Sunday, September 30, 2007

Doing Truth.

In my last post, I quoted Rambam in Hil Teshuvah 10:1 –

אלא עושה האמת, מפני שהוא אמת;

The only reason he does Truth is because it is Truth.

And I asked, “So how is my doing all these things seen as “doing” Truth?”

I attempted to answer the question as I developed the idea of “doing” to emulate to God but I walked away unsatisfied with my explanation. Over Chag I resumed learning a very interesting Sefer on Rambam, Minofet Tzuf, (in Hebrew), by Rabbi Jonathan Blass of Petach Tikvah. The author is clearly a Talmid Chacham steeped in the Torah of Rav Kook and Rambam and the combination produced a very different and interesting reading of the Moreh. It has two volumes and so far, I have only read (rather learned – one does not “read” such a Sefer,) about half of volume 1 and it is very thought provoking. As I was reading chapter 13, I finally, I believe, understood what Rambam means when he says that one can “do” Truth.

According to Rambam, one of the fundamental teachings of the Torah is that God has Will. Unlike Aristotelian thinkers who though agreeing that a non-contingent First Cause exists believed that it exists parallel with the universe from eternity. That entity did not choose at some point in time to cause existence. It just is there as a necessary component thereof. There always was and will be a non-contingent First Cause whose function is by definition to cause existence. The Torah on the other hand teaches that the world was created in time by HKBH. It teaches that God has Will and that He used it to create existence. Of course, the word Will as used in this context is just a concept that describes an attribute a human would need to accomplish such an act; however, the idea is that there was a voluntary act when God created. As time is not a function that we can ascribe to God, as by definition God does not change, Will in this context is a one-time and constant “event”. In fact, it is not an event but part of God’s essence as attributes can never be an appendage to God, or as the philosophers would term it, an accident.

In our search for understanding God, the route available to us is through the results of his actions which we understand are the result of his Will which is one with His essence. When we try to cleave to God by acting in a way we understand emulates His actions which have a result similar to the results caused by His will, we are “doing” His will which is Truth by definition. Rambam puts this in the following way in MN 1:69 –

The same argument holds good in reference to all ends, for when a thing has an end you should seek the end of that end.[Rambam is saying that we have to look for the reason why a certain series of cause and effect was initiated].… In this way, one purpose necessitates the pre-existence of another, except the final purpose, which is the execution of the will of God. … and the final answer will be, "It is the will of God." … the series of the successive purposes terminates, as has been shown, in God's will or wisdom, which, in our opinion, are identical with His essence, and are not any thing separate from Himself or different from His essence. Consequently, God is the ultimate end of everything. Again, it is the aim of everything to become, according to its faculties, similar to God in perfection: this is meant by the expression, "His will, which is identical with His essence," as will be shown below (ibid.). In this sense God is called the End of all ends.”

If we were to ask what the purpose of everything is, the answer would be to fulfill God’s Will. The whole of nature and existence is therefore a manifestation and, in a certain sense, the practical realization of His Will. As God is by definition Perfect, His handiwork is therefore Perfection. Nature’s end or “goal” is therefore to create and maintain perfection. This is what Rambam means when he says, as quoted above, “it is the aim of everything to become, according to its faculties, similar to God in perfection”. Everything in the universe except humans, do this perforce without having the ability to choose. Man is the only being that can choose to work toward perfection or not to. If he does, he is by definition emulating God but also acting in concert with God’s Will or “doing” Truth. After all God is Truth and His Will is one with His essence.

From a practical point, how does one know that he is “doing” Truth and not some figment of his imagination? Evanston Jew in his usual clear and thought out fashion made a comment on my last post posing this exact question. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. We humans with our limitations to physical existence and that being all we really know, can only try to understand beyond the here and now through speculation and deduction. We can only use the faculties we have and hope that our own little effort and contribution coupled with that of past generations and thinkers, will get us a step closer to the Truth, the ultimate Truth. We just read Kohelet last Shabbat which poses exactly this question and the ending/answer is -

יג סוֹף דָּבָר, הַכֹּל נִשְׁמָע: אֶת-הָאֱלֹהִים יְרָא וְאֶת-מִצְו‍ֹתָיו שְׁמוֹר, כִּי-זֶה כָּל-הָאָדָם.

13 The end of the matter, all having been heard: fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole man.

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