Talmud Tuesdays - Session 115+ Maimonides and Mishneh Torah

From the Heritage Source Reader

Moses Maimonides (1135-1204 CE) was the dominant cultural figure within the Jewish world of his day and for centuries following his death. Forced to leave Spain as a youth, he wandered through North Africa and Palestine and eventually settled in Cairo where he was appointed house physician to the vizier of Egypt. Maimonides’ writings reflect a three-pronged intellectual commitment that was reflected in his daily life. As a physician, he devoted himself to patient care and authored scientific treatises on various medical problems. As a Jewish legal scholar, he composed a number of major halakhic (legal) works, of which his comprehensive code of Jewish law, called the Mishneh Torah (The Repetition of the Law), was the most important. As a philosopher, his masterpiece, The Guide of the Perplexed, originally written in Arabic, soon achieved a revered status within the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian intellectual worlds.

...Maimonides strove to realize the overall unity of all learning, a unity of the practical and theoretical, of divine law and Aristotelian philosophy. Attacking the simplistic and naive rationalism of earlier philosophers, Maimonides strove for a more honest and sophisticated confrontation between revelation and reason than that of Saadia before him. Judaism could not insulate itself from the larger intellectual community; it needed to project a profile of "a wise and understanding people" (Deut. 4:7). For Maimonides Jewish law was grounded in reason. Striving to comprehend that rationality with the aid of philosophy became for him the supreme religious ideal. Judaism’s spiritual maturation as a religious civilization was dependent, so he argued, on its mutual dialogue and interaction with the outside world.

Maimonides’ extensive correspondence provides another perspective on his personality, concerns, and convictions. The following selection offers rare glimpses of Maimonides the person via a letter to Samuel ibn Tibbon describing his exhausting professional and community responsibilities in Egypt…

Maimonides to Samuel ibn Tibbon

God knows that, in order to write this to you, I have escaped to a secluded spot, where people would not think to find me, sometimes leaning for support against the wall, sometimes lying down on account of my excessive weakness, for I have grown old and feeble.

But with respect to your wish to come here to me, I cannot but say how greatly your visit would delight me, for I truly long to commune with you, and would anticipate our meeting with even greater joy than you. Yet I must advise you not to expose yourself to the perils of the voyage, for, beyond seeing me, and my doing all I could to honour you, you would not derive any advantage from your visit. Do not expect to be able to confer with me on any scientific subject for even one hour, either by day or by night. For the following is my daily occupation:

I dwell at Mizr [Fostat] and the Sultan resides at Kahira [Cairo]; these two places are two Sabbath days’ journey distant from each other. My duties to the Sultan are very heavy. I am obliged to visit him every day, early in the morning; and when he or any of his children, or any of the inmates of his harem, are indisposed, I dare not quit Kahira, but must stay during the greater part of the day in the palace.

It also frequently happens that one or two royal officers fall sick, and I must attend to their healing. Hence, as a rule, I repair to Kahira very early in the day, and even if nothing unusual happens. I do not return to Mizr until the afternoon. Then I am almost dying with hunger. . . . I find the antechambers filled with people, both Jews and Gentiles, nobles and common people, judges and bailiffs, friends and foes—a mixed multitude who await the time of my return.

I dismount from my animal, wash my hands, go forth to my patients, and entreat them to bear with me while I partake of some slight refreshment, the only meal I take in the twenty-four hours. Then I go forth to attend to my patients, and write prescriptions and directions for their various ailments. Patients go in and out until nightfall, and sometimes even, I solemnly assure you, until two hours or more in the night. I converse with and prescribe for them while lying down from sheer fatigue; and when night falls, I am so exhausted that I can scarcely speak.

In consequence of this, no Israelite can have any private interview with me, except on the Sabbath. On that day the whole congregation, or at least the majority of the members, come to me after the morning service, when I instruct them as to their proceedings during the whole week; we study together a little until noon, when they depart. Some of them return, and read with me after the afternoon service until evening prayers. In this manner I spend that day. I have here related to you only a part of what you would see if you were to visit me.

Now, when you have completed for our brethren the translation you have commenced, I beg that you will come to me, but not with the hope of deriving any advantage from your visit as regards your studies; for my time is, as I have shown you, excessively occupied.

(מ) וּבַזְּמָן הַזֶּה תָּכְפוּ צָרוֹת יְתֵרוֹת, וְדָחֲקָה שָׁעָה אֶת הַכֹּל, וְאָבְדָה חָכְמַת חֲכָמֵינוּ, וּבִינַת נְבוֹנֵינוּ נִסְתַּתְּרָה; לְפִיכָּךְ אוֹתָן הַפֵּרוּשִׁין וְהַתְּשׁוּבוֹת וְהַהֲלָכוֹת שֶׁחִבְּרוּ הַגְּאוֹנִים, וְרָאוּ שְׁהֶם דְּבָרִים מְבֹאָרִים, נִתְקַשּׁוּ בְּיָמֵינוּ, וְאֵין מֵבִין עִנְיְנֵיהֶם כָּרָאוּי אֵלָא מְעַט בְּמִסְפָּר. וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר, הַתַּלְמוּד עַצְמוֹ: הַבַּבְלִי, וְהַיְּרוּשְׁלְמִי, וְסִפְרָא, וְסִפְרֵי, וְהַתּוֹסֶפְתּוֹת – שְׁהֶן צְרִיכִין דַּעַת רְחָבָה וְנֶפֶשׁ חֲכָמָה וּזְמָן אָרוּךְ, וְאַחַר כָּךְ יִוָּדַע מֵהֶן הַדֶּרֶךְ הַנְּכוֹחָה בַּדְּבָרִים הָאֲסוּרִין וְהַמֻּתָּרִין וּשְׁאָר דִּינֵי תּוֹרָה הֵיאַךְ הִיא.

(מא) וּמִפְּנֵי זֶה נָעַרְתִּי חָצְנִי, אֲנִי מֹשֶׁה בֵּירִבִּי מַיְמוֹן הַסְּפָרַדִּי, וְנִשְׁעַנְתִּי עַל הַצּוּר בָּרוּךְ הוּא, וּבִינוֹתִי בְּכָל אֵלּוּ הַסְּפָרִים; וְרָאִיתִי לְחַבַּר דְּבָרִים הַמִּתְבָּרְרִים מִכָּל אֵלּוּ הַחִבּוּרִין, בְּעִנְיַן הָאָסוּר וְהַמֻּתָּר וְהַטָּמֵא וְהַטָּהוֹר עִם שְׁאָר דִּינֵי תּוֹרָה: כֻּלָּן בְּלָשׁוֹן בְּרוּרָה וְדֶרֶךְ קְצָרָה, עַד שֶׁתְּהֶא תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה כֻּלָּהּ סְדוּרָה בְּפִי הַכֹּל – בְּלֹא קֻשְׁיָה וְלֹא פֵּרוּק, וְלֹא זֶה אוֹמֵר בְּכֹה וְזֶה אוֹמֵר בְּכֹה, אֵלָא דְּבָרִים בְּרוּרִים קְרוֹבִים נְכוֹנִים, עַל פִּי הַמִּשְׁפָּט אֲשֶׁר יִתְבָּאַר מִכָּל אֵלּוּ הַחִבּוּרִין וְהַפֵּרוּשִׁין הַנִּמְצָאִים מִיְּמוֹת רַבֵּנוּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ וְעַד עַכְשָׁו.

(מב) עַד שֶׁיִּהְיוּ כָּל הַדִּינִין גְּלוּיִין לַקָּטָן וְלַגָּדוֹל בְּדִין כָּל מִצְוָה וּמִצְוָה, וּבְדִין כָּל הַדְּבָרִים שֶׁתִּקְּנוּ חֲכָמִים וּנְבִיאִים: כְּלָלוֹ שֶׁלַּדָּבָר, כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יְהֶא אָדָם צָרִיךְ לְחִבּוּר אַחֵר בָּעוֹלָם בְּדִין מִדִּינֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל; אֵלָא יִהְיֶה חִבּוּר זֶה מְקַבֵּץ לְתוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה כֻּלָּהּ, עִם הַתַּקָּנוֹת וְהַמִּנְהָגוֹת וְהַגְּזֵרוֹת שֶׁנַּעֲשׂוּ מִיְּמוֹת מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ וְעַד חִבּוּר הַתַּלְמוּד, וּכְמוֹ שֶׁפֵּרְשׁוּ לָנוּ הַגְּאוֹנִים בְּכָל חִבּוּרֵיהֶן, שֶׁחִבְּרוּ אַחַר הַתַּלְמוּד. לְפִיכָּךְ קָרָאתִי שֵׁם חִבּוּר זֶה מִשְׁנֵה תּוֹרָה – לְפִי שֶׁאָדָם קוֹרֶא תּוֹרָה שֶׁבִּכְתָב תְּחִלָּה, וְאַחַר כָּךְ קוֹרֶא בְּזֶה, וְיוֹדֵעַ מִמֶּנּוּ תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה כֻּלָּהּ, וְאֵינוּ צָרִיךְ לִקְרוֹת סֵפֶר אַחֵר בֵּינֵיהֶם.

(40) At this time, we have been beset by additional difficulties, everyone feels [financial] pressure, the wisdom of our Sages has become lost, and the comprehension of our men of understanding has become hidden. Therefore, those explanations, laws, and replies which the Geonim composed and considered to be fully explained material have become difficult to grasp in our age, and only a select few comprehend these matters in the proper way. Needless to say, [there is confusion] with regard to the Talmud itself - both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds - the Sifra, the Sifre, and the Tosefta, for they require a breadth of knowledge, a spirit of wisdom, and much time, for appreciating the proper path regarding what is permitted and forbidden, and the other laws of the Torah.

(41) Therefore, I girded my loins - I, Moses, the son of Maimon, of Spain. I relied upon the Rock, blessed be He. I contemplated all these texts and sought to compose [a work which would include the conclusions] derived from all these texts regarding the forbidden and the permitted, the impure and the pure, and the remainder of the Torah's laws, all in clear and concise terms, so that the entire Oral Law could be organized in each person's mouth without questions or objections. Instead of [arguments], this one claiming such and another such, [this text will allow for] clear and correct statements based on the judgments that result from all the texts and explanations mentioned above, from the days of Rabbenu Hakadosh until the present.

(42) [This will make it possible] for all the laws to be revealed to both those of lesser stature and those of greater stature, regarding every single mitzvah, and also all the practices that were ordained by the Sages and the Prophets. To summarize: [The intent of this text is] that a person will not need another text at all with regard to any Jewish law. Rather, this text will be a compilation of the entire Oral Law, including also the ordinances, customs, and decrees that were enacted from the time of Moses, our teacher, until the completion of the Talmud, as were explained by the Geonim in the texts they composed after the Talmud. Therefore, I have called this text, Mishneh Torah ["the second to the Torah," with the intent that] a person should first study the Written Law, and then study this text and comprehend the entire Oral Law from it, without having to study any other text between the two.

(א) וראיתי לחלק חיבור זה לארבעה עשר ספרים:

(ב) ספר ראשון. אכלול בו כל המצוות שהן עיקר דת משה רבנו, וצריך אדם לידע אותם תחילת הכול – כגון ייחוד שמו ברוך הוא, ואיסור עבודה זרה. וקראתי שם ספר זה ספר המדע.

(ג) ספר שני. אכלול בו המצוות שהן תדירות, שנצטווינו בהם כדי לאהוב את המקום ולזוכרו תמיד – כגון קרית שמע, ותפילה, ותפילין, וברכות; ומילה בכלל, לפי שהיא אות בבשרנו להזכיר תמיד בשעה שאין שם לא תפילין ולא ציצית וכיוצא בהן. וקראתי שם ספר זה ספר אהבה.

(ד) ספר שלישי. אכלול בו כל המצוות שהן בזמנים ידועים – כגון שבת, ומועדות. וקראתי שם ספר זה ספר זמנים.

(ה) ספר רביעי. אכלול בו המצוות של בעילה – כגון קידושין וגירושין, וייבום וחליצה. וקראתי שם ספר זה ספר נשים.

(ו) ספר חמישי. אכלול בו מצוות של ביאות אסורות, ומצוות של מאכלות אסורות – לפי שבשני עניינים האלו קידשנו המקום והבדילנו מן האומות בעריות ובמאכלות אסורות, ובשניהם נאמר "ואבדיל אתכם מן העמים" (ויקרא כ, כו), "אשר הבדלתי אתכם מן העמים" (ויקרא כ,כד). וקראתי שם ספר זה ספר קדושה.

(ז) ספר שישי. אכלול בו מצוות שיתחייב אדם בהן מי שאסר עצמו בדברים – כגון שבועות ונדרים. וקראתי שם ספר זה ספר הפלאה.

(ח) ספר שביעי. אכלול בו מצוות שהם בזרע הארץ – כגון שמיטין ויובלות, ומעשרות ותרומות, ושאר מצוות הנכללים עימהן מעניינם. וקראתי שם ספר זה ספר זרעים.

(ט) ספר שמיני. אכלול בו מצוות שהן בבניין מקדש וקרבנות ציבור התמידין. וקראתי שם ספר זה ספר עבודה.

(י) ספר תשיעי. אכלול בו מצוות שהן בקרבנות היחיד. וקראתי שם ספר זה ספר קרבנות.

(יא) ספר עשירי. אכלול בו מצוות שהן בטהרות וטמאות. וקראתי שם ספר זה ספר טהרה.

(יב) ספר אחד עשר. אכלול בו מצוות שבין אדם לחברו, ויש בהם היזק תחילה בממון או בגוף. וקראתי שם ספר זה ספר נזקים.

(יג) ספר שנים עשר. אכלול בו מצוות מכירה וקנייה. וקראתי שם ספר זה ספר קניין.

(יד) ספר שלושה עשר. אכלול בו מצוות שבין אדם לחברו, בשאר דינין שאין בתחילתן היזק – כגון שומרין, ובעלי חובות, וטענות וכפירות. וקראתי שם ספר זה ספר משפטים.

(טו) ספר ארבעה עשר. אכלול בו מצוות שהן מסורין לסנהדרין – כגון מיתות בית דין, וקבלת עדות, ודין המלך ומלחמותיו. וקראתי שם ספר זה ספר שופטים.

(1) I have seen fit to divide this work into fourteen books.

(2) FIRST BOOK. I include in it all the precepts which constitute the very essence and principle of the faith taught by Moses, our teacher, and which it is necessary for one to know at the outset; as for example, acceptance of the unity of God, and the prohibition of idolatry. I have called this book: the Book of Knowledge.

(3) SECOND BOOK. I include in it all the precepts which are to be continuously observed, and which we have been bidden to keep, in order that we may always love God and be ever mindful of Him. Such precepts are the recital of the Shema and of prayers, the wearing of phylacteries, the recital of the blessings. Included in this group is the rite of Circumcision, because this is a sign in our flesh, serving as a constant reminder, even when phylacteries and fringes of the garment, etc. are not being worn. I have called this book: The Book of Love.

(4) THIRD BOOK. I include therein all the precepts to be fulfilled at stated periods, such as Sabbaths and Festivals. I have called this book: The Book of Seasons.

(5) FOURTH BOOK. I include therein the precepts that refer to marital relations, such as marriage and divorce, levirate marriage and the form of release from the obligation of a levirate marriage. I have called this book: The Book of Women.

(6) FIFTH BOOK. I include in it precepts having reference to illicit sexual unions, and those that relate to forbidden foods; because, in these two regards, the Omnipresent sanctified us and separated us from the nations, and of both classes of precepts it is said, “And I have set you apart from the peoples” (Lev. 20:26), “.... who have set you apart from the peoples” (Lev. 20:24). I have called this book: The Book of Holiness.

(7) SIXTH BOOK. I include in it precepts binding on one who has incurred an obligation by utterances, e.g., by taking oaths or making vows. I have called this book: The Book of Specific Utterance.

(8) SEVENTH BOOK. I include in it precepts relating to cultivation of the soil; such as Sabbatical years and Jubilees, tithes, heave-offerings, (priests’ dues of the crops), and other precepts connected with these and akin to them. I have called this book: The Book of Seeds.

(9) EIGHTH BOOK. I include therein precepts relating to the erection of the Sanctuary and to the regular public sacrifices. I have called this book: The Book of Service.

(10) NINTH BOOK. I include therein precepts that refer to sacrifices brought by private individuals. I have called this book: The Book of Sacrifices.

(11) TENTH BOOK. I include therein precepts relating to things ritually clean or unclean. I have called this book: The Book of Purity.

(12) ELEVENTH BOOK. I include therein precepts referring to civil relations which from the outset cause damage to property or injury to the person. I have called this book: The Book of Torts.

(13) TWELFTH BOOK. I include in it precepts referring to sales and (other modes of) acquisition. I have called this book: The Book of Acquisition.

(14) THIRTEENTH BOOK. I include in it precepts referring to civil relations in cases that do not, from the outset, cause damage, such as Bailments, Debts, Claims and Denials. I have called this book: The Book of Judgments.

(15) FOURTEENTH BOOK. I include therein precepts, the fulfilment of which is assigned to the Sanhedrin, as for example, infliction of capital punishment, reception of evidence, administration of the laws affecting the sovereign, and wars. I have called this book: The Book of Judges.

(א) יְסוֹד הַיְסוֹדוֹת וְעַמּוּד הַחָכְמוֹת לֵידַע שֶׁיֵּשׁ שָׁם מָצוּי רִאשׁוֹן. וְהוּא מַמְצִיא כָּל נִמְצָא. וְכָל הַנִּמְצָאִים מִשָּׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ וּמַה שֶּׁבֵּינֵיהֶם לֹא נִמְצְאוּ אֶלָּא מֵאֲמִתַּת הִמָּצְאוֹ:

(ב) וְאִם יַעֲלֶה עַל הַדַּעַת שֶׁהוּא אֵינוֹ מָצוּי אֵין דָּבָר אַחֵר יָכוֹל לְהִמָּצְאוֹת:

(ג) וְאִם יַעֲלֶה עַל הַדַּעַת שֶׁאֵין כָּל הַנִּמְצָאִים מִלְּבַדּוֹ מְצוּיִים הוּא לְבַדּוֹ יִהְיֶה מָצוּי. וְלֹא יִבָּטֵל הוּא לְבִטּוּלָם. שֶׁכָּל הַנִּמְצָאִים צְרִיכִין לוֹ וְהוּא בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֵינוֹ צָרִיךְ לָהֶם וְלֹא לְאֶחָד מֵהֶם. לְפִיכָךְ אֵין אֲמִתָּתוֹ כַּאֲמִתַּת אֶחָד מֵהֶם:

(ד) הוּא שֶׁהַנָּבִיא אוֹמֵר (ירמיה י י) "וַה' אֱלֹהִים אֱמֶת". הוּא לְבַדּוֹ הָאֱמֶת וְאֵין לְאַחֵר אֱמֶת כַּאֲמִתָּתוֹ. וְהוּא שֶׁהַתּוֹרָה אוֹמֶרֶת (דברים ד לה) "אֵין עוֹד מִלְּבַדּוֹ". כְּלוֹמַר אֵין שָׁם מָצוּי אֱמֶת מִלְּבַדּוֹ כְּמוֹתוֹ:

(ה) הַמָּצוּי הַזֶּה הוּא אֱלֹהֵי הָעוֹלָם אֲדוֹן כָּל הָאָרֶץ. וְהוּא הַמַּנְהִיג הַגַּלְגַּל בְּכֹחַ שֶׁאֵין לוֹ קֵץ וְתַכְלִית. בְּכֹחַ שֶׁאֵין לוֹ הֶפְסֵק. שֶׁהַגַּלְגַּל סוֹבֵב תָּמִיד וְאִי אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיִּסֹּב בְּלֹא מְסַבֵּב. וְהוּא בָּרוּךְ הוּא הַמְסַבֵּב אוֹתוֹ בְּלֹא יָד וּבְלֹא גּוּף:

(ו) וִידִיעַת דָּבָר זֶה מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כ ב) "אָנֹכִי ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ". וְכָל הַמַּעֲלֶה עַל דַּעְתּוֹ שֶׁיֵּשׁ שָׁם אֱלוֹהַּ אַחֵר חוּץ מִזֶּה עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כ ג) "לֹא יִהְיֶה לְךָ אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים עַל פָּנָי". וְכוֹפֵר בָּעִקָּר שֶׁזֶּהוּ הָעִקָּר הַגָּדוֹל שֶׁהַכּל תָּלוּי בּוֹ:

(ז) אֱלוֹהַּ זֶה אֶחָד הוּא וְאֵינוֹ שְׁנַיִם וְלֹא יֶתֶר עַל שְׁנַיִם. אֶלָּא אֶחָד. שֶׁאֵין כְּיִחוּדוֹ אֶחָד מִן הָאֲחָדִים הַנִּמְצָאִים בָּעוֹלָם. לֹא אֶחָד כְּמִין שֶׁהוּא כּוֹלֵל אֲחָדִים הַרְבֵּה. וְלֹא אֶחָד כְּגוּף שֶׁהוּא נֶחְלָק לְמַחְלָקוֹת וְלִקְצָווֹת. אֶלָּא יִחוּד שֶׁאֵין יִחוּד אַחֵר כְּמוֹתוֹ בָּעוֹלָם. אִלּוּ הָיוּ אֱלֹהוּת הַרְבֵּה הָיוּ גּוּפִין וּגְוִיּוֹת. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין הַנִּמְנִים הַשָּׁוִין בִּמְצִיאוּתָן נִפְרָדִין זֶה מִזֶּה אֶלָּא בִּמְאֹרָעִין שֶׁיֶּאֶרְעוּ בַּגּוּפוֹת וְהַגְּוִיּוֹת. וְאִלּוּ הָיָה הַיּוֹצֵר גּוּף וּגְוִיָּה הָיָה לוֹ קֵץ וְתַכְלִית שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר לִהְיוֹת גּוּף שֶׁאֵין לוֹ קֵץ. וְכָל שֶׁיֵּשׁ לְגוּפוֹ קֵץ וְתַכְלִית יֵשׁ לְכֹחוֹ קֵץ וָסוֹף. וֵאלֹהֵינוּ בָּרוּךְ שְׁמוֹ הוֹאִיל וְכֹחוֹ אֵין לוֹ קֵץ וְאֵינוֹ פּוֹסֵק שֶׁהֲרֵי הַגַּלְגַּל סוֹבֵב תָּמִיד. אֵין כֹּחוֹ כֹּחַ גּוּף. וְהוֹאִיל וְאֵינוֹ גּוּף לֹא יֶאֶרְעוּ לוֹ מְאֹרְעוֹת הַגּוּפוֹת כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּהֵא נֶחְלָק וְנִפְרָד מֵאַחֵר. לְפִיכָךְ אִי אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיִּהְיֶה אֶלָּא אֶחָד. וִידִיעַת דָּבָר זֶה מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים ו ד) "ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ ה' אֶחָד":

(ח) הֲרֵי מְפֹרָשׁ בַּתּוֹרָה וּבַנְּבִיאִים שֶׁאֵין הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא גּוּף וּגְוִיָּה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (יהושע ב יא) "כִּי ה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶם הוּא אֱלֹהִים בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל וְעַל הָאָרֶץ מִתָּחַת". וְהַגּוּף לֹא יִהְיֶה בִּשְׁנֵי מְקוֹמוֹת. וְנֶאֱמַר (דברים ד טו) "כִּי לֹא רְאִיתֶם כָּל תְּמוּנָה". וְנֶאֱמַר (ישעיה מ כה) "וְאֶל מִי תְדַמְּיוּנִי וְאֶשְׁוֶה". וְאִלּוּ הָיָה גּוּף הָיָה דּוֹמֶה לִשְׁאָר גּוּפִים:

(ט) אִם כֵּן מַהוּ זֶה שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה "וְתַחַת רַגְלָיו". (שמות לא יח) "כְּתוּבִים בְּאֶצְבַּע אֱלֹהִים". "יַד ה'". "עֵינֵי ה'". "אָזְנֵי ה'". וְכַיּוֹצֵא בִּדְבָרִים הָאֵלּוּ. הַכּל לְפִי דַּעְתָּן שֶׁל בְּנֵי אָדָם הוּא שֶׁאֵינָן מַכִּירִין אֶלָּא (הַנּוֹפוֹת) [הַגּוּפוֹת] וְדִבְּרָה תּוֹרָה כִּלְשׁוֹן בְּנֵי אָדָם. וְהַכּל כִּנּוּיִים הֵן. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים לב מא) "אִם שַׁנּוֹתִי בְּרַק חַרְבִּי". וְכִי חֶרֶב יֵשׁ לוֹ וּבְחֶרֶב הוּא הוֹרֵג אֶלָּא מָשָׁל וְהַכּל מָשָׁל. רְאָיָה לַדָּבָר שֶׁנָּבִיא אֶחָד אוֹמֵר שֶׁרָאָה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא (דניאל ז ט) "לְבוּשֵׁיִהּ כִּתְלַג חִוֵּר". וְאֶחָד רָאָהוּ (ישעיה סג א) "חֲמוּץ בְּגָדִים מִבָּצְרָה". משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ עַצְמוֹ רָאָהוּ עַל הַיָּם כְּגִבּוֹר עוֹשֶׂה מִלְחָמָה. וּבְסִינַי כִּשְׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר עָטוּף. לוֹמַר שֶׁאֵין לוֹ דְּמוּת וְצוּרָה אֶלָּא הַכּל בְּמַרְאֵה הַנְּבוּאָה וּבְמַחֲזֶה. וַאֲמִתַּת הַדָּבָר אֵין דַּעְתּוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם מֵבִין וְלֹא יְכוֹלָה לְהַשִּׂיגוֹ וּלְחָקְרוֹ. וְזֶה שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב (איוב יא ז) "הַחֵקֶר אֱלוֹהַּ תִּמְצָא אִם עַד תַּכְלִית שַׁדַּי תִּמְצָא":

(י) מַהוּ זֶה שֶׁבִּקֵּשׁ משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ לְהַשִּׂיג כְּשֶׁאָמַר (שמות לג יח) "הַרְאֵנִי נָא אֶת כְּבֹדֶךָ". בִּקֵּשׁ לֵידַע אֲמִתַּת הִמָּצְאוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עַד שֶׁיִּהְיֶה יָדוּעַ בְּלִבּוֹ כְּמוֹ יְדִיעַת אֶחָד מִן הָאֲנָשִׁים שֶׁרָאָה פָּנָיו וְנֶחְקְקָה צוּרָתוֹ בְּלִבּוֹ שֶׁנִּמְצָא אוֹתוֹ הָאִישׁ נִפְרָד בְּדַעְתּוֹ מִשְּׁאָר הָאֲנָשִׁים. כָּךְ בִּקֵּשׁ משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ לִהְיוֹת מְצִיאוּת הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא נִפְרֶדֶת בְּלִבּוֹ מִשְּׁאָר הַנִּמְצָאִים עַד שֶׁיֵּדַע אֲמִתַּת הִמָּצְאוֹ כַּאֲשֶׁר הִיא. וֶהֱשִׁיבוֹ בָּרוּךְ הוּא שֶׁאֵין כֹּחַ בְּדַעַת הָאָדָם הַחַי שֶׁהוּא מְחֻבָּר מִגּוּף וְנֶפֶשׁ לְהַשִּׂיג אֲמִתַּת דָּבָר זֶה עַל בֻּרְיוֹ. וְהוֹדִיעוֹ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַה שֶּׁלֹּא יָדַע אָדָם לְפָנָיו וְלֹא יֵדַע לְאַחֲרָיו. עַד שֶׁהִשִּׂיג מֵאֲמִתַּת הִמָּצְאוֹ דָּבָר שֶׁנִּפְרָד הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בְּדַעְתּוֹ מִשְּׁאָר הַנִּמְצָאִים. כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּפָּרֵד אֶחָד מִן הָאֲנָשִׁים שֶׁרָאָה אֲחוֹרָיו וְהִשִּׂיג כָּל גּוּפוֹ וּמַלְבּוּשׁוֹ בְּדַעְתּוֹ מִשְּׁאָר גּוּפֵי הָאֲנָשִׁים. וְעַל דָּבָר זֶה רָמַז הַכָּתוּב וְאָמַר (שמות לג כג) "וְרָאִיתָ אֶת אֲחֹרָי וּפָנַי לֹא יֵרָאוּ":

(יא) וְכֵיוָן שֶׁנִּתְבָּרֵר שֶׁאֵינוֹ גּוּף וּגְוִיָּה יִתְבָּרֵר שֶׁלֹּא יֶאֱרַע לוֹ אֶחָד מִמְּאֹרְעוֹת הַגּוּפוֹת. לֹא חִבּוּר וְלֹא פֵּרוּד. לֹא מָקוֹם וְלֹא מִדָּה. לֹא עֲלִיָּה וְלֹא יְרִידָה. וְלֹא יָמִין וְלֹא שְׂמֹאל. וְלֹא פָּנִים וְלֹא אָחוֹר. וְלֹא יְשִׁיבָה וְלֹא עֲמִידָה. וְאֵינוֹ מָצוּי בִּזְמַן עַד שֶׁיִּהְיֶה לוֹ רֵאשִׁית וְאַחֲרִית וּמִנְיַן שָׁנִים. וְאֵינוֹ מִשְׁתַּנֶּה שֶׁאֵין לוֹ דָּבָר שֶׁיִּגְרֹם לוֹ שִׁנּוּי. וְאֵין לוֹ לֹא מָוֶת וְלֹא חַיִּים כְּחַיֵּי הַגּוּף הַחַי. וְלֹא סִכְלוּת וְלֹא חָכְמָה כְּחָכְמַת הָאִישׁ הֶחָכָם. לֹא שֵׁנָה וְלֹא הֲקִיצָה. וְלֹא כַּעַס וְלֹא שְׂחוֹק וְלֹא שִׂמְחָה וְלֹא עַצְבוּת. וְלֹא שְׁתִיקָה וְלֹא דִּבּוּר כְּדִבּוּר בְּנֵי אָדָם. וְכָךְ אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים אֵין לְמַעְלָה לֹא יְשִׁיבָה וְלֹא עֲמִידָה וְלֹא עֹרֶף וְלֹא עִפּוּי:

(יב) וְהוֹאִיל וְהַדָּבָר כֵּן הוּא. כָּל הַדְּבָרִים הַלָּלוּ וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן שֶׁנֶּאֶמְרוּ בַּתּוֹרָה וּבְדִבְרֵי נְבִיאִים הַכּל מָשָׁל וּמְלִיצָה הֵן. כְּמוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהילים ב ד) "יוֹשֵׁב בַּשָּׁמַיִם יִשְׂחָק". (דברים לב כא) "כִּעֲסוּנִי בְּהַבְלֵיהֶם". (דברים כח סג) "כַּאֲשֶׁר שָׂשׂ ה'" וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן. עַל הַכּל אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים דִּבְּרָה תּוֹרָה כִּלְשׁוֹן בְּנֵי אָדָם. וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר (ירמיה ז יט) "הַאֹתִי הֵם מַכְעִסִים". הֲרֵי הוּא אוֹמֵר (מלאכי ג ו) "אֲנִי ה' לֹא שָׁנִיתִי". וְאִלּוּ הָיָה פְּעָמִים כּוֹעֵס וּפְעָמִים שָׂמֵחַ הָיָה מִשְׁתַּנֶּה. וְכָל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלּוּ אֵינָן מְצוּיִין אֶלָּא לַגּוּפִים הָאֲפֵלִים הַשְּׁפָלִים שׁוֹכְנֵי בָּתֵּי חֹמֶר אֲשֶׁר בֶּעָפָר יְסוֹדָם אֲבָל הוּא בָּרוּךְ הוּא יִתְבָּרַךְ וְיִתְרוֹמַם עַל כָּל זֶה:

(1) The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a Primary Being who brought into being all existence. All the beings of the heavens, the earth, and what is between them came into existence only from the truth of His being.

(2) If one would imagine that He does not exist, no other being could possibly exist.

(3) If one would imagine that none of the entities aside from Him exist, He alone would continue to exist, and the nullification of their [existence] would not nullify His existence, because all the [other] entities require Him and He, blessed be He, does not require them nor any one of them. Therefore, the truth of His [being] does not resemble the truth of any of their [beings].

(4) This is implied by the prophet's statement [Jeremiah 10:10]: "And God, your Lord, is true" - i.e., He alone is true and no other entity possesses truth that compares to His truth. This is what [is meant by] the Torah's statement [Deuteronomy 4:35]: "There is nothing else aside from Him" - i.e., aside from Him, there is no true existence like His.

(5) This entity is the God of the world and the Lord of the entire earth. He controls the sphere with infinite and unbounded power. This power [continues] without interruption, because the sphere is constantly revolving, and it is impossible for it to revolve without someone causing it to revolve. [That one is] He, blessed be He, who causes it to revolve without a hand or any [other] corporeal dimension.

(6) The knowledge of this concept is a positive commandment, as [implied by Exodus 20:2]: "I am God, your Lord...."
Anyone who presumes that there is another god transgresses a negative commandment, as [Exodus 20:3] states: "You shall have no other gods before Me" and denies a fundamental principle [of faith], because this is the great principle [of faith] upon which all depends.

(7) This God is one. He is not two or more, but one, unified in a manner which [surpasses] any unity that is found in the world; i.e., He is not one in the manner of a general category which includes many individual entities, nor one in the way that the body is divided into different portions and dimensions. Rather, He is unified, and there exists no unity similar to His in this world.
If there were many gods, they would have body and form, because like entities are separated from each other only through the circumstances associated with body and form.
Were the Creator to have body and form, He would have limitation and definition, because it is impossible for a body not to be limited. And any entity which itself is limited and defined [possesses] only limited and defined power. Since our God, blessed be His name, possesses unlimited power, as evidenced by the continuous revolution of the sphere, we see that His power is not the power of a body. Since He is not a body, the circumstances associated with bodies that produce division and separation are not relevant to Him. Therefore, it is impossible for Him to be anything other than one.
The knowledge of this concept fulfills a positive commandment, as [implied by Deuteronomy 6:4]: "[Hear, Israel,] God is our Lord, God is one."

(8) Behold, it is explicitly stated in the Torah and [the works of] the prophets that the Holy One, blessed be He, is not [confined to] a body or physical form, as [Deuteronomy 4:39, Joshua 2:11] states: "Because God, your Lord, is the Lord in the heavens above and the earth below," and a body cannot exist in two places [simultaneously].
Also, [Deuteronomy 4:15] states: "For you did not see any image," and [Isaiah 40:25] states: "To whom can you liken Me, with whom I will be equal." Were He [confined to] a body, He would resemble other bodies.

(9) If so, what is the meaning of the expressions employed by the Torah: "Below His feet" [Exodus 24:10], "Written by the finger of God" [ibid. 31:18], "God's hand" [ibid. 9:3], "God's eyes" [Genesis 38:7], "God's ears" [Numbers 11:1], and the like?
All these [expressions were used] to relate to human thought processes which know only corporeal imagery, for the Torah speaks in the language of man. They are only descriptive terms, as [apparent from Deuteronomy 32:41]: "I will whet My lightning sword." Does He have a sword? Does He need a sword to kill? Rather, this is metaphoric imagery. [Similarly,] all [such expressions] are metaphoric imagery.
A proof of this concept: One prophet says that he saw the Holy One, blessed be He, "clothed in snow white" [Daniel 7:9], and another envisioned Him [coming] "with crimson garments from Batzra" [Isaiah 63:1]. Moses, our teacher, himself envisioned Him at the [Red] Sea as a mighty man, waging war, and, at Mount Sinai, [saw Him] as the leader of a congregation, wrapped [in a tallit].
This shows that He has no image or form. All these are merely expressions of prophetic vision and imagery and the truth of this concept cannot be grasped or comprehended by human thought. This is what the verse [Job 11:7] states: "Can you find the comprehension of God? Can you find the ultimate bounds of the Almighty?"

(10) [If so,] what did Moses, our teacher, want to comprehend when he requested: "Please show me Your glory" [Exodus 33:18]?
He asked to know the truth of the existence of the Holy One, blessed be He, to the extent that it could be internalized within his mind, as one knows a particular person whose face he saw and whose image has been engraved within one's heart. Thus, this person's [identity] is distinguished within one's mind from [that of] other men. Similarly, Moses, our teacher, asked that the existence of the Holy One, blessed be He, be distinguished in his mind from the existence of other entities, to the extent that he would know the truth of His existence as it is [in its own right].
He, blessed be He, replied to him that it is not within the potential of a living man, [a creature of] body and soul, to comprehend this matter in its entirety. [Nevertheless,] He, blessed be He, revealed to [Moses] matters which no other man had known before him - nor would ever know afterward - until he was able to comprehend [enough] from the truth of His existence, for the Holy One, blessed be He, to be distinguished in his mind from other entities, as a person is distinguished from other men when one sees his back and knows the structure of his body and [the manner in which] he is clothed.
This is alluded to by the verse [Exodus 33:23]: "You shall see My back, but you shall not see My face."

(11) Since it has been clarified that He does not have a body or corporeal form, it is also clear that none of the functions of the body are appropriate to Him: neither connection nor separation, neither place nor measure, neither ascent nor descent, neither right nor left, neither front nor back, neither standing nor sitting.
He is not found within time, so that He would possess a beginning, an end, or age. He does not change, for there is nothing that can cause Him to change.
[The concept of] death is not applicable to Him, nor is [that of] life within the context of physical life. [The concept of] foolishness is not applicable to Him, nor is [that of] wisdom in terms of human wisdom.
Neither sleep nor waking, neither anger nor laughter, neither joy nor sadness, neither silence nor speech in the human understanding of speech [are appropriate terms with which to describe Him]. Our Sages declared: "Above, there is no sitting or standing, separation or connection."

(12) Since this is so, all such [descriptions] and the like which are related in the Torah and the words of the Prophets - all these are metaphors and imagery. [For example,] "He who sits in the heavens shall laugh" [Psalms 2:4], "They angered Me with their emptiness" [Deuteronomy 32:21], and "As God rejoiced" [ibid. 28:63]. With regard to all such statements, our Sages said: "The Torah speaks in the language of man."
This is [borne out by the rhetorical question (Jeremiah 7:19 :] "Are they enraging Me?" Behold, [Malachi 3:6] states: "I, God, have not changed." Now were He to at times be enraged and at times be happy, He would change. Rather, all these matters are found only with regard to the dark and low bodies, those who dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is dust. In contrast, He, blessed be He, is elevated and exalted above all this.