Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Maimonidean Perspective contrasted with general belief systems.

A very knowledgeable commenter who calls himself Technician left the following comment on my post about Design. I am posting it as is. For those accustomed to Maimonidean discourse it will be clear. I will however address this comment over a series of posts, agree with many, disagree or reinterpret some and hopefully at the end of the day some more clarity will come out of it. [My edits are in brackets.]

I think you need to spell it out slowly.

Premise 1 – People fear God

Premise 2 - Lucretius and the Epicureans- say that all is random and chance based on the movement of atoms.

Conclusion – there is no need to fear any gods acting in the natural order

P1 - Al-Razi – Aristotle’s fixed world is wrong, the Epicureans are true, and one [cannot] gain anything ethical from the natural order

P2 – Saadyah- Olam Haba will be the place where things will show their order

P3 – Modern Science- we agree with Al-Razi

P4 – Modern atheists say religion is unethical

P5 – We are still scared and need guidance- the random world is scary

P6 - Religious folk say there is no natural ethics, hence one needs a non-rational source of ethics

Conclusion – we need to create an absurd religion outside of the natural order. Torah is now a non-natural lifestyle keeping you ethical. Hashem punishes us the way Zeus punished.


P1 – there is a fixed Aristotelian natural order. God at the minimum is Aristotle’s first cause.

P2 – this natural order is the best of all possible worlds

P3 – we see that the natural order is ethical

P4 – this ethic is labeled “God’s attributes of Action”

P5 – acting ethically imitates God – meaning the attributes of action in the natural order.

P6 – Our goal is to create a virtuous society based on reason.

P7 According to Ibn Tibbon, Radak, Shem Tov, Herman Cohen, and even Isadore Twersky – this is for creating a virtuous society through ethics not ritual. Ritual mizvot are for the betterment of society – tikkun haguf – tikkun hamedinah- not to imitate God.

P8– Meiri, Soloveitchik, Fox, Hartman and other halakhic thinkers connect the mizvot to intimating [imitating] God.

Conclusion1 - therefore the epicureans are wrong about the world as random science, Saadyah is wrong because mizvot have a this worldly reward, religious ethics that are not natural are wrong.

Conclusion2: Mizvot are the means to create a virtuous society

Conclusion3: Providence is part of the natural order

Meshekh Hokhmah

P1 most religion is emotional, fearful, and imagination – including Hasidim and Jewish folk ways

P2 Judaism through Maimonides is rational

Conclusion1: We should choose a rational Torah

Conclusion 2 Even gentiles should choose the rational – and any place they are rational is ipso facto a following of the 7 laws of Noah (no specific Torah connection needed)

I did not include every premise and many of them are subject to multiple interpretations, but this may be a start. The modern world is Epicurean and we look for meaning by returning to ancient fears. Maimonides has a fixed world and mizvot let us follow the natural pattern.



  1. "following of the 7 laws of Noah (no specific Torah connection needed)"

    We keep mitzvot today because God commanded us via Moses. (i.e. brit millah...) Rambam says in the Mishneh Torah that gentiles have to keep 7 mitzvot because God commanded them via Moses.

    So when God commanded Noah it was not for all generations? Only once Moses came did it become for all generation?!? This obviously contradictions many things. This also poses the question why are they called the sheva mitzvot shel noah?

    I am going wrong somewhere a line of thought. However, I am sure your claim of 'no specific Torah connection needed' is wrong.

    David, could you share your insight?

    (I should note I wrote this comment after staying up all night - something halakha is not supportive of - so forgive me if it isn't legible.)

  2. >So when God commanded Noah it was not for all generations? Only once Moses came did it become for all generation?!?

    Until Moshe came there was never a command from God to a prophet to go and tell people what to do or not to do (at least according to rambam see MN 2:39 There were prophets before Moses, as the patriarchs Shem, Eber, Noah, Methushelah, and Enoch, but of these none said to any portion of mankind that God sent him to them and commanded him to convey to them a certain message or to prohibit or to command a certain thing. Such a thing is not related in Scripture, or in authentic tradition 0 see the rest of the chapter. Therefore the seven were ethical / philosophical laws that became Torah once Moshe confirmed and added them to torah. it is now that bothe Jew and Non jew have to keep them based on Moshe. For discussions see Pirush Hamishna in Chulin 7:6 and also in other places as well as in a letter.

    I believe I posted about this already and probably will again as it is a fundamental Rambam Yesod.

  3. Thank you for the posting.

    On the question of sheva mitzvot - see the meshekh hokhmah on mishpatim.
    It is not the same as Rambam.


  4. >meshekh hokhmah on mishpatim.

    I am not sure which one. if it is 24:3 it is not muchrach. All he says is that Bein Adam Lamakom one needs the brit to create arvut. The seven themselves he seems to say are ethical laws.

  5. if one emulates G-D's actions in nature (natural order)thus creating a just society. We then can confirm that the world was created by a first cause that is just.This means that the recipe works.If the recipe works we are once again confirming the existence of G-D.When it appears that justice is not done then the existence of G-D is questioned.That is the argument moshe used to save the jews by the golden calf.

  6. "Therefore the seven were ethical / philosophical laws "
    Isn't that to some extent heretical? They are commandments. To say they are ethical / philosophical laws means they are directly related to ethics or philosophies changes. Maybe you just meant that they have ethical and philosophical aspects and I am being a Yeshu.