Monday, February 23, 2009

Rambam- How We Relate to G-D- Yisodei Hatorah halacha nine

The Rambam, in the first eight halachos in the book of Hamada, discusses that G-D is a completely nonphysical entity that exists. However, how is it possible for one to achieve an understanding of what G-D is if He is not physical. Can the human mind attain such a lofty idea? This is discussed in the ninth halacha of the Rambam's book of Hamada.

The Rambam says,
אם כן מהו זה שכתוב בתורה ותחת רגליו. כתובים באצבע אלהים. יד ה'. עיני ה'. אזני ה'. וכיוצא בדברים האלו. : 
"If it is true [that G-D has no body or form] what does the Torah mean when it says 'Under His feet, with the finger of G-D, hand of G-D, eyes of G-D and ears of G-D' and things similar to this?"

It is important to understand the question of the Rambam. He is stating that one might come to say that the Rambam must be wrong about G-D not being physical since the Torah clearly states that G-D has body parts by referring to the finger of G-D and other physical characteristics. So how could the Rambam be correct in stating that G-D has no physicality while, seemingly, the Torah says He does?

The Rambam answers by telling us,
הכל לפי דעתן של בני אדם הוא שאינן מכירין אלא הגופות ודברה תורה כלשון בני אדם. והכל כנויים הן. שנאמר אם שנותי ברק חרבי, וכי חרב יש לו ובחרב הוא הורג אלא משל והכל משל. 
"[These phrases in the Torah that refer to G-D's physical characteristics] all go according to the knowledge of man that can not recognize concepts except through physical attributes. [This is true since] the Torah speaks in the language of man. All of these inferences are euphemisms [for much more complicated ideas that are beyond human comprehension]. For example [it says in Devarim (32:41)], 'If I sharpen My flashing sword,' does G-D really have a [physical] sword and does He kill with a sword? Rather, it must be that this is a parable and all of these are parables."

The Rambam is able to answer up the question of "If G-D isn't physical then why does the Torah give Him physical attributes" using a very logical argument. The Rambam is telling us that the Torah was written for man and therefore must be understood by man. Hence, since man must understand the Torah it makes sense that the Torah was written only using language that man can comprehend. What use would the Torah be if G-D gave it to man, but used concepts and expressions that were unattainable by man? This is the reason why G-D wrote the Torah and attributed to Himself these seemingly physical characteristics, so that we could better understand what the Torah is talking about.

The Rambam now brings proofs to his logical argument from biblical sources. He says,
ראיה לדבר שנביא אחד אומר שראה הקב"ה לבושיה כתלג חיור. ואחד ראהו חמוץ בגדים מבצרה. משה רבינו עצמו ראהו על הים כגבור עושה מלחמה. ובסיני כשליח צבור עטוף. לומר שאין לו דמות וצורה אלא הכל במראה הנבואה ובמחזה, ואמתת הדבר אין דעתו של אדם מבין ולא יכולה להשיגו ולחקרו. וזה שאמר הכתוב החקר אלוה תמצא אם עד תכלית שדי תמצא
"A proof to this idea is that one prophet, [Daniel (Chaper 7 verse 9)], said that he saw G-D wearing a garment that was white like snow, while another prophet describes G-D as wearing red garments from Batzarah. Also, Moshe our teacher saw [conflicting visions of G-D since] by the Red Sea he saw G-D as a warrior doing battle, but by Mount Sinai he saw G-D as a prayer leader wrapped [in a talis]. These [proofs] are coming to say that there is no image or form [of G-D], but rather every appearance [of G-D] depends on the prophet and [the purpose of] the vision. The truth of the matter is that the knowledge of a man is not able to comprehend or figure out G-D. This goes according to the verse [in Job 11:7], 'Can you achieve an understanding of G-D? Can you fathom the extent of the Almighty?'" 

The Rambam feels that it is absolutely necessary to prove that these euphemisms are not literal from biblical sources. Why is this so important, could we not have just seen the logic in his argument without the biblical sources?

In truth, it makes absolute sense why the Rambam feels the necessity to bring in several pasukim that prove there is no real physical form to G-D. In this section of the Rambam's famous work of the Mishna Torah, the book of Hamada, the Rambam is pointing out the fundamentals of Judaism. All of the ideas contained within this section are foundations and principles of faith. Therefore, it is not appropriate that one just rely on basic knowledge for a principle of faith, but rather there must be something more. This is why the Rambam backs up everything he says with pasukim, in order to reveal the basis of these principles in the Torah itself. The Rambam is pointing out that all of the principles contained in Judaism can be found straight from the text itself. The ideas are logical, but the proof for the foundations of Jewish thought must be from the bible and not solely based on human logic.


Shira said...

I am very impressed! Nice BLOG!!!!

shira said...

Etan- Nice Dvar Toray. May i suggest you change the color of the hyperlinks- i can't read the words.