Thursday, July 21, 2005

Forthcoming series: Do I believe the Rambam's 13 Principles?

I plan to being a new series of posts--13 in all--in which I honestly examine my own beliefs as compared to the Rambam's 13 Principles of Faith.

I believe that it has been satisfactorily been shown that "the limits of Orthodox theology" lies further afield than often thought. Although it may have been proved (Hirhurim, The Jewish Worker have both dealt extensively with this) that hashkafah is within the aegis of pesak, for the purposes of determining Who Is A Min, a category with halakhic implications, it can only be demonstrated that some posekim will regard deviation from the Rambam's principles as the limit. Other posekim will rule differently.

The fact (or opinion) that the Rambam's principles are not the beginning, middle and end of Jewish theology, of course, does not impact the factual corectness of these principles. The idea of am hanivchar, the chosenness of the Jewish people, is not an ikkar, but I believe it is factually correct.
Yet whether it is or isn't I've no doubt that there are posekim who would consider a person who didn't believe that the Jews were the am hanivchar to believe heresy, even though it isn't on the Rambam's list. The idea of yerodas ha-doros, the qualitative decline of the generations as they recede from the Sinai experience, is a widely held view yet not an ikkar. It may or may not be factually true. But whatever the case may be, it cannot be denied that the Rambam's principles are widely believed to define the limits of Orthodox theology. It also cannot be denied that there are some historical grounds for granting that this is correct.

Now as far as my new series, I plan to really think about each one and let the chips lie where they fall. I will think about them and try to honestly analyze what I believe without a pre-determined answer (read: that I believe). This doesn't mean that I don't know what the answer to some of them are. Take the first one, belief in God (I will post the detailed version of each one with the appropriate post). I know my answer; I believe in this one. But neverthless I plan to engage in introspection and guage what I believe and why for each of the 13.

I said that the chips will fall where they may. That doesn't mean that I want the answers to be "no" or "no, but...." for any of them. But if it will be, then it will be. Am I worried for myself, should that happen? Yes and no. The Gemara writes "yesh koneh olamo be-sha'ah achas", there are those who acquire olam ha-ba'ah in an instant. R. Moshe Feinstein said a person's olam can be acquired with a page of Talmud. No matter if it turns out that my emunah is derailed, I know that the Rachmana allows people to repair themselves. Rachman liba ba'i. I will try to "get good religion" in the words of the real Mississippi Fred McDowell if it takes a lifetime.

Here is the Yigdal poetic rendering of the Rambam's Principles as found in the Metsuda Siddur
  1. Exalted is the living God, and praised. He exists, His existence transcends time.
  2. He is One, and there is no unity like His; He's invisible, His unity is infinite.
  3. He is unlike the corporeal or even the non-corporeal; His own holiness cannot be compared to Him.
  4. He preceded everything that was created, He was first, and there was no genesis to His beginning.
  5. He is Master of the Universe, and every creature proclaims His greatness and His majesty.
  6. The fullness of His prophecy, He bestowed on those He treasured, and in whom He gloried.
  7. There never arose in Israel another like Moses, a prophet who beheld God's image.
  8. The Torah of truth God gave to His people, through His prophet [Moses], the trusted one of His house.
  9. God will not exchange nor alter His Law. Never will He offer any alternative.
  10. He scrutinizes and knows our secrets. He beholds the end of a thing at its beginning.
  11. He rewards man with kindness according to his deeds. He sends evil to the wicked according to his wickedness.
  12. He will send our Messiah at the end of days, to redeem all who await His final deliverance.
  13. God will revive the dead in His abundant kindness: Blessed forever is His praised Name.
I urge other J-bloggers to try this themselves. Let's see what happens.

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