Vol 26.13 - Yitro 1 Spanish French Audio Video
|Hebrew Text: Rambam-Yesodey haTorah|
(5745) Boundary of the Mitzvah of knowing G-d according to the view of Rambam in the beginning of Sefer Yad HaChazakah and the connection to the end of Sefer HaYad;
Explanation of the wordings of Rambam (Hil Yesodey HaTorah 2:11, 4:10) concerning Maaseh Bereshis and Maaseh Merkava; The necessity of learning these subjects before learning the laws that follow them (in Rambam)
1) In the Rambam’s counting of the Mitzvah’s, in the introduction of his book the Mishnah Torah, he says “The first of the positive commandments is the mitzvah to know that there is a God, as Exodus 20:2 states: "I am God, your Lord.” In addition, with this commandment, the Rambam begins explaining all the laws in the Mishnah Torah: “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”
However, in the first law the Rambam does not state that this knowledge (“that there is a Primary Being who brought into being all existence”) is a positive commandment. Rather he goes on to explain (with five more laws) and expounds many details regarding the “Primary Being”. Only later in law number six of that chapter does he finish: “The knowledge of this concept is a positive commandment, as implied in Exodus 20:2: "I am G-d, your Lord...”
Therefore, we can deduce that according to the opinion of the Rambam, that the positive commandment of “I am G-d, your Lord...” does not only imply the general knowledge of “to know that there is a G-d” and “that there is a Primary Being”. Rather the commandment is also inclusive of the details (which he enumerated there in the laws) regarding G-d.
The Abrabanel explains (in his work “Principles of Faith” (Rosh Amanah) and quoted in the Chassidic “Book of Commandments” By the Tzemach Tzedek, that according to the Rambam the positive commandment of believing in G-d is not just to believe “G-d exists and no more” or that “There exists a G-d”.
[Because if that were to be so, a question arises, how is it possible to say that believing in G-d is a commandment? One must believe in a G-d as a perquisite to believing in his commandments. It does not logically follow, to command someone in the name of G-d that there exists a G-d who gives commandments. That is circular reasoning.]
Rather, the commandment is “G-d blessed is He, who we already know that he exists; his existence existed earlier and is more complete then everything that exists etc.” (In which he further expounds there).
Therefore, it explains why the Rambam introduces the five laws relating to the existence of G-D, for the commandment of believing (knowing) in G-d, entails that one must know (at minimum)these selective details regarding the entity of G-d, how G-d is “more complete then everything that exists etc.”.
2) Furthermore, it is well knows the added emphasis that is made on the words of the Rambam “to know that there is a G-d” “to know that there is a Primary Being”. [In that fashion, he concludes, by the commandment of knowing G-d, and by the commandment regarding the oneness of G-d – “this knowledge is a positive commandment” (not “believing in these statements”)] the words Imply that the commandment is to know, with a cerebral knowledge.
Like the Abrabanel answers the following question: how can one demand someone to hold a belief “which is not acquired by will or by choice”? He replies, that the Rambam “does not count a positive commandment, in the form of believing it and its truths, rather it is the knowledge of these concepts and studying them that brings to the proper beliefs” for “knowledge, debating, and analyzing of these ideas, and studying them…Brings to believing...They cause a will and a choice”.
According to this, we can explain why the Rambam does not end by just explaining the particulars of the existence of G-d (laws 1-7), that a Jew must know to fulfill the commandment of knowing G-d and Completeness of G-d. Rather he continues and expounds (in the remaining laws until the end of the chapter) many more concepts regarding the knowledge of G-d.
[For example, he brings proof from the Bible that "G-d has no body", and that the physical descriptions that are "written in the Torah" regarding G-d are "according to the perception of man…They are all analogies". Like Moshe's desire to ""grant me a vision of Your Glory.", and how his conception was of "the truthful existence" etc.]
For it begs the question, what is the matter that impels the Rambam to bring many theological back and forth in his handbook which is composed of “laws, only laws”?
According to what we explained above, the reason is that the topics are essential to the obligation of “knowing”, because only through understanding the theological debate behind the laws, then the knowledge of the existence of G-d is in active manner “knowing” – not just a passive belief, but also a rational knowledge etc.
In other words, in order to fulfill the obligation of “knowing G-d”, one must at least know the “opinions, debates, and analysis”- fundamental ones- pertaining to the existence of man, which the Rambam elaborates in this chapter (chapter one).
3) One can say, that the source for the Rambam…
[That the commandment of believing in G-d is:
A) Not just the general knowledge that “G-d exists”, but also particular details regarding the wholeness of his existence and,
B) that this alone, must be in the form of “knowing” – even though the bible only states:” I am the Lord your G-d”] is from the Zohar: “You shall know that I am the LORD your G-d” this commandment which is the first of all commandments…to know that there is a G-d... that there is a ruler above, who is master of the world and he created the world, the earth, heaven, and all their surroundings”.
The Rambam’s wording in the first law in its essence is like that of the Zohar: “The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom (Zohar: “this commandment which is the first of all commandments”) to is to know that there is a Primary Being (Zohar: “to know that there is a G-d”), who brought into being all existence. All the entities in the heavens, earth, and what is between them, came into existence only from the truth of His being. (Zohar: “and he created the world, the earth, heaven, and all their surroundings”), and in the same fashion the language of the Rambam in law five: “This entity is the G-d of the world and the Lord of the entire earth” is like the language of the Zohar: “there is a ruler above, who is master of the world”.
From this Zohar, the Rambam says that “this commandment” is connected with knowledge – “you shall know”… to know”; and it is not enough a general knowledge “G-d exists”, rather you need to know the details regarding the existence of G-d (because through the details we come to understand that “his existence existed earlier and more complete” etc.)
Although the Zohar brings the verse “and you shall know that I am the LORD your G-d” (and not the verse:” I am the Lord your G-d”), the reason is simple. The Zohar was speaking about Moshe our master, how he learned with the Jewish nation regarding the knowledge of G-d, before they left Egypt (so that the Jews will believe “in all the miracles and powers that I worked and caused in Egypt”) which will then cause according the Bible:” you shall know that I am the LORD your G-d”.
Regarding the reason why we must fulfill the commandments, is (like the well know Rambam) – because “the commandments by G-d thru Moshe out master blessed memory in Sinai", therefore, the commandment to believe in G-d is from:” I am the Lord your G-d”, and like we find in the Zohar itself (in another section): “the first commandment is “I am””.
[There is no question, why the details regarding the manner in completing the commandment we learn out from:" I am the Lord your G-d"(which was said before the giving of the Torah) - because in many places we find "revealed details" or many particulars' of a commandment we learn from verses that were given before the giving of the Torah]
4) According to all the above, we can explain a ponderous concept, which the Rambam says:
In the second chapter of Hilchos Yisodey Hatorah, the Rambam begins to talk about to commandments of loving and fearing G-d, and he expounds; “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…to know God's great name…and fear. 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 G-d”.
He then proceeds to expound – in the next three chapters – regarding “wondrous and great deeds and creations”. One chapter he dedicates regarding angels (which is a part of Ma'aseh Merkavah (lit. “The work of [G-d’s] chariot.”)) Also in the next three chapters – regarding Ma'aseh Bereshit (“the work of Creation”) and he then concludes: “When a person meditates on these matters and recognizes all the creations… will add to his love for G-d…Awe and fear”.
Accordingly, it is not understood. True, that the” path to attain love and fear” is” When a person contemplates”, but the Rambam’s book is a book of “laws, only laws”, how and why does it occur that the Rambam should write in the Mishnah Torah at length and with full details regarding “wondrous and great deeds and creations”?
Although, the language of the Rambam in Sefer Hamitzvos it would seem that the concept of “A man should contemplate in G-d’s work” is (not only a preparation for a commandment), but is the fulfillment of the commandment to love. The commandment is on the person, the person is the object “that he should think and contemplate in his commandments, sayings, and his actions etc” and afterwards”the love will come necessarily”-
Nevertheless, the explanation is still lacking, for why would the Rambam bring down in his book Mishnah Torah (laws, only laws) the concepts of contemplation by which we one can cause to arise in him the object of “Loving G-d and fearing him”, these topics belong to books of philosophy and the like. For the Law states, that one must contemplate in “His wondrous and great deeds” and the like, but the explanations of what “His wondrous and great deeds” are, Ideally does not apply to the law of love and therefore – not in the book of Mishnah Torah.
5) The explanation: the concepts that the Rambam brings in these three chapters – (concluding) Ma'aseh Merkavah, (lit. “the work of [G-d’s] chariot.”) Ma'aseh Bereshit (“the work of Creation”) – are not only contemplative topics by which you then reach loving G-d and fearing him, rather they are associated with the commandment of knowing G-d, furthermore – they are a very part of the commandment.
Like he (editor’s note: I do not know who the Rebbe is referring to) expounds in his “explanations” on the Rambam:” Included under these two commandments to know that there is a G-d, and there is no other G-d's the Ma'aseh Merkavah and Ma'aseh Bereshit. For when one understands them, one knows proofs about the existence of G-d, that he is the first existence, primary being and the rock of everything.
This concept is also emphasized in the language of the Rambam [that the concepts stated in the three chapters are a continuous explanation to the concept of knowing G-d of the first chapter].
1) in the second chapter, after the elaboration regarding angels, the Rambam turns to explain at length how G-d is “He knows Himself …knows everything…recognizes His truth and knows it as it is…His knowledge etc.
2) At the end of the chapter, he says: “ The concepts that we have mentioned about the subject matter in these two chapters… the fundamental principles of these two chapters is referred to as Ma'aseh Merkavah” – both chapter stand together to explain one concept, Ma'aseh Merkavah.
3) At the end of chapter four, the Rambam says” “The matters discussed in these four chapters…are what the Sages of the early generations termed the Pardes”- all four chapters stand together, to explain one concept – Pardes.
[That the Rambam combined the “important principles” with the concepts(contemplation that brings to) of loving G-d and fearing him, and not with the commandment to know G-d(which are spoken about in a previous chapter), is because the Rambam ordered the concepts of knowing G-d to align to the commandment in which it is related. Additionally, because these “important principles” are connected (also) to the commandments of loving G-d and fearing him, therefore the Rambam ordered it in a way that they should (not only as a continuation to the previous chapter as stated above, but also) as a detail of loving G-d and fearing G-d.]
Accordingly, we may say, that this is the reason why the Rambam brings in his book “important principles regarding the deeds of the Master of the worlds”. For in order to fulfill the commandment of knowing G-d – which means (as explained in chapter 3(Sicha)) that you have an understanding (rational) in the manner of the existence of G-d (“for his existence…complete”) – it is necessary to know (at least) also these “important principles”. Because (as stated above) “from them one knows proofs about the existence of G-d, that he is the first existence, primary being and the rock of everything”.
6) According to the above – that the concepts of Ma'aseh Merkavah and Ma'aseh Bereshit (which the Rambam brings in his book) are necessary to the commandment to know G-d, or even more – are a part of the commandment – we can also explain the last law – the end and finale to the book Mishnah Torah, quote:
"In that Era… There will be no other occupation of the entire world but to solely know G-d. The Jews will therefore be great sages and know the hidden matters, and will attain an understanding of their Creator to the full extent of human potential; as it is written [Yeshayahu 11:9] "For the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the ocean bed."
We must understand:
1) What are the two concepts of “know the hidden matters, and will attain an understanding of their Creator”? from this that the Rambam first introduces “will be no other occupation of the entire world but to solely know G-d” is evident that also these “hidden matters” are connected with “to know G-d”, so then what is the difference in “hidden matters” and “understanding of their Creator”?
2) From the remaining language of the Rambam, it seems that the limitation of “to the full extent of human potential “is going on the “understanding of their Creator”, but not to” know the hidden matters”, a reason is demanded.
3) What is the connection and relation (of adding) the end of the verse” as the waters cover the ocean bed”? From these words” "world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d” we know that “there will be no other occupation of the entire world but to solely know G-d”
Furthermore, also in the laws of repentance, the Rambam describes the days of the messiah, and he says, “In that era, knowledge, wisdom, and truth will become abundant. [Isaiah 11:9] states, "The earth will be full of the knowledge of G-d." - and he does not bring the end of the verse "as the waters cover the ocean bed”.
7) According to what we explained above – that in order to fulfill the commandment to know G-d, we must know to concept of Ma'aseh Merkavah and Ma'aseh Bereshit – we can say that these two expressions align with these two concepts, Ma'aseh Merkavah and Ma'aseh Bereshit:
“Hidden matters” (without the explanation and addition that this is talking about the creator) – means the concept of “Ma'aseh Bereshit”, that although they are objects “which are a combination of matter and form” nevertheless they are “deep matters”. It is the story of the creation of the world which we do not see their essence and their worthiness with our eyes of flesh, rather they are hidden concepts “deep matters” which one must have “vast knowledge necessary to grasp the interpretation and the explanation of these matters in a complete manner.” Therefore, the Rambam calls these ideas “hidden matters”.
On an opposite note, because it is “Ma'aseh Bereshit”- it is possible to have an understanding.
After this understanding, there will be a higher concept “understanding of their Creator” – the concepts of Ma'aseh Merkavah. Indeed, even angels, because they “have form but are not matter at all”, a man which is a combination “of matter and form”, cannot have real knowledge of them (angels). All the more so regarding “understanding of their Creator”, it is guaranteed (as the Rambam explains) that it is not possible that “a living man, a creature of body and soul" to know "the truth of His existence as it is in its own right"
Therefore, the Rambam must add, “will attain an understanding of their Creator to the full extent of human potential”
8) Accordingly, we can also understand why the Rambam brings the end of the verse” as the waters cover the ocean bed." – To preface:
The difference between Ma'aseh Merkavah and Ma'aseh Bereshit is (like the Rambam says) that Ma'aseh Bereshit “their depth does not approach” to the concepts of Ma'aseh Merkavah [therefore there are laws (a practical difference) in the way we “preach” Ma'aseh Merkavah or Ma'aseh Bereshit, as explained in Rambam]
The difference is not only in the “quantity” to understand- that Ma'aseh Merkavah is deeper and longer then Ma'aseh Bereshit- rather it is a different “quality” and differing perception:
Ma'aseh Bereshit because they are ideas regarding creation itself, we can understand them through positive attributes (“a knowledge of positive traits”) but regarding Ma'aseh Merkavah – concept which are connected with the aspect of the creator (“understanding of their Creator”) it is not possible to have knowledge of existence rather deductions from negative attributes (“knowledge by-way of negation”)
As the Rambam explains, at length in his book “guide to the perplexed” that regarding G-d it is not possible to say positive descriptions rather only descriptions of negation.
[For example: this that we say regarding G-d that he is "wise", it only means that we are trying to negate the antonyms of wisdom, as so forth regarding all descriptions]
Therefore, we cannot understand G-D with “positive” perception, rather only by-way of perceiving the negations.
Although the knowledge by-way of negation is also knowledge, until the point, as the Rambam explains that through many negative attributes “you advance toward the knowledge of God, and you are nearer to it” ” In the same manner you will come nearer to the knowledge and comprehension of God by the negative attributes.”
Nevertheless, the highest knowledge attained through negative attributes, it is still not a perception of the essence of the creator – the “the truth of His being” still remains hidden and is higher than understanding.
9) With this we will understand the change in language of the Rambam regarding” Ma'aseh Merkavah and Ma'aseh Bereshit:
When discussing Ma’aseh Merkavah the Rambam says, “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”. However, when discussing Ma'aseh Bereshit he says, “All these concepts which we have explained in this context are like a drop in a bucket”.
According to the above it is simply understood: the concepts Ma'aseh Bereshit are finite and perceptible, for they explain matters that exist in creation, hence although the Rambam only says general concepts etc. and therefore it is “like a drop” (drop). However, it is only that quantity in relation to the “bucket”, for the amount of water that goes in a bucket is a large compression, and is a tremendous limitation.
However, by describing Ma'aseh Merkavah the Rambam says is “like a drop from the sea”, because “sea” symbolizes something that is infinite, to the point that in Halacha, the “sea” (is called) “water which has no end”
Although, the water of the sea is finite (as the Talmud says, “we know how to measure the drops in the sea”). – Nevertheless by the fact that we say regarding the sea “water which has no end” proves that the sheer amount of water in the sea is so much, till we can refer to it as “no end” according to the Torah (in a allegorical way, at least).
10) Furthermore, we can say. The bible speaks in full terms Kohelet 1:7 "All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is not full” – that the see is never full. Accordingly, we can say, that what we describe of the sea “water which has no end” is because (for the sea is “not full”- it is possible for the sea to contain more) potentially there is in it infinite water. In practicality, the sea’s water is finite, and we know how to measure the drops in the sea, but in potential – it is not full will all the drops – there is a place where the water has not end]
Because the concepts of Ma'aseh Merkavah are higher than the finite, limited creations – they are like the concept of the “sea” (water) that has no end.
Accordingly, it is also understood why the Rambam adds in the end of his Sefer the end of the verse”as the waters cover the ocean bed”. He is alluding to the fact, that although in those days it will be possible to “attain an understanding of their Creator to the full extent of human potential”. Due to the fact that it is “understanding of their Creator”, it is always higher than the creations”as the water covers the ocean bed”. (He can it absorb only through understanding the negative attributes, as explained above)
11) From all the above we have a lesson regarding how to learn the concepts of Ma'aseh Merkavah and Ma'aseh Bereshit:
The Rambam writes in his introduction to his Sefer, (in “The Division of the Mitzvot According to the Halachot of the Mishneh Torah”), that in Sefer HaMada he included “all the mitzvot that are the foundations of the faith taught by Moses, our teacher, of blessed memory, those which a person must know before everything”. Therefore, it is to be understood that it is additionally speaking of Sefer HaMada itself. That the concepts that the Rambam ordered in the beginning of Sefer HaMada and called it “Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah” [lit. The Laws which are the Foundations of the Torah] – we must learn before we learn the other concepts in Sefer HaMada (even more so – before the concepts of the remaining 13 handbooks)
In Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah itself – we first must know “The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom”. Additionally, because all these “matters discussed in these four chapters concerning these five mitzvot …what the Sages of the early generations termed the Pardes” are necessary to being able to fulfill the “The foundation of all foundations… to know that there is a Primary Being” (stated above at length). It comes out, that in addition to the obligation to study the concepts in general, we must for precede to learn these concepts before we learn other concepts in torah.
12) Accordingly, we need to scrutinize the words of the Rambam regarding this. ” I maintain that it is not proper for a person to stroll in the Pardes unless he has filled his belly with bread and meat… knowledge of what is permitted and what is forbidden etc. “ that the concepts of the “Pardes”(these four chapters) only after we already know many(bread and meat of) Hilchos HaTorah.
Furthermore, the Rambam writes in his introduction to his Sefer, “A person should first study the Written Law, and then study this text and comprehend the entire Oral Law from it, without having to study any other text between the two”. Meaning, we learn the written torah we need not learn other books from the oral torah (and simply, not even “debates of Abbaye and Ravva" or filling his belly with bread and meat) – rather the first thing the Rambam learn with him is - Ma'aseh Merkavah and Ma'aseh Bereshit!
This and more, the first four chapters that the Rambam ordered in his book, is as said in his introduction, for “the young and old”, and it is obvious that a child is not “filled his belly with bread and meat”
13) The explanation is as follows. The Rambam warns people with the precise language he uses “not proper to stroll in the Pardes” (He changes the language as it is said by scholars of blessed memory which he quotes here “enter the Pardes”). “Stroll” does not only mean entering, but to stay in the Pardes at length, and in a manner of strolling, enjoyment – in occupying oneself in the concepts with a deep and wide contemplation, till the point where he is gratified by the concepts. This manner of studying in the Pardes must only be after he “filled his belly with bread and meat” and additionally, as the Rambam rules “The Sages of the early generations commanded that these matters should not be expounded upon in public.”
However, the concepts of the four chapter in the Rambam – do not expound on the concepts etc, as the Rambam himself emphasizes, that they are only “drop from the sea when compared to what is necessary to explain this matter" (likewise regarding Ma'aseh Bereshit - they are like a "drop in a bucket") as explained above. They are not even in category of "preliminary" (for even preliminary details of Ma'aseh Merkavah we may not be expounded in public and even more so to “for the young and the old”) rather they are general concepts (but are fundamental) and hence it is not in the category of “to stroll in the Pardes”.
14) On the other hand, regarding studying the concepts, in this was (the general concepts) (editors note: in depth) how the Rambam laid it out in his book – to the contrary, this we must learn “before everything” because “The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom” is – that we should have a knowledge in G-D. The other laws of the Torah build on this pillar, and are founded on this foundation.
Additionally, through occupying oneself now with concept of knowing G-D, we will merit speedily to the arrival of the “days of Moshicah”. When (in the language of the Rambam as stated above),”There will be no other occupation of the entire world but to solely know G-d "For the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the ocean bed."
(Yisro Chelek Chof Vov, Sicha Alef - From Sichos Yud aleph Nisan, Achron Shel Pesach , and Shabbos Parshas Emor 5744 ,Shabbos Parshas VaEyrah 5745)
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