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Judaism teaches that God created the world. Who created God?


Rabbi Goldwasser

Rabbi Jeffrey Wolfson Goldwasser

Question: Judaism teaches that God created the world. Who created God?

Dear Rabbi,
My son had asked me a question that was very hard to answer for me. I would to hear your opinion about that. His question is: If G-d created the world, who created G-d? Thank you so much for your help.
Thanks, Tanya

Answer: Dear Tanya,

Thank you for your question, or rather, your son's question. He asks, "If God created the world, then who created God?" It seems like such an obvious question, sort of like the question about the chicken and the egg!

It is important to remember that when we talk about God, we are speaking almost entirely in metaphors. We say that God "creates," but we do not mean that God creates the same way that a human sculptor creates a sculpture. When we say that God "speaks," we do not mean that God's mouth opens and sounds come out. God is not human and the words we use to talk about God are, at best, the closest we can come to understanding God given our limited human experience. This is what Rashi, the classical commentator, meant when he said that "Torah speaks in the language of human beings."

One Jewish perspective of creation is that God is the source of all will in the universe. When we say that God created the universe, we mean something like, "God willed the universe into existence." Judaism holds that the universe exists for a reason. Something desired that it should exist -- it is not just a random accident. However, it is not the universe itself that desired its own existence. That thing which desires there to be any reality at all is what we call "God." It is God's act of will that begins all reality, and that gives the universe its purpose and direction.

It makes no sense to ask, "What willed God into existence" because, without God, there is no will and no existence. Before there is any reality, there is only the desire for there to be a reality. God is the beginning of all causality, the simple urge that there should be "somethingness" as opposed to nothingness.

Interestingly, this is a question that scientists ask, too. Scientists can talk about the beginning of the universe all the way back to a billionth of a second after the Big Bang. However, when you ask, "So, what happened one billionth of a second BEFORE the Big Bang?," most scientists will say that the question itself makes no sense. Since time itself is a part of the universe, there can be no moment before the moment that space and time began. At some point, you cannot find a cause before the first cause. The scientists, in effect, give the same answer as the rabbis, just in different language.

Your letter did not reveal the age of your son, so this answer may not be appropriate for him. When my four-year-old asks questions like this (she does!), I usually say something like, "God is not a person or a thing, so God does not need to be created. God exists in every moment without beginning or end. God can be seen in the cycles of the seasons and in the way that we love each other. We and all of creation are a part of God."

I hope this is helpful.

Rabbi Jeffrey W. Goldwasser
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