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    Stronger than God? – Sh’lach L’cha

    The return of the spies, by James Tissot

    Twelve spies were sent to check out the Promised Land. Only two came back with an optimistic report.

    The majority felt that settling in the Land would be quite impossible. Big, powerful people lived there who were “stronger than us” (Num. 13:31).

    The Hebrew for “than us” is mimmennu, which the rabbis point out can also mean “than He (i.e. God)” (Sotah 35a). The suggestion is that some things are too hard even for God.

    This has wider implications in the field of theology. When we say that God is omnipotent, are we making a correct statement? Are there some things which defeat even God?

    Harold Kushner’s “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” suggests that some of the defects of nature are beyond God’s control and all He can do is to join us in weeping over them.

    Classical philosophers such as Abraham ibn David looked at another aspect of the problem of evil and argued that if we say that God is all-good, it is beyond Him to produce evil – yet the prophet Isaiah says it isn’t (Isa. 45:7).

    On this particular issue Maimonides says that what God does is not to create evil as such but to allow the absence of good (Guide to the Perplexed 3:12). Others have different answers.

    On the general theme of God’s omnipotence, it appears that what we have to say is that since God has created and rules by logic, His omnipotence is qualified by the nature of logic.

    He cannot make a square circle, since that is logically impossible and to say otherwise is to talk nonsense.

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