Maimonides (Rambam) Thirteen Rules
Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) also known as the Rambam, was a rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Spain, Morocco and Egypt during the Middle Ages. He was the preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher whose ideas also influenced the non-Jewish world. One of the central tenets of Maimonides's philosophy is that it is impossible for the truths arrived at by human intellect to contradict those revealed by God. Maimonides was embraced by later Jewish and many non-Jewish thinkers such as St. Thomas Aquinas. He was influenced by Aristotle and Averroes.
While works on Jewish law and ethics were initially met with opposition during his lifetime, he was posthumously acknowledged to be one of the foremost rabbinical philosophers in Jewish history. Today, his works and his views are considered a cornerstone of Jewish thought and his works (such as Guide for the Perplexed) should be seriously considered by all rational theists.
His works were written in Judao-Arabic. This below is therefore a translation of a translation, not of the original. I didn't do these translations myself, and further edited it for size and clarity to a non-Jewish readership. L. Loflin
The Thirteen Foundations of the Ramba'm
The 1st Foundation is to believe in the existence of the Creator, that there exists a Being that is complete in all ways and He is the cause of all else that exists. He is what sustains their existence and the existence of all that sustains them. It is inconceivable that He would not exist, for if He would not exist then all else would cease to exist as well, nothing would remain. This first foundation is taught to us in the statement, "I am HaShem your God..." (Shemos [Exodus] 20:2, Devarim [Deuteronomy] 5:6).
The 2nd Foundation is the unity of HaShem, that G-d is One. This does not mean one as in one of a pair nor one like a species [which encompasses many individuals] nor one as in one object that is made up of many elements nor as a single simple object which is infinitely divisible. Rather, He, HaShem is a unity unlike any other possible unity. This second foundation is referred to when [the Torah] says, "Hear Israel! HaShem is our God, HaShem is one". (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 6:4)
The 3rd Foundation is that He is not physical. This means to believe that the One whom we have mentioned is not a body and His powers are not physical. The concepts of physical bodies such as movement, rest, or existence in a particular place cannot be applied to Him. Such things cannot be part of His nature nor can they happen to Him. "To whom can you compare Me? To what am I equal? Says the Holy One." (Yeshaya [Isaiah] 40:25) If He would be a physical body He would be comparable to physical bodies.
In all places where the Holy Scriptures speak of Him in physical terms, as walking, standing, sitting, speaking and anything similar, it is always metaphorical, as our Sages of blessed memory said, "The Torah speaks in the language of men". This third foundation is referred to when [the Torah] says, "For you did not see any form" (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 4:15), in other words, you did not perceive him as being an entity with a form because, as we mentioned, He is not physical and His power is not physical.
The 4th Foundation is that He is first. This means to believe that the One was the absolute first and everything else in existence is not first relative to Him. There are many proofs to this in the Holy Scriptures. This fourth foundation is referred to in the verse, "That is the abode of God the first" (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 33:27).
The 5th Foundation is that it is proper to serve Him, to ascribe to Him greatness, to make known His greatness, and to fulfill His commandments. We may not do this to any lesser being, whether it be one of the angels, etc. For all these things have predetermined natures and have no authority or control over their actions.
Rather, such authority and control is God's. Similarly, it is not proper to serve them as intermediaries in order that they should bring us closer to God. Rather, to God Himself we must direct out thoughts, and abandon anything else. This fifth foundation is based in the prohibition against idolatry about which much of the Torah deals.
The 6th Foundation is prophecy. That is, that a person must know that there exists amongst mankind individuals who have very lofty qualities and great perfection; whose souls are prepared until their minds receive perfect intellect. There are numerous verses in the Torah which attest to the prophecy of the prophets.
The 7th Foundation is the prophecy of Moshe (Moses) our Teacher, may he rest in peace. This means to believe that he is the father of all the prophets, both those that preceded him and those who arose after him; all of them were below his level. He was the chosen one from all of Mankind, for he attained a greater knowledge of the Blessed One, more than any other man ever attained or ever will attain.
For he, may he rest in peace, rose up from the level of man to the level of the angels and gained the exalted status of an angel. There did not remain any screen that he did not tear and penetrate; nothing physical held him back. He was devoid of any flaw, big or small. His powers of imagination, the senses, and the perceptions were nullified; the power of desire was separated from him leaving him with pure intellect. It is for this reason that it is said on him that he could speak to HaShem, blessed be He, without the intermediary of angels.
The prophecy of Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our Teacher) is distinguished from the prophecies of all other prophets in four regards:
- Every other prophet received the word of HaShem through an intermediary, Moshe did not have an intermediary, as it says, "Mouth to mouth I speak to him." (BaMidbar [Numbers] 12:8)
- All other prophets only receive their prophecy either when they are sleeping, as we find in numerous places "in a dream at night" (B'Reishis [Genesis] 20:3) and "in a vision at night" (Iyov [Job] 33:15) and many other examples. Or by day when a trance has fallen over them which removes all their senses and leaves their mind open as in a dream.
Such a state [of prophecy] is called a vision or seeing and is referred to as "Divine visions" (Yechezkel [Ezekiel] 8:3). Moshe received his prophecy by day...as is testified to by HaShem, blessed be He, "and I will commune with you there" (Shemos [Exodus] 25:22). And as HaShem states, "If prophets are among you then I, HaShem, make myself known to them through a vision, in a dream I speak to him.
It is not so with my servant Moshe, he is trusted in all my house. I speak to him mouth to mouth, in a vision without puzzlement. He gazes at the image of God." (BaMidbar [Numbers] 12:6-8)
- When a prophet receives prophecy, even though it was only a vision and by means of an angel, he would nevertheless be weakened by it and his body would shudder.
He would be stricken with a very great fear almost to the point that his spirit would leave his body, as Daniel said when [the angel] Gavriel (Gabriel) spoke to him, "No strength remained in me; my robustness changed to pallor, and I could retain no strength... and I was in a deep sleep upon my face, and my face was to the ground".
And as he says later, "during the vision my joints shuddered and I could retain no strength". (Daniel 10:8-9, 16). But Moshe does not experience trembling from the speech of his fellow, Moshe did not tremble from the word even though it was face to face.
- All the [other] prophets were unable to receive prophecy when they willed it but only when HaShem, blessed be He, wished it. The prophet could wait days or years and prophecy would not come.
He could beseech HaShem, blessed be He, to make known to him a matter through prophecy and then he could wait for days or months for the prophecy, sometimes it would never come at all. Moshe [could prophesize] at any time he wished. As he said, "Wait and I will hear what HaShem has commanded you" (BaMidbar [Numbers] 9:8).
The 8th Foundation is that the Torah is from Heaven. This means that we must believe that this entire Torah, which was given to us from Moshe Our Teacher, may he rest in peace, is entirely from the mouth of the Almighty...for all of the Torah is from the mouth of the Almighty and it is all the Teaching of God (Toras HaShem), perfect, pure, holy, and true.
One who says that verses and stories like these [in the first group] were written by Moshe out of his own mind, behold! He is considered by our Sages and Prophets as a heretic and a perverter of the Torah more than all other heretics, for he believes that the Torah has a "heart" and a "shell" [i.e. an meaningful part and a meaningless part] and that these historical accounts and stories have no benefit and are from Moshe our Teacher, may he rest in peace. This is the meaning of [the category of heretic who believes that] "The Torah is not from Heaven" [which is listed in the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 10:1) as one who has no share in the World to Come].
All this is also true for the explanation of the Torah, which was also received from the mouth of the Almighty [the Oral Torah]. The manner in which we today make the Sukkah, Lulav, Shofar, Tzitzis, Tefillin, and other items is precisely the manner that God, blessed be He, instructed Moshe, who then instructed us and Moshe was reliable in relating [God's word]. The verse which teaches this foundation is "And Moshe said, 'Through this you shall know that God has sent me to do all these things, for they are not from my heart." (BaMidbar [Numbers] 16:28)
The 9th Foundation is the transcription, meaning that this Torah, and no other, was transcribed from the Creator and we may not add to it or remove from it, not in the Written Torah or in the Oral Torah, as it says, "...you shall not add to it, nor diminish from it" (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 13:1). Note that Rabbinic Judaism has an Oral Torah while the Saddecees rejected this.
The 10th Foundation is that God knows the actions of mankind and does not turn His eyes from them. "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth..." (B'Reishis (Genesis) 6:5), and "And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great..." (ibid. 18:20). These verses teach us this tenth foundation.
The 11th Foundation is that God reward those who obeys the commandments of the Torah and punishes one who violates its prohibitions. The greatest reward is the World to Come, and the greatest punishment is kareis (spiritual excision, "cutting off"). "And now, if you will forgive their sin; and if not, please remove me [from your book which you have written]" to which God responds, "...Whoever has sinned against me, him will I blot from my book" (Shemos (Exodus) 32:32-33). This indicates that He knows the servant and the sinner, to give reward to this one and punishment to the other.
The 12th Foundation is the time of the Moshiach (literally, the anointed) or Messiah. The Jewish Messiah is an exceptional human sent by G-d, not a man-god as in Christian salvation for sin theology. This means to believe and be certain that he will come, and not to think that he is late in coming.
One shouldn't set a time for him, and you should not make calculations in Scripture to determine the time of his coming. Included in this principle is that there is no king to the Jewish people except from the House of David and the seed of Solomon alone. Anyone who disagrees with the status of this family denies God and His prophets.
The 13th Foundation is the resurrection of the dead. The resurrection of the dead is a foundation from the foundations of Moshe (Moses) our Teacher. There is no faith and no connection to the Jewish religion for one who does not believe this. But the resurrection is only for the righteous alone, not the wicked. "The wicked, even during their lifetimes they are called dead; the righteous, even during their deaths they are called living."
When a man believes all of these foundations and his belief in them is clear, then he enters into the community of Israel, and it is commanded to love him, to have mercy upon him, and to behave towards him with all the manners of love and brotherhood which have been commanded upon a man towards his fellow by God, blessed be He.
And even if he sins greatly because of his desires and the strength of his baser nature, he is punished according to his sins but he still has a share in the World to Come and he is considered a sinning Jew. If one doesn't accept even one of these foundations, they have left the community and are called a a heretics.
Extracts from Eliezer C. Abrahamson Talmud Torah: Center for Basic Jewish Education
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