Now, from the foregoing exposition, one will be able to understand the verse,8 “I, Havayah, have not changed.”

וְהִנֵּה, בְּמַה שֶּׁנִּתְבָּאֵר, יוּבַן מַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב: "אֲנִי ה' לֹא שָׁנִיתִי",

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 whatsoever 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.”

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.

שֶׁאֵין שׁוּם שִׁינּוּי כְּלָל, כְּמוֹ שֶׁהָיָה לְבַדּוֹ קוֹדֶם בְּרִיאַת הָעוֹלָם – כָּךְ הוּא לְבַדּוֹ אַחַר שֶׁנִּבְרָא.

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.

Accordingly, it is written, “You were [the same] before the world was created; You are [the same after the world was created],”9

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאוֹמְרִים: "אַתָּה הוּא עַד שֶׁלֹּא נִבְרָא הָעוֹלָם, אַתָּה הוּא כוּ'",

If the meaning of this passage were only that G-d is eternal, without beginning or end, it could have been stated simply: “You were before the world was created…”; why the circumlocution of “You are He Who was before the world was created…”? This emphasis provided by the repeated phrase, “You are He who…” means: “You are exactly the same ‘He’ before and after creation,10

without any change in His Being, nor even in His knowledge,11

בְּלִי שׁוּם שִׁינּוּי בְּעַצְמוּתוֹ, וְלֹא בְּדַעְתּוֹ,

One might have supposed that with the creation of the world, G-d’s knowledge underwent a change,12 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:

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

כִּי בִּידִיעַת עַצְמוֹ יוֹדֵעַ כָּל הַנִּבְרָאִים, שֶׁהַכֹּל מִמֶּנּוּ וּבָטֵל בִּמְצִיאוּת אֶצְלוֹ,

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.

As Maimonides, of blessed memory, stated,13 that He is the Knower, He is the Known, and He is Knowledge itself: all are one.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתַב הָרַמְבַּ"ם זִכְרוֹנוֹ לִבְרָכָה, שֶׁ"הוּא הַיּוֹדֵעַ, וְהוּא הַיָּדוּעַ, וְהוּא הַדֵּיעָה עַצְמָהּ – הַכֹּל אֶחָד,

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.)

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.

וְדָבָר זֶה אֵין כֹּחַ בַּפֶּה לְאָמְרוֹ, וְלֹא בָּאֹזֶן לְשָׁמְעוֹ, וְלֹא בְּלֵב הָאָדָם לְהַכִּירוֹ עַל בּוּרְיוֹ".

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.

כִּי הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, מַהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ וְדַעְתּוֹ – הַכֹּל אֶחָד מַמָּשׁ מִכָּל צַד וּפִינָּה, בְּכָל דֶּרֶךְ יִחוּד,

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.

וְאֵין דַּעְתּוֹ דָּבָר נוֹסָף עַל מַהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ, כְּמוֹ שֶׁהוּא בְּנֶפֶשׁ הָאָדָם, שֶׁדַּעְתָּהּ דָּבָר נוֹסָף עַל מַהוּתָהּ וּמוּרְכָּב בָּהּ,

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

שֶׁהֲרֵי כְּשֶׁהָאָדָם לוֹמֵד וְיוֹדֵעַ אֵיזֶה דָבָר – כְּבָר הָיְתָה בּוֹ נַפְשׁוֹ הַמַּשְׂכֶּלֶת בְּטֶרֶם שֶׁלָּמַד וְיָדַע, וְאַחַר שֶׁלָּמַד וְיָדַע – נִיתּוֹסְפָה יְדִיעָה זוֹ בְּנַפְשׁוֹ,

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

And so, day after day, “Days speak, i.e., instruct a person, and a multitude of years teach wisdom.”14

וְכֵן מִידֵּי יוֹם בְּיוֹם – "יָמִים יְדַבֵּרוּ, וְרוֹב שָׁנִים יוֹדִיעוּ חָכְמָה",

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

וְאֵין זוֹ אַחְדּוּת פְּשׁוּטָה, אֶלָּא מוּרְכֶּבֶת,

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.

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.

אֲבָל הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא – הוּא אַחְדּוּת פָּשׁוּט בְּלִי שׁוּם הַרְכָּבָה וְצַד רִיבּוּי כְּלָל.

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:

וְאִם כֵּן,

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

עַל כָּרְחֲךָ מַהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ וְדַעְתּוֹ – הַכֹּל דָּבָר אֶחָד מַמָּשׁ, בְּלִי שׁוּם הַרְכָּבָה.

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;

וּלְפִיכָךְ, כְּשֵׁם שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר לְשׁוּם נִבְרָא בָּעוֹלָם לְהַשִּׂיג מַהוּת הַבּוֹרֵא וְעַצְמוּתוֹ, כָּךְ, אִי אֶפְשָׁר לְהַשִּׂיג מַהוּת דַּעְתּוֹ,

[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.

רַק לְהַאֲמִין בֶּאֱמוּנָה, שֶׁהִיא לְמַעְלָה מֵהַשֵּׂכֶל וּמֵהַשָּׂגָה, שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא יָחִיד וּמְיוּחָד –

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

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,

הוּא וְדַעְתּוֹ הַכֹּל אֶחָד מַמָּשׁ, וּבִידִיעַת עַצְמוֹ – מַכִּיר וְיוֹדֵעַ כָּל הַנִּמְצָאִים עֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים,

including even a small worm in the sea15 and a minute mosquito that may be found in the center of the earth;16

עַד שִׁלְשׁוּל קָטָן שֶׁבַּיָּם, וְעַד יַתּוּשׁ קָטָן שֶׁיִּהְיֶה בְּטַבּוּר הָאָרֶץ –

there is nothing concealed from Him.

אֵין דָּבָר נֶעְלָם מִמֶּנּוּ,

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.17

וְאֵין יְדִיעָה זוֹ מוֹסִיפָה בּוֹ רִיבּוּי וְהַרְכָּבָה כְּלָל, מֵאַחַר שֶׁאֵינָהּ – רַק יְדִיעַת עַצְמוֹ, וְעַצְמוּתוֹ וְדַעְתּוֹ הַכֹּל אֶחָד.

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.

Inasmuch as this form of knowledge is very difficult to envisage, the Prophet [Isaiah] therefore said, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”18

וּלְפִי שֶׁזֶּה קָשֶׁה מְאֹד לְצַיֵּיר בְּשִׂכְלֵנוּ, עַל כֵּן אָמַר הַנָּבִיא: "כִּי גָבְהוּ שָׁמַיִם מֵאָרֶץ – כֵּן גָּבְהוּ דְרָכַי מִדַּרְכֵיכֶם וּמַחְשְׁבוֹתַי מִמַּחְשְׁבוֹתֵיכֶם",

It is likewise written, “Can you, by [intellectual] searching, find G-d?…”19; and so, too, “Have You eyes of flesh, and do You see as man sees?”20

וּכְתִיב: "הַחֵקֶר אֱלוֹהַּ תִּמְצָא וְגוֹ'", וּכְתִיב: "הַעֵינֵי בָשָׂר לָךְ, אִם כִּרְאוֹת אֱנוֹשׁ תִּרְאֶה",

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

שֶׁהָאָדָם רוֹאֶה וְיוֹדֵעַ כָּל הַדְּבָרִים בִּידִיעָה שֶׁחוּץ מִמֶּנּוּ,

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

וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא – בִּידִיעַת עַצְמוֹ.

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

עַד כָּאן לְשׁוֹנוֹ.

(21See there in Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah. The Sages of the Kabbalah have agreed with him, as is explained in Pardes of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, of blessed memory.)

[עַיֵּין שָׁם בְּהִלְכוֹת יְסוֹדֵי הַתּוֹרָה. וְהִסְכִּימוּ עִמּוֹ חַכְמֵי הַקַּבָּלָה, כִּמְבוֹאָר בַּפַּרְדֵּס מֵהָרַמַ"ק זִכְרוֹנוֹ לִבְרָכָה]:

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 the Infinite G-d a description which would serve to limit Him.

According to the Kabbalah, however, Maimonides is indeed correct. However (as stated in the Alter Rebbe’s Note in Part 1, ch. 2, and later on in his Note in ch. 9), this is only after the Ein Sof-light has undergone numerous tzimtzumim, until it is able to garb itself in the vessels of the sefirot of chochmah, binah, and daat of the World of Atzilut. At that stage, in Atzilut, we can truly say that G-d is the “Knower” and “Known,” etc., inasmuch as the attributes of Atzilut are completely united with the Ein Sof-light.22