The Gemara cites another verse from the prophecy at the end of the book of Zechariah: “And the Lord shall be King over all the earth, on that day shall the Lord be one and His name one” (Zechariah 14:9). The Gemara asks: Is that to say that now He is not one?
Rabbi Aḥa bar Ḥanina said: The World-to-Come is not like this world. In this world, upon good tidings one recites: Blessed…Who is good and does good, and over bad tidings one recites: Blessed…the true Judge. In the World-to-Come one will always recite: Blessed…Who is good and does good. There will be only one mode of blessing God for tidings.
The verse states: “On that day shall the Lord be one and His name one.” The Gemara asks: What is the meaning of the word one in this context? Is that to say that now His name is not one?
Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak said: The World-to-Come is not like this world. In this world, God’s name that is written with the letters yod and heh is read as Adonai, which begins with the letters alef and dalet. God’s name is not pronounced in the same way as it is written. However, in the World-to-Come it will all be one, as God’s name will be both read with the letters yod and heh and written with the letters yod and heh.
Blessings before the Shema
His goodness He renews daily, perpetually, the work of creation
We believe that this Primal Cause [God] is One. [His is] not like the oneness of a pair, nor like the oneness of a species, nor like man, whose complex oneness may be divided into many units, nor like the oneness of a simple body, which is one in number but may be divided and separated without end. Rather, He is One with a Oneness that knows no parallel in any manner. This is the Second Principle, as affirmed by the verse (Deut. 6:4): "Hear O Israel, God is our Lord, God is One."
-- Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith
Rambam Sefer hayad "foundations of torah" chapter 1
1 The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a Primary Being who brought into being all existence. All the beings of the heavens, the earth, and what is between them came into existence only from the truth of His being.
2 If one would imagine that He does not exist, no other being could possibly exist.
3 If one would imagine that none of the entities aside from Him exist, He alone would continue to exist, and the nullification of their [existence] would not nullify His existence, because all the [other] entities require Him and He, blessed be He, does not require them nor any one of them. Therefore, the truth of His [being] does not resemble the truth of any of their [beings].
4 This is implied by the prophet's statement [Jeremiah 10:10]: "And God, your Lord, is true" - i.e., He alone is true and no other entity possesses truth that compares to His truth. This is what [is meant by] the Torah's statement [Deuteronomy 4:35]: "There is nothing else aside from Him" - i.e., aside from Him, there is no true existence like His.
5 This entity is the God of the world and the Lord of the entire earth. He controls the sphere with infinite and unbounded power. This power [continues] without interruption, because the sphere is constantly revolving, and it is impossible for it to revolve without someone causing it to revolve. [That one is] He, blessed be He, who causes it to revolve without a hand or any [other] corporeal dimension.
Anyone who presumes that there is another god transgresses a negative commandment, as [Exodus 20:3] states: "You shall have no other gods before Me" and denies a fundamental principle [of faith], because this is the great principle [of faith] upon which all depends.
7 This God is one. He is not two or more, but one, unified in a manner which [surpasses] any unity that is found in the world; i.e., He is not one in the manner of a general category which includes many individual entities, nor one in the way that the body is divided into different portions and dimensions. Rather, He is unified, and there exists no unity similar to His in this world.
If there were many gods, they would have body and form, because like entities are separated from each other only through the circumstances associated with body and form.
Were the Creator to have body and form, He would have limitation and definition, because it is impossible for a body not to be limited. And any entity which itself is limited and defined [possesses] only limited and defined power. Since our God, blessed be His name, possesses unlimited power, as evidenced by the continuous revolution of the sphere, we see that His power is not the power of a body. Since He is not a body, the circumstances associated with bodies that produce division and separation are not relevant to Him. Therefore, it is impossible for Him to be anything other than one.
The knowledge of this concept fulfills a positive commandment, as [implied by Deuteronomy 6:4]: "[Hear, Israel,] God is our Lord, God is one."
Semak-R.Yitzchak b.Yosef of Corbeil was a student and son-in-law of R.Yechiel of Paris
To know that He who created heaven and earth, He alone rules above and below and in all four directions, as it is written: “I the Lord am your God.” And it is written, “Know therefore this day and keep in mind that the Lord alone is God in heaven above and on earth below; there is no other” (Devarim 4:39). To know, meaning to exclude the position of the philosophers who said that the world functions on its own based on the constellations, and that it does not have a ruler at all, and that even the splitting of the Red Sea and the Exodus from Egypt and all the wonders that happened were due to the constellations. Thus we must believe that they are speaking falsehood. Indeed, the Holy One, blessed be He, rules the world completely with the breath of His lips. (Semak, Commandment 1)
The second mitzva is the mitzva of recognizing the oneness of God, which is also the mitzva of keriat Shema: “To unify the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is written, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.’ And this is accepting the yoke of God’s kingship (Semak, Commandment 2).
And He is the One who brought us out of Egypt and performed all the wonders for us, and no man bruises his finger here on earth unless it was so decreed against him in heaven, as it says, “The steps of a man are made firm by the Lord” (Tehillim 37:23). And this is the source of what the Sages said (Shabbat 31a) that after a person dies, when he is led in for Judgment, he is asked, “Did you hope for salvation?” Where is this mitzva written? Rather, we can deduce from this that it is derived from this: That just as we must believe that God brought us out of Egypt, as it is written, “I the Lord am your God who brought you…” – and it must be that since this is [one of the Ten] Commandments, it means that just as I desire that you believe in Me, that I brought you out, so too do I desire that you believe that I the Lord am your God, and that I will bring you together and save you in the future. And, in My kindness, I will save you a second time, as it is written, “He will bring you together again from all the peoples…” (Devarim 30:3)
Rav S.R. Hirsch, Horeb, Ch. 2, "Unity of God":
But, however great the variety presented to you both by Nature and by history and by your own life, you have nonetheless grasped the fact, which you must now lay to heart as vital, that all this is the doing of One God, through Whose will everything everywhere has been and is, and Whose will has directed everything that has happened and will happen to you; One God everywhere and in everything. Everything comes from this One God both in heaven and on earth, and everything therefore conforms to one design, is part of one all-wise plan.
But above all, the most vital lesson to lay to heart is the this One God is your God, and that you have acknowledged Him in order to live rightly. Just as the world, with all its variety, history with all its change, has its origin in the one source, is guided by one hand, serve One Being and strives upwards towards this One; so much you recognize and feel your life, with all its changes to issue from one source, to be guided by one hand, to flow towards one goal.
You must comprehend your life with all its diversity as proceeding from this One and you must direct it towards this One, in order that your life may be a unity just as your God is One. With mind and body, with thought and feeling, with word, deed and enjoyment, in wealth and poverty, in joy and sorrow, in health and sickness, in freedom and slavery, in life and death, your life-task is everywhere and always the same — for it all proceeds from One God and has been assigned by the One God as your task in life; therefore everything is of equal significance, for in everything and with everything you have been summoned to the service of the One God. Strive to reach this One, and be one in heart as your God is One.
Overview of Unity of G-d in Chabad Chassidic thought
THE ONENESS OF G-D in the Rambam
Probably the most fundamental principle of judaism is the belief in the unity and oneness of G-d. In his Sefer HaMitzvot (mitzvah 2), Maimonides formulates this principle as the belief that He who brought existence into being, the First Cause of everything, is One, as the verse states “Hear, Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One . . . “(Deuteronomy 6:4) From his words, we understand that this commandment forbids us to believe in partnership (shittuf, in Hebrew)—that is, we are forbidden to believe that G-d has any “partners” in creation. Although the nations of the world are permitted to believe in other powers as well, Jewish monotheism maintains, as a basic principle, that He is the sole Creator of all of existence.1
THE ONENESS OF G-D in the zohar
The Zohar, 2 however, interprets the declaration of unity—in the verses “Hear O Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd, is One” and “Know this day and take unto your heart that the L-rd is G-d. In the heavens above and on the earth below, there is nothing else” (Deuteronomy 4:39)—somewhat differently.3 The two appellations, “L-rd” (tetragammaton) and “G-d” (Elokim), explains the Zohar, are essentially one. The former Name indicates infinite revelation and expansion without any limitation whatsoever, whereas the latter Name is indicative of the attribute of severity and restriction, concealing and contracting the infinity of the former in the form of the tzimtzum, as discussed earlier. The latter Name (Elokim) is also the source of multiplicity and immanence (G-d within creation), whereas the former is indicative of unity and transcendence, (G-d as He transcends creation). Nevertheless, the Zohar states categorically that they are absolutely one.
Chabad texts4 clarify the meaning of the Zohar‘s statement by way of an analogy. A human being also has the power of revelation and the power of limitation and concealment. The power of thought, for example, is capable of producing an endless stream of thoughts. However, it also has the capacity to limit and define concepts, for every concept must have some limitations and must be categorized in some way if it is to be understood at all. Similarly, a teacher must possess the ability to conceal and limit his own understanding of a concept in order to instruct perhaps by way of an analogy, his students who are not yet at the level of understanding to grasp all the details and ramifications of the idea the way the teacher understands it. In both of these examples, the source of the concept is the very same source that limits it. Although the teacher presents the student with an analogy drawn from common experience to illustrate his point, the teacher’s own understanding of the concept is in no way obscured by the analogy he uses. The usefulness of the analogy is that it enables the student to understand the concept by comparing it to matters that are within the realm of his own experience. If the analogy is a good one, the student will begin to understand the teaching to which the analogy alludes.
In exactly the same way, these two Divine Names also derive from the identical Source, G-d Himself. Just as the power of infinite revelation is drawn from His Essence, so, too, the power of concealment and contraction is also drawn from His Essence.5 Thus, both Divine Names are in reality two different manifestations of divine energy that stem from the identical source.6 This is the Zohar‘s explanation of the unity of G-d-that two apparently opposing forces, which led other religions to posit a dual existence, are in reality two sides of the same coin.
BEING AND NOTHINGNESS in the Baal Shem Tov
The Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of Chasidism, explains the oneness and unity of G-d in an even deeper sense,7 on the basis of a concept we explained earlier: Because the world is created ex nihilo, the continued existence of the world must be the product of a constant input of divine energy: This divine energy is none other than the ten utterances through which the world was created originally8 and through which it continues to be created at every moment, and which are its true existence.
Of course, this concept of speech is only an anthropomorphic analogy.9 Accordingly, the limitations of human speech do not apply to Divine Speech. When a person utters a word, the breath emitted in speaking is something that can be sensed and perceived as a thing apart, separated from its source. But, regarding the Holy One, blessed is He, His speech is united within Himself in absolute union, comparable to the way a person’s speech and thought are united within himself while they are still in potentia in his wisdom and intellect, where they are totally united with their source-the wisdom and intellect in the brain.
This is true even after His speech has already become materialized in the creation of the worlds, just as it was united within Himself before the worlds were created, for there is nothing outside of Him, and there is no place devoid of Him.10
THE ONENESS OF G-D in the Alter Rebbe
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi takes this teaching even further. He explains at length that the entire physical creation is not the independent existence it appears to be. Although this is the way it appears to us, this is only because we do not see the divine energy that brings physical creation into being and maintains its existence. In comparison with this divine energy, our existence is as if absolutely nothing. He explains this11 by way of an analogy: The rays of the sun shine down upon earth and upon all its inhabitants. The sun’s rays are the radiance and light that spread out from the body of the sun and are visible to all as it gives light to the earth and our solar system. Since light diminishes and dissipates the further it travels, logically then, if the sun’s rays shine here, some 93 million miles away from their source, they must be much brighter at their source—the sun’s surface. However, if we were standing on the surface of the sun, we would, in fact, see no rays, because where the sun itself exists, its rays are completely and absolutely swallowed up in the brightness and radiance of the sun itself and are regarded as naught and complete nothingness. They are absolutely nonexistent in relation to the body of the sun, which is the source of this light and radiance, since this light and radiance are merely the illumination that shines out from the body of the sun itself. It is only in the space of the universe and down here on earth, where the sun itself is not present, that this light and radiance appears to us to have actual existence. Only here can the terms yesh (“being” or “existence”) be applied to them at all. However, when they are in their source, in the body of the sun, the term yesh cannot be applied to them at all, and they can only be called naught and nonexistent. There, the rays of the sun are indeed naught and absolutely nonexistent, for there, within their source (the body of the sun), only the sun itself gives light, and there is nothing besides it.
Only the tzimtzum conceals from us the fact that we are constantly within our Source, and that our existence is always totally nullified, and that there is nothing besides G-d.
Thus, according to Rabbi Shneur Zalman, not only does G-d have no partners, and not only do all opposing forces have but one source, and not only is existence completely and totally dependent on the divine energy that brings it into being, but the world itself is also one with G-d, since the existence of the entire creation is absolutely nullified in His existence. In terms of the analogy used by the Baal Shem Tov: The words of G-d that bring the existence of the universe into being are always within G-d and never leave Him. Not only does the world have no independent significance or a life of its own, being completely dependent on G-d’s life-giving force—the world has no independent existence at all because it never “leaves” G-d.
We must therefore conclude that there is only G-d, as the verse states: “And you shall know this day, and take it to your heart, that the L-rd is G-d in the heavens above and on the earth below, there is nothing else” (Deuteronomy 4:39). Regarding the last two words in the verse, ain od—” there is nothing else,” or, “there is no other”—Rabbi Shneur Zalman explains12 that od in Hebrew signifies a secondary or subsidiary existence. Thus the words ain od tell us that the world does not even have the status of od—a secondary existence-in the presence of G-d. In comparison to the soul, the body is also referred to as od, 13 for without the soul there would merely be a lifeless body, and therefore we call it a secondary existence.14 But the world has nothing of its own to allow us to consider it even a secondary existence. Nevertheless, as pointed out earlier, this should not be regarded as the acosmism mentioned previously. What we have proved is merely that the world is entirely contingent upon G-d—not that it does not exist or that it is simply a dream.
In other words:
The tzimtzum and concealment is only for the lower [worlds], but in relation to the Holy One, blessed be He, “Everything before Him is considered as actually naught, 15 just like the light of the sun is in the sun.” Similarly, “just as before the worlds were created, there was no existence besides His, exactly so now, too, so to speak [it is as if the worlds do not exist] because even though the world and everything in it exist, they are not the existence which the eye sees as real, for they can only be called naught and nonexistent.” 16
On the other hand, this is not a classical case of panentheism, either—the world does not exist within G-d, for at the level that may be termed “within G-d,” the worlds do not exist at all.
As Rabbi Shneur Zalman puts it:
Their existence is nullified in relation to their source, just as the light of the sun is nullified and is considered naught and complete nothingness and is not [even] referred to as “existing” at all when it is in its source; only beneath the heavens, where its source is not present [can it be called “existing”]. In the same manner, the term yesh (“existence”) can be applied to all created things only as they appear to the corporeal eyes, for we do not see nor comprehend the source at all, which is the spirit of G-d that brings them into existence. Therefore, it appears to our eyes that the materiality, grossness, and tangibility of the created things actually exist, just as the light of the sun appears to have actual existence when it is not within its source. . . .”17
It is possibly for this reason that Maimonides translates ain od in his Code18 as meaning that there is no other existence as true as G-d’s.
- See Likkutei Amarim Tanya, chaps. 20-23.
- Vol. 1, p. 25a, in Raya Mehemna; Introduction to Zohar, vol. 1, p. 12a. See also vol. 2, 25a (Raya Mehemna).
- The following is based on the explanation found in Derech Mitzevotecha, Achdut Hashem, p. 59bff.; Veyadata, Moscow 5657.
- Veyadata, Moscow 5657, p. 7.
- Veyadata, ibid. See also Rabbi Meir Ibn Gabbai’s Avodat HaKodesh 1:8.
- See also Tanya, Shaar HaYichud v’HaEmunah, chaps. 6–7
- Tanya, chap. 20. See also Tanya, Shaar HaYichud v’HaEmunah, chap. 1ff.
- Pirkei Avot 5:1.
- See Berachot 40a.
- Tikkunei Zohar; tikkun 57.
- Tanya, Shaar HaYichud v’HaEmunah, chap. 3
- Tanya, Shaar HaYichud v’HaEmunah, chap. 1.
- See Psalms 104:33, 146:2, Commentaries.
- Tanya, Shaar HaYichud v’HaEmunah, chap. 6, p. 80b–81a.
- Zohar, vol. 1, p. 11b.
- Derech Mitzevotecha, p. 62a.
- Tanya, Shaar HaYichud v’HaEmunah, chap. 3, p. 78b.
- Yesodei HaTorah 1:4.