Community Rabbis Ask

G-d’s Appearance

30.11.16

Question

According to Maimonides and other rabbis around the world, G-d has no body. So how does Ezekiel in his prophecy (1:26), say that he saw a “Likeness like the appearance of a man” on the Kisei HaKavod (Throne of Honor)?
 

Answer

Ezekiel the Prophet saw visions that were conveyed to him by way of parables and illustrations containing important ideas about the Kingdom of Heaven and the ways of providence. At the same time, the prophets repeatedly emphasized that no illustration or parable can describe the reality of G-d.

Thus, for example, the prophet Isaiah wrote about G-d (38:18): "And to whom shall imagination be made, and what shall be done to him, the sculptor shall be crushed, and he shall be crucified with gold, and he shall be drained." He continues to write (25): "Whom shall I imagine? Look up from your eyes and see Who created these."

In other words, there is nothing in reality that can truly illustrate G-d.

Maimonides, in his commentary on the Guide to the Perplexed, elaborates on this in part 1, and brought many examples from the Bible.
The Sages said that sometimes "the Torah speaks in the language of human beings," for example, in Deuteronomy (32:31): "If my years are Barak's sword," does G-d really kill with a sword? We have seen in the Torah that G-d does not kill the sword. In the Book of Deuteronomy it says, "For the Lord your G-d is a Consuming Fire." This does not mean that G-d turned into fire, but rather it is said in a way that expresses the fear of G-d as if it were from fire.

This also applies to visions.
Moshe Rabbeinu saw G-d on the sea as a Gibur Milchama (hero of war), but later saw Him as a ‘Shaliach Tzibur Atuf” in Sinai. The prophet Daniel (7: 9) relates that he saw G-d as "a Garment of pale snow," while the prophet Isaiah (61: 1) says that he saw G-d "…with soiled garments." From this we see that G-d takes shape and form in a prophetic vision. But He is able to transform His image in the most appropriate form for the vision of the prophet: "And I will see the Lord sitting on the throne of Ram and Shea," and in Ezekiel (1:26) it is said, "Likeness like the appearance of a man."

This is G-d's way of being revealed in a vision through the prophet in a way that will help him convey G-d’s message and His guidance in the world.
 

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