Maimonides

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Accept the truth from whatever source it comes.

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Hebrew: רבי משה בן מיימון; Arabic: موسى بن ميمون بن عبد الله القرطبي الإسرائيلي / Mussa bin Maimun ibn Abdallah al-Kurtubi al-Israili; 30 March 113513 December 1204), commonly known as Moses Maimonides, was a Jewish rabbi, physician, and philosopher. He was born in Spain, but spent most of his life in Egypt. His works ranged from a commentary on the Mishnah to his Code of Law (summarising the whole of Jewish law) and the philosophical work, the Guide for the Perplexed.

Quotes[edit]

We are obligated to be more scrupulous in fulfilling the commandment of charity than any other positive commandment because charity is the sign of a righteous man.
It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death.
  • Accept the truth from whatever source it comes.
    • Introduction to the Shemonah Peraqim, as quoted in Truth and Compassion: Essays on Judaism and Religion in Memory of Rabbi Dr. Solomon Frank (1983) Edited by Howard Joseph, Jack Nathan Lightstone, and Michael D. Oppenheim, p. 168
    • Unsourced variant: You must accept the truth from whatever source it comes.
  • There is one [disease] which is widespread, and from which men rarely escape. This disease varies in degree in different men ... I refer to this: that every person thinks his mind ... more clever and more learned than it is ... I have found that this disease has attacked many an intelligent person ... They ... express themselves [not only] upon the science with which they are familiar, but upon other sciences about which they know nothing ... If met with applause ... so does the disease itself become aggravated.
    • Aphorisms. Quoted in Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Vol. 3 (1935), p. 555
    • Chambers Dictionary of Quotations (1997), p. 640
  • It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death.
    • Sefer Hamitzvot [Book of the Commandments], commentary on Negative Commandment 290, as translated by Charles B. Chavel (1967); also in Defending the Human Spirit : Jewish Law's Vision for a Moral Society (2006) by Warren Goldstein, p. 269
  • We are obligated to be more scrupulous in fulfilling the commandment of charity than any other positive commandment because charity is the sign of a righteous man.
    • As quoted in A Maimonides Reader (1972) by Isadore Twersky, p. 135. A footnote on this page states : tzedekah is translated as both "righteousness" and "charity".
  • One who is in a dying condition is regarded as a living person in all respects. It is not permitted to bind his jaws, to stop up the organs of the lower extremities, or to place metallic or cooling vessels upon his navel in order to prevent swelling. He is not to be rubbed or washed, nor is sand or salt to be put upon him until he expires. He who touches him is guilty of shedding blood. To what may he be compared? To a flickering flame, which is extinguished as soon as one touches it. Whoever closes the eyes of the dying while the soul is about to depart is shedding blood. One should wait a while; perhaps he is only in a swoon.

Mishneh Torah (c. 1180)[edit]

  • When a man reflects on these things, studies all these created beings, from the angels and spheres down to human beings and so on, and realizes the divine wisdom manifested in them all, his love for God will increase, his soul will thirst, his very flesh will yearn to love God. He will be filled with fear and trembling, as he becomes conscious of his lowly condition, poverty, and insignificance, and compares himself with any of the great and holy bodies; still more when he compares himself with any one of the pure forms that are incorporeal and have never had association with any corporeal substance. He will then realize that he is a vessel full of shame, dishonor, and reproach, empty and deficient.
    • Book 1 (Sefer HaMadda'), 4.12
  • Thus they shall not miss this particular branch of the many branches of the Law and will have no need to roam and ramble about in other books in search of information on matters set forth in this treatise.
    • Book 3 (Sefer Zemanim "Times"), Treatise 8 (Kiddush HaChodesh "Sanctification of the New Moon"), closing words
  • ועל זה נאמר והחזקת בו גר ותושב וחי עמך כלומר החזק בו עד שלא
    :יפול ויצטרך
  • For it is said, "You shall strengthen the stranger and the dweller in your midst and live with him," that is to say, strengthen him until he needs no longer fall upon the mercy of the community or be in need.
    • Book 7 (Sefer Zera'im "Seeds"), Treatise 2 (Mattenot Aniyiim "Laws of obligatory gifts to the poor"), Chapter (Perek) 10, Halacha 7 (Translated by Jonathan J. Baker.)
    • Variant: Concerning this [Leviticus 25:35] states: "You shall support him, the stranger, the resident, and he shall live among you." Implied is that you should support him before he falls and becomes needy. (Translated by Eliyahu Touger.)

Guide for the Perplexed (c. 1190)[edit]

A sensible man should not demand of me, or hope that when we mention a subject, we shall make a complete exposition of it.
(Arabic: Dalalat al-Ḥa'irin دلالة الحائرين Hebrew:מורה נבוכים, translit. Moreh Nevuchim, The Guide for the Perplexed (1904) at Wikisource, as translated by Michael Friedlander.

Introduction[edit]

Do not imagine that these most difficult problems can be thoroughly understood by any one of us. This is not the case.
  • I have composed this work neither for the common people, nor for beginners, nor for those who occupy themselves only with the Law as it is handed down without concerning themselves with its principles. The design of this work is rather to promote the true understanding of the real spirit of the Law, to guide those religious persons who, adhering to the Torah, have studied philosophy and are embarrassed by the contradictions between the teachings of philosophy and the literal sense of the Torah.
  • A sensible man should not demand of me, or hope that when we mention a subject, we shall make a complete exposition of it.
  • My object in adopting this arrangement is that the truths should be at one time apparent and at another time concealed. Thus we shall not be in opposition to the Divine Will (from which it is wrong to deviate) which has withheld from the multitude the truths required for the knowledge of God, according to the words, "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." (Psalm 25:14)
  • Do not imagine that these most difficult problems can be thoroughly understood by any one of us. This is not the case. At times the truth shines so brilliantly that we perceive it as clear as day. Our nature and habit then draw a veil over our perception, and we return to a darkness almost as dense as before. We are like those who, though beholding frequent flashes of lightning, still find themselves in the thickest darkness of the night. On some the lightning flashes in rapid succession, and they seem to be in continuous light, and their night is as clear as the day. This was the degree of prophetic excellence attained by (Moses) the greatest of prophets, to whom God said," But as for thee, stand thou here by Me" (Deut. v. 31), and of whom it is written" the skin of his face shone," etc. (Exod. xxxiv. 29). [Some perceive the prophetic flash at long intervals; this is the degree of most prophets.] By others only once during the whole night is a flash of lightning perceived. This is the case with those of whom we are informed," They prophesied, and did not prophesy again" (Num. xi. 25). There are some to whom the flashes of lightning appear with varying intervals; others are in the condition of men, whose darkness is illumined not by lightning, but by some kind of crystal or similar stone, or other substances that possess the property of shining during the night; and to them even this small amount of light is not continuous, but now it shines and now it vanishes, as if it were" the flame of the rotating sword."
  • You must know that if a person, who has attained a certain degree of perfection, wishes to impart to others, either orally or in writing, any portion of the knowledge which he has acquired of these subjects, he is utterly unable to be as systematic and explicit as he could be in a science of which the method is well known. The same difficulties which he encountered when investigating the subject for himself will attend him when endeavouring to instruct others: viz., at one time the explanation will appear lucid, at another time, obscure: this property of the subject appears to remain the same both to the advanced scholar and to the beginner. For this reason, great theological scholars gave instruction in all such matters only by means of metaphors and allegories.
  • You are no doubt aware that the Almighty, desiring to lead us to perfection and to improve our state of society, has revealed to us laws which are to regulate our actions. These laws, however, presuppose an advanced state of intellectual culture. We must first form a conception of the Existence of the Creator according to our capabilities; that is, we must have a knowledge of Metaphysics. But this discipline can only be approached after the study of Physics: for the science of Physics borders on Metaphysics, and must even precede it in the course of our studies, as is clear to all who are familiar with these questions.
  • In my larger work, the Mishnah Torah, I have contented myself with briefly stating the principles of our faith and its fundamental truths, together with such hints as approach a clear exposition. In this work, however, I address those who have studied philosophy and have acquired sound knowledge, and who while firm in religious matters are perplexed and bewildered on account of the ambiguous and figurative expressions employed in the holy writings.
  • The key to the understanding and to the full comprehension of all that the Prophets have said is found in the knowledge of the figures, their general ideas, and the meaning of each word they contain.
  • Know that the figures employed by prophets are of two kinds: first, where every word which occurs in the simile represents a certain idea: and secondly, where the simile, as a whole, represents a general idea, but has a great many points which have no reference whatever to that idea: they are simply required to give to the simile its proper form and order, or better to conceal the idea: the simile is therefore continued as far as necessary, according to its literal sense. Consider this well.
  • When I have a difficult subject before me — when I find the road narrow, and can see no other way of teaching a well established truth except by pleasing one intelligent man and displeasing ten thousand fools — I prefer to address myself to the one man, and to take no notice whatever of the condemnation of the multitude; I prefer to extricate that intelligent man from his embarrassment and show him the cause of his perplexity, so that he may attain perfection and be at peace.

Introductory Remarks on Method

  • There are seven causes of inconsistencies and contradictions to be met with in a literary work. The first cause arises from the fact that the author collects the opinions of various men, each differing from the other, but neglects to mention the name of the author of any particular opinion. In such a work contradictions or inconsistencies must occur, since any two statements may belong to two different authors. Second cause: The author holds at first one opinion which he subsequently rejects: in his work, however, both his original and altered views are retained. Third cause: The passages in question are not all to be taken literally: some only are to be understood in their literal sense, while in others figurative language is employed, which includes another meaning besides the literal one: or, in the apparently inconsistent passages, figurative language is employed which, if taken literally, would seem to be contradictories or contraries. Fourth cause: The premises are not identical in both statements, but for certain reasons they are not fully stated in these passages: or two propositions with different subjects which are expressed by the same term without having the difference in meaning pointed out, occur in two passages. The contradiction is therefore only apparent, but there is no contradiction in reality. The fifth cause is traceable to the use of a certain method adopted in teaching and expounding profound problems. Namely, a difficult and obscure theorem must sometimes be mentioned and assumed as known, for the illustration of some elementary and intelligible subject which must be taught beforehand the commencement being always made with the easier thing. The teacher must therefore facilitate, in any manner which he can devise, the explanation of those theorems, which have to be assumed as known, and he must content himself with giving a general though somewhat inaccurate notion on the subject. It is, for the present, explained according to the capacity of the students, that they may comprehend it as far as they are required to understand the subject. Later on, the same subject is thoroughly treated and fully developed in its right place. Sixth cause: The contradiction is not apparent, and only becomes evident through a series of premises. The larger the number of premises necessary to prove the contradiction between the two conclusions, the greater is the chance that it will escape detection, and that the author will not perceive his own inconsistency. Only when from each conclusion, by means of suitable premises, an inference is made, and from the enunciation thus inferred, by means of proper arguments, other conclusions are formed, and after that process has been repeated many times, then it becomes clear that the original conclusions are contradictories or contraries. Even able writers are liable to overlook such inconsistencies. If, however, the contradiction between the original statements can at once be discovered, and the author, while writing the second, does not think of the first, he evinces a greater deficiency, and his words deserve no notice whatever. Seventh cause: It is sometimes necessary to introduce such metaphysical matter as may partly be disclosed, but must partly be concealed: while, therefore, on one occasion the object which the author has in view may demand that the metaphysical problem be treated as solved in one way, it may be convenient on another occasion to treat it as solved in the opposite way. The author must endeavour, by concealing the fact as much as possible, to prevent the uneducated reader from perceiving the contradiction.
  • Having concluded these introductory remarks I proceed to examine those expressions, to the true meaning of which, as apparent from the context, it is necessary to direct your attention. This book will then be a key admitting to places the gates of which would otherwise be closed. When the gates are opened and men enter, their souls will enjoy repose, their eyes will be gratified, and even their bodies, after all toil and labour, will be refreshed.

Part I[edit]

When man is able to comprehend certain things, it does not follow that he must be able to comprehend everything.
  • Know that for the human mind there are certain objects of perception which are within the scope of its nature and capacity; on the other hand, there are, amongst things which actually exist, certain objects which the mind can in no way and by no means grasp: the gates of perception are closed against it. Further, there are things of which the mind understands one part, but remains ignorant of the other; and when man is able to comprehend certain things, it does not follow that he must be able to comprehend everything.

Part III[edit]

However great the exertion of our mind may be to comprehend the Divine Being or any of the ideals, we find a screen and partition between God and us.
Note: the following quotes are taken from The Guide of the Perplexed of Maimonides, Volume 3, 1885 translation by Michael Friedländer
  • If I had omitted setting down something of that which has appeared to me as clear, so that the knowledge would perish when I perish, as is inevitable, I should have considered that conduct as extremely cowardly with regard to you and everyone who is perplexed.
    • Introduction
  • To give a full explanation of the mystic passages of the Bible is contrary to the law and to reason; besides, my knowledge of them is based on reasoning, not on divine inspiration [and is therefore not infallible]. ...It is... possible that my view is wrong, and that I misunderstand passages referred to. ...Those, however, for whom this treatise has been composed, will, on reflecting on it and thoroughly examining each chapter, obtain a clear insight into all that has been clear and intelligible to me. This is the utmost that can be done in treating this subject so to be useful to all without fully explaining it.
    • Introduction
  • You will not find it strange that I mention the explanation of Jonathan, son of Uzziel, whilst I give a different explanation myself; for you will find many of the wise men and the commentators differ from him in the interpretation of some words and in many things respecting the prophets. Why should it be otherwise in these profound matters? Besides, I do not decide in favour of my interpretation. It is for you to learn both—the whole of his explanation, from what I have pointed out to you, and also my own explanation. God knoweth which of the two explanations is in accordance with that which the prophet intended to say.
    • Ch.4
  • The generation of Isaiah did not require the detailed description; his account, "I saw the Lord," &c., sufficed. The generation of the Babylonian exile wanted to learn all the details. ...Isaiah was so familiar with it that he did not consider it necessary to communicate it to others as a new thing, especially as it was well known to the intelligent.
    • Ch.6
  • We must consider the words, "the heavens were opened" (Ezek. i. 1); they give the key to the understanding of the whole. The figure of opening, also that of opening the gates, occurs frequently in the books of the prophets... When he commences to describe the firmament in detail, he says, "the firmament," without adding the words "the likeness of," for he says, "And I looked, and behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne" (Ezek x. 1). Here the prophet speaks of "the firmament" and not of "the likeness of the firmament,"...
    • Ch.7
  • He [ Ezekiel ] further says, "As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of the rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory," (i. 28). The substance and the true essence of the bow described here is well known. The simile and comparison is in this case very extraordinary, and is undoubtedly part of the prophecy; and note it well.
    • Ch.7
  • The likeness of man above the throne is divided, the upper part being the colour of chashmal, the lower part like the appearance of fire. As regards the word chashmal, it has been explained to be the compound of two words chas and mal, including two different notions, viz., chash signifying "swiftness," and mal denoting "pause." The two different notions are here joined in one word in order to indicate figuratively the two different parts,—the upper part and the lower. We have already given a second explanation, namely, that chashmal includes the two notions of speach and silence; in accordance with the saying of our Sages, "At times they are silent,at times they speak."
    • Ch.7
  • God cannot be compared to anything. Note this.
    • Ch.7
  • Transient bodies are only subject to destruction through their substance and not through their form, nor can the essence of their form be destroyed; in this respect they are permanent.
    • Ch.8
  • No form remains permanently in a substance; a constant change takes place, one form is taken off and another is put on.
    • Ch.8
  • Whatever form it has, it [matter] will be disposed to receive another form; it never leaves off moving and casting off the form which it has in order to receive another. ...It is therefore clear that all corruption, destruction, or defect comes from matter.
    • Ch.8
  • Man's shortcomings and sins are all due to the substance of the body and not to its form; while all his merits are exclusively due to his form.
    • Ch.8
  • The knowledge of God, the formation of ideas, the mastery of desire and passion, the distinction between that which is to be chosen and that which is to be rejected, all these man owes to his form...
    • Ch.8
  • It was necessary that the very noble form of man, which is the image and likeness of God... should be joined to the substance of dust and darkness, the source of all defect and loss. For these reasons the Creator gave to the form of man power, rule, and dominion over the substance;—the form can subdue the substance, refuse the fulfillment of its desires, and reduce them, as far as possible, to a just and proper measure.
    • Ch.8
  • Some consider... all wants of the body as shame, disgrace, and defect to which they are compelled to attend; this is chiefly the case with the sense of touch, which is a disgrace to us according to Aristotle, and which is the cause of our desire for eating, drinking, and sensuality. Intelligent persons must, as much as possible, reduce these wants, guard against them, abstain from speaking of them, discussing them, and attending to them in company of others. Man must have control over all these desires, reduce them as much as possible, and only retain of them as much as is indispensable. His aim must be the aim of man as man, viz., the formation of ideas, and nothing else. The best and sublimest among them is the idea which man forms of God, angels, and the rest of the creation according to his capacity. Such men are always with God, and of them it is said, "Ye are princes, and all of you are children of the Most High." (Ps. lxxxii. 6) This is man's task and purpose.
    • Ch.8
  • Those who desire to be men in truth, and not brutes, having only the appearance and shape of men, must constantly endeavor to reduce the wants of the body, such as eating, love, drinking, anger, and all manners originating in lust and passion; they must feel ashamed of them and set limits to them for themselves.
    • Ch.8
  • This gift... which God gave us in order to enable us to perfect ourselves, to learn and to teach, must not be employed in doing that which is for us most degrading and perfectly disgraceful... Those who employ the faculty of thinking and speaking in the service of that sense which is no honour to us, who think more than necessary of drink and love, or even sing of these things; they employ and use the divine gift in acts of rebellion against the Giver, and in transgression of his commandments.
    • Ch.8
  • The corporeal element in man is a large screen and partition that prevents him from perfectly perceiving abstract ideals; this would be the case even if the corporeal element were as pure and superior as the substance of the spheres; how much more must this be the case with our dark and opaque body. However great the exertion of our mind may be to comprehend the Divine Being or any of the ideals, we find a screen and partition between God and us.
    • Ch.9
  • The Mutakallemim... apply the term non-existence only to absolute non-existence, and not to absence of properties. A property and the absence of that property are considered by them as two opposites, they treat, e.g., blindness and sight, death and life, in the same way as heat and cold. Therefore they say, without any qualification, non-existence does not require any agent, an agent is required when something is produced.
    • Ch.10
  • The so-called evils are evils only in relation to a certain thing, and that which is evil in relation to a certain existing thing, either includes the non-existence of that thing or the non-existence of some of its good conditions.
    • Ch.10
  • The proposition has... been laid down in the most general terms, "All evils are negations." Thus for man death is evil; death is his non-existence. Illness, poverty, and ignorance are evils for man; all these are privations of properties. ...The destruction of other things is likewise nothing but the absence of their form. After these propositions, it must be admitted as a fact that it cannot be said of God that He directly creates evil, or He has the direct intention to produce evil; this is impossible. His works are all perfectly good. He only produces existence, and all existence is good; whilst evils are of a negative character, and cannot be acted upon.
    • Ch.10
  • The true work of God is all good, since it is existence.
    • Ch.10
  • Even the existence of this corporeal element, low as it in reality is, because it is the source of death and all evils, is likewise good for the permanence of the Universe and the continuation of the order of things, so that one thing departs and the other succeeds.
    • Ch.10
  • All the great evils which men cause to each other because of certain intentions, desires, opinions, or religious principles, are likewise due to non-existence, because they originate in ignorance, which is absence of wisdom.
    • Ch.11
  • If men possessed wisdom, which stands in the same relation to the form of man as the sight to the eye, they would not cause any injury to themselves or to others, for the knowledge of the truth removes hatred and quarrels, and prevents mutual injuries.
    • Ch.11
  • The prophet [ Isaiah ]... points out what will be the cause of this change; for he says that hatred, quarrel, and fighting will come to an end, because men will have a true knowledge of God. "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters which cover the sea" (Isa. xi. ver. 9) Note it.
    • Ch.11
  • Men frequently think that the evils in the world are more numerous than the good things; many sayings and songs of the nations dwell on this idea. ...Not only common people make this mistake, but even many who think they are wise.
    • Ch.12
  • An ignorant man believes that the whole universe only exists for him: as if nothing else required any consideration. If, therefore, anything happens to him contrary to his expectation, he at once concludes that the whole universe is evil. If, however, he would take into consideration the whole universe, form an idea of it, and comprehend what a small portion he is of the Universe, he will find the truth. There are many... passages in the books of the prophets expressing the same idea.
  • It is of great advantage that man should know his station, and not imagine that the whole universe exists only for him. We hold that the universe exists because the Creator wills it so; that mankind is low in rank as compared with the uppermost portion of the universe, viz., with the spheres and the stars; but, as regards the angels, there cannot be any real comparison between man and angels, although man is the highest of all beings on earth; i.e., of all the beings formed of the four elements.
    • Ch.12
  • We suffer from the evils which we, by our own free will, inflict on ourselves and ascribe them to God, who is far from being connected with them!
    • Ch.12
  • The first kind of evil is that which is caused to man by the circumstance that he is subject to genesis and destruction, or that he possesses a body.
    • Ch.12
  • In accordance with the divine wisdom, genesis can only take place through destruction, and without destruction of the individual members of the species the species themselves would not exist permanently. Thus the true kindness, and beneficence, and goodness of God is clear.
    • Ch.12
  • He who thinks he can have flesh and bones without being subject to any external influence, or any accidents of matter, unconsciously wishes to reconcile two opposites, viz., to be at the same time subject and not subject to change. If man were never subject to change there could be no generation; there would be one single being, but no individuals forming a species.
    • Compare Galileo, "...for my part I consider the earth very noble and admirable precisely because of the diverse alterations, changes, generations, etc. that occur in it incessantly. If, not being subject to any changes... I should deem it a useless lump in the universe, devoid of activity and, in a word, superfluous and essentially non-existent." Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632)
    • Ch.12
  • Galen, in the third section of his book, "The Use of the Limbs," says correctly that it would be in vain to expect to see living beings formed of the blood of menstruous women and the semen virile, who will not die, will never feel pain, or will move perpetually, or shine like the sun. This dictum of Galen is part of the following more general proposition:—Whatever is formed of matter receives the most perfect form possible in that species of matter; in each individual case the defects are in accordance with that individual matter.
  • The second class of evils comprises such evils as people cause to each other, when, e.g., some of them use their strength against others. These evils are more numerous than those of the first kind... they likewise originate in ourselves, though the sufferer himself cannot avert them.
    • Ch.12
  • The third class of evils comprise those which everyone causes to himself by his own action. This is the largest class, and is far more numerous than the second class. It is especially of these evils that all men complain,—only few men are found that do not sin against themselves by this kind of evil. ...This class of evil originates in man's vices, such as excessive desire for eating, drinking, and love; indulgence in these things in undue measure, or in improper manner, or partaking of bad food. This course brings diseases and afflictions upon the body and soul alike.
    • Ch.12
  • In so far as the soul is a force residing in the body; it has therefore been said that the properties of the soul depend of the condition of the body.
    • Ch.12
  • The soul, when accustomed to superfluous things, acquires a strong habit of desiring things which are neither necessary for the preservation of the individual nor for that of the species. This desire is without limit, whilst those which are necessary are few in number and restricted within certain limits; but what is superfluous is without end...
    • Ch.12
  • Those who are ignorant and perverse in their thought are constantly in trouble and pain, because they cannot get as much of the superfluous things as a certain other person possesses. They as a rule expose themselves to great dangers... for the purpose of obtaining that which is superfluous and not necessary. When they thus meet with the consequences of the course which they adopt, they complain of the decrees and the judgements of God; they begin to blame the time, and wonder at the want of justice in its changes; that it has not enabled them to acquire great riches... for the purpose of driving themselves to voluptuousness beyond their capacities, as if the whole Universe existed only for the purpose of giving pleasure to these low people.
    • Ch.12
  • The error of the ignorant goes so far as to say that God's power is insufficient, because he has given to this Universe the properties which they imagine cause these great evils, and which do not help all evil-disposed persons to obtain the evil which they seek, and to bring their evil souls to the aim of their desires, though these, as we have shown, are really without limit.
    • Ch.12
  • Those who observe the nature of the Universe and the commandments of the Law, and know their purpose, see clearly God's mercy and truth in everything; they seek, therefore, that which the Creator intended to be the aim of man, viz., comprehension. Forced also by claims of the body, they seek that which is necessary for the preservation of the body, "bread to eat and garment to clothe," and this is very little; but they seek nothing superfluous; with very slight exertion man can obtain it, so long as he is contented with that which is indispensable.
    • Ch.12
  • The more we desire for that which is superfluous, the more we meet with difficulties; our strength and possessions are spent in unnecessary things, and are wanting when required for that which is necessary.
    • Ch.12
  • The more necessary a thing is for living beings, the more easily it is found and the cheaper it is; the less necessary it is, the rarer and dearer it is.
    • Ch.12
  • This shows the kindness of God to His creatures, even to us weak beings. His righteousness and justice as regards all animals are well known; for in the transient world there is among the various kinds of animals no individual being distinguished from the rest of the same species... all physical, psychical, and vital forces and organs that are possessed by one individual are found also in the other individuals. If any one is somehow different it is by accident, in consequence of some exception, and not by a natural property; it is also a rare occurrence.
    • Ch.12
  • It is no wrong or injustice that one has many bags of the finest myrrh and garments embroidered with gold, while another has not those things, which are not necessary for our maintenance; he who has them has not thereby obtained control over anything that could be an essential addition to his nature, but has only obtained something illusory or deceptive. ...This is the rule at all times and in all places; no notice should be taken of exceptional cases, as we have explained.
    • Ch.12
  • You will see the mercy of God toward His creatures, how He has provided that which is required, in proper proportions, and treated all individual beings of the same species with perfect equality. ...for it is an act of great and perfect goodness that He gave us existence; and the creation of the controlling faculty in animals is a proof of His mercy towards them, as has been shown by us.
    • Ch.12
  • That which is produced with intention has passed over from non-existence to existence.
    • Ch.13
  • The being which has absolute existence, which has never been and will never be without existence, is not in need of an agent.
    • Ch.13
  • The question, "What is the purpose thereof?" cannot be asked about anything which is not the product of an agent; therefore we cannot ask what is the purpose of the existence of God.
    • Ch.13
  • For that which is without a beginning, a final cause need not be sought.
    • Ch.13
  • This must be our belief when we have a correct knowledge of our own self, and comprehend the true nature of everything; we must be content, and not trouble our mind with seeking a certain final cause for things that have none, or have no other final cause but their own existence, which depends on the Will of God, or, if you prefer, on the Divine Wisdom.
    • Ch.13
  • If the whole earth is infinitely small in comparison with the sphere of the stars, what is man compared with all these created beings? How, then, could any one of us imagine that these things exist for his sake and benefit, and that they are his tools! This is a result of an examination of the corporeal beings: how much more so will be the result of an examination of the Intelligences!
    • Ch.14
  • That which is impossible has a permanent and constant property, which is not the result if some agent, and cannot in any way change, and consequently we do not ascribe to God the power of doing what is impossible.
    • Ch.15
  • According to each one of the different theories there are things which are impossible, whose existence cannot be admitted, and whose creation is excluded from the power of God, and the assumption that God does not change their nature does not imply weakness in God, or a limit to his power. Consequently things impossible remain impossible, and do not depend on the action of an agent. It is now clear that a difference of opinion exists only as to the question to which of the two classes anything belongs; whether to the class of the impossible, or to that of the possible. Note it.
    • Ch.15
  • The philosophers have uttered very perverse ideas as regards God's Omniscience of everything besides Himself; they have stumbled in such a manner that they cannot rise again, nor can those who adopt their views. ...They continued thus: If he perceives and knows all individual things, one of the following three cases must take place: (1.) God arranges and manages human affairs well, perfectly, and faultlessly; (2.) He is overcome by obstacles, and is too weak and powerless to manage human affairs; (3.) He knows [all things] and can arrange and manage them, but leaves and abandons them, as too base, low, and vile... Those who have a knowledge of a certain thing necessarily either (1.) take care of the thing they know, and manage it, or (2.) neglect it; or (3.) while taking care of it, have not sufficient power and strength for its management, although they have the will to do so. ...the philosophers emphatically decided that of the three cases... two are inadmissible in reference to God—viz., want of power, or absence of will... Consequently there remains only the alternative that God is altogether ignorant of human affairs, or that He knows them and manages them well. ...we conclude that God has no knowledge of them in any way of for any reason. This is the argument which led philosophers to speak such blasphemous words.
    • Ch.16
  • The evil into which these philosophers have fallen is greater than that from which they sought to escape, because they refuse to say that God neglects or forgets a thing, and yet they maintain that His knowledge is imperfect, that He is ignorant of what is going on here on earth, that He does not perceive it.
    • Ch.16
  • There are four different theories concerning Divine Providence; they are all ancient, known from the time of the Prophets, when the true law was revealed to enlighten these dark regions.
    • Ch.17
  • First Theory.—There is no Providence at all for anything in the Universe; all parts of the Universe, the heavens and what they contain, owe their origin to accident and chance; there exists no being that rules and governs them or provides for them. This is the theory of Epicurus...
    • Ch.17
  • Second Theory.—Whilst one part of the Universe owes its existence to Providence and is under control of a ruler and governor, another part is abandoned and left to chance. This is the view of Aristotle about Providence... He holds that God controls the spheres and what they contain; therefore the individual beings in the spheres remain permanently in the same form. ...From the existence of the spheres other beings derive existence, which are constant in their species but not in their individuals.
    • Ch.17
  • The portion of the materia prima which is... is endowed with the intellectual faculty, possesses a special property by which each individual, according to the degree of his perfection, is enabled to manage, to calculate, and to discover what is conducive both to the temporary existence of the individual and to the preservation of the species. All other movements... by the individual members of the species are due to accident; they are not, according to Aristotle, the result of rule and management... Aristotle sees no difference between the falling of a leaf or a stone and the death of the good and noble people in the ship; nor does he distinguish between the destruction of a multitude of ants by an ox depositing on them his excrement and the death of worshippers killed by the fall of the house when its foundations give way.
    • Ch.17
  • In short, the opinion of Aristotle is this: Everything is the result of management which is constant, which does not come to an end and does not change any of its properties, as e.g., the heavenly beings, and everything which continues according to a certain rule... But that which is not constant, and does not follow a certain rule... is due to chance and not to management; it is in no relation to Divine Providence. Aristotle holds that it is even impossible to ascribe to Providence that management of these things. ...It is the belief of those who turned away from our Law and said: "God hath forsaken the earth." (Ezek. ix. 9)
    • Ch.17
  • Third Theory.—According to this theory, there is nothing in the whole Universe... that is due to chance; everything is the result of will, intention, and rule. It is a matter of course that he who rules must know. The Mohametan Ashariyah adhere to this theory, notwithstanding evident absurdities implied in it. ...The Ashariyah were therefore compelled to assume that motion and rest of living beings are predestined, and that it is not in the power of a man to do a certain thing or to leave it undone. ...It follows also from this theory, that precepts are perfectly useless, since the people to whom any law is given... can neither do what they are commanded nor abstain from what they are forbidden. ...According to this theory, it must also be assumed that the actions of God have no final cause. All these absurdities are admitted by the Ashariyah for the purpose of saving this theory.
    • Ch.17
  • Fourth Theory.—Man has free will; it is therefore intelligible that the Law contains commands and prohibitions, with announcements of reward and punishment. All acts of God are due to wisdom; no injustice is found in him, and he does not afflict the good. The Mu'tazila profess this theory, although they do not believe in man's absolute free will. They hold that God takes notice of the falling of the leaf and the destruction of the ant, and that his Providence extends over all beings.
    • Ch.17
  • This [fourth] theory likewise implies contradictions and absurdities. The absurdities are these: The fact that some persons are born with defects, although they have not sinned previously, is ascribed to the wisdom of God, it being better for those persons to be in such a condition than to be in a normal state, though we do not see why it is better; and they do not suffer thereby any punishment at all, but, on the contrary, enjoy God's goodness. In a similar manner the slaughter of the pious is explained as being for them the source of an increase in reward in future life. They go even further in their absurdities.
    • Ch.17
  • Aristotle was guided by that which appears to be the nature of things. The Ashariyah refused to ascribe to God ignorance about anything... they preferred to admit the above-mentioned absurdities. The Mu'tazilites refused to assume that God does what is wrong and unjust; on the other hand, they would not contradict common sense and say that it was not wrong to inflict pain on the guiltless, or that the mission of the Prophets and the giving of the Law had no intelligible reason. They likewise preferred to admit the above-named absurdities. But they even contradicted themselves, because they believe on the one hand that God knows everything, and on the other that man has free will. By a little consideration we discover the contradiction.
    • Ch.17
  • Fifth Theory.—This is our theory, or that of our Law. ...The theory of man's perfectly free will is one of the fundamental principles of the Law of our teacher Moses, and of those who follow the Law. According to this principle man does what is in his power to do, by his nature, his choice, and his will; and his action is not due to any faculty created for the purpose. All species of irrational animals likewise move by their own free will. This is the Will of God; that is to say, it is due to the eternal divine will that all living beings should move freely, and that man should have the power to act according to his will or choice within the limits of his capacity.
    • Ch.17
  • Another fundamental principle taught by the Law of Moses is this: Wrong cannot be ascribed to God in any way whatever; all evils and afflictions as well as all kinds of happiness of man, whether they concern one individual or a community, are distributed according to justice; they are the result of strict judgement that admits no wrong whatever.
    • Ch.17
  • Even when a person suffers pain in consequence of a thorn having entered into his hand, although it is at once drawn out, it is a punishment that has been inflicted on him, and the least pleasure he enjoys is a reward; all this is meted out by strict justice; as is said in the Scripture, "all His ways are judgement" (Deut. xxxii. 4); we are only ignorant of the working of that judgement.
    • Ch.17
  • Everything in the varying human affairs is due to chance, according to Aristotle, to the Divine Will alone according to the Ashariyah, to Divine Wisdom according to the Mu'tazilites, to the merits of man according to our opinion. It is therefore possible, according to the Ashariyah, that God inflicts pain on a good and pious man in this world, and eeps him forever in fire, which is assumed to rage in the world to come; they simply say it is the will of God. The Mu'tazilites would consider this an injustice, and therefore assume that every being, even an ant, that is stricken with pain, has compensation for it... and it is due to God's Wisdom, that a being is struck and afflicted in order to receive compensation. We, however, believe that all these human affairs are managed with justice; far be it from God to do wrong, to punish any one unless the punishment is necessary and merited. It is distinctly stated in the Law, that all is done in accordance with justice; and the words of our Sages generally express the same idea.
    • Ch.17
  • He will punish all the evil deeds of men, although they have not been prohibited by a prophet, if common sense warns against them, as e.g., injustice and violence. ...it is distinctly added that he who does a good thing without being commanded, receives nevertheless his reward. The same principle is expressed in all the sayings of our Sages.
    • Ch.17
  • I agree with Aristotle as regards all other living beings and à fortiori as regards plants and all the rest of earthly creatures. For I do not believe that it is through Divine Providence that a certain leaf drops, nor do I hold that when a certain spider catches a certain fly, that this is a direct result of a special decree and will of God in that moment; it is not by a particular Divine decree that the spittle of a certain person moved, fell on a certain gnat in a certain place, and killed it; nor is it by the direct will of God that a certain fish catches and swallows a certain worm on the surface of the water. In all these cases the action is... entirely due to chance, as taught by Aristotle.
    • Ch.17
  • Divine Providence is connected with Divine intellectual influence, and the same beings which are benefited by the latter so as to become intellectual, and to comprehend things comprehensible to rational beings, are also under the control of Divine Providence, which examines all their deeds with a view of rewarding or punishing them. ...the method of which our mind is incapable of understanding.
    • Ch.17
  • The Prophets even express their surprise that God should take notice of man, who is too little and too unimportant to be worthy of the attention of the Creator; how, then, should other living creatures be considered as proper objects for Divine Providence!
    • Ch.17
  • I do not ascribe to God ignorance of anything or any kind of weakness; I hold that Divine Providence is related and closely connected with the intellect, because Providence can only proceed from an intelligent being, from a being that is itself the most perfect Intellect. Those creatures, therefore, which receive part of that intellectual influence, will become subject to the action of Providence in the same proportion as they are acted upon by the intellect. This theory is in accordance with reason and with the teaching of the Scripture, whilst the other theories previously mentioned either exaggerate Divine Providence of detract from it.
    • Ch.17
  • The theory that Divine Providence does not extend to man, and that there is no difference between man and other animals, implies very bad notions about God; it disturbs all social order, removes and destroys all the moral and intellectual virtues of man.
    • Ch.17
  • God's knowledge extends to things not in existence, and includes also the infinite.
    • Ch.20
  • My opinion is this: the cause of the error of all these schools is their belief that God's knowledge is like ours; each school points to something withheld from our knowledge, and either assumes that the same must be the case in God's knowledge, or at least finds some difficulty how to explain it. ...they likewise demonstrated... that our intellect and our knowledge are insufficient to comprehend the true idea of His essence. ...they came to the absurd conclusion that that which is required for our knowledge is also required for God's knowledge.
    • Ch.20
  • I find it expressed in various passages of Scripture that the fact that God knows things while in a state of possibility, when their existence belongs to the future, does not change the nature of the possible in any way; that nature remains unchanged; and the knowledge of the realisation of one of several possibilities does not yet effect that realisation. This is likewise one of the fundamental principles of the Law of Moses concerning which there is no doubt nor any dispute.
    • Ch.20
  • The fact that laws were given to man, both affirmative and negative, supports the principle, that God's knowledge of future events does not change their character. The great doubt that presents itself to our mind is the result of the insufficiency of our intellect.
    • Ch.20
  • Consider in how many ways His knowledge is distinguished from ours according to all the teaching of every revealed religion. First, His knowledge is one, and yet embraces many different kinds of objects. Secondly, it is applied to things not in existence. Thirdly, it comprehends the infinite. Fourthly, it remains unchanged, though it comprises the knowledge of changeable things; whilst it seems that the knowledge of a thing that is to come into existence is different from the knowledge of the thing when it has come into existence; because there is the additional knowledge of its transition from a state of potentiality into that of reality. Fifthly, according to the teaching of our Law, God's knowledge of one of two eventualities does not determine it, however certain that knowledge may be concerning the future occurrence of the one eventuality.
    • Ch.20
  • Now I wonder what our knowledge has in common with God's knowledge according to those who treat God's knowledge... Is there anything else common to both besides the mere name? ...there is an essential distinction between His knowledge and ours, like the distinction between the substance of the heavens and that of the earth.
    • Ch.20
  • Management [ Providence ], knowledge, and intention are not the same when ascribed to us and when ascribed to God.
    • Ch.20
  • The difference between that which is ascribed to God and that which is ascribed to man is expressed in the words... "And your ways are not my ways." (Is. lv. 8-9)
    • Ch.20
  • He fully knows His unchangeable essence, and has thus a knowledge of all that results from any of His acts. If we were to try to understand in what manner this is done, it would be the same as if we tried to be the same as God, and to make our knowledge identical with His knowledge. Those who seek the truth, and admit what is true, must believe that nothing is hidden from God; that everything is revealed to His knowledge, which is identical with His essence; that this kind of knowledge cannot be comprehended by us; for if we knew its method, we would possess that intellect by which such knowledge could be acquired. ...Note this well, for I think that this is an excellent idea, and leads to correct views; no error will be found in it; no dialectical argument; it does not lead to any absurd conclusion, nor to ascribing any defect to God. These sublime and profound themes admit of no proof whatever... In all questions that cannot be demonstrated, we must adopt the method which we have adopted in this question about God's Omniscience. Note it.
    • Ch.21
  • The strange and wonderful Book of Job treats of the same subject as we are discussing; its contents are a fiction, conceived for the purpose of explaining the different opinions which people hold on Divine Providence. ...This fiction, however, is in so far different from other fictions that it includes profound ideas and great mysteries, removes great doubts, and reveals the most important truths. I will discuss it as fully as possible; and I will also tell you the words of our Sages that suggested to me the explanation of this great poem.
    • Ch.22
  • The words of God are justified, as I will show, by the fact that Job abandoned his first very erroneous opinion, and himself proved that it was an error. It is the opinion which suggests itself as plausible at first thought, especially in the minds of those who meet with mishap, well knowing that they have not merited them through sins. This is admitted by all, and therefore this opinion was assigned to Job. But he is represented to hold this view only so long as he was without wisdom, and knew God only by tradition, in the same manner as religious people generally know Him. As soon as he had acquired a true knowledge of God, he confessed that there is undoubtedly true felicity in the knowledge of God; it is attained by all who acquire that knowledge, and no earthly trouble can disturb it. So long as Job's knowledge of God was based on tradition and communication, and not on research, he believed that such imaginary good as is possessed in health, riches, and children, was the utmost that men can attain; this was the reason why he was in perplexity, and why he uttered the... opinions, and this is also the meaning of his words: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent because of dust and ashes" (xlii. 5, 6); that is to say, he abhorred all that he had desired before, and that he was sorry that he had been in dust and ashes; comp. "and he sat down among the ashes" (ii. 8) On account of this last utterance, which implies true perception, it is said afterwards in reference to him, "for you have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath."
    • Ch.23
  • Eliphas never abandoned his belief that the fate of man is the result of justice, that we do not know all our shortcomings for which we are punished, nor the way how we incur the punishment through them.
    • Ch.23
  • As there is a difference between works of nature and productions of human handicraft, so there is a difference between God's rule, providence, and intention in reference to all natural forces, and our rule, providence, and intention in reference to things which are the objects of our rule, providence, and intention. This lesson is the principal object of the whole Book of Job; it lays down this principle of faith, and recommends us to derive a proof from nature, that we should not fall into the error of imagining His knowledge to be similar to ours, or His intention, providence, and rule similar to ours. When we know this, we shall find everything that may befall us easy to bear; mishap will create no doubts in our hearts concerning God, whether He knows our affairs or not, whether He provides for us or abandons us. On the contrary, our fate will increase our love of God; as is said in the end of this prophecy: "Therefore I abhor myself and repent concerning the dust and ashes" (xlii. 6); and as our Sages say: "The pious do everything out of love, and rejoice in their own afflictions." If you pay to my words the attention which this treatise demands, and examine all that is said in the Book of Job, all will be clear to you, and you will find that I have grasped and taken hold of the whole subject; nothing has been left unnoticed, except such portions as are only introduced because of the context and the whole plan of the allegory. I have explained this method several times in the course of this treatise.
    • Ch.23
  • Scripture says:—If a man should rise, pretend to be a prophet, and show you his signs by which he desired to convince you that his words are true, know that God intends thereby to prove to the nations how firmly you believe in the truth of God's Word, and how well you have comprehended the true Essence of God; that you cannot be misled by any tempter to corrupt your faith in God. Your religion will then afford a guidance to all who seek the truth, and of all religions man will choose that which is so firmly established that it is not shaken by the performance of a miracle. For a miracle cannot prove that which is impossible; it is useful only as a confirmation of that which is possible, as we have explained in our Mishneh-torah.
    • Ch.24
  • It is man's duty to love and to fear God, even without hope of reward or fear of punishment.
    • Ch.24
  • This idea is confirmed in Scripture; it is distinctly stated that one sole thing, fear of God, is the object of the whole Law with its affirmative and negative precepts, its promises and its historical examples, for it is said, "If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this Law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, the Lord thy God" (Deut. xxviii. 58) This is one of the two purposes of the Akedah (sacrifice or binding of Isaac).
    • Ch.24
  • Abraham was the first to teach the Unity of God, to establish the faith, to cause it to remain among coming generations, and to win his fellow-men to his doctrine; as Scripture says of him: "I know him, that he will command," &c. (Gen. xviii. 19)
    • Ch.24
  • This is the way how we have to understand the accounts of trials; we must not think that God desires to examine us and to try us in order to know what He did not know before. Far is this from Him; He is far above that which ignorant and foolish people imagine concerning Him, in the evil of their thoughts. Note this.
    • Ch.24
  • Actions are divided as regards their object into four classes; they are either purposeless, unimportant, or vain, or good.
    • Ch.25
  • After having explained this division, I contend that no intelligent person can assume that any of the actions of God can be vain, purposeless, or unimportant. According to our view and the view of all that follow the Law of Moses, all actions of God are "exceedingly good."
    • Ch.25
  • The philosophers likewise assume that in Nature there is nothing in vain, so that everything that is not the product of human industry serves a certain purpose, which may be known or unknown to us.
    • Ch.25
  • Whatever God desires to do is necessarily done; there is nothing that could prevent the realisation of His will. The object of His will is only that which is possible, and of the things possible only such as His wisdom decrees upon. When God desires to produce the best work, no obstacle or hindrance intervenes between Him and that work. This is the opinion held by all religious people, also by the philosophers; it is also our opinion. For although we believe that God created the Universe from nothing, most of our wise and learned men believe that the Creation was not the exclusive result of His will; but His wisdom, which we are unable to comprehend, made the actual existence of the Universe necessary. The same unchangeable wisdom found it as necessary that non-existence should precede the existence of the Universe. Our Sages frequently express this idea in the explanation of the words, "He hath made everything beautiful in his time" (Eccl. iii. 11)... This is the belief of most of our Theologians; and in a similar manner have the Prophets expressed the idea that all parts of natural products are well arranged, in good order, connected with each other, and stand to each other in the relation of cause and effect; nothing of them is purposeless, trivial, or vain; they are all the result of great wisdom. ...This idea occurs frequently; there is no necessity to believe otherwise; philosophic speculation leads to the same result; viz., that in the whole of Nature there is nothing purposeless, trivial, or unnecessary, especially in the nature of the spheres, which are in the best condition and order, in accordance with their superior substance.
    • Ch.25
  • Know that the difficulties which lead to confusion in the question what is the purpose of the Universe or of any of its parts, arise from two causes: first, man has an erroneous idea of himself, and believes that the whole world exists only for his sake; secondly, he is ignorant both about the nature of the sublunary world, and about the Creator's intention to give existence to all beings whose existence is possible, because existence is undoubtedly good.
    • Ch.25
  • It is not unreasonable to assume that the works of God, their existence and preceding non-existence, are the result of His wisdom, but we are unable to understand many of the ways of His Wisdom in His works. On this principle the whole Law of Moses is based; it begins with this principle: "And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen. i. 31); and it ends with this principle: "The Rock, perfect is His work" (Deut. xxxii. 4). Note it.
    • Ch.25
  • You will find that there is no other difference of opinion as regards any portions of the Universe, except that the philosophers believe in the Eternity of the Universe and we believe in the Creation. Note this.
    • Ch.25
  • Those who believe that... detailed rules originate in a certain cause, are as far from the truth as those who assume that the whole law is useless.
    • Ch.26
  • The reason of a commandment, whether positive or negative, is clear, and its usefulness evident, if it directly tends to remove injustice, or to teach good conduct that furthers the well-being of society, or to impart a truth which ought to be believed either on its own merit or as being indispensable for facilitating the removal of injustice or the teaching of good morals. There is no occasion to ask for the object of such commandments; for no one can, e.g., be in doubt as to the reason why we have been commanded to believe that God is one; why we are forbidden to murder, steal, and to take vengeance, or to retaliate, or why we are commanded to love one another. But there are precepts concerning which people are in doubt, and of divided opinions, some believing they are mere commands, and serve no purpose whatever, whilst others believe that they serve a certain purpose, which, however is unknown to man. Such are those precepts which in their literal meaning do not seem to further any of the three above-named results: to impart some truth, to teach some moral, or to remove injustice. They do not seem to have any influence upon the well-being of the soul by imparting any truth, or upon the well-being of the body by suggesting such ways and rules as are useful in the government of a state, or in the management of a household. ...I will show that all these and similar laws must have some bearing upon one of the following three things, viz., the regulation of our opinions, or the improvement of our social relations, which implies two things, the removal of injustice, and the teaching of good morals.
    • Ch.28
  • When [ Abraham ] the "Pillar of the World" appeared, he became convinced that there is a spiritual Divine Being, which is not a body, nor a force residing in a body, but is the author of the spheres and the stars; and he saw the absurdity of the tales in which he had been brought up. He therefore began to attack the belief of the Sabeans, to expose the falsehood of their opinions, and to proclaim publicly in opposition to them, "the name of the Lord, the God of the Universe" (Gen. xxi. 33), which proclamation included at the same time the Existence of God, and the Creation of the Universe by God.
    • Ch.29
  • In accordance with the Sabean theories images were erected to the stars, golden images to the sun, images of silver to the moon, and they attributed the metals and the climates to the influence of the planets, saying that a certain planet is the god of a certain zone. They built temples, placed in them images, and assumed that the stars sent forth their influence upon these images, which are thereby enabled (to speak) to understand, to comprehend, to inspire human beings, and to tell them what is useful to them. They apply the same to trees which fall to the lot of these stars.
    • Ch.29
  • You know from the repeated declarations in the Law that the principal purpose of the whole Law was the removal and utter destruction of idolatry, and all that is connected therewith, even its name, and everything that might lead to any such practices, e.g., acting as a consulter with familiar spirits, or as a wizard, passing children through the fire, divining, observing the clouds, enchanting, charming, or inquiring of the dead. The law prohibits us to imitate the heathen in any of these deeds, and a fortiori to adopt them entirely. It is distinctly said in the Law that everything which idolaters consider as service to their gods, and a means of approaching them, is rejected and despised by God... Thus all precepts cautioning against idolatry, or against that which is connected therewith, leads to it, or is related to it, are evidently useful.
    • Ch.29
  • How great is the usefulness of every precept that delivers us from this great error, and leads us back to the true faith: that God, the Creator of all things, rules the Universe; that He must be served, loved, and feared, and not those imaginary deities. According to this faith we approach the true God, and obtain His favour without having recourse to burdensome means; for nothing else is required but to love and fear Him; this is the aim in serving God, as will be shown. Comp. "And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee but to fear the Lord?" &c. (Deut. x. 12)
    • Ch.29
  • It is frequently expressed in all parts of Scripture, that the worship of the stars would be followed by absence of rain, devastation of the land, bad times, diseases, and shortness of life. But abandonment of that worship, and the return to the service of God, would be the cause of the presence of rain, fertility of the ground, good times, health and length of life. Thus Scripture teaches, in order that man should abandon idolatry, the reverse of that which idolatrous priests preached to the people, for, as has been shown by us, the principal object of the Law is to remove this doctrine, and to destroy its traces.
    • Ch.30
  • According to the theory of those weak minded persons, man is more perfect than his Creator. For what man says or does has a certain object, whilst the actions of God are different; He commands us to do what is of no use to us, and forbids us to do what is harmless. Far be this! On the contrary, the sole object of the Law is to benefit us.
    • Ch.31
  • Every one of the six hundred and thirteen precepts serves to inculcate some truth, to remove some erroneous opinion, to establish proper relations in society, to diminish evil, to train in good manners, or to warn against bad habits. All this depends on three things: opinions, morals, and social conduct. ...these three principles suffice for assigning a reason for every one of the Divine commandments.
    • Ch.31
  • The most evident of the wonders described in the book On the Use of the Limbs [by Galen]... is clearly perceived by all who examine them with a sharp eye. In a similar manner did God provide for each individual animal of the class of mammalia. When such an animal is born it is extremely tender, and cannot be fed with dry food. Therefore breasts were provided which yield milk, and the young can be fed with moist food which corresponds to the condition of the limbs of the animal, until the latter have gradually become dry and hard. Many precepts in our Law are the result of a similar course adopted by the same Supreme Being. It is, namely, impossible to go suddenly from one extreme to the other; it is therefore according to the nature of man impossible for him suddenly to discontinue everything to which he has been accustomed.
    • Ch.32
  • The custom which was in those days general among all men, and the general mode of worship in which the Israelites were brought up, consisted in sacrificing animals in those temples which contained certain images to bow down to those images, and to burn incense before them; religious and ascetic persons were in those days the persons that were devoted to the service in the temples erected to the stars... It was in accordance with the wisdom and plan of God, as displayed in the whole Creation, that He did not command us to give up and to discontinue all these manners of service, for to obey such a commandment it would have been contrary to the nature of man, who generally cleaves to that to which he is used... By this Divine plan it was effected that the traces of idolatry were blotted out, and the truly great principle of our faith, the existence and Unity of God, was firmly established; this result was thus obtained without deterring or confusing the minds of the people by the abolition of the service to which they were accustomed and which alone was familiar to them.
    • Ch.32
In addition to the teaching of truths the Law aims at the removal of injustice from mankind.
  • What prevented Him from making His primary object a direct commandment to us, and to give us the capacity of obeying it? ...As it is the chief object and purpose of God that we should believe in the Law, and act according to that which is written therein, why has He not given us the capacity of continually believing in it, and following its guidance, instead of holding out to us reward for obedience, and punishment for disobedience, or of actually giving all the predicted reward and punishment? For [the promises and the threats] are but the means of leading to this chief object. What prevented Him from giving us, as part of our nature, the will to do that which He desires us to do, and to abandon the kind of worship which He rejects? There is one general answer to these three questions, and all questions of the character; it is this: Although in every one of the signs [related in Scripture] the natural property of some individual being is changed, the nature of man is never changed by God by way of miracle. ...it is in His power, according to the principles taught in Scripture, but it has never been His will to do it, and it never will be. If it were part of His will to change [at His desire] the nature of any person, the mission of prophets and the giving of the Law would have been altogether superfluous.
    • Ch.32
  • It is namely distinctly stated in Scripture and handed down by tradition that the first commandments communicated to us did not include any law at all about burnt offering and sacrifice.
    • Ch.32
  • The chief object of the Law, as has been shown by us, is the teaching of truths; to which the truth of the creatio ex nihilo belongs. It is known that the object of the law of Sabbath is to confirm and to establish this principle, as we have shown in this treatise (Part II. chap. xxxi.) In addition to the teaching of truths the Law aims at the removal of injustice from mankind. We have thus proved that the first laws do not refer to burnt-offering and sacrifice, which are of secondary importance.
    • Ch.32
  • By following entirely the guidance of lust, in the manner of fools, man loses his intellectual energy, injures his body, and perishes before his natural time; sighs and cares multiply; there is an increase of envy, hatred, and warfare, for the purpose of taking what another possesses. The cause of all this is the circumstance that the ignorant considers physical enjoyment as an object to be sought for its own sake. God in His wisdom has therefore given us such commandments as would counteract that object, and prevent us altogether from directing our attention to it, and has debarred us from everything that leads only to excessive desire and to lust. This is an important thing included in the objects of our Law.
    • Ch.33
  • Those who wash their body and cleanse their garments whilst they remain dirty by bad actions and principles, are described by Solomon as "a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet are not washed from their filthiness; a generation, oh how lofty are their eyes!" &c. (Prov. xxx. 12-13). Consider well the principles which we mentioned... as the final causes of the Law; for there are many precepts, for which you will be unable to give a reason unless you possess a knowledge of these principles...
    • Ch.33


Misattributed[edit]

  • Teach your tongue to say "I do not know" and you will progress.
    • This is actually from the Talmud (Tractate Berachot 4a)

Quotes about Maimonides[edit]

  • From Moses to Moses there was none like Moses.
    • Jewish saying, emphasizing the prominence of Moses Maimonides, as quoted in Cyclopaedia Bibliographica (1854) edited by James Darling

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