In the “Tally of Mitzvos” at the beginning of his Mishnah Torah, the Rambam states: “The first of the positive commandments is to know G‑d, as the verse states:1 ‘I am G‑d, your L-rd.’ ”

The Rambam begins the laws of Mishnah Torah2 with this mitzvah as well: “The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is the knowledge that there exists a Primary Being.”

However, the Rambam does not immediately state that to have such knowledge is a positive command. Rather, he spends the next five paragraphs providing details about the “Primary Being.” Only in the sixth paragraph does he go on to say: “Knowledge of this matter is a positive command, as the verse states: ‘I am G‑d, your L-rd.’ ”

We thus understand that, according to the Rambam, the positive command implied by the phrase “I am G‑d, your L-rd” includes not only the general knowledge of G‑d’s existence as a Primary Being, but also the details about G‑d that he enumerates.

It would seem that the Rambam ’s source for this is the Zohar ’s statement:3 “’You shall know that I am G‑d, your L-rd’4 — This is the primary command of all commands… to know G‑d… that there is a Supernal Ruler who is Master of the Universe; He created all the worlds, the heaven and earth and all their hosts.”

The Rambam ’s text is similar to that of the Zohar : “The foundation of all foundations” (“the primary command of all commands”) “is the knowledge that there exists a Primary Being” (“to know G‑d”) “who brought about all beings, and all those who are found in heaven and earth and that which is between them….” (“He created all the worlds, the heaven and earth and all their hosts.”)

From this passage in the Zohar, the Rambam learns that, although the verse simply states: “I am G‑d, your L-rd,” the commandment includes detailed knowledge of G‑d.

An otherwise inexplicable matter in the Rambam can now be understood: The Rambam begins the second chapter of Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah by discussing the commandments to love and fear G‑d.

He then continues:5 “What is the way to attain love and fear of Him? When a person contemplates His wondrous and great deeds and creatures, observing therefrom His wisdom that has no comparison or end, the individual will immediately come to love G‑d… know His great name… and fear. Accordingly, I shall explain important principles regarding the actions of the Creator, so that they serve as a discerning gateway to the love of G‑d.”

The Rambam then spends three chapters describing “His wondrous and great deeds and creatures;” one chapter6 describing angelic beings (part of the “Works of the Divine Chariot”7), and the next two chapters in describing “Works of Creation.”

He then concludes: “When an individual contemplates all this and is cognizant of all the created beings… it will enhance his love for G‑d; he will fear and be in awe of Him.”

Now, while it is true that love and fear of G‑d are accomplished by contemplation, the Mishnah Torah is “a compilation of laws.”8 How is this lengthy exposition concerning “His wondrous and great deeds and creatures” germane?

The explanation is as follows. The matters described by the Rambam in these three chapters — “Works of the Divine Chariot” and “Works of Creation” — are not only contemplative exercises that eventually lead to love and fear of G‑d, but are also relevant to a part of the mitzvah to know G‑d.

This is as the commentary on Rambam states:9 “Included within these two commandments [to know G‑d, and to know that there is no other deity] are the ‘Works of the Divine Chariot’ and ‘Works of Creation.’ For by knowing them, one can ascertain proof of G‑d’s existence, and that He is the Primary Being and Creator of all.”

The Rambam therefore explains the “important principles regarding the actions of the Creator” at great length, for in order to fulfill the mitzvah of knowing G‑d, one must know these principles, leading as they do to “proof of G‑d’s existence, and that He is the Primary Being and Creator of all.”

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXVI, pp. 114-119