Monday, February 16, 2009

Rambam- Understanding G-D - Yisodei Hatorah sixth halacha

In the sixth halacha of the book of Hamada the Rambam describes how one should view G-D. He says,
וידיעת דבר זה מצות עשה שנאמר אנכי ה' אלהיך. וכל המעלה על דעתו שיש שם אלוה אחר חוץ מזה. עובר בלא תעשה שנאמר לא יהיה לך אלהים אחרים על פני. וכופר בעיקר שזהו העיקר הגדול שהכל תלוי בו:
" To know this thing (that G-D is the master of the world; He guides the sphere with a limitless, continuous and unending power; and causes the rotation of the sphere without a hand or body) is a positive commandment that the Torah says, 'I am Hashem, your G-D.' Anyone who thinks that there is another G-D except for Hashem transgresses a negative commandment, that the Torah says, 'There shall not be for you other gods before me.' Also, this person denies the fundamental ideas of Judaism that everything in existence depends on G-D."

The Rambam points out that there is a positive and negative commandment involved in the belief of G-D. This is similar to the commandment of observing the sabbath. The Torah tells us that there is a commandment of Guarding and Remembering the sabbath. These two languages infer that there is a positive and negative commandment to the observance of the sabbath. The negative commandment tells us that there are actions that we must not perform in order to make the sabbath day holy and on the other end the positive commandment tells us what must be done in order to make the sabbath day holy. Seemingly, the positive and negative commandments both lead to the same result.

This can also be applied to this commandment that has both a positive and negative commandment. The positive commandment aspect requires one to understand G-D's infinitude on a level that human's can comprehend. We have to believe that G-D is the only obligatory being in existence. All other beings exist because of G-D. However, from the aspect of the negative commandment one must never believe in a limit to G-D's power. If a person knows that G-D is the ultimate being than he can not, in fact, believe in a second ultimate being since this would limit G-D's power. Therefore, the positive commandment and the negative commandment both lead to the same result.

The Rambam is explaining one of the most fundamental of all ideas in Judaism, believing in G-D. The Rambam points out that the belief in G-D is only possible through a positive and negative aspect. To try to comprehend G-D only in a positive way is impossible, His infinitude is too much to comprehend. However, to try to understand G-D by what is impossible to exist alongside Him can reveal to us much about His infinitude. Thus, it is important for us not just to try and understand G-D's ultimate power, but also what power can not exist alongside Him.

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