The Kabbalistic Conception of God

The medieval mystics made a distinction between the infinite, unknowable God and God's revealed aspects.

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The theory of the sefirot is an attempt to explain how the infinite God can have a relationship with the finite world and how an unknowable God can be known by man. The relationship of Ein Sof to the sefirot can be illustrated by drawing an analogy between the soul and the body. The soul, which is invisible and unknowable, dwells within the body. Although there is only one soul in each body, the soul acts through a variety of physical organs. The soul is, therefore, the essence that uses the "instruments" of the body for its activity. The manner in which the soul is connected to the body is still a mystery. Nonetheless, we claim to know that there is a soul even if it remains inscrutable because of its incorporeal nature. Likewise, Ein Sof dwells within the sefirot, which are the instruments by which God relates to the world.

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Dr. David S. Ariel

Dr. David S. Ariel is head of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He was previously president of Siegal College of Judaic Studies (formerly the Cleveland College of Jewish Studies). He is author of Spiritual Judaism: Restoring Heart and Soul to Jewish Life and The Mystic Quest: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism.