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Shabbat, 29 Shevat 5773 / February 9, 2013

Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Yesodei haTorah - Chapter One, Yesodei haTorah - Chapter Two, Yesodei haTorah - Chapter Three

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Yesodei haTorah - Chapter One

"Extend Your kindness to those who know You and Your righteousness to the upright of heart” (Psalms 36:11) 1

The first book

Sefer HaMada

The Book of Knowledge

It contains five halachot. They are, in order:

Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah - The Laws [which are] the

Foundations of the Torah

Hilchot De'ot - The Laws of Personal Development

Hilchot Talmud Torah - The Laws of Torah Study

Hilchot Avodat Kochavim UMazalot V'Chukkot

HaAkum - The Laws [Governing the Prohibition against] the Worship of Stars and Spiritual Forces,and the Statutes of the Idolaters

Hilchot Teshuvah - The Laws of Teshuvah

FOOTNOTES
1.

The Rambam begins every one of the fourteen books of the Mishneh Torah within a relevant verse from the Prophets or the Holy Scriptures.

Halacha 1

The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a Primary Being who brought into being all existence. All the beings of the heavens, the earth, and what is between them came into existence only from the truth of His being.

Halacha 2

If one would imagine that He does not exist, no other being could possibly exist.

Halacha 3

If one would imagine that none of the entities aside from Him exist, He alone would continue to exist, and the nullification of their [existence] would not nullify His existence, because all the [other] entities require Him and He, blessed be He, does not require them nor any one of them. Therefore, the truth of His [being] does not resemble the truth of any of their [beings].

Halacha 4

This is implied by the prophet's statement [Jeremiah 10:10]: "And God, your Lord, is true" - i.e., He alone is true and no other entity possesses truth that compares to His truth. This is what [is meant by] the Torah's statement [Deuteronomy 4:35]: "There is nothing else aside from Him" - i.e., aside from Him, there is no true existence like His.

Halacha 5

This entity is the God of the world and the Lord of the entire earth. He controls the sphere with infinite and unbounded power. This power [continues] without interruption, because the sphere is constantly revolving, and it is impossible for it to revolve without someone causing it to revolve. [That one is] He, blessed be He, who causes it to revolve without a hand or any [other] corporeal dimension.

Halacha 6

The knowledge of this concept is a positive commandment, as [implied by Exodus 20:2]: "I am God, your Lord...."

Anyone who presumes that there is another god transgresses a negative commandment, as [Exodus 20:3] states: "You shall have no other gods before Me" and denies a fundamental principle [of faith], because this is the great principle [of faith] upon which all depends.

Halacha 7

This God is one. He is not two or more, but one, unified in a manner which [surpasses] any unity that is found in the world; i.e., He is not one in the manner of a general category which includes many individual entities, nor one in the way that the body is divided into different portions and dimensions. Rather, He is unified, and there exists no unity similar to His in this world.

If there were many gods, they would have body and form, because like entities are separated from each other only through the circumstances associated with body and form.

Were the Creator to have body and form, He would have limitation and definition, because it is impossible for a body not to be limited. And any entity which itself is limited and defined [possesses] only limited and defined power. Since our God, blessed be His name, possesses unlimited power, as evidenced by the continuous revolution of the sphere, we see that His power is not the power of a body. Since He is not a body, the circumstances associated with bodies that produce division and separation are not relevant to Him. Therefore, it is impossible for Him to be anything other than one.

The knowledge of this concept fulfills a positive commandment, as [implied by Deuteronomy 6:4]: "[Hear, Israel,] God is our Lord, God is one."

Halacha 8

Behold, it is explicitly stated in the Torah and [the works of] the prophets that the Holy One, blessed be He, is not [confined to] a body or physical form, as [Deuteronomy 4:39] states: "Because God, your Lord, is the Lord in the heavens above and the earth below," and a body cannot exist in two places [simultaneously].

Also, [Deuteronomy 4:15] states: "For you did not see any image," and [Isaiah 40:25] states: "To whom can you liken Me, with whom I will be equal." Were He [confined to] a body, He would resemble other bodies.

Halacha 9

If so, what is the meaning of the expressions employed by the Torah: "Below His feet" [Exodus 24:10], "Written by the finger of God" [ibid. 31:18], "God's hand" [ibid. 9:3], "God's eyes" [Genesis 38:7], "God's ears" [Numbers 11:1], and the like?

All these [expressions were used] to relate to human thought processes which know only corporeal imagery, for the Torah speaks in the language of man. They are only descriptive terms, as [apparent from Deuteronomy 32:41]: "I will whet My lightning sword." Does He have a sword? Does He need a sword to kill? Rather, this is metaphoric imagery. [Similarly,] all [such expressions] are metaphoric imagery.

A proof of this concept: One prophet says that he saw the Holy One, blessed be He, "clothed in snow white" [Daniel 7:9], and another envisioned Him [coming] "with crimson garments from Batzra" [Isaiah 63:1]. Moses, our teacher, himself envisioned Him at the [Red] Sea as a mighty man, waging war, and, at Mount Sinai, [saw Him] as the leader of a congregation, wrapped [in a tallit].

This shows that He has no image or form. All these are merely expressions of prophetic vision and imagery and the truth of this concept cannot be grasped or comprehended by human thought. This is what the verse [Job 11:7] states: "Can you find the comprehension of God? Can you find the ultimate bounds of the Almighty?"

Halacha 10

[If so,] what did Moses, our teacher, want to comprehend when he requested: "Please show me Your glory" [Exodus 33:18]?

He asked to know the truth of the existence of the Holy One, blessed be He, to the extent that it could be internalized within his mind, as one knows a particular person whose face he saw and whose image has been engraved within one's heart. Thus, this person's [identity] is distinguished within one's mind from [that of] other men. Similarly, Moses, our teacher, asked that the existence of the Holy One, blessed be He, be distinguished in his mind from the existence of other entities, to the extent that he would know the truth of His existence as it is [in its own right].

He, blessed be He, replied to him that it is not within the potential of a living man, [a creature of] body and soul, to comprehend this matter in its entirety. [Nevertheless,] He, blessed be He, revealed to [Moses] matters which no other man had known before him - nor would ever know afterward - until he was able to comprehend [enough] from the truth of His existence, for the Holy One, blessed be He, to be distinguished in his mind from other entities, as a person is distinguished from other men when one sees his back and knows the structure of his body and [the manner in which] he is clothed.

This is alluded to by the verse [Exodus 33:23]: "You shall see My back, but you shall not see My face."

Halacha 11

Since it has been clarified that He does not have a body or corporeal form, it is also clear that none of the functions of the body are appropriate to Him: neither connection nor separation, neither place nor measure, neither ascent nor descent, neither right nor left, neither front nor back, neither standing nor sitting.

He is not found within time, so that He would possess a beginning, an end, or age. He does not change, for there is nothing that can cause Him to change.

[The concept of] death is not applicable to Him, nor is [that of] life within the context of physical life. [The concept of] foolishness is not applicable to Him, nor is [that of] wisdom in terms of human wisdom.

Neither sleep nor waking, neither anger nor laughter, neither joy nor sadness, neither silence nor speech in the human understanding of speech [are appropriate terms with which to describe Him]. Our Sages declared: "Above, there is no sitting or standing, separation or connection."

Halacha 12

Since this is so, all such [descriptions] and the like which are related in the Torah and the words of the Prophets - all these are metaphors and imagery. [For example,] "He who sits in the heavens shall laugh" [Psalms 2:4], "They angered Me with their emptiness" [Deuteronomy 32:21], and "As God rejoiced" [ibid. 28:63]. With regard to all such statements, our Sages said: "The Torah speaks in the language of man."

This is [borne out by the rhetorical question (Jeremiah 7:19):] "Are they enraging Me?" Behold, [Malachi 3:6] states: "I, God, have not changed." Now were He to at times be enraged and at times be happy, He would change. Rather, all these matters are found only with regard to the dark and low bodies, those who dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is dust. In contrast, He, blessed be He, is elevated and exalted above all this.

Yesodei haTorah - Chapter Two

Halacha 1

It is a mitzvah to love and fear this glorious and awesome God, as [Deuteronomy 6:5] states: "And you shall love God, your Lord" and, as [Deuteronomy 6:13] states: "Fear God, your Lord."

Halacha 2

What is the path [to attain] love and fear of Him? When a person contemplates His wondrous and great deeds and creations and appreciates His infinite wisdom that surpasses all comparison, he will immediately love, praise, and glorify [Him], yearning with tremendous desire to know [God's] great name, as David stated: "My soul thirsts for the Lord, for the living God" [Psalms 42:3].

When he [continues] to reflect on these same matters, he will immediately recoil in awe and fear, appreciating how he is a tiny, lowly, and dark creature, standing with his flimsy, limited, wisdom before He who is of perfect knowledge, as David stated: "When I see Your heavens, the work of Your fingers... [I wonder] what is man that You should recall Him" [Psalms 8:4-5].

Based on these concepts, I will explain important principles regarding the deeds of the Master of the worlds to provide a foothold for a person of understanding to [develop] love for God, as our Sages said regarding love: "In this manner, you will recognize He who spoke and [thus,] brought the world into being."

Halacha 3

Everything which the Holy One, blessed be He, created within His world is divided into three categories. They include:

a) Creations which are a combination of matter and form. They are constantly coming into existence and ceasing to exist; for example, the bodies of man and beasts, plants, and metals.

b) Creations which are [also] a combination of matter and form, but do not change from body to body and from form to form as those in the first category. Rather, their form is permanently fixed in their matter, and they do not change as the others do; for example, the spheres and the stars [which revolve] in them. The matter [from which] they [are composed] differs from [a simple conception of] matter, and their form differs from [a simple conception of] form.

c) Creations which have form, but no matter at all; for example, the angels, for the angels do not possess bodies or corporeal being, but rather are forms which are separate from each other.

Halacha 4

What is meant by the prophets' statements that they saw an angel of fire or with wings? All these are prophetic visions and parables, as [Deuteronomy 4:24] states: "God, your Lord, is consuming fire," though He is not fire and [the description of Him in this manner] is only metaphoric. Similarly, [Psalms 104:4] states: "He makes His angels as winds...."

Halacha 5

Since they possess no body, what separates the form [of the angels] from each other? Their existence is not alike. Rather each one is below the level of the other and exists by virtue of its influence, [in a progression of levels,] one above the other.

Everything exists by virtue of the influence of the Holy One, blessed be He, and His goodness. Solomon alluded to this [concept] in his wisdom, saying (Ecclesiastes 5:7): "Because above the one who is high there is a watcher [and there are others higher than them]."

Halacha 6

The expression "below the level of the other" does not refer to height in a spatial sense as [one might say], he is sitting higher than his colleague, [but rather, in regard to spiritual level]. For example, when speaking about two sages, one of whom is greater than the other, we say, "one is above the level of the other." Similarly, a cause is referred to as "above" the effect [it produces].

Halacha 7

The different names with which the angels are called reflect their [spiritual] levels. Thus, they are called:

1) The holy chayyot, who are above all the others;

2) the ofanim; 7) the elohim;

3) the er'elim; 8) the sons of the elohim;

4) the chashmalim; 9) the keruvim;

5) the serafim; 10) the ishim.

6) the mal'achim;

These ten names which are used to refer to the angels reflect their ten [different spiritual] levels. The level above which there is no higher level except that of God, blessed be He, is that of the form called chayyot. Therefore, the prophets state that they are below God's throne of glory.

The tenth [and lowest] level is that of the form called ishim. They are the angels who communicate with the prophets and are perceived by them in prophetic visions. Therefore, they are called ishim, (“men”), because their level is close to the level of human knowledge.

Halacha 8

All these [spiritual] forms are alive. They recognize and know the Creator with very immense knowledge, each of the forms according to its level and not according to its greatness.

Even the highest level is unable to conceive of the true nature of the Creator as He [truly] is, since its intellectual capacity is too limited to know or to grasp [Him]. It does, however, comprehend and know more than the form which is below it.

This is true regarding each and every level, including the tenth level. This [level] also knows the Creator in a manner that surpasses the potential to know and comprehend [God possessed by] human beings made up of body and soul. None [of these levels] can know the Creator as He knows Himself.

Halacha 9

All existence, aside from the Creator - from the first form down to a small mosquito in the depths of the earth - came into being from the influence of His truth. Since He knows Himself and recognizes His greatness, beauty, and truth, He knows everything, and nothing is hidden from Him.

Halacha 10

The Holy One, blessed be He, recognizes His truth and knows it as it is. He does not know with a knowledge which is external to Him in the way that we know, for ourselves and our knowledge are not one. Rather, the Creator, may He be blessed, He, His knowledge, and His life are one from all sides and corners, in all manners of unity.

Were He to live as life is [usually conceived], or know with a knowledge that is external from Him, there would be many gods, Him, His life, and His knowledge. The matter is not so. Rather, He is one from all sides and corners, in all manners of unity. Thus, you could say, "He is the Knower, He is the Subject of Knowledge, and He is the Knowledge itself." All is one.

This matter is beyond the ability of our mouths to relate, [or our] ears to hear, nor is there [the capacity] within the heart of man to grasp it in its entirety. [In expression of this concept, Genesis 42:15] states: "chay (By the life) of Pharaoh" and [I Samuel 25:26] states "chay, (By the life) of your soul," but [I Samuel, ibid.] does not say: "chay, (By the life) of God" but chai Adonai, “As God lives.” [This shows] that the Creator and His life are not two, as are the lives of living beings or the lives of the angels.

Thus, He does not recognize and know the creations in terms of the creations as we know them, but rather He knows them in terms of Himself. Thus, since He knows Himself, He knows everything, for the existence of everything else is dependent on Him.

Halacha 11

The concepts that we have mentioned about the subject matter in these two chapters are like a drop from the sea [when compared to] what is necessary to explain this matter. The explanation of all the fundamental principles of these two chapters is referred to as Ma'aseh Merkavah, (lit. “the work of [G-d’s] chariot.”)

Halacha 12

The Sages of the early generations commanded that these matters should not be explained except to a single individual [at a time]. He should be a wise man, who can reach understanding with his [powers of] knowledge. In such an instance, he is given fundamental points, and an outline of the concepts is made known to him. He [is expected to continue to contemplate] until he reaches understanding with his powers of knowledge and knows the ultimate meaning and depth of the concept.

These concepts are extremely deep, and not every [person has] the knowledge necessary to appreciate them. In his wisdom, Solomon described them with the metaphor [Proverbs 27:26]: "Lambs for your clothing." [The root kevas - "lamb" - also has the meaning "hide."] Thus, our Sages interpreted this metaphor [to mean]: Matters which are the secrets of the world will be your clothing - i.e., they will be for you alone, and you should not discuss them in public.

Concerning them, [Proverbs 5:17] teaches: "They shall be for you and not for others with you." [Similarly, the Song of Songs 4:11] states: "Honey and milk will be under your tongue." The Sages of the early generations interpreted this [as a metaphor]: Subjects that are like honey and milk should be [kept] under your tongue.

Yesodei haTorah - Chapter Three

Halacha 1

The spheres are called the heavens, the firmament, the habitation, the skies.

There are nine spheres. The closest sphere is the sphere of the moon. The second sphere, which is above it, is the sphere which contains the planet Kochav. 1 The third sphere, which is above it, contains [the planet] Nogah. 2 The fourth sphere contains the sun. The fifth sphere contains [the planet] Ma'dim. 3 The sixth sphere contains the planet Tzedek. 4 The seventh sphere contains [the planet] Shabbtai. 5The eighth sphere contains all the stars which are seen in the sky. The ninth sphere is the sphere which revolves each day from the east to the west.6 It surrounds and encompasses everything.

The planets and stars all appear to be in one sphere, even though one is higher than another. This is because the spheres are pure and refined like glass or sapphire. Therefore, the stars in the eighth sphere appear lower than the first sphere.

Halacha 2

Each of the eight spheres which contain the planets and stars are themselves divided into many spheres, one above the other like the layers of an onion. Some of these spheres revolve from the west to the east, and some revolve from the east to the west, such as the ninth sphere, which revolves from the east to the west. There is no empty space between any of them.

Halacha 3

None of the spheres are light or heavy. They are neither red, black, nor any other color. Though we see them as blue, this is only our perception, because of the height of the atmosphere.

Similarly, they have neither taste nor smell, because these phenomena are present only in matter lower than they. 7

Halacha 4

All these [nine] spheres which surround the world are spherical like a ball, and the Earth is suspended in their midst.

Some of the planets have small spheres fixed [around] them. These spheres do not surround the Earth. Rather, a small sphere which does not surround the Earth is fixed within a large sphere which does.

Halacha 5

The total number of spheres which surround the Earth entirely is eighteen,8 and the number of smaller spheres which do not surround [the world] is eight.

From the movement of the planets and the knowledge of the extent of their revolution each day and each moment, their position either northward or southward, and their distance above the Earth and closeness to it, [it is possible to] know the number of all these spheres, the manner in which they proceed, and the nature of their orbit. This is the science of calculating the seasons and astronomy. Many books about these subjects were written by the wise men of Greece.9

Halacha 6

The ninth sphere, which encompasses all the others, was divided by the Sages of the early generations into twelve sections.10They gave each of these sections a name, based on the shapes that appeared to be formed by the stars below it which correspond to it.

These are the mazalot,11 which are called the lamb, the ox, the twins, the crab, the lion, the virgin, the scales, the scorpion, the bow, the goat, the bucket, and the fish.

Halacha 7

The ninth sphere itself has no division, nor does it possess any of these shapes or any stars. Rather, the larger stars of the constellations of the eighth sphere are seen in the shape of these forms, or [in a form] resembling them.

These twelve forms corresponded to these divisions only at the time of the flood and then, they were given these names. However, at present, they have already moved slightly, because all the stars in the eighth sphere move, as the sun and the moon do. It is just that [these stars] move more slowly. It would take any of these stars approximately seventy years to move the [same] distance which the sun and the moon'' move in one day.

Halacha 8

[Among] all the stars we see are small ones which the Earth surpasses in size and large ones which are several times larger than the Earth.

Our Earth is approximately 40 times larger than the moon, and the sun is approximately 170 times larger than the Earth. Thus, the moon is approximately one 6800th the size of the sun. None of the other stars is as large as the sun, nor is one as small as [the planet] Kochav, in the second sphere.

Halacha 9

All the stars and spheres possess a soul, knowledge, and intellect. They are alive and stand in recognition of the One who spoke and [thus brought] the world into being.

According to their size and level, each one praises and glorifies their Creator as the angels do.12 Just as they are aware of the Holy One, blessed be He, they are also aware of themselves and of the angels which surpass them. The knowledge of the stars and the spheres is less than the knowledge of the angels, but greater than that of men.13

Halacha 10

Below the sphere of the moon, God created a [type of] matter14 which differs from the matter of the spheres. He created four forms15 for this matter, which differ from the forms of matter of the spheres.

Each of these forms was fixed in a portion of this matter [as it exists in its totality]. The first of these forms is the form of fire. [When] it became connected to a portion of this matter, from the two there came into being a body of fire.

The second of these forms is the form of wind. [When] it became connected to a portion of this matter, from the two there came into being a body of wind.

The third of these forms is the form of water. [When] it became connected to a portion of this matter, from the two there came into being a body of water.

The fourth of these forms is the form of earth. [When] it became connected to a portion of this matter, from the two there came into being a body of earth.

Thus, below the sky there are four different states of matter, one above the other, each one encompassing the one below it from all directions, like a sphere. The first of these bodies, which is closest to the sphere of the moon, is that of fire. Below it is the body of wind, below it the body of water, and below it the body of Earth. There is no empty space without any matter between them at all.

11. These four bodies do not possess a soul, nor are they conscious or knowing. Rather, they are like dead bodies. Each one has its inclinations. However, it is not conscious or knowledgeable [of these inclinations], nor can it change them.

David's statement (Psalms 148:7-8): "Praise God from the Earth, sea-monsters and all the depths; fire and hail, snow and vapor" [does not contradict the above statement].16 That verse should be interpreted: Men, praise [God] for His mightiness which is apparent in the fire, hail, and other creations that can be seen below the sky, because their power is always visible to [both] the great and the small.

FOOTNOTES
1.

In translation, this word means "star" or "planet." It refers to the planet Mercury.

2.

In translation, this word means "shining." It refers to the planet Venus.

3.

In translation, this word means "reddening." It refers to the planet Mars.

4.

In translation, this word means "justice." It refers to the planet Jupiter.

5.

In translation, this word means "the Sabbatical." It refers to the planet Saturn.

6.

Sanhedrin 91b states that the Shechinah (Divine Presence) is in the west. Hence, the movement of this sphere in this direction can be considered an act of service to God.

7.

As stated in Halachah 10 and in Chapter 2, Halachah 3, the state of matter of the spheres differs from the state of matter in our world.

8.

As stated in Halachah 10 and in Chapter 2, Halachah 3, the state of matter of the spheres differs from the state of matter in our world.

9.

These include some of the smaller spheres which are included with the eight larger spheres.

10.

Note the Rambam's remarks in Hilchot Kiddush HaChodesh 17:24:

This is the science of the seasons and geometry about which the wise men of Greece composed many books. These are presently found in the hands of the Sages. However, the texts which were composed by the Sages of Israel of the tribe of Issachar in the time of the Prophets have not reached us.

[Nevertheless,] since these concepts have been proven conclusively... we are not concerned about the author, regardless of whether they were authored by the prophets or the gentiles.... We are not relying on the person who states or teaches the concept, but on the proofs.

11.

The term mazal literally means "source of influence." In the Rambam's time, it was commonly felt that the position of the stars affected one's future. For this reason, the word mazal is often translated as "fortune" or "luck." Many Torah Sages shared these ideas - albeit with the qualification that a Jew always has the potential to rise above these influences. (See the Ra'avad's comments to Hilchot Teshuvah 5:5; Ramban, Responsum 282; and the Nimukei Yosef, Sanhedrin, Chapter 7).

The Rambam totally dismisses the influence of astrology. In his Commentary on the Mishnah, Avodah Zarah 4:7, he describes it as "empty words and lies," and in Shemonah Perakim, Chapter 8, he mentions "the madness with which the astrologers attempt to deceive."

12.

Thus, Pesachim 2a interprets Psalms 148:3, "Praise Him all shining stars," simply - i.e., the stars render praise to God. However, note how the Targum and the Midrash Sachar Tov interpret Psalms 19:2, "The heavens relate the glory of God," as "The heavens cause others to relate.

13.

Note the differences between this halachah and Chapter 2, Halachah 8.

14.

This refers to primeval, unformed matter. In Greek terminology, it is referred to as hyli.

15.

The word "form" in this context refers to the entity's spiritual qualities and not its physical shape.

16.

Although Notes 6 and 11 mentions the Sages' interpretation of the movement of the stars and spheres as an expression of their praise of God, such a statement cannot be made with regard to these four fundamental elements. The, unlike the stars, are not conscious beings, and their movement and activity are merely natural patterns imprinted within them by God, as explained in Chapter 4, Halachah 2.

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