols communicated with them. 

All existences require God’s will to continue existing. It is not that once God created something, that it now has independent existence. Not so. Even after God created you, you continue to exist, but only if He wills you to continue.

From God’s Torah, we learn that God is perfectly just, that He knows all, every person’s actions and thoughts. We learn that God punishes man for his sins, and rewards those that are close to Him; He saved the Jews from Pharaoh. God is merciful, as He cancelled His planned destruction of Ninveh (Book of Jonah) when those Assyrians repented wholeheartedly.

We know that God favors charity and righteousness, as these were Abraham’s traits which God praised (Gen. 18:19). God also records Rebecca running to serve Eliezer. 

What is God? He is the cause of the universe, who is not physical, who is not “in” the world, and who designed the earth for man’s benefit. He is the cause of everything who wishes man to have the most enjoyable existence through engaging in wisdom and proper morality. We don’t know why God created what He did, but we can know what He created, and what His will is for mankind. We can appreciate the great potential we each have due to God’s kindness and His will that we possess a soul, and intellect, that can find the greatest enjoyment in the pursuit of His wisdom, as seen in Torah and in the universe. God is the existence that we must praise and thank.