Monday, March 23, 2009

Rambam- Angels understanding of G-D- Yisodei Hatorah perek 2 halacha 8

The Rambam discusses what the abilities of the angels are in regard to their intelligence and capabilities of comprehension of G-D.

וכל הצורות האלו חיים ומכירין את הבורא ויודעים אותו דעה גדולה עד למאד. כל צורה וצורה לפי מעלתה לא לפי גודלה. אפילו מעלה הראשונה אינה יכולה להשיג אמתת הבורא כמו שהוא אלא דעתה קצרה להשיג ולידע אבל משגת ויודעת יותר ממה שמשגת ויודעת צורה שלמטה ממנה. וכן כל מעלה ומעלה עד מעלה עשירית גם היא יודעת הבורא דעה שאין כח בני האדם המחוברים מגולם וצורה יכול להשיג ולידע כמותה. והכל אינן יודעין הבורא כמו שהוא יודע עצמו:

"All of these tzuras (angels) are alive and recognize the creator and know Him with a very great knowledge. [This is true] for every tzura (angel) according to its level [of holiness], but not according to its greatness. However, even the highest level [of the angels] is not able to apprehend the absolute truth of the creator, rather they can only attain a limited amount of knowledge [of G-D]. [Each angel] is able to attain and know more than the tzura (angel) that is below it [in holiness]. Also, every level [of angel] is able to know the creator in a way that is unattainable by man since he is made up of a physical body that is connected to a tzura (spiritual form). Nevertheless, none of these beings are able to know the creator like He knows Himself."

The Rambam is describing the different levels that exist in the knowledge of G-D. G-D is an infinite being and therefore anything that is not infinite can not apprehend His true form. However, the closer to infinity a being is, the more of G-D can be understood. This is what the Rambam is saying, since the angels that are greater in holiness are closer to this infinite being they can more readily understand Him. For example, the number Pi is an infinite number. However, what number is closer to Pi, 3.14 or 3.14159265? Obviously, it is the number with more decimal points, the more precise the number then the closer to Pi, but no matter what, it is impossible to fully map the number Pi. Correlate this to the angels and you will see that the higher an angel is the greater capacity for understanding G-D it has.

The Rambam says that an angel can better understand G-D according to its level [of holiness], but not according to its greatness. What does this mean? According to how I am explaining the Rambam I think it fits very nicely. The Rambam is saying that G-D is infinite and the only way to understand a being that is infinite is to be infinite. However, there are no beings other than G-D that are infinite, therefore, only G-D can truly understand Himself. Nevertheless, the closer a being is to G-D the better that being understands G-D. This means that a being's comprehension of G-D is based on the finiteness of their existence. For example, a human can better understand G-D than an ant because an ant's existence is more finite than a human's. Similarly, every level of angel has a different level of finiteness to their existence which, in turn, limits or increases their ability to apprehend G-D.

This is what the Rambam means by level [of holiness] and not greatness. Greatness represents importance and power of an object. In the scheme of understanding G-D these traits are meaningless for an angel since they have no physicality. However, level of holiness represents the level of finiteness of the angels and this also describes the ability of those angels to understand G-D.

No comments: