Sunday, May 24, 2009

Different Ways To Believe In Orthodox Judaism

There are many different ways for a Jew to believe in Judaism. However, remaining in the Orthodox version leaves us with two overall paths. I will refer to these two paths as the Rambam/Ralbag (World must be congruent with science always) and the Maharal path (World's science could change whenever since G-D is all powerful He can change anything). Both of these paths have their benefits and deficiencies. The Rambam/Ralbag path makes Judaism very comprehensible and allows the world to be attainable for a thinking person. However, it requires a less literal interpretation of the Bible. The Maharal's path is less comprehensible and removes all certainty from the nature of life. However, it allows for a literal meaning of the Bible.

These two paths are both widely used nowadays. However, scientists will laugh at the Maharal's approach. How can it be that we humans can not understand nature and predict its course? Well, the Maharal's path leads us to the following answer. You scientists are very haughty assuming that you know how the world works. You think that Gravity has always existed in its current state and that the properties of all chemicals have always been the same. How can you possibly know this? Do you have a time machine that tells you that for the past 4 billion years, according to you, the nature of the world was constant? Isn't that an assumption? The certainty that you give off is flawed because it is based on assumptions. I however believe that G-D controls nature in every way. He can change its course in an instant. In fact, there are points in the Bible that even say this. For example, after the flood in Noach's time the Bible says (Genesis 8:22), "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." This implies that G-D made nature cease, or at the very least change, during the time of the flood. There are more examples, but this is not an exhaustive list. Thus we see that the Maharal's path can explain why science today does not effect the modern Jew's faith that follows this path. Science does not truly contradict the Maharal's path since G-D controls all of nature, so any "proof" against the Bible that scientists can bring is inconsequential since it is all based on false assumptions.

In the Rambam/Ralbag path we assume that science is right with its assumptions. We buy into the idea that nature has always been constant. This allows for us to become convinced by the scientists and make us choose one of two options. The first option is to completely discard the Bible and our belief in G-D. This is why the Rambam/Ralbag path is so dangerous for orthodox Jews, because it leaves itself open for people to see a conflict and lose hope. The second option is what the Rambam and Ralbag actually do, reconcile the text with science. This is usually not very hard to do. However, it does require that there be a non-literal understanding of the text. This is exactly what the Rambam, in The Guide for the Perplexed, does and it is also what the Ralbag, in his commentary on the Bible, does. An example of some non-literal interpretation of the Bible comes from the idea of the Gemorah that the Torah (Bible) uses the language of man. For instance, the Ralbag explains that the Rain that the Bible refers to during the flood of Noach was not literally rain. The Ralbag explains that there was just so much water that it seemed like it was the opening of the gates of heaven. This is similar to when a man says it was raining cats and dogs. Man doesn't literally mean it was raining cats and dogs, rather it was just a heavy downpour. With these ideas in mind, it is clear to see that this approach of the Rambam/Ralbag can reconcile science with the Bible and Judaism.

Check out my post where the Maharal openly talks about these ideas here. I will be writing more posts on this subject after this post on the Maharal.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ramban-All Knowledge is Derived from The Torah-Toras Hashem Temima perek 1 siman 5

In this post of the Ramban here he asks, " What is the greatness of the Torah." In this siman he begins to answer this question. He says,

"The beginning of everything is that a person should know that everything that the created (aka people) know and understand, all of it comes from the Bible directly or indirectly. If it were not for the Bible there would be no difference between a man and the donkey he rides on. This can be seen from the nations that are distant from the Bible and its prophecies. For example, the Barbarians that dwell in Dacia (The Romans conquered the Dacians and then the Romans were destroyed by the Barbarians), the Tartars, and the nations like India- that these people do not recognize their creator and they think the world always existed. Also, there are people that exist that are not deep thinkers and do not consider whether the world always existed or is a new creation. They do not contemplate whether the spheres move themselves or if something else moves them like King David mentioned in the Psalm that we quoted previously (Tehilim 19) and like the other deep thinkers (philosophers) from the nations close to us. All of these ideas have not been seen or thought about by nations that have not heard of the Bible. This is because a man that is not taught is like an animal, like it says in Job (11:12), "Let one who is like a wild donkey be reborn as a man. (meaning: When man is born he is like a wild donkey)"

The Ramban uses facts from the situation of his time to prove why the Torah is so valuable. He shows that the only people that really think about things and care to acquire knowledge are people that have been effected by the Bible. The barbarians and other people that acted without knowledge at the time of the Ramban were groups of people that had never been effected by the Torah or even had a relation to it indirectly. This is very telling of how the Torah teaches and compels people to think. Also, the Torah invokes deep thinking and this is another focus of the Ramban. That the source of all knowledge and the drive to acquire knowledge comes from the Torah.

This is just one of many examples that show how great the Bible is and this example shows the Bible's importance. It sounds very compelling to say that every civilization that has been effected by the Bible is deep thinkers and values knowledge, whereas populations that have been unaffected by the Bible are simple and those people are not deep thinkers in any way.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Medieval Commentators on Equality In Judaism

I was looking for the Meiri's position that further discusses Judaism and Morality. So to follow up on my previous post, found here, I wanted to translate a Meiri in Bava Kama that discusses this equality. He says (Bava Kama: 37B),

"An ox that belongs to a Jew that gores an ox of a non-Jew is exempt from paying from the law of neighbor and if a non-Jew's ox gores the ox of a Jew, whether it is a delinquent ox or not, pays full damages. This law only refers to a non-Jew that is not careful for the property of others (damaging them without care), therefore, we fine him that he, the non-Jew, should not become used to this type of action of damaging other people's property without care. This which is stated in the Gemorah only applies to nations that do not have laws and are barbaric people. For these types of people the Gemorah says that the non-Jews accepted upon themselves the seven Noahide commandments and if they are not followed then their property becomes unprotected by the law. However, all non-Jews that keep the seven Noahide commandments are considered like full fledged Jews."

First just to state the seven Noahide laws are:

1)Prohibition of Idolatry
2)Prohibition of Murder
3)Prohibition of Theft
4)Prohibition of Sexual Promiscuity
5)Prohibition of Blasphemy: You shall not blaspheme God's name.
6)Dietary Law: Do not eat flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive. (Genesis 9:4)
7)Requirement to have just Laws: You shall set up an effective judiciary to enforce the preceding six laws fairly.

With these ideas in mind it is clear to see what the Meiri is saying. If a state does not have just laws, like protecting people's property then their property, in turn, is not protected. These seven Noahide laws are very moral laws, I don't know why anyone would say they are not a just basis for a law. Thus, if a person is unjust and cheats and steals, the Gemorah tells us that you do not have to respect his protection under the law. Obviously, you can not make these decisions yourself, but there must be a court that decides this, a beis din.

With this idea from the Meiri in mind, it is clear to see that even a Jew that acts unjustly would fall under this category of the "non-Jew" that does not have protection under the law. Therefore, I see equality in the laws of the Torah. The non-Jew is protected just as much as the Jew. If a state is unjust then their rules do not apply, because they are unjust. However, in a country like America since the laws are just a Jew must follow them. Anyone who says otherwise clearly misses the point of the laws of the torah.


The Rambam on the same Gemarah as the Meiri (Bava Kama 37B) states a very similar Halacha as that of the Meiri. He says,

"An ox of a Jew that gores the ox of a non-Jew, whether it is a delinquent animal or not, is exempt. This is because the non-Jewish courts do not require a man to pay for the damage his ox does, therefore we judge this case like they would judge it. An ox of a non-Jew that gores the ox of a Jew, whether it is delinquent or not, pays full damages. This is a punishment that is enforced on non-Jews since they are not careful in the laws and do not try to prevent damage. For if they were not punished in this manner they would not watch their animals and they would let them damage everyone and everything."

This Rambam clearly tells us the qualifications of what is going on in this case. At first glance, one would think that a non-Jew is discriminated against. However, this is not the case. The only reason the non-Jew is treated like this is because he is not careful to prevent his ox from damaging other people's property. However, if he would treat his ox like a Jew treats his ox, namely trying to prevent his ox from damaging other people's property, then this non-Jew would be treated like a Jew.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rambam-Makeup of All Bodies Under the Heavens-Yisodei Hatorah perek 4 halacha 2

The Rambam discusses the makeup of the different physical objects. The four elements combined can create many different natural features and bodies with diverse characteristics. He says,

דרך האש והרוח להיות מהלכם ממטה מטבור הארץ למעלה כלפי הרקיע. ודרך המים והארץ להיות מהלכם מתחת הרקיע למטה עד לאמצע שאמצע הרקיע הוא המטה שאין למטה ממנו. ואין הילוכם לא בדעתם ולא בחפצם אלא מנהג שנקבע בהן וטבע שנטבע בהן. טבע האש חם ויבש והוא קל מכולם. והרוח חם ולח. והמים קרים ולחים. והארץ יבשה וקרה. והיא כבידה מכולם והמים קלים ממנה לפיכך נמצאים למעלה על הארץ. והרוח קל מן המים לפיכך הוא מרחף על פני המים. והאש קל מן הרוח. ומפני שהם יסודות לכל גופים שתחת הרקיע ימצא כל גוף וגוף מאדם ובהמה וחיה ועוף ודג וצמח ומתכת ואבן גולמו מחובר מאש ורוח ומים ועפר. וארבעתן יתערבו ביחד וישתנו כל אחד מהם בעת העירוב עד שימצא המחובר מארבעתן אינו דומה לאחד מהן כשהוא לבדו. ואין במעורב מהן אפילו חלק אחד שהוא אש בפני עצמו או מים בפני עצמן או ארץ בפני עצמה או רוח בפני עצמה אלא הכל נשתנו ונעשו גוף אחד. וכל גוף וגוף המחובר מארבעתן ימצא בו קור וחום לח ויבש כאחד. אבל יש מהם גופים שיהיה בהם חזקה מיסוד האש כמו בעלי נפש חיה. לפיכך יראה בהם החום יתר. ויש מהן גופין שיהיה בהן חזקה מיסוד הארץ כמו האבנים. לפיכך יראה בהם היובש הרבה. ויש מהן גופין שיהיה בהן חזקה מיסוד המים. לפיכך יראה בהם הלח יתר. ועל הדרך הזה ימצא גוף חם יתר מגוף אחר חם. וגוף יבש יתר מגוף אחר יבש. וכן ימצאו גופים שיראה בהן הקור בלבד. וגופים יראה בהן הלח בלבד. וגופים יראה בהן הקור והיובש כאחד בשוה. או הקור והלח כאחד בשוה. או החום והיובש כאחד בשוה. או החום והלח כאחד בשוה. לפי רוב היסוד שהיה בעיקר התערובת יראה מעשה אותו היסוד וטבעו בגוף המעורב: 

"The nature of the fire and the wind is to travel from below the navel of the Earth to above, towards the heavens. The nature of the water and the land is to travel from underneath the heavens to below the middle, that the middle of the heavens is the lowest point so much so that there is nothing lower than it. These elements do not travel with knowledge or desire, rather they have a guidance that was set for them and a nature that was placed in them. The nature of fire is that it is hot and dry and it is the lightest of all elements. The wind is hot, but moist. Water is cold and wet. Finally, the land is dry, cold and is the heaviest of all the elements. The water is lighter than land and is therefore found above the land. The wind is lighter than the water and that is why it hovers above the water. Fire is lighter than even the wind. Since they are the foundations for all bodies that are under the heavens that they are found in every body from man, domesticated animals, wild beasts, birds, fish, plants, metals, stones of earth, they are all bound from fire, wind, water and dirt. These four are mixed together [for all these bodies]. All of these elements change when they are mixed to the point that the object that contains them mixed is much different than only one of them alone. Also, a mixture of all of them does not create an object that has a portion of it like fire by itself, water by itself, land by itself, or wind by itself, rather all the elements change and create a completely different body. Every body that is combined from all four elements will have within it cold, heat, moistness and dryness in one. However, some bodies, such as the bodies of wild animals, contain a greater proportion of fire is why they are warm. Some bodies, such as stones, will contain a greater proportion of earth, so they are very dry. On this path, we can see that there are bodies that are hotter than others and some bodies are drier than others. Similarly, one will find bodies which are exceedingly cold, bodies which are exceedingly wet, bodies which contain equal proportions of cold and dry, bodies that are equal parts cold and wet, some bodies that are equal parts hot and dry, or bodies that are equal parts hot and wet. The element in the majority will be the one that will give the resultant body its nature."

The Rambam here talks about the physical attributes of bodies found on Earth. The ideas that he brings out is that everything on Earth has a specific nature that must be followed. Water can not be hot and Fire can not be cold. These are just examples of the exactness of nature and its permanence. G-D made the world in a way that everything has its specific nature that the four elements combine to create.

This brings us to the basis for the Rambam's theology. He believes that nature is the driving force on Earth and perpetuates its existence. Unlike sages that were mystics, the Rambam did not believe in magic. This led him to believe that there were no special occurrences on the Earth, save outright miracles that G-D says He performed. The four elements are the most basic of all natural things and therefore need to be understood before even an elementary knowledge of the world is to be attained. This is why the Rambam emphasizes the four elements to such an extent that they have their own perek.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Morals of Judaism

In Judaism there are several laws that seem to discriminate against non-Jews. Unfortunately, these laws are sometimes abused by people to undermine Jew-Gentile relations. This is a corruption of the true ethics and morals of Judaism. Judaism is a religion of friendly relations and non-discrimination even though this may appear not to be the case in some instances. True, there are some occurrences in Jewish literature that appear to be discriminatory where it seems like the life of a Jew or the possessions of a Jew seem more important than those of a Gentile. However, I do not believe that the true meaning of these ideas are meant in this manner. In order to divulge the true meaning of the sages throughout the generations I think a view of man through the Bible is in order.

I think the reason for the apparent discrimination of the Gentile can be divulged through an excerpt from the book The Biblical View of Man. In it Rabbi Dr. Leo Adler discusses how the Bible views a man that does not believe in G-D. He says,

"On the other hand, Godlessness and lack of fear of G-D, in the biblical conception of man, indicate human depravity: ;The benighted man thinks There is no G-D; man's deeds are corrupt and loathsome, no one does good' (Psalm 14:1). Lack of fear of G-D is so clearly considered moral corruption that Abraham can justify passing off his wife as his sister with the claim that 'I thought surely there is no fear of G-D in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife' (Genesis 20:11)."

The Gentile that is discriminated against is referred to as a man that does not have a fear of G-D. This idea was referring to an era of human civilization where there was depravity and debauchery that was being done on a daily basis. The only force in the world, in this era, that could stem human depravity was a belief in G-D. Without this essential belief, man would act immorally. There were no exceptions as quoted from Abraham's experience, man without a fear of G-D was immoral and without limits. Otherwise, why would Abraham fear for his life, wouldn't moral people allow one to be married to a beautiful woman and not have to fear for his life? Thus, in the Bible, we see that a man without a fear of G-D is immoral and without constraint. This is the purpose of the Bible, to provide moral limits for man.

Therefore, we can see that in biblical times man without a belief in G-D is immoral and dangerous. Abraham had to fear for his life when he went to a city populated with immoral people. The Bible tells us that this situation justified his lie and turned an otherwise immoral act, lying, into a necessity for life. Thus, we see the basis for protecting people against immoral people even if it means acting in a, seemingly, immoral way.

This idea can be seen in the philosophy of Kant from this website where it discusses the repercussions of Kant's Categorical Imperative. It says,

"The second consequence follows from Kant's basic moral rule, the categorical imperative: 'Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it would become a universal law.' In other words, you can only give yourself permission to a behavior ('act according to that maxim') which you simultaneously give everyone else the same permission to do (you 'will that it would become a universal law'). This means that if I steal from you, I give permission to everyone to steal from me."

In a sense, this is the moral code that the Bible is following. When a person acts immorally, he or she allows all those to act immorally towards them. This can be seen in the case of Abraham. The Bible seems to tell us that there are two types of people in its time, those who believe in G-D, the moral people, and those who do not believe in G-D, the immoral people. This does not speak of our current generation, but rather of the society of ancient times.

This idea is not just Biblical in nature, but it evolves into a Rabbinic principle as well. This can be found in a Tosephta, a Tannaic work, in Shevuot 3:6. It says,

"Rabbi Reuben met a philosopher in Tiberias, who asked him: 'Who makes himself hateful in the world?' Rabbi Reuben replied: 'He who denies his Creator.' 'But how does that make him hateful to men?' wondered the philosopher. Rabbi Reuben replied: 'Honor thy father and mother; though shalt not murder; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness. No man can break these laws without first denying G-D, no man can commit one of these cardinal sins without first ignoring Him Who gave these commands!'"

This Tosephta is explained by Rabbi Dr Leo Adler in the following manner. He says,

"He who sins against morality and ethics can do it only by denying G-D. Rabbi Reuben built his thesis upon a verse from Leviticus (5:21): 'When a person sins and commits a trespass against the Lord by dealing deceitfully with his fellow, robbing him or oppressing him...' Here too, disloyalty to G-D is assumed to be the precondition for moral failure vis a vis man: whoever sins against men did so after first breaking faith with G-D. For the Bible, fear of G-D is the foundation of man's being, not a separate res religiosa (as it was considered by the philosopher who argued with Rabbi Reuben)."

It seems like from this Tosephta that the philosopher would be considered a moral person, although he was curious of the basis of the morality of the Bible. However, even at this point in history, in the rabbinic literature, man was still moral based on his belief in G-D. Without this belief man had no reason to act appropriately and compassionately. This led Jews to be persecuted as well as other minorities. However, at this point in history there was persecution from the pagan Romans and Zoroastrians against the monotheistic religions. This violated basic morals and thus allowed those being persecuted to act according to how Kant explained earlier in this post.

Throughout Jewish history we have seen that Jews have been oppressed and mistreated. During the years of Christian domination the Jews were constantly subjected to forced baptism, death or expulsion. These acts were clearly immoral. Under Islam, Jews were constantly demeaned and treated as second class citizens. Check out the sources listed in Wikipedia. Regarding the Islamic persecutions they mention a few,

"Islam and Judaism have a complex relationship. Traditionally Jews and Christians living in Muslim lands, known as dhimmis, were allowed to practice their religions and to administer their internal affairs, but subject to certain conditions.[205] They had to pay the jizya (a per capita tax imposed on free adult non-Muslim males) to the Islamic state.[205] Dhimmis had an inferior status under Islamic rule. They had several social and legal disabilities such as prohibitions against bearing arms or giving testimony in courts in cases involving Muslims.[206] Many of the disabilities were highly symbolic. The one described by Bernard Lewis as "most degrading"[207] was the requirement of distinctive clothing, not found in the Qur'an or hadith but invented in early medieval Baghdad; its enforcement was highly erratic.[207] On the other hand, Jews rarely faced martyrdom or exile, or forced compulsion to change their religion, and they were mostly free in their choice of residence and profession.[208] Notable exceptions include the massacre of Jews and/or forcible conversion of some Jews by the rulers of the Almohad dynasty in Al-Andalus in the 12th century,[209] as well as in Islamic Persia,[210] and the forced confinement of Morrocan Jews to walled quarters known as mellahs beginning from the 15th century and especially in the early 19th century.[211]"

This would reveal that even under Muslim rule the Jews were discriminated against and so were other non-Muslims. Also, in Christian lands the Jews and Muslims were discriminated against. Thus, repeating Kant's morals, the Jews would have every right not to respect Muslim or Christian rights even though they do believe in G-D.

Just to recap everything that we have stated until now. Originally, the Bible tells us that people that did not believe in G-D acted immorally because they had no reason to act morally. Therefore, when the Bible discusses people that do not believe in G-D and how a person can act towards them, it is referring to an immoral person that acts with depravity and debauchery. Also, even a believer in G-D can act immorally, that has been seen in the 2000 years of Jewish exile culminating with the holocaust executed by Hitler in Germany.

What we see from all of this is that the Jewish commentators that discuss mistreating Gentiles are referring to the Gentiles that mistreat Jews or anyone else. According to the philosophy of Immanuel Kant this is an entirely moral and appropriate reaction. However, nowadays I do not think that these laws would apply in the same way. As we have disclosed, the person of the Bible that does not believe in G-D is a person that is immoral. The Bible does not disclose its feelings about a person that denies G-D's existence but is still moral and demands equality for all people. In my opinion, it seems like from the sources that I have quoted, that a person that does not believe in G-D, but is moral, should be treated morally and does not fall under the umbrella of an immoral idolater.

Therefore, my conclusion is that if a group of people condones immoral behavior towards another group, it would appear to be that the Bible and Rabbinic literature would say like Kant, that one treats them as they treat others. However, if a person is moral, regardless of whether he or she believes in G-D, they are to be treated morally and correctly, with love and compassion. The Rabbinic commentaries do not discuss mistreating a Gentile in general, but rather a Gentile that mistreats and oppresses Jews or other people in general. These people do not have to be treated morally since they treat others immorally. However, a Gentile that is moral must be treated with proper morals and a failure to do so would be considered a transgression against the Biblical commandments and Rabbinic tradition.

Here is a link to Kant's ideas of morals spelled out in the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Also, here is another link to a different page with more of Kant's ideas on more subjects like politics in the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.


Here are the Rishonim that holds like what I am saying.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rambam- All Things Under the Heavens- Yisodei Hatorah perek 4 halacha 1

In this section of the Rambam, he discusses the makeup of all things on Earth. He says,

ארבעה גופים הללו שהם אש ורוח ומים וארץ הם יסודות כל הנבראים למטה מן הרקיע. וכל שיהיה מאדם ומבהמה ועוף ורמש ודג וצמח ומתכת ואבנים טובות ומרגליות ושאר אבני בנין והרים וגושי עפר הכל גולמן מחובר מארבעה יסודות הללו. נמצאו כל הגופים שלמטה מן הרקיע חוץ מארבעה יסודות האלו מחוברים מגולם וצורה. וגולם שלהם מחובר מארבעה יסודות האלו. אבל כל אחד מארבעה היסודות אינו מחובר אלא מגולם וצורה בלבד:

"These four elements- fire, wind, water and earth - are the foundations of all the creations under the heavens. All things like Man, animals, birds, bugs, fish, plants, metals, precious stones, pearls, building materials, mountains, clods of earth, everything physical, is bound from these four elements. It is found that all bodies under the heavens, except for these four elements, consist of a combined form and shape and their shape consists of the four elements, but each of the four elements consists of just a combined shape and form."

In The Guide for the Perplexed (Section 1 Chapter 58) the Rambam uses the idea of the four elements to describe an understanding of G-D. He says,

"I would observe that, -- as has already been shown -God's existence is absolute, that it includes no composition, as will be proved, and that we comprehend only the fact that He exists, not His essence. Consequently it is a false assumption to hold that He has any positive attribute: for He does not possess existence in addition to His essence: it therefore cannot
be said that the one may be described as an attribute [of the other]; much less has He [in addition to His existence] a compound essence, consisting of two constituent elements to which the attribute could refer: still less has He accidents, which could be described by an attribute. Hence it is clear that He has no positive attribute whatever. The negative attributes, however, are those which are necessary to direct the mind to the truths which we must believe concerning God; for, on the one hand, they do not imply any plurality, and, on the other, they convey to man the highest possible knowledge of God; e.g., it has been established by proof that some being must exist besides those things which can be perceived by the senses, or apprehended by the mind; when we say of this being, that it exists, we mean that its non-existence is impossible. We then perceive that such a being is not, for instance, like the four elements, which are inanimate, and we therefore say that it is living, expressing thereby that it is not dead."

The four elements can be contrasted to G-D in the sense that G-D can be understood when compared to the four elements. These four elements make up all physical beings and the only way that we, according to the Rambam, can understand G-D is through what He is not. With this in mind, an understanding of all physical material is essential if we are to truly understand G-D.

Ramban- What is The Greatness of The Torah- Toras Hashem Temima perek 1 siman 4

The Ramban asks a very intriguing question. He has spent the first 3 simanim of his book describing how great the Torah is and how every revers the Torah. However, where does this reverence come from? What is it about the Torah that makes it so great? He says,

"We need to ask and explain what is this value and honor [everyone is showing the Torah]? What is this wisdom and greatness of the Torah? [Everything that it contains] seems obvious, even a student can read and know what it says. Also, even the nations of the world that treat it as an ancient text can learn it. Furthermore, they themselves can come up with civility and statutes that compare to the rules of the Bible and its laws."

The Ramban is pointing out the seemingly obvious morals that the Bible points out. It seems like most of the ideas contained within it are simplistic and easy to understand. However, if this is true then what is the greatness of the Torah that the three previous simanim talk about here.

It seems hard to tell what the specific features of the Bible are unique to Judaism. The specifics are obvious, but the overall idea of the Bible seems common. In the upcoming simanim the Ramban will discuss the uniqueness of the Bible from all other moral codes and books of law.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rambam The Rationalist

Apparently there has been some confusion going around about whether Rambam was a mystic or a rationalist. So other than the numerous amounts of times that the Rambam uses scientific knowledge in The Guide for the Perplexed to prove things and says explicitly that his scientific knowledge was greater than that of the sages of the talmud I am going to bring some proofs, from the people that quote the Rambam himself, that prove he is a rationalist. I think quoting a third party's opinion that is not backed up by sources would be disingenuous. So here we go:

First off, here is a great article about this topic that I thought I posted a link to at freelance kiruv maniacs blog, but for some reason the right link did not appear. Here it is: Here are some excerpts from the article that bring proofs to Rambam being a rationalist:

"As Isadore Twersky has shown, Maimonides was also not averse to introducing scientific knowledge into his formulations of Jewish law, not only 'to integrate science, to relate a scientific vocabulary and axiology to rabbinic law, but also to recognize its autonomy and not to superimpose it on the structure and fabric of the halakha [Jewish law].' (See Twersky, 'Aspects of Maimonidean Epistemology: Halakha and Science,' in Neusner et al., eds., From Ancient Israel to Modern Judaism.)

Recognizing the legitimacy of knowledge outside Judaism is one thing; allowing it to contradict positions articulated by the rabbis is another. In one of the sciences, namely astronomy, Maimonides allowed the more recent knowledge of the scientists to supersede that of the rabbis.

He first acknowledged this possibility in commenting on a famous incident recorded in the Talmud (Pesahim 94b) of the rabbinic sages preferring the opinion of Gentile scholars on an astronomical matter (Guide of the Perplexed, 2:8)."

and the next part of the essay:

"Later, commenting on astronomical distances recorded in rabbinic literature, he was even more explicit: 'Do not ask of me to show that everything they [the rabbis] have said concerning astronomical matters conforms to the way things really are. For at that time mathematics was imperfect. They did not speak about this as transmitters of dicta of the prophets, but rather because in those times they were men of knowledge in these fields or because they had heard these dicta from the men of knowledge who lived in those times' (Guide of the Perplexed, 3:14)

He thus concluded that 'whenever it is possible to interpret the words of an individual [rabbi] in such a manner that they conform to a being whose existence has been demonstrated'--that is, that they conform to the scientific truth, as in the case of astronomical distances--it is fitting to do so. But if they cannot be so interpreted, rabbinic statements should be regarded as only individual opinions, not the halakhah, and therefore may be rejected (Ibid).

Maimonides' view that contemporary astronomical knowledge was superior to that found in the Talmud and should be accepted even when it contradicted the views of the rabbis was revolutionary. That he appears to limit its applicability to astronomy should be considered together with his epistemological stance vis-a-vis celestial physics and metaphysics."

Read the article, it is really good. Again, the link is listed above and is the correct link.

Also, at this link Eric Grossman points out an interesting argument between the Rambam and the Ramban: He says,

"Rambam, according to the methodology he sets forth in the Guide II:25 looks to Reason to determine that magic cannot be true: if the Torah seems to suggest otherwise, we must be misreading scripture, for Torah cannot deny Truth. In response, Ramban does not deny Reason, but avers instead that reality trumps Reason: even if logic would suggest that augury cannot exist, experience tells us that it does. In the Ramban’s own words, “... we cannot deny what has been demonstrated before the eyes!” The argument between the sages is therefore not reason versus tradition or even rationalism verses mysticism, but rationalism versus empiricism: Do we trust our minds to deduce reality, or do we trust our senses to induce Truth?"

This argument clearly reveals that the Rambam looked to reason for answers. Clearly the work of a rationalist. If not, then why would he choose reason over all else?

There are more proofs, but why bring an exhaustive list. All I am trying to do is point people in the right direction. To reveal that Rambam is not a mystic and that he is, in fact, a rationalist.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ramban-Praise for The Torah From Psalms- Toras Hashem Temima perek 1 siman 3

The Ramban uses this siman as his final attempt to show how revered the Torah was among ancient Israel. He brings in quotes from Tehilim that reveal this idea. He says,

"Furthermore King David says in Tehilim (119:18) 'Unveil my eyes and I will perceive the wonders from your Torah' and (same source:34) 'Give me understanding and I will cherish your Torah' and (same source:96) "For every goal I see an end, but your commandment is very broad.' There are many pesukim that talk about this idea in the prophets and writings. They praise the Torah and say that it is more valuable and honored than all other things in the world, it is more important and it contains broader knowledge than all other wise ones and prophets."

The Ramban believes that it is important to point out how ancient Israel felt about the Torah. The reason for this is because Judaism is based on tradition. The reason we believe in Judaism is only because we believe in the validity of the Torah and the oral tradition. Therefore, anyone who wants to talk about the greatness of the Torah needs to focus on the tradition and lineage of the Torah. This is exactly what the Ramban does, he focuses on the ancient view of the Torah.

It is especially important to bring in the views of Tehilim on the Torah. The reason for this is because at the beginning of the second temple period there was a body known as the men of the great assembly. This assembly decided which books would be canonized into the Tanach. This shows that during King David's time, around 1000 BCE, the Jews believed the written and oral Torah contained more knowledge than anything in the world. It also shows that during the time of the men of the great assembly, around 400 BCE, this feeling had not changed. We can see from this that the Jewish perspective on the importance of the Torah had not changed even back then and it still has not changed.

I believe that this is why the Ramban brings in the words of King David from Tehilim. He thinks that it is important to point out that all generations of Jews believed that the Torah was and is the most important book around. Its importance to the Jewish people can reveal just how fascinating the Torah is and always has been.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Rambam-Characteristics of the Four Elements- Yisodei Hatorah perek 3 halacha 11

The Rambam discusses the four elements and how they relate to the rest of the world. He says,

ארבעה גופות האלו אינם בעלי נפש ואינם יודעים ולא מכירים אלא כגופים מתים. ויש לכל אחד ואחד מהם מנהג שאינו יודעו ולא משיגו ואינו יכול לשנותו. וזה שאמר דוד הללו את ה' מן הארץ תנינים וכל תהומות אש וברד שלג וקיטור. וביאור ענין הדברים הללוהו בני אדם מגבורותיו שתראו באש ובברד ובשאר ברואים שתראו למטה מן הרקיע שגבורתם תמיד ניכרת לקטן ולגדול:

"These four elements do not posses souls, knowledge, and they do not recognize (G-D), rather they are like dead bodies. Each one of them has a nature that it does not know or understand and it can not change its (nature). This that David said, 'The monsters praise G-D from the earth along with all the deeps: fire, hail, snow and smoke.' The subject of this praise is that man should give G-D praise through seeing G-D's strength in the fire, hail, etc that man can see these things that are below the heavens and their strength is always recognizable from the smallest to the greatest."

This Rambam does two things. First, it allows for a segway into the next perek where the Rambam delves into the four elements on a much deeper level. Secondly, the Rambam introduces us to the idea that man should look at nature around him and use that as a doorway to seeing the greatness of G-D. These elements that we are able to comprehend, namely the four elements that make up the world, allow man to be enthralled with the grandeur of G-D. The intricate details of how these four elements interact and co-exist reveal how great of a master planner G-D is. Also, the power of these four elements is astounding. The elements are the most readily available for man to see and that is why they are so useful for our goal of connecting to G-D.

Power of The Rabbis

In a book that I read occasionally that comments on the weekly parsha I found a very intriguing idea. The book is called Foundations and in the end of the section on parshas Emor it says the following:

"The Gemorra (Pesachim 30b; Yoma 31a; Yevamos 11a; etc) propounds that any Rabbinic ruling (tikun) carries the weight of a d'Oraisah. The Rambam (Yad Hachazaka, Hilchos Mamarim 2:9) elaborates as follows: Bais Din is empowered to prohibit what was once permitted, and their ruling stands for all generations. Similarly, they can permit what the Torah has forbidden, all according to the needs of the times."

Now, this confuses and befuddles me more than any other statement I have ever read by anyone. The first idea of the Rambam is taught to everyone and easily accepted. Of course the Rabbis have the right to protect us from transgressing a commandment from the Torah. A lot of the forbidden things that exist nowadays are prohibitions that were enacted by the Rabbis to protect us from transgressing a commandment from the Torah. However, the other idea, that Rabbis can detract from the Torah as they see necessary seems like an idea out of the Conservative or Reformed movement.

I think we can explain the Rambam to make him sound more mainstream. The Rambam doesn't say that the Rabbis have the power to get rid of the prohibition, rather he says the Rabbis are able to get rid of the prohibition according to the needs of the times. This means that the Rabbis can only proclaim a temporary lenience that will not last forever. This can be compared to the idea that women used to never cover their hair. Everyone is always shocked that no one used to cover their hair and only recently did people start covering their hair. I don't know if there was ever a Rabbinic proclamation for this, but we can see the example where allowing this commandment to be transgressed brought a lot of people back to orthodox Judaism. However, after a little while it brought many people to keep the commandments and, eventually, many people even started to cover their hair again.

It seems like, in this situation, the ends justified the means. At least according to how the Rambam understands the Rabbinic authority. The Torah is not a rigid document, but rather a guideline that should always be followed. These guidelines can only be changed by the people that have been entrusted with that responsibility, the Rabbis. Only the Rabbis can decide when it is appropriate to bend the rules in order to save the greater whole of Judaism.

I am unsure if the Rambam means that any generation can change the rules or only a generation that has a Sanhedrin. It is hard to assume that the Rabbis of this day and age, a splintered group, would have the ability to do this since there are hardly any consensuses on any topic. However, this does reveal that the Torah is not the unchanging and rigid force that most of us assume that it is and has always been.

Link to this Rambam here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Equality Before the Law

In the book The Biblical View of Man it discusses justice. In this section it mentions an idea that one would think should be obvious. However, in this day and age it seems like this simple idea does not get proper attention. It says,

"Equality before the law is also proclaimed in order to protect the rich from the results of the poor winning unjustified sympathy. Thus, parallel to 'you shall not subvert the rights of the needy in their disputes' (Exodus 23:6) there is also the commandment 'nor shall you show deference to a poor man in his dispute' (Leviticus 19:15)."

This seems to be something that escapes people nowadays. People are always ready to demonize the person with the upper hand. Don't get me wrong, I believe that the poor man's rights should be protected, like mentioned in Exodus. However, it seems like for some reason that people are considered undeserving unless they are the underdog. This article can illustrate my point:

"Conversation at a South Side fire station heated up when the topic turned to affirmative action. 'White firemen are mad because blacks get extra points added to their tests,' declared a white lieutenant perched on the bumper of a fire truck. If it were not for department policies that favor minorities, he said, he would have had his silver lieutenant's bars sooner.

The white officer did not get any sympathy from his black coworkers. 'These white folks are mad because they won't have as many jobs,' said the station's captain, who is black. 'What about all those years they were leaving us out, when the promotions were 100 percent white? Whites thought everything was fine and never said a word.'

True, there were horrible conditions back in the day where blacks were discriminated against, but did these white officers discriminate against those blacks? No, it was the whites of several years ago. However, this station captain thinks it is fine to "payback" the whites. That seems like revenge and not equality. Is that the American way? Is that justice?

Another situation happened recently at another fire station. The article can be found here: "WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court appeared divided Wednesday over whether a Connecticut city's decision to scrap a promotion exam for firefighters because too few minorities passed violates the civil rights of top-scoring white applicants.

As is often the case with closely fought social issues at the court, Justice Anthony Kennedy appeared to hold the key to the outcome. He seemed concerned that New Haven, Conn., scuttled the test after it learned that no African Americans and only two Hispanic firefighters were likely to be promoted based on the results."

These issues reveal a very telling problem in our society, discriminating against the majority in order to give an advantage to the minority. How is that fair? Shouldn't everyone be equal? Just because there has been discrimination against minorities in the past, does that mean that the majority should be discriminated against in the future? Is that how to fix the problem? Or maybe the real answer is to make everyone equal, that way there is no discrimination. This is what the Torah is telling us. That real justice discriminates against no one and treats all equally.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ramban- What The Torah Can Do For You- Toras Hashem Temima perek 1 siman 2

The Ramban continues his explanation of the greatness of the Torah. He explains,

"We learned in a braisa that Chizkiya bar Chiya said, The words of the Torah are like a crown on a head, a necklace on the neck, a soothing remedy to the heart, a salve for the eye, a compress for a wound, a root-drink for the stomach and it is a cure to the body. It is a crown for the head as it says in Mishlei (1:9) 'It is an ornament of grace for the head.' It is a necklace for the neck like it says in Mishlei (same source) 'It is a necklace for your neck.' It is a soothing remedy to the heart as it says in Tehilim (19:9) 'It gladdens the heart.' It is a salve for the eye as it says in tehilim (same source) 'It lightens up the eyes.' It is a compress for a wound as it says in Mishlei (3:8) 'It is a cure for your navel.' It is a root-drink for the stomach as it says in Mishlei (same source) 'It is marrow for your bones.' It is a general cure for the body as it says in Mishlei (4:22) 'And to all his flesh it is a cure.'"

The Ramban is bringing sources from the words of King David and King Solomon. Why? I think that it could be that since David and Solomon are two people that were well versed in the Torah and they were Kings, we can rely on what they say about the Torah to be true. Also, if someone is constantly being tested and, therefore, needs more guidance than everyone else, that person's advice should be heeded. This is especially true by David and Solomon since we see how successful they were and how righteous they were. If we hope to be even 1/100th as great as them we should listen to what they have to say about the Torah and how it guided them along the right path.

However, why would the Ramban choose this braisa to teach us the importance of the Torah? What are these references teaching us about the greatness of the Torah?

Crown on a head- the pasuk quoted was "It is an ornament of grace for your head." This could be referring to the development of the mind. The Torah is something that helps exercise the mind and hone it in such a way that it greatly benefits. This can be seen from the extensive works that have been made from the Torah like the Mishna, Gemorah, Midrashim and so on.

Necklace- the pasuk quoted was "A Necklace on your neck." This could refer to the idea that you can be proud of your Torah knowledge. A person that is rich with Torah knowledge is confident and happy. They feel confident in their connection to G-D. This is similar to someone who is wearing a nice piece of jewelry around their neck, they feel confident and proud of what is on their neck.

Soothing remedy to the heart- the pasuk quoted is "It gladdens the heart." The heart refers to emotions. The idea here seems to be that someone is cured of a problem when their heart is gladdened. The Torah is something that brings a person happiness. This is because a person who learns the Torah and believes in it feels a sense of purpose and completeness. The Torah teaches man that he is not the ultimate end, but rather there is something other than himself. This gladdens man since to think this is a world of pointlessness is depressing.

A salve for the eye- the pasuk for this is "It lightens up the eyes." Lightening up the eyes seems to refer to opening a persons knowledge up. The Torah allows a person to view the world around him in a different way. One is able to notcie all of the miracles and intricacies that are involved in the every day actions of nature. The Torah allows one to take in that knowledge and realize it is from a higher being.

A compress for a wound- The pasuk for this is "It is a cure for your navel." The pasuk tells us that this cure for a wound refers to an integral wound that is cured. The navel refers to the part of a person that is nourished while in the mother's womb. When a person comes into this world they are severed from their original nourishing source. The only way to reestablish a nourishing relationship is through the Torah. The nourishment of the Torah's knowledge can help a person sustain themselves. The main part of a person is the idea of belief and the Torah gives a person direction of this belief. However, one can believe in many things, so it is important to direct these beliefs in the proper direction.

A root-drink for the stomach- The pasuk for this is "It is marrow for your bones." The marrow for your bones, or the root-drink are things that help fix the inside of your body. The root-drink is something that cures a disease like gonorrhea and the marrow is what produces your bodies defences. This correlates to Torah, because Torah helps one protect their mind and body from detrimental things. Like pointed out before, a person needs to believe in something and that can either be pointless and harmful things or meaningful and helpful things.

A general cure for the body- The pasuk for this is "And to all his flesh it is a cure." This is an overview of everything that was stated previously. Also, this is coming to teach you the all encompassing nature of the Torah. Everything is found in the Torah, all the answers and all knowledge. If one were to search for things in the Torah, they will find the answer. An answer might be to learn science or math, but all proper direction is found in the Torah.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rambam- The Four Elements- Yisodei Hatorah perek 3 halacha 10

After discussing all of the Spheres of the Universe, the Rambam starts to focus on Earth. He says,

ברא האל למטה מגלגל הירח גולם אחד שאינו כגולם הגלגלים. וברא ארבע צורות לגולם זה ואינן כצורת הגלגלים ונקבע כל צורה וצורה במקצת גולם זה. צורה ראשונה צורת האש נתחברה במקצת גולם זה ונהיה משניהן גוף האש. וצורה שניה צורת הרוח נתחברה במקצתו ונהיה משניהן גוף הרוח. וצורה שלישית צורת המים נתחברה במקצתו ונהיה משניהם גוף המים. וצורה רביעית צורת הארץ נתחברה במקצתו ונהיה משניהם גוף הארץ. נמצא למטה מן הרקיע ארבעה גופין מוחלקין זה למעלה מזה וכל אחד ואחד מקיף את שלמטה ממנו מכל רוחותיו כמו גלגל. הגוף הראשון הסמוך לגלגל הירח הוא גוף האש. למטה ממנו גוף הרוח. למטה ממנו גוף המים. למטה ממנו גוף הארץ. ואין ביניהם מקום פנוי בלא גוף כלל:

"Below the Sphere of the moon, G-D created a shapeless mass that is not like any of the other Spheres. He also created four tzuras (forms) that this shapeless mass can manifest itself as. These tzuras are not like any of the other Spheres. Every tzura has a part of this shapeless mass. The first tzura is that of fire, that when the tzura of fire and part of this shapeless mass combine they create the physical manifestation of fire. The second tzura is wind, that when the tzura of wind and part of this shapeless mass combine they create the physical manifestation of wind. The third tzura is water, that when the tzura of water and part of this shapeless mass combine they form the physical manifestation of water. The fourth tzura is earth, that when the tzura of water and part of this shapeless mass combine they form the physical manifestation of earth.

We find that below the heavens there are four different physical manifestations that one is higher than the other (spiritually) and each one encompasses that which is lower than it in every direction, just like the Spheres. The physical manifestation that is closest to the Sphere of the moon is the physical manifestation of Fire. Just below that is the physical manifestation of Wind. Below this is the physical manifestation of Water. Finally, the lowest of all physical manifestations is Earth. There is no free space that is not occupied by one of these physical manifestations."

The Rambam here is describing what his society knew of science at the time. It is interesting to note that he says the Earth is made up of a shapeless mass and these four elements. We now know about the microscopic world and the periodical table of elements. These elements make up Fire, Wind, Water and Earth.

However, I do not think the Rambam is trying to give us a lesson in science, but rather a lesson in the meaning of the Torah. In The Guide for The Perplexed the Rambam explains how the Earth is made up of these four elements and the rest of the Universe is made up of a fifth element. He uses these ideas to explain the Torah and its meaning. However, right now I think the Rambam is trying to point out something much more significant to our every day lives. The point of describing every element is to tell us that man is composed of these elements. There is no worth to any of these elements in and of themselves, but rather through their unity to form man they become very significant. It is this makeup that allows man to have a physical body made of Earth and water, that breathes air and creates heat like fire. If one of these elements were missing then man could not exist. That is the uniqueness of our world, our ability to exist. Showing that it must be a creator that mixed all the right materials for our world to come into existence.

Ramban- Greatness of Torah In Perspective- Toras Hashem Temima

The Ramban at the beginning of his book on Jewish Ideology (Torahs Hashem Tamima) talks about the greatness of Torah through the medium of Psalms. He writes in the first perek and first siman,

"In Tehilim (19:8) it writes, 'The Torah (Laws) of G-D is perfect, restoring the soul, the testimony of G-D is trustworthy, it makes the simple wise." This follows the phrase, (19:2) 'The heavens enumerate the honor of Kel (G-D).' So it goes back and explains the praise of the Torah and says that the Torah enumerates the praise of G-D more than the heavens, sun, moon, stars and all other celestial bodies that were mentioned in the beginning of this chapter. King David begins with the heavens praise of Kel (G-D) because the heavens are continuously moving for all time and everything that moves needs something to move it and guide it. Thereby, the heavens teach us about the honor of Kel (G-D). This is telling us that G-D is all powerful since He is the cause of the movements with His power (Kel-means power so when He is referred to as Kel, that refers to the aspect of G-D's all powerful being). (The Ramban then goes into a discussion about the different Spheres which I will leave out)"

The Ramban is using Tehilim (Psalms) to illustrate a point here. He is telling us that based on the Torah, we can learn all about the greatness of G-D. He says that King David points this out by saying that the vast and powerful forces of the universe can praise G-D, but shadow in comparison to the way that the Torah is able to praise Him. Just thinking about the different forces and what it must take to move the planets and to create the stars exudes a type of awe and wonderment. However, this feeling pales in comparison to the type of feelings that the Torah is able to inspire.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tolerance and Ideas In Jewish Christian Relations

I just started reading this book that was originally written in German by Rabbi Dr. Leo Adler. The books name is The Biblical View Of Man. He was in the Mir yeshiva when it was in Lithuania and Shanghai. After the war, he became the Rabbi of the Jewish community in Basel, Switzerland. In his book is a letter from 1966 that he wrote in response to a request from Father Theodor Bogler, the editor of a Christian Journal, to contribute a Jewish interpretation of Christmas. His letter states that he did not feel comfortable contributing. However, the elegance and class with which the letter is written is remarkable. Also, I think it is very important for Jewish people to read as well as the Christians that read the letter when it was published in their journal. (The Journal was Liturgie und Monchtum). The letter states,

"Most honored Father,

I thank you for your friendly letter of May 24 and the invitation to contribute to the Christmas edition of Liturgie und Monchtum a piece on the Jewish attitude to the Christian festival of Christmas. Although I very much appreciate your friendly offer, I must reject it. If as you write, you heard of me through my booklet The Biblical View of Man, then if you reread the chapter on "The Transformed View of Man in Apocryphal Literature" you will understand that the idea of a G-D who reaches out to man, turning himself into man and flesh so as to reach man because man can no longer manage to reach G-D and, indeed, was never in his history capable of doing so - that this idea is of apocryphal origin and is diametrically opposed to the ancient biblical tradition of man being equipped with freedom and, thereby, with the strength and righteousness needed to find his way along the path to G-D.

Accordingly, the Christian interpretation of the Christmas festival is an impossible notion for Jewish theology, not only a question of a religion's attitude. Notwithstanding all the moral and ethical commonalities, which result both from Christianity's Jewish origin and from the recent renewed Christian attention to the Bible, we must not lose sight of that which divides us - which is nowhere more obvious than in connection with the Christmas festival, which for professing Christians has not only a symbolic meaning, but also a religious reality of the highest order.

Far be it from me, therefore, to oppose the certainty of Christian belief with that of Jewish belief, something which anyway would do you no service.

So I would ask you to leave it at that, with no other alternative in a situation in which each of us perceives G-D and seeks his own share in Him in his own way.

Yours, with friendly regards,
Rabbi Leo Adler"

There are a few things that are very important to point out about this letter. First of all, he points out that, according to Judaism, man is equipped with all of the tools to find his way on the path towards G-D. This means that in any situation a man finds himself there is always room to believe in G-D and follow his ways. No Jew should ever feel that it is an impossibility to connect to G-D, there is always a way, one just has to search.

Another major idea here is the tolerance that he shows towards the Christians. He reveals his ability to accept the Christian belief in G-D and shows that Jews do not need to force their belief on others. He thinks that any way that someone can connect to G-D, whether it be Judaism or Christianity, a person should follow his beliefs. There should be religious tolerance and brotherly love among all religions.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Rambam- The Intelligence of the Celestial Bodies- Yisodei Hatorah perek 3 halacha 9

The celestial bodies seem to be similar to the Earth that we live on. However, the Rambam points out that this type of thinking is a mistake. The celestial bodies have a higher existence than that of a rock or dust. He says,

כל הכוכבים והגלגלים כולן בעלי נפש ודעה והשכל הם. והם חיים ועומדים ומכירין את מי שאמר והיה העולם. כל אחד ואחד לפי גדלו ולפי מעלתו משבחים ומפארים ליוצרם כמו המלאכים. וכשם שמכירין הקב"ה כך מכירין את עצמן ומכירין את המלאכים שלמעלה מהן. ודעת הכוכבים והגלגלים מעוטה מדעת המלאכים וגדולה מדעת בני אדם:

"All of the celestial bodies and the Spheres have souls, knowledge and intelligence. They are living, standing (stay in their place) and they recognize the one who said 'The world should be. (G-D)' Each one [of the celestial bodies,] according to its greatness and [spiritual] height, praises and beautifies their shaper like the angels. Just like they recognize G-D so too they recognize themselves and they recognize the angels that are above them [in spirituality.] The knowledge the celestial bodies and the Spheres have is less than that of the angels, but greater than the knowledge of man."

The Rambam talks about how the celestial bodies have the ability to comprehend G-D. Also, they have spirituality and deductive reasoning. This is what he means by the fact that they have souls, knowledge and intelligence. The soul represents the spirituality of things that are physical. The knowledge is the understanding that a being can attain of G-D. Finally, the intelligence represents the ability to reason and come to logical conclusions.

The celestial bodies are compared to other beings that have these three qualities discussed in the previous paragraph. Those other beings are angels and humans. The celestial bodies, angels and humans are all on different levels of closeness to G-D. The closest beings to G-D are the angels, then the celestial bodies and, finally, man. The gauging of the closeness to G-D comes from the ability to understand G-D. Therefore, it is man that has the least understanding of G-D from these three types of beings. However, all three of these beings are able to praise G-D and glorify Him in their own unique way.