rambam 13.4 + illustrator

The most basic principle,
the pillar of wisdom,
is to know:
There is a Primary Being
Who creates all that’s created.
All that exists only exists
by the truth of His existence.
[1]

The Rambam is teaching that nothing exists separate from G-d — the Primary Being.

As Prof. Moshe Halbertal commented:

“[Rambam] holds that there is evidence of G-d in every aspect of the world: ‘not like the relationship of a carpenter to a table, but more like the sun and the light. The world is G-d’s shadow; the very existence of G-d sustains the world’.” [2]

Which echoes what Maharishi Mahesh Yogi teaches:

“The whole of creation is the field of consciousness [expressed] in different forms and phenomena.” [3]

We’re surrounded and pervaded by what G-d is.

Like a wave on the ocean that can never be separate from the water of the ocean itself,
we can never be separate from G-d:

Ocean waking said, “I am water.”
Wave waking said, “I am water.”
Vapor, Cloud, Rain waking,
Each said, “I am water.”

Then, Ocean, seeing Wave, said, “You are water.”
Wave, seeing Vapor rising, said, “You are water.”
Cloud, Rain, Vapor, Wave, and Ocean,
Seeing each other,
Said, “You are water.”

Then, Water waking said,
“I am Ocean, Wave,
Vapor, Cloud and Rain.
Unchanging, I become them all.” [4

Primary Being pervades all that is, while remaining utterly unlimited by it.

In every thing, in every being, in every event, in our very selves, we meet the Divine, as Rabbi Mosheh Cordovero teaches:

“Do not say, ‘This is a stone and not G-d.’ G-d forbid! Rather, all existence is G-d, and the stone is a thing pervaded [and surrounded] by divinity.” [5]

Cordovero sfirot

This is one foundation of faith that Torah offers.

Another is the Y’tziat Mitzrayim — the Exodus — and Matan Torah — the giving of Torah at Mt. Sinai. For those events, every generation since owes a personal G-d our loving gratitude for what was done for us at that time. This would be “bhakti yoga” — the “devotional” or “loving” approach to G-d.

The Rambam challenges us to place intellectual understanding over sense perception. Our eyes see Creation, our ears hear, and so on. But we can receive the information of the senses and still miss the impersonal G-d — the unseeable Reality behind and in Creation.

We can’t see the unseeable, but we can know it:

“It is a positive commandment to see G-d’s Presence in everything. Thus, in one’s own existence, too [and in all the details of one’s own life].” [6]

This is “jnana yoga” — the yoga of the intellect.

But it’s more than a mere intellectual “knowing.” It’s a personal truth. Contemplate and visualize, until it becomes real in your experience.

Meditation is — or should be — the experience of the Divine.

“The Torah opens with the account of Creation. This is the foundation upon which the entire Torah is built: the fact that G-d created the universe; everything on earth, the heavens and all its spheres and constellations; all the galaxies in space, as well as the spiritual worlds whose existence is hidden from the human eye. Everything was originally created, from nothing, by the Will of G-d. G-d alone was the first Being; nothing preceded Him and nothing will succeed Him…As Rambam writes in his opening words to Hilchot Yesodei Ha-Torah in the Book of Knowledge: ‘The most basic of all principles…’.” [7]

The G-d Who took us out of Egypt is the “personal G-d.” The G-d Who creates and pervades Creation, remaining unchanged, is the “impersonal G-d.”

Are they different? Which do we worship?

“What is the nature of G-d and how does one come to know G-d? For [Rabbi Yehudah] Halevi, the G-d of Abraham [the personal G-d] is experienced while the G-d of Aristotle [the impersonal G-d] is understood. One might die for the G-d of Abraham, not [for] the G-d of Aristotle. One can only love the G-d of Abraham. For Maimonides, the G-d of Abraham is [also] the G-d of Aristotle [i.e. the personal G-d is also the impersonal G-d]. The beginning of Maimonides’ Mishnah Torah [1] is a description of G-d based on Aristotle. Then Maimonides immediately goes to talking about sanctifying G-d’s name.” [8]

We love G-d, Whom we recognize in all things, creatures, people and events.

Our senses tell us that our relationship with the things of the world is “I-it,” as if we act upon something unresponsive and unfeeling.

The Rambam, later the Besht and Buber, teach us that in fact, our relationship to things is “I-you.” We are always interacting with something that responds to us in kind.

If so of things, kal v’homer, how much more so of living creatures and people?

“True poverty belongs only to the heart that is without G-d. And when we know how poor we are, nothing can save us from the death of the heart but to turn toward love. When a man is so poor as this, if he then choose to love, that is his beginning toward G-d and the abundance of flowing life.”  [9]

Seeing G-d in all that is, even the most seemingly insignificant things become imbued with life and purpose:

“After an early Shabbat minchah [afternoon prayer service], Rav Kuk went out, as was his holy custom, to stroll a bit in the fields and gather his thoughts; and I [Reb Aryeh Levin] went along. On the way I plucked some branch or flower. Our great master was taken aback; and then he told me gently, ‘Believe me: In all my days I have taken care never to pluck a blade of grass or flower needlessly, when it had the ability to grow or blossom. You know the teaching of the Sages that there is not a single blade of grass below, here on earth, which does not have an angel above telling it, Grow! [10] Every sprout and leaf of grass says something, conveys some meaning. Every stone whispers some inner, hidden message in the silence. Every creation utters its song in praise of the Creator’.” [11]

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[1] Rambam; Book of Knowledge 1:1.
Design of the Rambam’s quote © 2003 by Rabbi Eli Mallon

[2] http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/31481/halevi-versus-maimonides

[3] Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; The Science of Being and the Art of Living; p. 29

[4] © 2003 by Rabbi Eli Mallon

[5Cordovero, Rabbi Mosheh; Shi’ur Komah; p. 206b (Modena ms.)

[6] Soloveitchik, Rabbi Joseph; On Repentance; Pinchas Peli, ed.; p. 162

[7] Danin, Rabbi Danon; Portals of Faith; Feldheim Publishers: © 2002 by Rabbi D. Danon; p. 1

[8http://izgad.blogspot.com/2011/05/daniel-lasker-two-models-of-jewish.html

[9] Raynolds, Robert; The Choice to Love; Harper & Bros., NY, © 1959; p. 16

[10] Bereishith Rabbah 10:6

[11] Raz, Simchah; A Tzaddik in Our Time; p. 108