Sunday, March 29, 2009

Rambam- How G-D's Knowledge and Existence Can Relate to Man- Yisodei Hatorah Perek 2 Halacha 10

How does G-D think? How does G-D exist? These are some of the questions that are dealt with in the Rambam. He says,

הקב"ה מכיר אמתו ויודע אותה כמו שהיא. ואינו יודע בדעה שהיא חוץ ממנו כמו שאנו יודעין. שאין אנו ודעתנו אחד אבל הבורא יתברך הוא ודעתו וחייו אחד מכל צד ומכל פינה ובכל דרך ייחוד. שאלמלי היה חי בחיים ויודע בדעה חוץ ממנו היו שם אלוהות הרבה הוא וחייו ודעתו, ואין הדבר כן אלא אחד מכל צד ומכל פינה ובכל דרך ייחוד. נמצאת אתה אומר הוא היודע והוא הידוע והוא הדעה עצמה הכל אחד. ודבר זה אין כח בפה לאומרו ולא באוזן לשמעו ולא בלב האדם להכירו על בוריו. ולפיכך אומר חֵי פרעה וחֵי נפשך ואין אומר חֵי ה' אלא חַי ה'. שאין הבורא וחייו שנים כמו חיי הגופים החיים או כחיי המלאכים. לפיכך אינו מכיר הברואים ויודעם מחמת הברואים כמו שאנו יודעין אותם אלא מחמת עצמו ידעם. לפיכך מפני שהוא יודע עצמו יודע הכל שהכל נסמך לו בהוייתו:

"G-D recognizes His truth and He knows it in the way it truly exists. He does not know His truth through an outside knowledge like we know, because we and our minds are separate, rather the Creator, He, His knowledge and His life are all one from every angle. If G-D would live a life [like us], or know things through having a knowledge [like us] then there would be many gods being Him, His life and His knowledge. This is not so, rather G-D is singular from every side, angle and in every aspect. 

It is said about G-D that He knows, is known and knows Himself all at once. However, this idea can not be related through the force (words) of the mouth, it can not be heard (related) to the ears, nor is it within a man's heart to recognize [the truth] of his Creator. Therefore, we say 'by the life of Pharoh' and 'by the life of your soul,' but by G-D we do not say 'by the life of G-D,' rather we say 'As G-D lives.' [This is because] the Creator and His life are not separate things like the life of a physical body or the life of an angel. Therefore, [G-D] does not recognize and know the creations because of how they are like we understand them, rather He [recognizes and knows them] because He knows Himself. Therefore, because He knows Himself He knows everything, because everything relies on His existence."

It is interesting to point out that the Ralbag, in his book The Wars of the Lord, argues on the Rambam's understanding here. The Ralbag, Aristotle and the Rambam all disagree on how G-D relates to the world. This all stems from the problem they all face, how does a G-D that is perfect and singular relate to a world that is imperfect and many? Hopefully, I will be able to discuss the Ralbag and Aristotle in a later post, but right now I want to focus on the Rambam.

The Rambam's underlying theme here is that G-D can not understand man (or the rest of the physical world for that matter) in the same manner that man understands man. He points out that if G-D did understand man in the same manner that man understands man, then it would have to be that G-D is not a singular being that is unchanging, but rather pluralistic and changes like man. As stated in the third section of the Rambam's The Guide for The Perplexed (Section 3 Chapter 16), "knowledge of individual beings, that are subject to change, necessitates some change in him who possesses it, because this knowledge itself changes constantly."  Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Rambam to explain how it is that G-D can have knowledge and a relation to man while still maintaining His singularity and unchanging stature.

Ingeniously, as the Rambam always is, he comes up with a solution. He explains that G-D's knowledge and existence is completely different than our knowledge and existence. G-D is a being that has a knowledge, a life and an existence that is all one and unchanging. Once this idea is apparent then we can explain how this singular being can relate to a multitude. G-D's knowledge of Himself, His own existence and His life allows Him to relate and know of all other existences. How? Because His existence causes all other existences. All other existences are contingent upon His existence and His relation to them. Therefore, G-D's knowledge and understanding of all things is not as we perceive it, rather it is channeled through G-D and therefore does not directly relate to the pluralistic existences that change. This is how the Rambam solves His problem of 'How can a singular being relate to the pluralistic world that continuously changes,' He understands Himself, the unchanging being, and through that knowledge understands the pluralistic and changing existences.

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