Ego vs. God

Stuart Fickler, Ph.D.

The ultimate arrogance of ego is when it seeks to challenge God. According to Rashi 1, the effort to build the Tower of Babel was an act of rebellion against the authority of God. The ego of humanity had developed to the point where it chose to define God in its own terms.

In the Mishneh Torah 2, Maimonides states, “The commandment of [not practicing] idolatry is above all other commandments”. He asserts that all of idolatrous worship is the product of the imagination of humans. It is a projection of human-like attributes on an infinite and incorporeal deity. In the Guide 3, he asserts that God is beyond human comprehension and cannot be defined by humans.

Then, idolatry is the ultimate rebellion against God. It replaces God with a definition of what humans want God to be. In the words of Voltaire, "If God created us in his own image, we have more than reciprocated." This is, indeed, the ultimate act of ego.

Thus far, the Torah has led us through the negative aspects of the ego we inherited from the Tree of Knowledge. However, as Kabbalah teaches, negative and positive are created together. In future installments, we shall explore the positive aspects of joining human ego and God's Creation in harmonious collaboration.


1. .1. Rashi on Gen.10:8,9 and 10:11

2. 2. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Avodat Kochavim

3. 3. Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, Part 1, Chapter XXXIV