The third principle of Judaism is that G-d has absolutely no physicality. He is incorporeal – without any physical body or form. In his magnum opus, the Mishne Torah, the Rambam asserts that anyone who believes that G-d is corporeal is a heretic.
Most Christians believe that G-d had a body, namely that of Jesus of Nazareth who was born as a baby, grew in knowledge, had human bodily functions, breathed, ate, defecated, slept. . . a human. They believe that the word became flesh (John 1:1).
Many other Christians believe that G-d earlier took human forms (they reference B’reshit / Genesis 18) and other forms such as a burning bush, a cloud. . . although for some reason they don’t pray to any of the physical manifestations they think were G-d except for Jesus. You’d have to ask them why this one manifestation deserves worship when the others don’t (something about “only to the father through the son even though they are both supposedly the same god). . . .
The Torah tells us G-d is incorporeal (has no physicality) time and time again.
"You did not see any image on the day that G‑d spoke to you at Horeb [Sinai]."-- D’varim / Deuteronomy 4:15.
G-d has no physical manifestation, thus theophanies are not part of Judaism, PERIOD. There is not one passage in the Jewish bible that says G-d Himself appeared in the form of a man. G-d did not manifest Himself as a burning bush or a pillar of fire. (D'varim) Deuteronomy 4:15 clearly tells us that the Israelites did not see G-d in any form. Ergo G-d was NOT the pillar or the cloud
R’ Aryeh Kaplan (Z”L) wrote “G-d is totally nonphysical. “We believe that this Unity (which we call G-d) is not a body or a physical force. “Nothing associated with the physical can apply to Him in any way. We thus cannot say that G-d moves, rests or exists in a given way. Things such as this can neither happen to Him, nor be part of His intrinsic nature.
“When our sages speak of G-d, they therefore teach that such concepts as combination and separation do not apply to Him. They say in the Talmud (Chagigah 15a), “On high, there is neither sitting nor standing, neither combination nor separation.”
“The Prophet says (Yeshayahu / Isaiah 40:25), “To whom will you liken Me? To what am I equal?’ says the Holy One.” If G-d were physical then He would resemble other physical things.
“In many places, however, our holy scriptures do speak of G-d in physical terms. Thus, we find such concepts as walking, standing, and speaking used in relation to G-d. In all these cases, though, scripture is only speaking metaphorically. Our sages teach us scripture is only speaking metaphorically. Our sages teach us (Berachot 31b), “The Torah speaks in the language of man.”
But doesn’t Moses ask to “see” G-d?
Moses says to HaShem “show me your glory” (Sh’mot / Exodus 33). Moses wanted to understand the essence of Hashem.
HaShem answered: “No living being can see Me.” This means that as long as we are physical beings, we cannot conceptualize these things.
Moses asked G-d, "Let me behold Your Glory" (not a physical form). This is found in Sh’mot / Exodus 33:18. In making this request, Moses did not ask to see G-d, since that would be impossible. No, Moses was merely requesting that G-d grant him a prophetic comprehension of His greatness (his glory).
G-d replied that this is impossible for any living creature, saying, "You cannot see My Face, for man cannot see Me and live" (Sh'mot / Exodus 33:20). He did allow Moses the greatest comprehension of G-d ever granted to any human being, but even this was not a perfect understanding. This is what G-d meant when He allegorically told Moses, "You shall see My back, but My Face shall not be seen" (Sh'mot / Exodus 33:23). The same was true of the other "visions" of G-d experienced by the prophets.
Earlier, Sh'mot / Exodus 24:17, told us “the appearance of the glory of HaShem was like a consuming fire on the mountaintop before the eyes of the Children of Israel."
Was G-d’s glory a back? A fire?
This is an article by R' Aryeh Kaplan (Z"L) which is worth reading. The Creator of space and time is unique from all existence.
I'm going to quote some pertinent parts from this article, note he speaks of Exodus 33:20-23 towards the end of this quotation:
"Since G-d is the Creator of all matter, it is obvious that He does not consist of matter. . . "
As Creator of all things, G-d is also the Creator of space and time. He therefore does not exist in space and time.
It is therefore taught that G-d is given the appellation "Place," Makom in Hebrew. The universe of space and time is a creation of G-d, and does not contain Him.
The human mind can only deal with physical concepts, and it is therefore virtually impossible for it to picture any existence outside of space and time. This is but another reason that G-d's Essence is unknowable.
Body, shape and form are all attributes of space. It is therefore obvious that G-d has neither body, shape nor form.
It is a foundation of our faith to believe that G-d is absolutely incorporeal. The Torah therefore states,
"Take good heed of yourselves, for you saw no manner of form on that day that G-d spoke to you at Horeb." (D'varim / Deut. 4:15).
G-d is therefore not to be compared to any of His creatures, even to the highest angels. The prophet thus declared,
"To whom will you then liken G-d? To what likeness will you compare Him?" (Isaiah 40:18).
It is likewise written, "There is none like You, O G-d" (Yirmiyahu / Jeremiah 10:6).
The Psalmist similarly said,
"There are none like You among the powers (angels), O G-d, and there are no words like Yours" (T'hillim / Psalms 86:8).
In many places, the Torah speaks of G-d as though He had a human body, using anthropomorphisms such as, "the hand of G-d" (Sh'mot / Exodus 9:15), and "the eyes of G-d" (D'varim / Deut. 11:12). In doing so, the Torah is in no way asserting that G-d has a body, shape or form. Rather, it borrows terms from G-d's creatures allegorically to express His relation to His creation.
Similarly, when the Torah states that G-d created man in His image (B'reshit / Genesis 1:27), it by no means implies that G-d looks like man. What it means is that man partakes of the same attributes that G-d uses when He interacts with His world. It also implies that G-d gave man the ability to use the same logic with which He created the universe.
Moses asked G-d, "Let me behold Your Glory" (Sh'mot / Exodus 33:18). In making this request, he did not actually wish to see G-d, since that would be impossible. In an allegorical manner, he was merely requesting that G-d grant him a prophetic comprehension of His greatness. G-d replied that this is impossible for any living creature, saying, "You cannot see My Face, for man cannot see Me and live" (Sh’mot / Exodus 33:20). He did allow Moses the greatest comprehension of G-d ever granted to any human being, but even this was not a perfect understanding. This is what G-d meant when He allegorically told Moses, "You shall see My back, but My Face shall not be seen" (Sh'mot / Exodus 33:23). The same was true of the other "visions" of G-d experienced by the prophets.
If Trinitarians are going to insist that the "image" of G-d is somehow plural then explain why humans don't have wings like vultures ( as G-d is described in Sh’mot / Exodus 19:4) or why don't humans have seven eyes which come out of their sockets and wander through the earth – based on Zechariah 4:10?
G-d has no physicality. Time and again the Torah warns us not to worship anything that we might see: “G-d spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no image; there was only a voice." D'varim / Deuteronomy 4:15
The fire was NOT a manifestation of G-d. Torah says it clearly. The burning bush was not G-d. It was simply a media that G-d used through which G-d chose to communicate with Moses (and later with the Jewish nation). Think “telephone” – you are not a telephone even though you use that medium to communicate over distances.
The Torah states: "You will not be able to see My face, for no human can see my face and live" (Sh'mot / Exodus 33:18-20). If Jesus had been G-d no human could have seen him and lived.
The Torah tells us many things about G-d. It tells us that He is not a man. It tells us that He is one (not three). It tells us that He has no form, no physical being.
“G-d is not a man.” Bamidbar / Numbers 23:19. (The full quote is "G-d is not a man who lies" -- but the meaning is the same since G-d tells us time and again that He does not change, is not a "man of war" and “And, what’s more, Israel's Eternal One will not lie and will not feel regret, for He is not a man to feel regret!” (Shmuel Alef / 1 Samuel 15:29)
Principle number 3: G-d has no physical body.
The vast majority of anthropomorphisms used by scripture can in no way be interpreted literally. The outstretched arm of the exodus (Sh'mot / Exodus 6:6, D'varim / Deuteronomy 4:34, 5:15, 26:8, Melachim 2 / 2 Kings 17:36), the heavens as G-d’s throne (Yeshayahu / Isaiah 66:1,T'hillim / Psalms 11:4, 103:19), the eyes of G-d (D'varim / Deuteronomy 11:12, Amos 9:8, Zechariah 4:10, Ps. 34:16, Mishlei / Proverbs 5:21, 15:3, 22:12) are just some of the expressions scripture uses to describe G-d’s actions – and cannot be understood as a description of His being.
Furthermore, scripture uses the same figures of speech to describe the actions of entities other than G-d. Yeshayahu / Isaiah 55;12 has the trees “clapping their hands”, while T'hillim / Psalm 98:8 attributes the same action to the rivers. Shmuel 2 / 2 Samuel 12:11 speaks of the “eyes of the sun”, while Yirmiyahu / Jeremiah 30:18 describes a palace “sitting”.
Principle #3: "We believe that this Oneness is neither a body nor a bodily force, nor is He subject to any bodily characteristics -- movement, rest, or dwelling -- be they inherent or by chance."
Sophiee Saguy has been countering false missionary claims about Judaism and the T'nach (Jewish bible) for nearly twenty years. You may find her on FaceBook and at the Messiah Truth forum.