20. Rambam's 13 Principles of Faith Explained

To believe in the existence of the Creator: That means that there exists a Perfect Being from all points of view of reality. He is the Cause and support of all existence, and through Him, all beings are sustained. One may not doubt His Existence, because then everything else would vanish. Nothing could exist. Should we, however, imagine the disappearance of everything besides G-d, His Existence would not vanish, nor would it be affected in the least. Unity and lordship are exclusive attributes of His. His Name is G-d, for His existence is enough for Him, and He has enough by Himself and does not need the existence of anything. Whatever else exists of angels and higher spheres, and what they contain, and what is below them, all depend on Him, for their very existence. This first fundamental principle is taught by the Commandment: "I am the L-rd, your G-d."

The Unity of G-d: This means that we believe that He Who is the Cause of everything is One, not like one of a pair, or one of a kind, nor like an individual entity that can be subdivided into many parts. He is also not like an absolute body that is one collective entity, but that can be infinitely subdivided (i.e., air, water), but He, praised be He, is One as a Unity that does not have any unity like it. This second fundamental principle is taught by the verse "Hear, Israel the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is One."

The negation of any material nature of G-d: This means that we believe that this One, as we have mentioned, neither a material body, nor a force of a material body, and attributes of such material bodies do not apply to Him, i.e., movement. Rest, presence (at a limited place) not essentially and not accidentally. For this reason our sages have stated that neither composition nor separation can apply to G-d. They have said. "Above there is neither sitting nor standing, neither back, nor fatigue." This means no separation and no back, 'meaning composition. The Prophet says To whom will you compare Me, that I should be comparable?, says the Holy One." If He were a material body, He would be comparable to other bodies.

Whatever occurs in the Holy Scriptures that does use similes such as going, standing, speaking, etc. borrowed from human language, as our sages have said: The Torah is expressed in human language." Thus our sages have well covered this topic. This third fundamental principle is expressed by the verse "You have not seen any image," i.e., you have not perceived Him as any image, as He is neither a material body, nor a force inherent in a material body.

Eternity: This means that we believe that this mentioned One is the absolute First, and that every other being is not First as compared to Him, There are many proofs for this in the Holy Scriptures. This fourth fundamental principle is expressed in the verse: ''Master over time is the G-d of Eternity (absolute First)."

That it is it to serve Him only, praised be He, to proclaim His greatness and to mention it in worship of Him, and to obey His commandment. We are not to do so to whatever derives its existence from Him, angels, stars, spheres, elements, and whatever is composed of them. All these are subject to nature. Their activities are regulated and decided only by G-d alone. It is, therefore also wrong to serve them in the sense that they should be intermediaries to intervene for us with G-d. We must address our thoughts to Him done and leave out of consideration everything else. This fifth fundamental principle warns against idolatry, and the greater part of the Torah is concerned with it.

Prophecy: This means that one has to know that there are, among mankind individuals of extremely high virtue and great perfection whose souls are ready to perceive the absolute intelligence. After that the human intellect clings to the higher intellect and an emanation goes over from that to the human intellect. These are the prophets, that is prophecy, and this is the content of this fundamental principle. A full explanation of would be very lengthy, and it is not our intention here to prove every principle and to explain its full extent, as this would mean a symposium of all wisdom. We only mean to mention and enumerate them here. There are many verses in the Torah that testify to the prophecy of the prophets.

The Prophecy of our Teacher Moses: This means that we believe that he is the "father" of all prophets, both before him and after him. All are below his level. He was the chosen one of all mankind. He has reached more Divine Knowledge than any man who has lived or who will live, He elevated himself in fact front human nature to reach the level of angels, and he established himself on that level. No curtain was left that he did not tear and penetrate, and the material impediments did not hold him back. There was no deficiency left with him, neither great nor small, His imaginative and sensory capacities left him, and his volition withered, so that only the pure intellect remained. To this effect it is said that he spoke with G-d without the mediation of angels. It was my intention here to explain this exalted topic and to open the hidden meaning of the scriptural verses to show the meaning of from "mouth to mouth." and all other verses on this topic. Yet I have seen that these matters require the presentation of a great many proofs. This would in turn necessitate many expositions and preparatory explanations and similes... (I shall reserve all this, therefore, for a special work on this subject) ... I rather go back now to this seventh fundamental principle and state that the prophecy of our teacher Moses was on a plane different from that of the prophecy of all other prophets in four respects:

The first point is that G-d spoke to which ever prophet it might have been only indirectly, buy to Moses directly, as is said, "mouth to mouth I speak to him."

The second point is that to any other prophet prophecy came when he was asleep, as is often expressed ''in the dream of the night," " in a nightly vision," and many equivalent expressions, or else during day, when a deep sleep fell upon a man, so that all his senses were paralyzed and his thoughts were free, as in a dream. This is called "vision" and it is referred to as "in visions from G-d." But Moses war addressed in plain day from between the two cherubim, as G-d Himself testifies (Num. 12:6-8): "If there is a prophet among you, I, G-d, make Myself known to him in a vision, in a dream I talk to him. Not thus My servant Moses. He is trusted anywhere in My house. I speak to him mouth to mouth, in a clear vision, not in similes. He sees the nature of G-d."

The third point is that when the prophecy comes to a prophet, even though it be through a vision and by means of a messenger, his strength gives way and his physical power wither. He is overcome by a great fear, as if he were close to dying, as is said about Daniel, when Gabriel talked to him in a vision. He said 'No strength was left in me, my pride was converted in me to destruction, and I retained no strength," and "and I was sleeping deeply on my face, and my face was downward," and ''in a vision my figure was changed over on me." But with Moses it was not so. The Divine Speech came to him, yet neither fearfulness nor trembling befell him in any way, as is said (Ex. 33: 11): "And G-d spoke to Moses as a man speaks to his fellow-man." This means to say that, as man does not experience fearfulness when another man is talking to him, in the same way Moses did not experience fear when addressed by G-d, although it was "face to face," a reference to his strong affinity to the absolute intelligence, as previously mentioned.

The fourth point that all other prophets did not experience the spirit of prophecy at their own desire, but only at the will of G-d. A prophet may remain for days or even for years without prophesying. He may pray to G-d that He make known to him a flatter by prophecy, and he may wait for this prophecy days or years, or it may not come at all. There have been groups of prophets who prepared themselves and purified their thoughts, Elisha has done, as is written (Reg. II. 3:15): "And now call, fetch me a musician...", whereupon prophecy come over him. But it is not a necessity that prophecy come to him when he prepares for it. But our teacher Moses could say any time he wanted (Num. 9:8).''Stay here, and I shall hear what G-d shall order concerning you. Yet it is also said (Lev. 16:2): "Talk to your brother Aaron. He shall not enter the sanctuary at any time." This our sages interpret: Aaron may not enter, but Moses may enter.

The Divine Origin of the Torah: This means that we believe that this entire Torah, which was given through our teacher Moses, is totally the word of G-d. That means that all of it came to him from G-d in a manner which, by a borrowed human analogy, is called "speech." It is not further known how it has reached him, except that it did reach Moses, and that he acted like a scribe to whom one dictates, He thus wrote down all events of the days, the histories, and the laws. For this reason he is called ''engraver.'' There is no difference between "and the sons of Ham wereKush and Mitsrayim..." "and the name of his wife was Mehetabel..." and "Timna was a secondary wife..." on one hand, and "I am the Lord, your G-d..." "Hear 0 Israel..." on the other, as all is from G-d, all is the perfect Torah of G-d, pure, holy, and absolutely true. A person who would say that Moses himself is the author of these first mentioned verses and accounts is by Our sages and prophets considered a heretic of the most obvious and aggressive kind, because he distinguishes within the Torah between a nucleus and a shell, and he considers those historic facts and accounts without value, a personal addition by our teacher Moses. This is the case of denying the Divine origin of the Torah, which our sages have defined as stating that the whole Torah were Divine, except a certain verse which Moses had added on his own. For this case, it is said "the word of G-d he has despised," and it is worse than complete agnosticism. In reality, every word of Torah contains wisdom of many kinds and marvelous information for those who understand it, and their wisdom cannot be contained, as it is "longer than the earth measures and wider than the sea." All a man can do is to follow in the footsteps of David, the Anointed of the G-d of Jacob, who prayed (Psalms 119:18): "Open my eyes, so that I see the marvels of Your Torah!" The traditional explanation of the Torah is likewise the Word of G-d. As such we observe today the specifications for succah, lulah, shophar, tsitsit, tefillin, and other laws. These are the exact specifications that G-d told Moses, and that he has told us. And he was trustworthy in his mission. The verse that contains this fundamental principle is (Num. 16:28): "And Moses said: By this you will know that G-d has sent me to perform all these feats, but that they are not of my Own initiative."

Eternity: This means that this Torah has been made to remain forever, by G-d and not by any one else. One may neither add to it, nor take away from it, not to or from the written Torah, nor to or from the oral Torah, as is said: "You shall nor add to it, nor shall you take away from it." We have already explained what needs to be said on this principle in our introduction to this work.

G-d knows the doings of men and does not take his eyes from them. It is not like the idea of those who say, "G-d has forsaken the earth," but it is as the prophet says (Jeremiah 32:19): "Great in counsel and enormous in rule. Your eyes are open on all ways of men to repay to every individual according to his ways and to the fruit of his actions.

G-d rewards the one who observes the commandments of the Torah and punishes the one who transgresses its Laws. The great reward is the World-to-Come, and the strong punishment is annihilation. We have already treated this topic sufficiently. The verses that indicate this principle are (Ex. 32:33): "And now, if you forgive their sin (sc. it is well). But if not, erase me from the book that You have written. And G-d said to Moses: The one that sins against Me I erase from My book."

The days of the Messiah: This means to believe firmly that he will come. One should not figure that he is belated. If he delays, hope for his coming. One may not set a fixed time for him, nor is it right to extract arguments from verses to establish the time of his coining. Our sages say (Sanhedrin 97b): "May the spirit of those wither who calculate the final dates." One must also believe that the Messiah will be greater, more elated, and more honored than all kings that ever lived, according to what all the prophets have prophesied about him, from Moses, our teacher, to Malachi. One who doubts it or belittles his high level denies the Torah, as the Torah testifies about the Messiah expressly in the portion of Bileam and in the portion Atem Nitsavim. From there we conclude that the only king for Israel is from the house of David, a descendant of Solomon. Whoever disputes his dynasty denies G-d and the words of His prophets.

The Resurrection of the Dead. We have already explained it. If someone now believes all these fundamental principles and clarifies his faith in them, he is considered part of the collective unit of Israel, and it is commanded to love him and to have mercy on him, and to observe toward him all the Divine commandments to be observed between men, love and brotherhood. Even if he has done all sins he is capable of, due to desire and to his having been overpowered by his lower nature, he will be punished in accordance with his sins, but he has a part in the World-to-Come. He is among the sinners of Israel. But if someone fails with respect to one of these fundamental principles, then he has left the collective unit and is a heretic. He is termed "min" and "apikorus." He cuts at the roots. It is commendable to hate him and to bring about his destruction. Concerning him, it has been said (Psalms 139:21): "Those who hate You, G-d, I hate."

I have now gone to great length and have deviated from, the topic of my writing. I have done so because I have seen in it a support of faith because I have collected here important statements that are found scattered in great books. Know them, therefore, and succeed in them. Review them many times and think them over in extensive and concentrated contemplation. If your heart moves you and you think that you can assimilate the consents after one reading, or even after ten, then G-d knows that it has influenced you wrong. Do not hurry when studying this, because I have not written what has occurred to my mind. I have seen clear and true opinions, and untrue ones. I have understood what thereof one must believe, and I have brought documented proofs for every individual statement. Only G-d can grant me to fulfil what I set out to do and can guide me on the way. Now I return to the topic of the Perek.

(Mishna) Three kings and four laymen have no share in the World-to-Come. The three kings are: Jerobeam, Ahab, and Menashe. Rabbi Juda said Menashe has a part in the World-to-Come, as is said: (Chron. II, 23:13) "and he prayed to Him, and He listened to him, and He heard his prayer, and He returned him to Jerusalem to his kingdom, and Menashe knew that G-d is G-d." They answered him "He returned him to Jerusalem, but He did not return him to life in the World-to-Come." The four laymen are: Bileam, Doag, Mitophel, and Gehazh.

These are mentioned for their great degree of wisdom. One might be led to think that due to their great wisdom and the merit of the Torah, of which they had a far-reaching knowledge, they should have a share. Therefore we are given to understand that the fundamental principles of faith had been corrupted with these mentioned, and some of them had given place to doubt. For this reason hey were eliminated from the life of the World-to-Come. Bileam is also mentioned, and he is not a Jew. This is because the pious ones of the worldly nations have also a share in the World-to-Come. Thus they made known that Bileam was one of the wicked ones of the worldly nations and has no share in the World-to-Come.