והנה במה שנתבאר, יובן מה שכתוב: אני ה׳ לא שניתי

Now, from the foregoing exposition one will be able to understand the verse,1 “I, Havayah, have not changed.”


This means:

Not only has there been no change in G‑d’s conduct, or even His will, with regard to rewarding the righteous and so on, but this verse means explicitly that there is no change, heaven forfend, in G‑d: there exists nothing that can alter Him.

The only consideration that might possibly cause one to wonder about there being a change in G‑d’s unity is His bringing created beings into existence. Before their creation nothing whatever existed other than Him. After their creation, however, one might erroneously conclude that there now exists something in addition to Him — the various worlds and their denizens. And were this to be so, this would constitute a change in G‑d’s absolute unity, heaven forbid. The verse therefore anticipates this by saying, “I, Havayah, have not changed.”

שאין שום שינוי כלל: כמו שהיה לבדו קודם בריאת העולם, כך הוא לבדו אחר שנברא

there is no change in Him at all; just as He was alone before the creation of the world, so is He alone after it was created.

Superficially this is difficult to understand. How can we possibly say that G‑d is alone after the world was created, when there now exists an additional entity — the world?

However, according to the explanation given here regarding Divine Unity, this matter is clearly understood. Since the world is truly nullified in its entirety in relation to Him and is wholly united with Him, G‑d is thus just as truly alone after the world was created as He was alone prior to its creation.

וזהו שאומרים: אתה הוא עד שלא נברא העולם, אתה הוא כו׳

Accordingly it is written,2 “You were [the same] before the world was created; You are [the same after the world was created],”

It would have been simpler to state, “You are the same before and after the world was created.” The text, however, chose to be more explicit in order to stress that the “You” that existed before the world’s creation remains exactly the same “You” after its creation.

בלי שום שינוי בעצמותו, ולא בדעתו

without any change in His Being, nor even in His knowledge,3

One might have supposed that with the creation of the world G‑d’s knowledge underwent a change,4 inasmuch as He could not have possibly known the world beforehand; once the world was created, G‑d would thus know something that previously He did not. The Alter Rebbe therefore tells us that G‑d’s knowledge has not changed at all:

כי בידיעת עצמו, יודע כל הנבראים, שהכל ממנו ובטל במציאות אצלו

for by knowing Himself, He knows all created things, since all derive from Him and are nullified in relation to Him.

Creation thus added nothing to G‑d’s knowledge. This knowledge of self existed before creation, and it is with this prior knowledge that He knows of all of creation.

וכמו שכתב הרמב״ם ז״ל, שהוא היודע והוא הידוע והוא הדיעה עצמה, הכל אחד

As Maimonides, of blessed memory, stated,5 that He is the Knower, He is the Known, and He is Knowledge itself: all are one.

This is radically different from mortal knowledge, which comprises three distinct elements: (a) the person’s soul — the knower; (b) the subject that is known; and (c) the power of knowledge — the faculty of Daat, which enables the knower to know the known. In the Divine realm, however, these three elements are all one: all are G‑d. (See ch. 2 of Part I for further elaboration of this theme.)

ודבר זה אין כח בפה לאמרו, ולא באזן לשמעו, ולא בלב האדם להכירו על בוריו

This — Maimonides goes on to say — is beyond the capacity of the mouth to express, beyond the capacity of the ear to hear, and beyond the capacity of the heart or mind of man to apprehend clearly.

כי הקב״ה, מהותו ועצמותו, ודעתו, הכל אחד ממש מכל צד ופינה, בכל דרך יחוד

For the Holy One, blessed be He, His Essence and Being, and His Knowledge — are all absolutely one, from every side and angle, and in every form of unity.

ואין דעתו דבר נוסף על מהותו ועצמותו כמו שהוא בנפש האדם, שדעתה דבר נוסף על מהותה ומורכב בה

His Knowledge is not superadded to His Essence and Being as it is in a mortal soul, whose knowledge is added to its essence and is compounded with it.

הרי כשהאדם לומד ויודע איזה דבר, כבר היתה בו נפשו המשכלת בטרם שלמד וידע, ואחר שלמד וידע ניתוספה ידיעה זו בנפשו

For when a man studies a subject and knows it, his rational soul was already within him before he studied and knew it, and afterwards, this knowledge was added to his soul.

Man’s knowledge is thus a supplement to his intrinsic being; through it he becomes aware of something he did not know before.

וכן מידי יום ביום: ימים ידברו, ורוב שנים יודיעו חכמה

And so, day after day,6 “Days speak, i.e., instruct a person, and a multitude of years teach wisdom.”

ואין זו אחדות פשוטה, אלא מורכבת

This is not a simple i.e., perfect unity, but a composite.

The Alter Rebbe means the following: Although man’s knowledge, too, is united with him (lit., “with his soul”), for it is the person himself who knows, nevertheless this is not a perfect unity, for “simple” implies that any alternative would be inconceivable. Since a man’s knowledge is acquired, not having been part of his essential being, its acquisition yields an imperfect and composite form of unity, a unity comprised of two separate entities that have coalesced.

אבל הקב״ה הוא אחדות פשוט, בלי שום הרכבה וצד ריבוי כלל

The Holy One, blessed be He, however, is a perfect unity, without any composition or element of plurality at all, inasmuch as it is impossible to speak of any aspect of Him as not having existed previously.

ואם כן

Hence, since His unity is perfect and uncompounded, one cannot say that His Knowledge is something apart from Him, for that would imply, heaven forbid, a composite — that his knowledge is superadded to His Essence, effecting a change within Him. Rather:

על כרחך מהותו ועצמותו ודעתו הכל דבר אחד ממש, בלי שום הרכבה

one must conclude that His Essence and Being and Knowledge are all absolutely one, without any composition.

ולפיכך, כשם שאי אפשר לשום נברא בעולם להשיג מהות הבורא ועצמותו, כך אי אפשר להשיג מהות דעתו

Therefore, just as it is impossible for any creature in the world to comprehend the Essence of the Creator and His Being, so it is impossible to comprehend the essence of His knowledge, which is One with G‑d Himself;

רק להאמין, באמונה שהיא למעלה מהשכל ומהשגה, שהקב״ה יחיד ומיוחד

[it is possible] only to believe, with a faith that transcends intellect and comprehension, that the Holy One, blessed be He, is One and Unique.

Inasmuch as faith transcends intellect, it is able to apprehend truths that lie beyond the province of mortal intellect.

הוא ודעתו הכל אחד ממש, ובידיעת עצמו מכיר ויודע כל הנמצאים, עליונים ותחתונים

He and His knowledge are all absolutely one, and knowing Himself, He perceives and knows all the higher and lower beings, i.e., the beings in the higher and lower worlds,

עד שלשול קטן שבים, ועד יתוש קטן שיהיה בטבור הארץ

including even a small worm in the sea7 and a minute mosquito that may be found in the center of the earth;8

אין דבר נעלם ממנו

there is nothing concealed from Him.

ואין ידיעה זו מוסיפה בו ריבוי והרכבה כלל, מאחר שאינה רק ידיעת עצמו, ועצמותו ודעתו הכל אחד

This knowledge does not add multiplicity and composition to Him at all, since it is merely a knowledge of Himself; and His Being and His knowledge are all one.9

Thus, by knowing Himself, He knows all created beings that derive their existence from Him and that are utterly nullified to Him and unified with Him.

ולפי שזה קשה מאד לצייר בשכלנו, על כן אמר הנביא: כי גבהו שמים מארץ, כן גבהו דרכי מדרכיכם ומחשבותי ממחשבותיכם

Inasmuch as this form of knowledge is very difficult to envisage, the Prophet [Isaiah] therefore said,10 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

וכתיב: החקר אלקה תמצא וגו׳, וכתיב: העיני בשר לך, אם כראות אנוש תראה

It is likewise written,11 “Can you by [intellectual] searching find G‑d?...”; and so too,12 “Have You eyes of flesh, and do You see as man sees?”

שהאדם רואה ויודע כל הדברים בידיעה שחוץ ממנו

For man sees and knows everything with a knowledge that is external to himself, and hence something is added to him by his knowledge,

והקב״ה בידיעת עצמו

whereas the Holy One, blessed be He, [knows all] by knowing Himself.

עד כאן לשונו

These are the [paraphrased] words [of Maimonides].

עיין שם בהלכות יסודי התורה, והסכימו עמו חכמי הקבלה, כמבואר בפרד״ס מהרמ״ק ז״ל

(13See Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah. The Sages of the Kabbalah have agreed with him, as is explained in Pardes of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, of blessed memory.)

There are a number of Torah sages who sharply disagree with Maimonides‘ view. They claim that no descriptive term may be applied to G‑d — not even that of knowledge, and not even of a form of knowledge so rarefied that it is completely beyond the realm of human experience. To say that G‑d is the “Knower” and the “Knowledge” and so on, so the argument runs, is to give Infinite G‑d a description which would serve to limit Him.