Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rambam's (Maimonides') 13 Principles of Faith


Rambam’s (Maimonides’) 13 Principles of Faith, also called the Yud Gimmel Ikkarim, the basis of the 13 Ani Maamin.

(From the Rambam’s introduction to his Mishnaic commentary to Tractate Sanhedrin, Perek Chelek )

There are 13 primary principles of our pure Torah:

1.The first principle is the existence of the Creator, may He be praised. This means that there is a Being who is perfect in all aspects of existence, and He is the cause of the existence of all of that exists, and through Him is maintained their existence, and from Him is drawn to them their continued existence. If we would consider a removal of His existence, then all existence would cease to exist, and they would not maintain their existence. And if we would consider a removal of all that exists besides Him, then His existence would not cease and not be lacking, since His existence is not dependently connected to any other. Anything besides Him, e.g. the intelligences, i.e. the angels and heavenly influences and what is beneath them, their existence is all dependent on Him. This is the first principle, upon which the verse says, “I am HaShem etc.”

2.The second principle is His Oneness, may He be exalted. This “cause” of everything is one, not like the oneness of a genus, and not like the oneness of a species, and not like a one which is a composite, which can be divided into many units, and not like the oneness of a simple body which is numerically one, but can be infinitely divided and broken up, but He, may He be exalted, is One. A oneness where there is no one like it in any manner. Upon this second principle the verse says, “Hear Israel, HaShem your L-rd, HaShem is One.

3.The third principle is the negation of physicality to Him. This means that this One is not a body and it is not a power in a body. What occurs to bodies does not occur to him, like movement and rest, not in essence and not incidentally. Therefore, the Sages of blessed memory negated from Him combination and division, and they said, “There is no sitting and no standing, no division and no combination.” And the prophet said in the name of HaShem, “And to whom will you compare Me that I will be equal to?” If He were a body, then He would be similar to bodies. All that is brought in the Holy Books of attributions made to Him of physical attributes, like walking, standing, sitting, and speaking, etc. are all borrowed terms, as it says in the Talmud, “The Torah speaks like the language of man.” Many people have already spoken of this. This is the third principle, upon which the verse says, “You will not see any image.” This means you did not comprehend HaShem as any image, since He is, as we have said, not a body, and not a power in a body.

4.The fourth principle is that HaShem precedes everything. This means that this described One absolutely precedes all. Everything that exists besides Him does not come first, relative to Him. The proofs for this in the Holy books is many. This is the fourth principle upon which the verse says, “The dwelling place of the G-d who precedes.” And know that a great principle of the Torah of Moshe our teacher is that the world is new. HaShem formed it and created it, following an absolute lack of existence. And this that you see that I elaborate on this topic and stay outside of the idea of the philosophers who state the world has always been, this is in order to absolutely prove His existence, may He be exalted, as I have explained and clarified in Guide to the Perplexed.

5.The fifth principle is that He, may He be exalted, is the one who is worthy to serve Him and to exalt Him and to publicize His greatness and His commandments. This is not to be done to whatever is beneath Him in existence, like the angels, stars, spheres and elements, and whatever is composed of them, since they were given a nature to do specific actions. They have no dominion, no free will, but only do His Will, may He be exalted. They are not to be made as intermediaries to reach Him. All intentions should be focused on Him alone, and leave everything besides Him. This is the fifth principle, which is the warning against idolatry, and the majority of the Torah comes to warn against this.

6.The sixth principle is prophecy. This means to know that within this species of mankind, there are those to be found amongst them, individuals, who have very developed talents and great perfection, and they prepare themselves until they attain a form of intellect, and that intellect connects to the Active Intellect and from it emanates upon them a lofty flow, and these are the prophets, and this is prophecy, and this is its issue. An explanation of this principle in a complete way would be very lengthy, and out goal is not to detail every principle and elaborate on the ways of knowing them, since this is the general purpose of all wisdoms, but we will mention them to only be aware of them. The verses of the Torah testify to the prophecies of many prophets.

7.The seventh principle is the prophecy of Moshe Rabeinu. This is that we should believe that he is the father of all prophets who preceded him, and those who came after him. All of them are beneath him in level, and he is the most chosen one by HaShem, from all of mankind. He comprehended of HaShem, may He be exalted, greater than any man has ever comprehended, or will ever comprehend. He, of blessed memory, reached the absolute highest level above mankind, until he comprehended the angelic level and was at the level of the angels. There did not remain any curtain before him that he did not tear away, and no physical blockage stopped him. No flaw remained within him, not a small bit and not a large amount. His faculties of imagination ceased, as well as his senses in all that he attained, and his force of arousal was in fear, only his intellect remained. About this it is said upon him that he speaks with HaShem, without the medium of the angels. I wanted to explain this wondrous matter and explain closed verses of the Torah. I will explain what is says, “Mouth to Mouth and all of this verse and others in this matter. Were it not that I saw that these matters are very sublime and they need much elaboration and introductions and parables. We need to first explain the existence of angels and their differing levels before the Creator and also the explanation of the soul and its powers, and the scope will expand until we speak of the forms that the prophets mentioned of HaShem and His angels, and this will not suffice for this matter alone, and even if I would be brief in absolute brevity, it would take 100 pages. Therefore, I will leave it to its place, or in the books of homiletical explanations that I said I would write, or in the book of prophecy that I have begun to write, or a book that I will author in the explanation of these principles. I will return to this seventh principle and say that the prophecy of Moshe is separate from the prophecies of the other prophets in four differences. The first difference is that every prophet, whichever one, HaShem did not speak to them except through an intermediary, yet Moshe was without an intermediary, as the verse says, “Mouth to mouth I will speak to him.” The second difference is that all of the other prophets will not receive a vision except during sleep, as it says in many places, “In a night’s dream…, And he dreamt…, a vision in a night’s dream…, and many verses like this, or during the day, after a sleep befalls the prophet, a state in which all of his senses are at rest and his mind is emptied like at sleep. This state is called a vision or appearance, and upon this it says, “And the appearances of the Lord.” The speech of HaShem came to Moshe during the day, and he stood between the two Keruvim, as HaShem promised him, “And I will make myself known to you there, and I will speak with you.” The exalted One says, “If you will have prophecies, in a vision I will make known, in a dream I will speak to him, not so with my servant Moshe! The third difference is that the prophet, when the vision comes to him, even if it is in an appearance and through an angel, his faculties weaken and his body trembles, and a very great fear befalls him as if he is going to die, as it is explained in Daniel, when Gavriel spoke with him in a vision, it says, “No power remained within me, I was asleep on my face and my face to the ground,” and he said, “in the vision my pains turned over on me.” With Moshe, it was not so, but the speech came to him, and no trembling occurred to him at all. This is what is said, “And HaShem spoke to Moshe face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” This means to say that just as no fear occurs to a person from speaking with a friend, so too he, of blessed memory, was not afraid from the speech, even though it was face to face. This was because of the strength of his bonding to intellect as we have said. The fourth difference is that with all of the prophets, their visions do not come to them due to their will, but at the will of HaShem. Sometimes the prophet would remain for many years without having a vision. There are some who request from the prophet to let them know something through prophecy, and they remained there until the prophecy came after many days, or after months, or it may not come at all. We have already seen of them who prepared themselves through joy of the heart and cleansing of the mind, as done by Elisha, when he said, “Get me a musician,” then the prophecy came to him. This is not definite, that one will prophesize anytime there is preparation. But Moshe Rabeinu, anytime he wanted, he said, “Stand up and hear what HaShem commands you. “ And it says, “Speak to Aharon your brother, and he should not come in at any time.” Chazal say, “Aharon cannot come in at any time, but Moshe is not limited.”
8.The eighth principle is that Torah is from Heaven. This means that we must believe that all of this Torah, that is found in our hands today, is the Torah which was given to Moshe, and it is entirely from the mouth of the Almighty. This means that it entirely reached Moshe from HaShem, like a touch, using a borrowed term, we will call speech. The quality of that touch is not known, except to him, to whom it reached. He is at the level of a scribe, where they read in front of him, and he writes it all, its dates, stories and commandments, so he is called the engraver. There is no difference between the verse, “And the children of Cham are Kush, Mitzrayim, Phut and Canaan,” or the verse, “And the name of his wife was Mihaytavel the daughter of Matraid,” or the verse, “I am HaShem, “ or the verse, “ Hear Israel, HaShem is our Lord, HaShem is One.” It is all from the mouth of the almighty, and it is all the Torah of HaShem, which is complete, pure, holy and true. Menashe did not become a greater nonbeliever and heretic, more than other heretics, except by the fact that he thought that the Torah contained chaff and husks, and that the dates and stories provide no benefit, and that Moshe said them on his own. This is what he meant, that Torah is not from Heaven. Chazal say that one who says that all of the Torah is from the mouth of HaShem except for one verse which Hashem did not say, but Moshe said on his own, upon such a person it says, “For he has disgraced the word of Hashem.” May Hashem should be elevated above from what the heretics speak. Rather, every letter in the Torah contains much wisdom and wonders, to whom HaShem gives understanding, and the end of its wisdom cannot be comprehended; its measure is longer than the land and wider than the sea. A person can only pray, as did David, the anointed one of the G-d of Yaakov, who prayed, “Reveal my eyes, and I will see the wonders from your Torah.” So too, the Torah’s traditional meaning is also from the mouth of the Almighty, and this is what we do today, the form of the Sukkah, the Lulav, the Shofar, the Tzitzis, the Tefillin and the others, this is itself the form which HaShem told to Moshe, and he said to us. He just conveyed, like a trustworthy messenger, in what he brought. The speech which shows this principle is the verse, “With this you will know that HaShem sent me.. for this was not from my heart.”

9.The ninth principle is cessation. This means that this Torah of Moshe will not cease, and no Torah will come from HaShem besides it, and it will not be added to or taken away from, not in its written form, and not in its interpretation. The verse says, “Do not add to it and do not take away from it. We have already explained what is necessary to explain in the introduction to this work.

10.The tenth principle is that HaShem, may He be exalted, knows the actions of people, and does not neglect them. This is not like those who say, “HaShem has left the land.” But rather as it says, “Great is the advice and the deed which Your eyes are open over all of the ways of mankind.” And it says, “And HaShem saw the evil of man was great in the land.” And it says, “The cry of Siddome and Ammorah was great.” These show this tenth principle.

11.The eleventh principle is that HaShem, may He be exalted, pays a good reward to those who fulfill the Mitzvos of the Torah, and punishes those who transgress its warnings. The great reward is the World to Come, and the harsh punishment is Excision. We have already spoken sufficiently of this. The verse, which shows this principle, says, “If you forgive their sin, or if not, please erase me from Your book.” And HaShem, may He be exalted, replied, “He who sins against me….” This is a proof that it is known before Him the worshipper and the sinner, to reward good to this one, and to punish the other.

12.The twelfth principle is the Days of Moshiach. This means to believe and to truly know that Moshiach will come, and not to say that he has been made late, “If he tarries, wait for him.” Do not set a time for him, and do not explain the verses in order to bring out from them the time of his coming. The sages say, “The minds of those who calculate the end should be blown out.” Believe in him from the greatness and love, and pray for his coming, according to what was said about him by every prophet, from Moshe to Malachi. One who has doubt about Moshiach, or belittles the matter, such a person denies the Torah that explicitly promises Moshiach, in the Parsha of Bilaam and in Nitzavim. Included in this principle is that there is no king for Israel, except from David, and specifically from the descendant of Shlomo. Whoever argues with regard to this family is a denier of HaShem and the words of His prophets.

13.The thirteenth principle is the resurrection of the dead, and we have already explained it. (Resurrection of the dead is a principle from the principles of the Torah of Moshe Rabeinu. There is no religion or bond with the Jewish Nation for anyone who does not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Resurrection of the dead is for the righteous, as in the words of the Midrash that the rain is for the righteous and the evil, but resurrection of the dead is only for the righteous. How can the evil become alive when they are already dead, even when they are living! So too, Chazal, of blessed memory, say upon them, “That the evildoers, even in their lives, are called dead, and the righteous, even when they are dead, they are called alive.” And know that a person will absolutely die and be dispersed into what they are composed of.

When these principles exist by a person, and their belief in them is true, this person enters the Community of Israel, and it is an obligation to love them, and to have compassion upon them, and to do all that Hashem commanded us regarding love and friendship, one towards another. And even if a person does what is possible to do from the sins, due to their desire and overpowering evil inclination, they are punished according to the amount of rebelliousness, and they have a portion in the World to Come and they are considered a sinner of Israel. When a person questions any one of the principles of these principles, this person goes out from the Community, and denies the Essence and is called a heretic, Apikoress, and one who uproots the plantings. It is an obligation to hate them and to destroy them, and upon them it says, “Your enemies Hashem, I will hate.”

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