Monday, January 23, 2012

Rambam: "Knowing G - d"


The Rambam (Maimonides, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, 1135 – 1204) lists in his “Mishna Torah” various basic Jewish principles. Already in the first paragraph of the Mishna Torah Tractate “Sefer Mada”, the Rambam states that the fundamental Jewish concept is to “know” G – d. “To know that G – d exists. To know that G – d is the creator of the universe and any existence. There was no one before Him and before the creation process, only G – d alone existed and nothing or nobody else". 

The question comes up why the Rambam uses the word “to know (Hebrew: YADA) G – d” and not “to believe in G – d”. 

First, man has to accept that there is a G – d. He must internalize that G – d is the creator of all existence. As soon as a person does accept the existence of G – d, he can continue to believe in Him and start doing Mitzvot. However, in Judaism it is extremely important to KNOW that there is a G – d but belief is not a condition. For instance, a Jew can accept that G – d exists but he doesn’t have to believe. Nevertheless, by acknowledging G – d, this particular Jew already follows the most basic principle in Judaism.


  1. In the Torah, the Verse of Shema has a large "Ayin" and "Daled" which means witness. How can we be a witness to Hashem's oneness? We have to reverse the letters to spell "Da" Knowledge. We have to know that Hashem is our G-d and that he is one and then we will be a witness to the world that "vahey Hashem Echad U'Shmo Echad"

    Chabad is the #1 topic on your blog so you should know then.

    What is Chabad Chassidus? Its Shema Yisroel. All Chabad Chassidus explains is Shema Yisroel. Hashem is one.

  2. B"H

    Thank you very much for your further explanation but I want to add one thing:

    I may be writing a lot about Chabad but I don't see Chabad as the number 1 subject on the blog. :-)

  3. Intriguing ... but now from a much less cultured person: How can it be just good to acknowledge G-d without the belief/faith ?
    Don't we need the belief to fear, honour and respect ?

  4. B"H

    As the Rambam said, first we have to have in our minds that there is a G - d who created the whole universe. We have to acknowledge him and say, there is a G - d. Otherwise it would be ignorance not to do so or even idol - worship if we claimed that the sun is the creator of everything. As the Generation of Enosh did, for instance.

  5. Miriam,
    To know HaShem is a pshat that also separates Jews from Christians. Many haredi Jews don't realise this and keep saying they believe in HaShem (variously emunah or bitachon), which makes them apikorsim there and then.
    The problem with believing in HaShem is from "Greek wisdom", philosophy. In philosophy all belief is falsifiable, and therefore not true. Only something that can be supported by evidence is true, and therefore knowledge.
    Now the secular people are always saying, show me evidence there is HaShem. The evidence is in every bet knesset, and is called the Torah.
    The Torah is not a "text", or "Law', but a covenant, which is a type of legal conditional agreement. This agreement is between Am Yisrael and HaShem, and was written and therefore witnessed by two kosher witnesses, Moshe and Yehoshua. The witnessing is that of the Matan Torah, where everyone witnessed the event. This agreement is copied over and over, and is supposed to be taught to children. Hence the first section of the Shema that everyone agrees is obligatory on everyone to say, which includes the direction "and you shall teach your children".
    As a witnessed agreement, the Torah constitutes fiduciary evidence in a court of law even today, as long as it is allowed by the other side. As it happens all Xtians and Muslims accept the Torah as a valid agreement. Its just that they don't have one.
    Therefore, given the Torah is evidence based on witnessed testimony, and kosher (two witnesses), it certifies that there is HaShem as long as children continue to believe their parents in telling the truth that the Torah was copied correctly.
    Those that do not believe the Torah is authentic at some stage called their parents liars, or their parents did, or their grandparents did, etc.
    However, people that do not "believe" the Torah is evidence that can be used in court also destroy a major principle in Western judicial practice based on which over 80,000 cases are tried in the USA alone. Not only are they apicorsim, for by extension they has v'shalom also insinuate that Moshe did not receive the Torah, but they are also saying they do not recognise the validity of the principles of the Western judicial systems, and consequently the principles on which most Western states are created.
    Without the judicial systems based on the Torah (well, the "Bible"), most states woudl collapse.
    All of the above answers Mochin RechavimJan 22, 2012 04:50 PM question - In the Torah, the Verse of Shema has a large "Ayin" and "Daled" which means witness. How can we be a witness to Hashem's oneness? Witnesses create knowledge through their testimony being recognised as evidence. This is the halakha, and the secular law.
    Shavua tov

  6. B"H

    When I was still in Yeshiva, we were always taught that every day is a proof of an existing G - d. How, otherwise, could the sun rise and a new day begin ?