I gave a shiur last night. this shiur is l'ilyi nishmat Menya bas Hertzel.
I discuss two approaches in the Rishonim about how a person should come to understand G-d. Kuzari, Rav Sadiah Gaon, Rambam and others hold that the only way to understand G-d is to use rational thought to investigate His nature. Anyone who speaks about G-d,simply based on what he heard from others or based on the words of Tanach and Chazal, without thinking about the nature of G-d is "still outside the palace".
One case where this is expressed is in Rambam's third principle - that G-d has no physical form. If a person believes the simple words of Tanach or Chazal, without using philosophy to clarify, could come to believe that G-d has a body. Such a belief is heretical according to Rambam.
On the other hand, we find Raavad and Ohr Zaruah who argue that this is not a heretical belief. Furthermore, they both claim that there were many greater than Rambam who held this belief, including (according to Ohr Zaruah) some of Chazal. They explain the reason for this mistaken belief is following the simple reading of Tanach and Aggadata.
I then look at Rav Moshe Taku's book 'Kesav Tamim' where he argues that to deny G-d any physicality is heretical. If G-d is unable to appear in physical form, He is not omnipotent. Furthermore, he claims that Rav Saadiah was the first person to use philosophy to reinterpret the words of Tanach and Chazal and this is not the traditional Jewish view. How can we possibly use our limited logic to understand anything about G-d who is beyond logic?
Rashi also seems to say that G-d can appear in physical form if He wants to. This seems to me the correct reading of Rashi in Sanhedrin, and is explicit by Tosefos Rid in a comment he makes about Rashi.
I think the underlying issue is the omnipotence paradox. Can G-d create a rock which is so big that he cannot lift it?
There have been many answers to this type of question over the past 2000 years. But to simplify - some say that G-d is also bound by the laws of logic. Yet this does not limit His omnipotence. Others say that G-d can do absolutely anything, and the fact that it apears to us to be illogical is not a reason to lmiit G-d's omnipotence.
Rambam, Rav Saadiah etc take the first view. Rav Moshe Taku and Rashi take the second.
Today all Jews know that G-d has no body, and it is heretical to think that He does. Why did the Rambam's view become so pervasive that we cannot even contemplate the alternative? I quote from Rav Profiat Duran, who shows that belief in a physcial G-d is one of the essential differences between Judaism and Christianity. Jews don't believe that G-d could appear in physical form!
Here is the shiur
Or if you prefer to download it here is the link:
Nature of G-d (right click and 'save as')
and here are the source sheets to go with it
Download Source Sheets
If you are interested in sponsoring a shiur please contact me by e-mail.