Now we can start to approach one of the wildest assertions of Jewish faith: That G‑d does not change. Change, Maimonides explains, would imply form, and form is not oneness, and G‑d is one.

This is what the prophet is talking about when he says in G‑d's name, "I am Havaye, I have not changed." More explicitly, in our morning prayers, "You are He before the world was created, You are He after the world was created." Can you get any more extreme than this? He is the one responsible for the universe. It exists on His power. It is real, because He decided it is real. Yet, for Him, absolutely nothing changes whether there is a world or not. Before the world there is nothing but His absolute oneness, and after the world there is precisely the same.

The simple answer is that G‑d is infinite and His creation is finite. Infinite + finite = the same infinite. Otherwise, it wouldn't be infinite. Therefore, the infinite G‑d does not change by adding on a finite world.

But that is another one of those dull answers. Infinite is incomprehensible. If we reduce the above statement, then, all it says (if we leave it as stated) is: "We can't comprehend this." That's not very interesting.

There is a supplementary explanation: Everything originates within Him. Only that there, as they are within Him, all things are in a state of absolute oneness. They are not things, they are His knowledge of things. And, as Maimonides repeats several times, "He and His knowledge are One," because, "He is the Knower, He is the Known, and He is the act of Knowing." Therefore, there is nothing but Him. The change is only to the created beings, who perceive themselves as something outside of Him. To them, there is a difference between the initial state of being completely integrated within His oneness and the current state of autonomy. But to Him, meaning as He is present in the Higher Mind (see our previous essay, Inverse Realities), nothing has changed.

This is somewhat more interesting, but not comprehensive. It says that from G‑d's perspective, the world is insignificant. But in Inverse Realities we discussed how G‑d takes two perspectives—including one from which the world is quite significant. How, then, does G‑d invest His presence within a finite reality, granting it significance, and nevertheless remain unchanged?

Before we stick our fingers further into this paradox, I'd like to present another one of those "guidelines to the study of inner Torah." We've already discussed three such guidelines: That we start by establishing that which we cannot know, that the questions are to be savored and not quickly dismissed, and that at the core lies not a resolution but a paradox. Now for another:

We cheat.

Imagine a room where a group of intelligent people sit before a curtain taking notes. They hear sounds from behind the curtain. On occasion, something protrudes into the curtain from the opposite side. Piecing together these phenomena, the observers work to determine what is behind the curtain. But none of their hypotheses are conclusive, since there is essential data that is unavailable to them. Even worse, it turns out that none can explain the entire set of phenomena observed.

Finally, a stranger turns up and says, "It's such and such and it has such and such set of qualities and that's why it does such and such." He speaks with certitude, he is able to fend off skepticism and answer all the questions comprehensively.

So they ask him, "How did you figure it out?" And he answers, "I went behind the curtain and looked."

That, basically, is the difference between the philosopher and the Kabbalist. The philosopher works from the bottom up, beginning with his world and attempting to understand what is beyond. "I know I exist, and the world exists," he says. "So how do I know that G‑d exists, and how do I know in what way He exists?"

The Kabbalist begins from the inside and works out. He says, "I know that G‑d exists. How is it then possible that I too exist?"

So when we say that the world was created out of the void, that is not a conclusion by force of logic alone. We know that it is so, and then afterward try to make sense of it. Maimonides wrote, "I am an ant in intellect compared to Aristotle. But whereas he floundered about the issue of whether the cosmos always existed or came into being, I know with certainty that it was created. Why? Because the Torah says, "In the beginning Elokim created the heavens and the earth."

Aristotle begins with the assumption, "A world exists" and can't see how it could ever have not existed. Maimonides begins with "G‑d exists," discovers that G‑d has spoken with humankind and learns that G‑d created the world.

So too, when we say that G‑d does not change. This is not a conclusion of ours based on logical inference. It is our initial assumption based on the experience of Sinai.

This is an answer to all those who have asked a fair question over the past weeks: I have written that intellect must recognize its limitations and bow to certain realities that surpass its comprehension. What they ask is, "How does intellect know what those limitations are and what the realities beyond them are?"

It's not that anyone believes we can get by without axioms—non-intellectual assumptions that lie at the foundation of any rational explanation. In empirical science, axioms are (most?) often observed patterns. Once something has been observed many times under the same conditions by multiple observers, it enters into the realm of fact. When scientists come across a duckbill platypus, all the theories and reason in the world are helpless. It's strange. It doesn't fit the current paradigm. But it's there. Similarly: Bumblebees can fly, so aeronautics goes back to the drawing board.

Experience overrides intellect. In talmudic law, this itself is an axiom: A witness cannot judge a case. Why? Because, whereas a judge must be able to see both sides, the witness has the certitude of first hand experience. In other words, Seeing is believing. Seeing leaves little room for alternatives—even if all the alternatives make sense and the experience does not.

Experience is then quite wondrous. It sweeps us out of our circuitous paradigms and forces us to reassess our world-concept. Through facing experience objectively, human beings stick a small toe out of their subjective realm.

The scientist's realm of experience is limited to five visceral senses shared by most of humanity. Even when sophisticated devices are employed, the final judge is our own perception. The Kabbalist, on the other hand, relies on a heightened level of perception, such as that which was experienced at Mount Sinai. In that experience, the most basic of foregone conclusions is challenged: "I am." Instead, it is replaced with another "I am"--the ultimate "I am"--that of the first of the Ten Commandments. That changes everything.

But it's not that simple, either. If that "I am" just said, "I am and there is nothing else," then we could simply conclude that we are nothing but a mirage, and there is nothing left to talk about.

But He didn't. That "I am" continued by saying that He took us out of the land of Egypt to be our G‑d, and He really, really cares that we do His bidding and make His world into the place He wants it to be. Which means that there is definitely a world here—and one He considers significant. And yet, there is nothing else but Him. Before the world came to be and after without change.

That is what lies at the core of the Sinai experience, and that is what lies at the core of the kaballist's consciousness. It is more real to him than the fact that he is alive.

So, how does he resolve it?

A beautiful resolution extends out of what was discussed in the previous two essays, The Bubble and Inverse Realities. Due to the limitations of this finite reality, however, I'll have to continue with that in a week or so.

In the meantime, since this is the Internet, let me be interactive and throw the ball back to all who are reading this: What's your take on the concepts introduced in these essays? What solution—if any—would you offer to a paradox such as this? Or, perhaps there is no paradox to begin with?

So, here's an internet interactive invitation: Take some time to think. Perhaps read over the previous essays. Come back tomorrow, if you need to. Then hit reply and fire off your thoughts on the matter, to fuel our ongoing discussion.