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How Can One Love an Unknowable G‑d?

How Can One Love an Unknowable G‑d?

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Question:

We're told that G‑d is unknowable, but also told to love G‑d. I don't get it: how can one love something that is "Unknowable"?

Answer:

Many men will tell you that after 25 years of marriage the woman they have lived with is still a great mystery to them. As my father-in-law put it in his typical engineer terminology, "By now, I have figured out which buttons to push. But I still have no idea how she works."

And yes, my father-in-law was madly in love with his wife after over 30 years at the time he said this.

What I'm getting at is that the same applies with G‑d. Yes, He is entirely unknowable—because He has no definition. But we do know how He relates to us, what He has created, and which buttons to press.

So that's where love comes in: We see that this infinite, unknowable G‑d—who has created a magnificent universe with endless stars and galaxies and even more creatures of unbelievable diversity, including us tiny creatures—actually desires a relationship with us. And He gives us the tools to build that relationship, a relationship so close and intimate that we can be with Him every moment of our day, in soul, mind and every limb of our body. If we would really think deeply into this, no doubt our hearts would melt.

(Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi expands on this idea in chapter 46 of his Tanya--click here to read, or here to listen.)

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
Artwork by David Brook. David lives in Sydney, Australia, and has been selling his art since he was in high school. He is currently painting and doing web illustrations.
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Anonymous caracas August 16, 2012

great article thank you. Reply

Daniel T Toronto, Canada January 7, 2010

not knowing someone yo if the husband doesnt know the wife at all then he doesnt have a relationship with her but rather with himself. it would be like being in love with a computer,you push buttons and get results and you're in love with the results not the computer Reply

Anonymous Winnipeg, Manitoba March 31, 2008

unknowable God I feel that using the analogy of a marriage to illustrate our relationship with God is a poor one, I don't know which is analogy would better illustrate such a relationship, but in my estimation it didn't resonate well with me at all. Sorry. Reply

Ann March 14, 2008

Sima Whose self-aggrandizement? Gd's, for wanting a relationship with everyone in the whole world? Or ours, for thinking Gd cares about us?

None of that matters in the face of the fact that the universe is here and we are in it. That is just so astounding. So amazing. Why a whole universe? WHY anything at all? And it is SO beautiful! You yourself use the word "creation"--whether deliberately or thoughtlessly. Here it all is. And it works! With us or without us, it works! Like a huge incredible birthday gift to us all. How cab I help but love the Source of such a gift!!! As to his/her personality, that is really none of my business. Beauty is beauty, truth is truth, and love is love. None of these depend on my knowing Gd in any but a deeply carnal (ie loving) sense. Reply

Sima bat Berel Velvel ha Levie March 14, 2008

knowing the unknowable G-d In answering this persons query on how one can know an unknowable G-d you comment/describe a G-d who wants us to relate to him ,who wants to relate to us. I think that concept is more self agrandizment/ wish fullfillment, a projected hope in the face of the immensity of creation, the finality of death and what we experience in between... life. Reply

Dharma Sturt, Australia March 14, 2008

How can one love a unknowable G-d Tzvi

At the age where I am nearing a half century I believe that to know G-d is to jnow your parents. G-d created us and He must have put Himself in us if He breathed into us.
So even though we were nieve at the beginning of time and didn't know sin, you could say Adam and Eve was like a small toddler who needed experience and tutoring to learn right from wrong. They weren't blessed with two beautiful loving parents to guide them.
But we do, we have our parents, and no one can be more like G-d than Jewish parents, not only are they loving, caring, and give their children free will, they give to the world. Who can be more loving and caring towards people of this world who are struggling and poor? They even believe in taking in orphans.
This is G-d. And this makes it easy for me to love a unknowing G-d. And if we believe in Him without seeing Him we are blessed beyond blessed.. Reply

Ann March 13, 2008

Bruce Dear Bruce,

As a woman, my love for Gd is unlike my love for a woman. You are safe if your wife reads the note, who should be OK thinking that Gd is more difficult to comprehend than we are. Compared to Gd, all my complex issues are pretty simple!

Just look at the world. I'm not talking proof here, just feelings. And my feelings for the natural world are love.

Why is there a world out there? Why the beautiful trees, the birds, the sunrise, the rain? Why bees, why tigers, why zebras, why stripes? Why is there anything there at all? It is all so overwhelmingly beautiful; despite all we have done to try to destroy it, it persists in dazzling us with its beauty.

So much to love, and rather than stifle my love for all this beauty, I let it flow. But where is there for this love to go? Do I worship the sun or the birds or the trees?

Or do I let my love follow all these things to their Source, their Maker, their Creator? Reply

Michal Evenari Passau, Germany March 13, 2008

loving G-d Dear Rabbi Freeman,
I am glad you wrote about loving this G-d we actually do not understand, because our mind and heart are so limited. But I listened to Chapter 46 of the Tanya. Twice.
And it helped me and made me happy.
Yes, I love G-d with a reciprocal love.
HE started to love me and of course He aroused my love for HIM. I can not live without HIS love anymore. It is the only happiness in my life. - I would love to listen to the following chapters of the Tanya also.
It's the language I understand. And if feels so good that I must not be holy in order to be loved by our Creator. May He take us all out of our *Egypts* and open HIS Heart at Mount Sinai.
Thank you so much for writing this. Reply

Joe Smiga Manchester, NH/USA March 13, 2008

Understanding God I think the metaphor of trying to understand God comparing God to understanding women is funny. I venture to say that women will say the same thing for men. What we need to learn is to believe, to trust with our eyes open, not closed to our fears, and bias. Maybe then we can truly see God. Reply

Anonymous Glendale, Ca. March 12, 2008

I love my G-d, especialy because He first loves me, He wanted children thats why we are here, therefore I want to show Him how much I love Him by being faithful to Him and obying His commandments, I do as He ask, and I talk to Him every day, and I thank Him for what I have, everyday when I get up, I say "Thank you father for another day, thank you for a healthy body and sound mind, I give you my body, soul and spirit." Reply

bruce glencoe, IL February 4, 2008

Hi Rabbi Freeman I believe the question above was one that I posed to you several months ago.

I still do not agree with the "wife" analogy because a wife is easier to comprehend than a universal presence (I hope my wife does not read this).

I also read the reference that you provided from chapter 46 of the Tanya. It is fairly confusing (I'll give it another try later) and I sometimes think that we were intended to be a nation of accountants, linguists and encyclopedists rather than priests.

I am truly happy that you love this incomprehensible G-d with all your soul and I wish all the best for you.

Regards, Reply

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