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The meaning of "HaMakom"

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: HaMakom

Jasper Faber from Holland wrote:

Although I am not a religious Jew, I like to study Jewish religious literature as a hobby. So I happened to be reading in the Talmud lately, when I noticed that G-d was referred to as HaMakom (Mishna Avot 11,14 for example), I found it very strange that He who is not limited in any way, is called something - a place - which is nothing but limits. When we ask: "Where is the place of the chair?", we are asking for that limited space the chair occupies.

Thank you,


Dear Jasper,

Whenever G-d is referred to in physical terms it is meant as a metaphor. It is axiomatic that G-d is not physical and has no physical properties. We, however, are physical and can only understand things from a physical frame of reference. Hence the use of the physical as a helpful metaphor for the understanding of a quality of G-d.

What is the metaphor of HaMakom ("The Place")? If you think about the meaning of a "place" you'll agree that it is more than just a geographical location, it's a space which is capable of containing something else. When used in reference to G-d what it means is that everything is contained within G-d (conceptually), while He is not contained in anything. As our Sages say: "He [G-d] doesn't have a place, rather He is The Place of the Universe."

Sources:

  • Maimonides - Commentary on the Mishna, Tractate Sanhedrin, ch.10, principle 3.
  • Me'orei Ha'esh, on Tana d'vei Eliyahu, 1:8.


 
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