Wednesday, August 03, 2005

V. Rambam's 5th Principle of Faith

He [God], may He be blessed, is the only One whom it is proper to serve [worship], to praise, to make known His grandeur, and to fulfill His commandments. This should not be done to any entity that is subservient to Him, be it the angels, the stars, the planets, or the elements or their compounds. For their activity is programmed. They have no control, and no choice but to perform His will. Thus it is improper to serve them as intermediaries in order to come close to God. Rather, one should direct his thoughts toward the Almighty alone and abandon anything other than Him. This is the fifth Principle, warning us against idolatry, as affirmed throughout the Torah.
Do I believe this? Absolutely. With perfect faith, even. Okay, I'm not perfect and neither is my faith. But I am very comfortable affirming this principle.

This ikkar isn't particularly relevent for Jews who only worship and pray to the Almighty alone. Or so it would seem, but a bump need to be smoothed over. People pray at the graves of tzadikkim, and if I am not mistaken that is attested to in the Talmud, meaning that it was not invented in 17th century Ukraine or Morocco. Years ago I came across a book about "Saint Veneration among the Jews in Morocco" (it wasn't this particular book, but I don't remember what it was, but I think "saint worship" was in the title). The title surprised and upset me. No, I thought, praying at the graves of tzadikkim was being misunderstood and called something that it simple isn't.

Or is it? The truth is I'm not sure what the kavvana of everyone who prays at a grave site is. I would expect and hope that the more informed among us aren't directing their prayers towards something other than God. But at the same time I can't help but suspect that the Rambam didn't only have in mind Roman Catholicism when he penned the words of this ikkar.

Don't get me started on prayer directed towards kabbalistic sefiros, which I admittedly don't know a lot about. I also don't know what a melitz yosher is and why it isn't a mediator. I also don't know why angels understanding or not understanding Aramaic has anything to do with whether Hashem hears our prayers.

?

5 comments:

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  4. While researching Rambam's 5th principle, I found your site. Wanna delete the three previous comments, and mine, too? Thanks!

    Phil

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  5. "People pray at the graves of tzadikkim, and if I am not mistaken that is attested to in the Talmud"

    Taanis 16a

    Phil

    ReplyDelete

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