Monthly Archives: November 2005

New Series

I have started work on new series, which is a sub series of the Faith articles that I have done previously. For a long time I have been wanting to learn in depth Marc Shapiro’s brilliant work. "The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides Thirteen Principles Reappraised". However I encountered a couple of problems. First of all there is a tremendous amount of sources that he cites. The mixture of narrative and the immense amount of sources were difficult for me to process, as it was a constant effort to determine when there was a direct quotation or an interpretation of the evidence. Therefore I am beginning the process of bli neder making summary notes of his book. This will include a listing of primary sources, selected quotes, comments, interpretations. It will also include later on a summary of the arguments and logic behind the presentation. I hope you enjoy this work. It is not meant as a substitute for the book, and I definitely recommend all to buy it, but I hope it will serve as a work of reference. When I am finished I hope to make it into a pdf document. Look forward to comments

Marc B. Shapiro Series: Principle 1

Principle I. To know the existence of the Creator

To believe in the existence of the Creator, and this creator is perfect in all manner of existence. He is the cause of all existence. He causes them to exist and they exist only because of Him. And if you could contemplate a case such that He were not to exist then all things would cease to exist and there would remain nothing. And if you were to contemplate a case such that all things would cease to exist aside from the creator, His existence would not cease. And He would lose nothing and oneness and kingship is His alone. Hashem of strength is His name because He is sufficient with His own existence and suffices just Him alone and needs no other. And the existences of the angels, and the celestial bodies, and all that is in them and that which is below them all need Him for their existence. And this is the first pillar and is attested to by the verse "I am Hashem your God.

Maimonidies, Guide to the Perplexed i. 75

We do not call a human being weak because he cannot move one thousand hundred-weights, and we do not attribute to the God, may he be exalted, incapacity because He is unable to corpify his essence or create someone like Him or to create a square whose diagonal is equal to its Side

Maimonidies, Guide to the Perplexed, iii. 15

The impossible has a stable nature, one whose stability is constant and is not made by a maker; it is impossible to change it in any way. Hence the power over the maker of the impossible is not attributed to the deity. This is a point about which none of the men of speculation differs in any way … Likewise, that God should bring into existence someone like himself, or should annihilate Himself, or should become a body, or should change – all of these things belong to the class of the impossible; and the power to do any of these things cannot be attributed to God

Dispute on this principle

    R’ Moses Taku

    They are issuing a decree to the Creator as to how He must be. By doing so they are degrading themselves

    R Nachman of Breslov (as reported by disciple)

"He mentions that it says in their [the philosophers] books "It is possible that a triangle can be a rectangle?" Our master said "I believe that God can make a rectangular triangle. For the ways of God are hidden from us; he is omnipotent, and no deed is bey him"

Notes of Marc Shapiro

Summary of principle

The first principle declares that God exists, that he is perfect in every way, and that he is the cause of the existence of all things. The principle also includes the belief that God is eternal, for he ‘an existent Being which is perfect in all aspects of existence’ and perfect existence precludes dissolution

Clarification of who agrees with Maimonides

Before Maimonidies, the above view was affirmed by Saadiah Gaon and R’ Ezra ben Solomon (Spanish mystic, died 1238)

Clarification on the nature of the dispute

The dispute between Maimonides and those who limit God is only over what constitutes the impossible, with Maimonides having a more restricted understanding of this than some other  thinkers"

Clarification on the nature of the principle

1) Maimonides’ other point in this principle is that God is the casue of the existence of all things
2) This is not an assertion of creation ex nihlio

3) Establishes Gods ontological priority to the Universe. In other words the universe is dependent upon God for its existence

4) Possibility that the universe has coexisted eternally with God

Faith vs Truth (2)

The following questions need to be answered with regard to faith:

  • What is faith?
  • Is faith a rational quantifiable phenomenon, or is faith an abstract human experience?
  • Is faith a) a wish/ hope for something to be true b) an affirmation of something we know to be true or c) something that is completely unrelated to truth, and in fact, I can have faith in something that I know to be false

Based on the above:

  • Is faith a “place holder” for truth, ie we will have faith until I no longer need it, because I know now that that statement x is true?
  • Is there an “expiry date” on faith? Ie I will only have faith for y amount of time, where after if the statement is not known to be true I will declare that statement to be false?

These questions will serve as a background for the real purpose of these posts, examining the Jewish tradition and its relationship to faith.

To be continued…

Layout of Blog II

Two people have complained previously about lines being squashed on the website. Since I am concerned about all my readers being able to read my blog I want to try and find out why this problem is occuring for these people.

First of all, is this problem occuring to any other people who have just not left a comment?
Second, is the problem occuring on every single post, or just some posts?
Third, if you are having this problem, please let me know what resolution you are viewing the website in, what browser you are using and what post you were reading

I want to determine whether this problem is on my side (ie the way my html is set up) or on the readers side (browser, resolution settings, etc). If there are any wiz kid HTML experts out there who have any suggestions, please let me know.

Also when leaving a comment please provide some contact details so I can email you back to see if we can fix this problem

Quotes 3

Here are some beautiful quotes from Rav Kook. I cannot recall where I got them from, however I think they are probably from Rav Moshe Lichtman’s translation of R’ Simcha Raz’s book "An Angel among men".

"I write not because I have the strength to write, but because I do not have the strength to remain silent"

"Whoever said that my soul is torn, spoke well. It is certainly torn. We cannot imagine a person whose soul is not torn. Only an inanimate object can be whole. A human being however is filled with conflicting aspirations, and an inner war rages within him continuously. Man’s true mission to fuse the torn fragments of his soul by means of an all inclusive concepts, an idea whose magnitude and eminence encompasses everything else, bringing it to complete harmony"

"Just as poetry contains rules, so too, rules contain poetry"

If anyone knows the source for these quotes, or has any quotes from Rav Kook that they would like to share, please leave a message in the comments.

Faith vs Truth (1)

The following questions are the ones that really need to be examined in the course of any discussion on faith. These questions have bothered, perplexed, amazed and enthralled greater thinkers than I since the dawn of time. In essence these questions (in my understanding) form the foundational underpinnings for the entire philosophical / scientific en devour.

1. What is truth? Does truth in fact exist?
2. How do we know / recognize that a particular statement is true?
3. What mechanisms can be used to test to see if a particular statement is true?
4. If the truth is found, can it be documented / quantified?

The above questions can all be asked by replacing the word “truth” with “false”. For by definition if the concept of truth is said to exist then so too the concept of falsehood.

Definitions of Faith

Definitions of Faith

Some brief generic definitions of faith are required before examining the relationship between Judaism and Faith. The following are various statements taking from numerous on line resources that will provide such a generic definition:1

1. confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, an idea, or a thing.
2. belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
3. loyalty or allegiance to a person or thing; esp. fidelity to a promise.
4. the theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God’s will.

Some synonyms / concepts that can be applied to faith are the following:2

acceptance, allegiance, assent, assurance, belief, certainty, certitude, confidence, constancy, conviction, credence, credit, credulity, dependence, faithfulness, fealty, fidelity, hope, loyalty, reliance, stock, store, sureness, surety, troth, truth, truthfulness

The previous statements while not being the definitive definitions of faith will serve as a backdrop for further discussion.

1. []
2. [] Roget’s New Millennium™ Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.1.1)
Copyright © 2005 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Definitions of Truth

Definitions of Truth:

1. Conformity to fact or actuality.
2. A statement proven to be or accepted as true.
3. Sincerity; integrity.
4. Fidelity to an original or standard.
a. Reality; actuality.
b. often Truth That which is considered to be the supreme reality and to have the ultimate meaning and value of existence. 1

1. a fact that has been verified; "at last he knew the truth"; "the truth is that he didn’t want to do it"
2. conformity to reality or actuality; "they debated the truth of the proposition"; "the situation brought home to us the blunt truth of the military threat"; "he was famous for the truth of his portraits"; "he turned to religion in his search for eternal verities"
3. a true statement; "he told the truth"; "he thought of answering with the truth but he knew they wouldn’t believe it"
4. accuracy: the quality of being near to the true value; "he was beginning to doubt the accuracy of his compass"; "the lawyer questioned the truth of my account" 2

Synonyms for truth:

reality, accuracy, actuality, authenticity, axiom, case, certainty, correctness, dope, exactitude, exactness, fact, facts, factualism, factuality, factualness, genuineness, gospel, gospel truth, honest truth, infallibility, inside track, law, legitimacy, maxim, naked truth, nitty-gritty, perfection, picture, plain talk, precision, principle, rectitude, rightness, scoop, score, straight dope, trueness, truism, truthfulness, validity, veracity, verisimilitude, verity, whole story 3


2. [] Under entry []

3. Under entry Roget’s New Millennium™ Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.1.1) Copyright © 2005 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Prelude to Faith, Doubt and Heresy

I just finished writing exams, (hence there being no post for the last 2 days, due to studying). As a prelude to my upcoming posts on Faith, Doubt and Heresy, I would just like to paste a pertinent quote that will serve as a backdrop for further discussion for these as well as other related topics. The quote is from "The Hopelessness of a Ban (TTP-173) by : Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo" and can be found here.

It is well known that the heretic Uriel Da Costa (1585-1640) from Amsterdam was several times put under a ban by the leaders of the Portuguese Spanish Synagogue in Amsterdam and consequently committed suicide. Concerning this most unfortunate and tragic case the famous sage Rabbi Baruch Halevi Epstein, author of the Torah commentary Torah Temima made the following comment:

‘This phenomenon, to our sadness, seems to repeat itself in every generation. Whenever people quarrel over matters related to ideology and faith, and a person discovers his more lenient opinion is in the minority, all too often although his original view differed only slightly from the majority the total rejection he experiences pushes him over the brink. Gradually, his views become more and more irrational and he becomes disgusted with his opponents, their Torah and their practices, forsaking them completely. Instead of instructing him (Da Costa) with love and patience and extricating him from his maze of doubts by showing him his mistake, they disparaged him. They pursued him with sanctions and excommunication, cursing him until he was eventually driven away completely from his people and his faith and ended his life in a most degrading way (Makor Baruch, chapter 13;5.)’

This upcoming series of posts is something that I have being wanting to do for a long time, so G-d willing there will be some posts for you the readers, over the next few days and weeks. Stay tuned and please keep commenting. I have read all the comments and have appreciated all the praise, insight and references. Keep it up

Quotes 2

Here are two more quotes that I feel offer a keen insight into human nature:

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate."Noam Chomsky1

"A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconciously translates what he hears into something he can understand"Bertrand Russell2 []

1 Avram Noam Chomsky (born December 7, 1928) is the Institute Professor Emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chomsky is credited with the creation of the theory of generative grammar, often considered the most significant contribution to the field of theoretical linguistics of the 20th century. See further []

2 Bertrand Arthur William Russell (b.1872 – d.1970) was a British philosopher, logician, essayist, and social critic, best known for his work in mathematical logic and analytic philosophy. See further []