Executive Diamond Member
Join Date: Jan 2002
zaque, heavy topic to bring up :-).
As an introduction: Chassidus views Hashem as ultimately being unlimited. Which mean He can both decide to limit himself (such as creating the world), to leave himself without any limits (such as doing a miracle which completely changes the natural order of the world), and in addition, can be both limited and unlimited at the same time! Which is impossible for us to understand how that could be, or even attempt to explain it.
A classic example given for Hashem's ability to be both limited and unlimited: Makom HaAron Eino Min Hamidah, the physical place that the Aron Kodesh took in the Kodesh Hakodoshim was not part of the measurement of the Kodesh Hakodoshim. So that, if you were to measure the aron it would measure what Torah says, and if you measured the Kodesh Hakodoshim with the Aron it would measure what Torah says the Kodesh Hakodoshim would measure, and if you measured the space between the walls of the Kodesh Hakodoshim and the Aron it would also measure the same, as if the Aron wasn't there! Hypothetically, of course. But I'm sure you get the drift. It's like another question: Can Hashem make a rock that he cannot lift? Answer: yes, and He can lift it too! Which doesn't make any sense. Which is my point. To try to understand what Hashem, Atzmus UMehus, truly is, is impossible, which is why we just call it Atzmus Umehus: The essence and being of whatever Hashem truly is.
Which is why questions of "Where did Hashem come from? Why?" etc. are irrelevant, because we can't answer that and hope to understand it. As is said "If I knew Him, I would be Him!" The answer to that truly is, Hashem always was, and He alone knows and understands how that works.
What Chassidus does do is called Yedias Hashlilah, which is process of exclusion: I know that we are this or that, or that Ruchnius is this or that, so I know that Hashem CANNOT be that! So that we know that the ultimate of Hashem cannot be anything like what we know about. The next step is called Ein Sof, for the simple reason that we know nothing about it other than the fact that it does have a beginning, which is Atsmus Umehus, but is has no limits, it is infinite, Ein Sof, just as its source is. And so on for other levels of Elokus.
Chassidus also explains that when Hashem decided to create the world, there was not concept of time, Time is created, it is a consequence of people moving through place. Therefore for all intents and purposes in the same instant Hashem existed He decided to create the world. He decided to make the world, in the Alter Rebbe's classic answer, because he wanted to, "and on a Taavah there can be no questions!"
On the other hand, Chasidus also explains that for Hashem to be truly infinite and unlimited He had to excersize all of his powers, abilities. Until the world was created He had only excersized the ability to be infinite. The creation of the world was Hashem "showing" his ability to limit Himself, too.
Is it fair? Have to ask G-d that one! Just kidding. you cannot be Hashem, as the Rambam explains in the very beginning of Yad Hachazakah, because a body automatically means that you are not Hashem. Hashem must be all-powerful, and having a body is a limitation. Is Hashem present in you, too, limited? Yes. But YOU are not Hashem. That is not the ultimate expression of Hashem.
I guess that's a good beginning to Chassidus 101. There is an excellent series on Chassidus called Machsheves Hachasidus, written by Yoel Kahan as a series of articles in Kfar Chabad. They are available by copying from someone who has them, and Kehos has recently began printing them in Seforim. It's in Hebrew, though, with no translation that I know of.